The Altiplano Plateau is covering the west part of Bolivia with an average altitude of 3750 masl. The name itself comes from Spanish and means “the high plain”. Our 3-day adventure, which we started in Uyuni, also included visiting deserts, lagoons, gaysers and volcanoes.
After the day full of wonders at Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flat in the world, we thought that the highlight of the trip is already behind us. Were we right?
Martian landscape and local flora
After a breakfast in the salt hotel, we had to put our luggage on the roof of the car. Than, we set off for a ride across the spectacular, bolivian deserts. The ladscapes behind the window reminded us a bit of NASA pictures from the latest mission to Mars. Volcanoes were towering in the distance and the vast, red plains were covering the area all the way to the horizont. Our guide/driver was well prepared and told us some stories about the difficulties of the living in such harsh conditions and how animals and plants try to overcome them. The moss, for example, stood out brightly green among the redish sand. It grows very slowly and resembles a rock more than a plant.
Hundreds of flamingos and colourful lagoons
Later, we arrived to the area where we could find numerous lakes inhabited by flamingos. It was our first time to see these birds in their natural environment and we were impressed by their beauty. First, at the Laguna Cañapa, we could not stop taking pictures. The water was coloured with different shades as well. It was the first lake out of the four in the area. After a short drive, we arrived to Laguna Hedionda. There were even more flamingos there! While we were walking along the shore we could not believe how lucky we were to be in such a marvelous place. We had a lunch just by the lake as well, prepared by the guide.
Andean fox and viscachas up close
Further South, we stopped at Laguna Honada, which had a particular, very pale colour. This day on our way across Altiplano Plateau we were driving as high as 5000 m masl! We came across some of the local mammals. We saw the andean fox and some viscachas – a sweet, furry rabbit-like creatures. We passed through some spectacular landscapes, colourful rocks and also visited the Siloli desert.
The Rock Tree
There’s this one spot, where the sand and the water carved the rock to create an extraordinary fomation known as the Rock Tree. It stands in the middle of the dry plains and looks unearthly.
Finally, we made it to the Eduardo Alvaroa National Park, where we had to pay 160 BOB each for the entry, which is around 22 USD. That is very expensive for Bolivia. Right before the entry, we stopped at the most beautiful view point that we saw this day. Who knows, maybe the view was even better then the ones we saw at Salar de Uyuni. I leave it up to you to decide. Down below, we could see Laguna Colorada – The Red Lake in its full glory. It is located at 4278 masl and covers 60 square kilometers.
What makes the lake so picturesque are algies feasting on rich mineral waters, full of sodium and magnesium. As a result, the water is coloured in various shades of red. It is a magnificent thing to see.
We just froze with our mouths wide open staring at the sensational view in front of us. Finally, we overcame the spell and started taking some pictures. Than we drove straight to the second-night acommodation. The evening was very cold with temperatures dropping below 0° celcius. There was no heating in the building, so it is worth it to take your own, warm sleeping-bag with you.
Morning full of gaysers
The third day started very early for us. The wake up call and breakfast were before the dusk and at 5:00 am we departured towards the geothermal area. For the sunrise, we made it to the “Sol de Mañana” (Morning Sun) geysers. The mud pools were bubbling and the steam was comming from the cracks in the ground. There was a strong sulphur smell around and the sun was rising slowly bringing us a little bit of long awaited warmth. Then, we headed to the hot springs, where we could finally warm ourselves up. The pools were not big and there were quite a few cars around. Anyways, it was great to jump into 45° C water when the air around was 40° C cooler.
One step away from Chile
Next, we drove across Salvador Dali‘s desert. The artist himself had never been to the area at all, but the landscapes resembles his surrealistic paintings.The last stop of our 3-day tour was the Laguna Verde. Unfortunatelly, it turned out that you can see the green colour only in the afternoon sun. Behind the lak,e we could see the Licancabu volcano, 5960 masl high and on its other side there was a new country – Chile waiting for us.
You can finish the tour by the chilean border
At 9:00 am we were dropped at the borde where after the passport check and paying the small fee for the stamp we boarded the shuttlebus. It took us directly to San Pedro de Atacama. It was all arranged back in Uyuni while we did the booking for the tour. Three day trip turned out to last less than 48 hours because ot started at 11:00 am the 1st day and finished at 9 am, on 3rd day. If we chose to come back to Uyuni we would be back in town around 5:00 pm.
But first, coffee!
Luckily for us, at 1:00 pm were were sipping iced coffe at the main square of San Pedro recalling the incredible trip that had just finished. Here, more than 1500m lower than Altiplano, it was pleasantly warm. The sunny weather, after the harsh mountain-climat, remided us of Huacachina Oasis in Peru where we had been relaxing 3 weeks earlier.