Pink Plankton

When most people think of Bolivia they think of salt flats, and only salt flats.  While the Salar de Uyuni is spectacular, I quickly learned the country's deserts had much more to offer - everything from colorful lagoons to obscure rock formations.  The most popular salt flats tour (3 days, 2 nights) goes to these other locations as well, and so the very name ‘salt flats tour’ is quite misleading, as the salt flats are only one of many spectacular things you will see!

This tour was unlike any other ‘tour’ I’ve ever been on.  I don’t normally like guided tours, but a guided tour is really the only way to see this area.  The tour only consists of the people in your jeep: your guide/driver, a cook (in our case, our guides wife), and 4 guests.  (Of course, you could rent a 4WD vehicle and self-drive, but this would take quite a bit of extra planning.  There is literally nothing out there, not even real roads really, and thus, most backpackers opt for the tour).

Most people arrive in Uyuni then start and end the tour there.  But I HIGHLY recommend making your way down to Tupiza to start there and end in Uyuni.  I was lucky enough to meet a girl that swore on her life this was the best way to do it and she was absolutely right.  The Tupiza - Uyuni tour is one night longer, so you see a bit more. But more importantly, you will be traveling in the reverse direction of all the other jeeps leaving from Uyuni, which means way less crowds! I did the tour back in 2015 and we saw one or two other jeeps on most days, but I heard that from Uyuni there can be as many as 15 jeeps leaving any given morning.

Going into this tour, I thought the salt flats be the highlight.  Boy was I pleasantly surprised at all the other amazing things we saw, that I didn’t even know were on the itinerary!  As a primarily landscape photographer, it was an absolute dream.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves… pink flamingos, volcano, and a lagoon in Bolivia's desert

This is one of my fav photos of all time so I stuck it at the top.  I love birds, especially flamingos, and pink is my favorite color (in case you hadn't noticed).  It was so lovely to see them so close.
Moon Valley in Bolivia

Ok now the rest are in chronological order... this is near Tupiza at the start of the trip.mountains and ruins of an abandoned ghost town Pueblo Fantasma in Bolivia

Notice the ruins off if the distance... ruins of abandoned ghost town Pueblo Fantasma in Bolivia

The ruins are Pueblo Fantasma, an abandoned mining ghost town.  ruins of an abandoned ghost town Pueblo Fantasma in Bolivia

lagoon and desert in Bolivia

Such vast desert all around.
abandoned jeep in Bolivia's desert salt lagoon in Bolivia's desertFirst glimpse of salt! 2 jeeps in Bolivia's desert

This is what a typical lunch stop looks like.  Our cook was great, she would cook our breakfast and lunch in the hotel the night before, they were always delicious.Bolivia's Sol de Mañana geothermal volcanic area

Sol de Mañana geothermal, volcanic area.bubbling mud at Bolivia's Sol de Mañana geothermal volcanic area

Bubbling mud! Bolivia's Laguna Colorada red lagoon

Laguna Colorada, or Red Lagoonwhite flamingos in Bolivia's Laguna Colorada red lagoon

White flamingos!  Apparently all flamingos are actually white, but they turn pink based on algae they eat. There are pink flamingos in the back, I guess these guys weren't eating enough of it.
jeep and rock formations in Bolivia's desert

Everything is so flat but then you come across these random parts with huge rock formations...
Arbol de Piedra, or Stone Tree rock formation in Bolivia's desert

This is Árbol de Piedra, or Stone Tree.  It is in what is called the Salvador Dalí Desert because the rock formations here are very reminiscent of Dali's surrealist landscapes.
rock formations and sand road in Bolivia's desert

lagoon in Bolivia's desert

Don't know the name of this lagoon, so many lagoons. lagoon in Bolivia's desert

Such clear water, if only it was warm enough to swim!fixing a flat tire on 4WD jeep in Bolivia's desert

We had a few flat tire issues but our guide was awesome and always got us back on the road within a couple hours tops. It wasn't his first rodeo, that's for sure. pink flamingo, volcano, and a lagoon in Bolivia's desert

More lagoons, more flamingos! So happy.volcano and rock formation in Bolivia's desert train tracks and distant mountains in Bolivia's desert

These tracks lead to Chile. They are no longer used. inside salt hotel in Bolivia

For the last night we stayed in a hotel made of salt!salt hotel in Bolivia cacti and sunrise on Bolivia’s Isla Incahuasi

Finally on the last day, we arrive at the Salar de Uyuni for sunrise.
view of cars and Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni from Isla Incahuasi

Many don't know there's actually an island in the middle of the salar called Isla Incahuasi.

cacti on Isla Incahuasi in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

And it's covered in cacti, lots and lots of cacti!
sunrise and cacti on Isla Incahuasi in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

Some are so big!cacti and sunrise on Bolivia’s Isla Incahuasi

Salar de Uyuni and Isla Incahuasi in Bolivia person doing Y stand on top of Nalgene bottle on Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

Fav perspective pic of me on nalgene!perspective photo of person holding other people on Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

And our group!  As I went in low-ish season, there weren't that many other travelers in Tupiza looking to do the tour.  Thankfully, I found these guys within a couple days. shadows and silhouettes of people on Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni people and their shadows on Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni shadows and sun on Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

Train cemetery in Uyuni, Bolivia

The last stop of the tour is a train cemetery.  There are hundreds of trains that were abandoned here in the 1940's.  It is super cool to see and photograph.  Please check the link for more of my photos on it!