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Uyuni and the Salar De Uyuni

November 3, 2012

The newly paved road from Potosi to Uyuni is very good making the journey to Uyuni pretty painless. However, as is often the case, as soon as you hit the town you leave behind the smooth pavement.

There isn’t much to get excited about in Uyuni. It’s has the feel of a frontier town, although its not near the border, and the large numbers of tourists heading off in landcruisers for tours on the Salar feel very incongruous.

Treat Uyuni as a place to fuel up, stock up (although don’t expect a supermarket) and prepare for a trip to the Salar and then across the SouthWest circuit and you won’t be disappointed.

We had decided to visit the Salar de Uyuni (one of the biggest salt lakes in the world) and then return to the town before heading off through the wilds to the Chilean border. We wanted to do this not least because we wanted to fill up with diesel and wash off the salt before the second half of our trip.

Before our trip to the Salar we visited one of the many car washes that are at the Southern end of town and had the Beast fumigated. This means that we had a layer of used oil sprayed on our underside to help protect against the salt from the Salar.

After this we were ready to leave town. The road to the Eastern entrance to the Salar (about 25km’s from town) is not that obvious and we ended up on the wrong road away from town – a sandy track which roughly paralleled the right road. However we went right past the Salar entrance before we found our way back to the right place. The up side of this is we avoided a checkpoint that looked like they were charging a toll.

Its really important to enter the Salar at the right place as the edges of the Salar are the weakest part and the place that it is most likely for a vehicle to break through. We have met two couples who managed to break through the salt and both had a nightmare multi-day recovery to get out.

After watching the route onto the Salar taken by a bus we followed and we were soon on the hard, flat surface of the Salar. There is actually a lot of traffic on the Salar as there are a large number of landcruiser tours ! This means that roadways have formed, with black tyre marks, where you know your vehicle is safe. Driving on the Salar is fun and it is possible to drive fast although its important to keep your eye out for the occasional hole in the salt which wouldn’t be fun to drive through.

We drove to Isla Incahausi which is one of the bigger islands in the salt and covered in cactuses. There is an enjoyable hike to the top of the island which gives you a great view of the surrounding salt.


We decided to spend the night here before retracing our steps back to the place where we had entered.

The proper road back to Uyuni is one of the worst roads we have ever driven – very hard tight corrugations. Fortunately there are tracks either side of the main road which are soft sand and much more pleasant to drive. Everyone does this but not everyone can cope with the sand and we ended up pulling a local car out of axle deep sand on our way !

As soon as we got back to Uyuni we headed back to the car wash area to get the salt washed off the Beast. We wanted this done straight away because thick crusted salt can lead to rusting pretty quickly.

After this we visited the Train graveyard. This is just outside town and a large number of engines and trucks have been left here to rot for many years.

We spent our second night in Uyuni parked outside the military base which meant that we weren’t far from Minuteman pizza in the Tonito hotel. Minuteman makes what are reputedly the best pizzas in South America. I wouldn’t go quite that far but they were good !

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick Prior permalink
    November 3, 2012 6:58 pm

    Hi Mark and Sarah, Thank you for my train fix. Two great blogs. I really believed in the 80ft woman until I saw the shadow!!!. Still, better than the flying man. Love Dad


    • November 3, 2012 7:03 pm

      You’d have loved the trains – around 20 engines of different types (all steam) sitting around and at least 500m of carriages, cabooses and all sorts !

  2. November 3, 2012 7:37 pm

    Some incredible pics!

  3. November 4, 2012 1:41 pm

    Great pictures guys! We can’t wait to see Uyuni and the surrounding areas…

  4. November 5, 2012 11:49 am

    Possibly my fav pics from your trip. Really nice! especially the trains.

    p.s. Did you get my FB message? Hope to get to say hello in Argentina….

    • November 7, 2012 4:28 pm

      Thanks Merv.

      I didn’t get your FB message – also can’t seem to work out how to post comments on your blog ! We’re slowly moving South.

      • mervcolton permalink
        November 7, 2012 5:26 pm

        Thats funny. You have an “account” on our blog as “fromalaskatobrazil” so you should be good to go… Guess it will be a while before you are as far South as us.

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