From the Moon to Mars- Salt Flats and the Atacama Dessert

Salar de Uyuni  is the world’s largest salt flat at 12,106 square kilometres and, even more impressive, it is at an altitude of 3653m. It was once part of a prehistoric salt lake which covered most of southwest Bolivia. When this lake dried it left a few bodies of water including Lake Titikaka and many salt pans including Salar de Uyuni.  We decided on a tour that crosses the salt flats and the Atacama Desert ending up in Chile (San Pedro de Atacama).

We had a great group for this 3 day tour with a mixture of Ozzies, Irish, Dutch and of course some English (11 of us in total).

Our first stop was a place named ‘Train Graveyard’ – as you can imagine this giant sized cemetery was the final resting place for Bolivia’s oldest trains. For us, it was simply an oversized adult’s playground.

The highlight of the trip had to be the salt flats (the moon) themselves, they were insane – it was like we had been transported to another planet, so different to anything either of us had ever seen. They were truly huge, dead flat salt crust as far as the eye could see in any direction. We took this opportunity to take some ridiculous ‘perspective’ photos.

Certain areas of the flats are mined for their salt, during the wet season the farmers pile up the goods to dry it before taking it to the workshop. We actually visited one of these tiny processing houses where we were given some free Uyuni salt to try and were told about the farming process. As well as using the salt as a food substance they also use it to make bricks for the houses and other buildings in the area including the ‘hotel’ we stayed in on the first night- pretty mad.

The flats also have ‘islands’ randomly dotted around remnant of the areas time as a salt lake, these make for some very interesting landscapes. We visited one such island that was covered in cactus-some 20ft high- which were the only green to be seen for miles.

Next stop- Mars. The second part of our journey took us over the Atacama desert- the highest and driest desert in the world. On the way we saw lagoons with numerous flamingos, the ‘laguna rojo’ (coloured by the algae living in it), interesting lava formations, a large geyser with bubbling mud pools, red tinted mountains and, somewhat out of place, snowcapped volcanoes. We also saw the not so verde ‘laguna verde’- this lake gets its name from the green colour that the minerals in the water make- unfortunately we visited on a very still day so the minerals had not been disturbed in a while making it more of a dull brown.

In the evenings we chilled out with our vino tinto, a pack of cards and on the last night a natural hot pool where we sat and watched the sun set and the stars twinkle. Mike also made friends with a cute little girl who lived at the hostel and took a liking to his camera- sooooo cute.

At the end of our trip we said our goodbyes to half the group, whilst the other half came across the border with us to Chile. We were dropped in San Pedro de Atacama an oasis desert town with a great climate and a very chilled out vibe. For the next few days we did very little apart from mooch around, have some great food with everyone and chill. Here we started to notice that Christmas was actually fast approaching- the square had a decorated Christmas tree, we listened to Christmas carols while eating breakie outside in the 30+ degree heat and saw numerous decorated cacti.

We didn’t hang around in Chile long; after our few chilled out days we headed for Salta, Argentina…

In case you didn’t get enough,

here are a few more pics of the salt flats…..

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4 responses to “From the Moon to Mars- Salt Flats and the Atacama Dessert

  1. Thanks Gracie just saw that gigantic spider made me go all funny, I would be no good there if they have elephant size spiders. xx your trembling nanxx

    • Sorry- I didn’t mind him too much but when we lost him it did freak me out a bit. Thankfully I had drank enough wine to forget about it before we went to bed. Xx

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