Bolivia Salt Flats: Journey from Tupiza (Part 1)

We spent four days in a jeep driving through the Bolivian outback!

Most tourists do a 1-3 day tour from Uyuni. We took the road less traveled – a four day, 1,000km journey from Tupiza through the remote, uninterrupted and stunning scenery of Southwest Bolivia.

It wasn’t all easy. We spent at least 10 hours a day cooped up in a jeep riding on bumpy, unrelenting dusty terrains. Pee breaks were often behind a low, non-shrubbery bush. By nightfall, temperatures drop drastically, no amount of layers seem to warm our chilling bodies. All of this at altitudes of 4,000+ meters. Oh, and did I mention, all while on my monthly cycle! TMI, I know, but despite all that, I would do it all again in a heartbeat (maybe without the menstrual cycle this time around..).

Day 1

Quebrada de Palala & El Sillar

We hit the open road with a Kiwi couple, our driver and personal chef (yes, we got our own chef!). The canyons of Tupiza was our first stop. We’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, but I imagined it would look something like this – beautiful rock formations in shades of brilliant red and orange.

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As the day went on, the roads flatten out and I was amazed how our driver knew exactly where to drive. There wasn’t exactly a designated road, just dirt.

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We eventually made it to a little village like this one and called it a day.

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Day 2

Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve

I consider myself a morning person but even I wasn’t loving our 5am wake up call especially after a cold and restless night. After breakfast, we made our way to an abandoned town called San Antonio de Lipez. From there, we paid to enter the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa and spent a majority of our day exploring the parks.

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Termas de Polques hot springs

For many, this was the closest thing to a shower of the 4-day trip. I had my own “issues” that prevented me from taking a dip. In any case there were no changing rooms and I was less than willing to strip down all my layers of clothing anyhow – it was quite windy.

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The hot springs was followed by a delicious lunch before we headed back out on the desolate road. Our drives consist of snow-top mountains and mirror lakes. I mean, it was just out of this world, the natural landscapes we passed were like canvas paintings or desert mirages, it didn’t look real.

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Day 3

Arbol de Piedra

Day 3 was all about lagunas and pink flamingos and this cool stop that seem out of this world. It’s my favorite stop: an area with isolated volcanic rock formations that has been shaped over time by strong wind. This rock is famous and looks like a tree, hence, it’s known as arbol de piedra or ‘stone tree’. I’m not one for heights but Gerard had a blast climbing the rocks. I just like looking at them.

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Laguna Celeste

Laguna Celeste was one of five lagoons we visited on Day 3. All are home to hundreds of Andean flamingos.

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I am obsessed with the colors of the pink flamingos against the desert brown, greenish shrubbery, white borax and the bluest of blue skies. No photo editing required..

Laguna Colorada

Here’s a first – a red lake. The water in this lagoon is red from algae pigmentation.

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Abandoned rail tracks

Throughout the 3-days, we made interesting and random stops at geysers, a once ocean-filled land now dried up and this one: an abandoned railroad tracks in the Atacama Desert.

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When our original accommodation fell through on our last night in the desert, we eventually ended up here and lucked out with private bungalows as cute as a button. You can’t tell from the pictures, but the furniture in our room from floor to bed is made of salt!

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I was in awe at what we’ve seen thus far and we haven’t even made it to Salar de Uyuni yet! It’s some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever come across. Hard not to be amazed when you’ve got sunsets like this, right?

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Read Part 2 here!

How to get here: We booked our bus ride, train tickets and Tupiza tour package in La Paz with Tupiza Tours. From La Paz, we bused to Oruro and took the overnight train to Tupiza. We stayed at Hotel Mitru, the same hotel Tupiza Tour operates from, and departed the next morning for our 4-day safari through the Bolivian outback to Uyuni.

 

Have you toured Bolivia’s southwest circuit?

 

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  • http://twitter.com/acceleratedstal Maria

    Wow! Desolate and simultaneously beautiful.

  • http://mariafalvey.net/ Maria Falvey

    Wow! Desolate and simultaneously beautiful.

  • http://twitter.com/espenorio Sheila

    Amazing! Beautiful photos. Bolivia sounds amazing and this is just the post I needed to prepare for our trip in June. Can’t wait for the next part. Do you recommend your tour company and how should I book our trip?

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Tupiza Tours is great! I think they’re known to be the best in the area for this type of tour and we were extremely satisfied with them. They organized our entire journey from La Paz from the bus to train all the way to Tupiza as well. I highly recommend them. Great value too. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=36500078 Sheila Espenorio

    Amazing! Beautiful photos. Bolivia sounds amazing and this is just the post I needed to prepare for our trip in June. Can’t wait for the next part. Do you recommend your tour company and how should I book our trip?

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Tupiza Tours is great! I think they’re known to be the best in the area for this type of tour and we were extremely satisfied with them. They organized our entire journey from La Paz from the bus to train all the way to Tupiza as well. I highly recommend them. Great value too. :)

  • Jaclyn@JaclynsJaunts

    It’s gorgeous! Bolivia is on my list! Can’t wait to read about the rest of your trip.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Glad it’s on your list. Bolivia is really a great underrated country to visit. So gorgeous.

  • Jaclyn@JaclynsJaunts

    It’s gorgeous! Bolivia is on my list! Can’t wait to read about the rest of your trip.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Glad it’s on your list. Bolivia is really a great underrated country to visit. So gorgeous.

  • http://twitter.com/mrsoaroundworld Ana Silva O’Reilly

    Oh my God! these pics are amazing… Absolutely stunning. I so want to go!!

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    Oh my God! these pics are amazing… Absolutely stunning. I so want to go!!

  • http://twitter.com/toniwonitravels Toni

    I’m not sure if it’s the colours or the landscape but there is something about these photos that I can’t take my eyes off them! :)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      I know what you mean. The colors are ridiculous, right?! And with those landscapes, it’s whimsical and surreal. Have you been?

  • http://twitter.com/toniwonitravels Toni

    I’m not sure if it’s the colours or the landscape but there is something about these photos that I can’t take my eyes off them! :)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      I know what you mean. The colors are ridiculous, right?! And with those landscapes, it’s whimsical and surreal. Have you been?

  • http://twitter.com/L_e_a_h Leah Travels

    You both really out did yourselves with this post. I want to do this and I’m going to need y’all to be my photographer. Awesome, my friends.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Haha, we didn’t need to do much. Bolivia did all the work for us. 😀

  • Leah Travels

    You both really out did yourselves with this post. I want to do this and I’m going to need y’all to be my photographer. Awesome, my friends.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Haha, we didn’t need to do much. Bolivia did all the work for us. 😀

  • http://twitter.com/ephemerratic Lauren, Ephemerratic

    Amazing photos and sharing. You’ve totally inspired me to put Bolivia on my list.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Yay!! You won’t regret it. It’s such an underrated country. You’ll love it!

      • http://twitter.com/ephemerratic Lauren, Ephemerratic

        I also hear that it’s cheap(ish), relative to other Central/South America destinations. Bonus!

        • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

          It really is.. one of the cheapest of countries we visited last year. :)

  • http://twitter.com/ephemerratic Lauren, Ephemerratic

    Amazing photos and sharing. You’ve totally inspired me to put Bolivia on my list.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Yay!! You won’t regret it. It’s such an underrated country. You’ll love it!

      • http://twitter.com/ephemerratic Lauren, Ephemerratic

        I also hear that it’s cheap(ish), relative to other Central/South America destinations. Bonus!

        • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

          It really is.. one of the cheapest of countries we visited last year. :)

  • http://twitter.com/TheWrldWanderer The World Wanderer

    “Pee breaks were often behind a low, non-shrubbery bush.” – I know what this is like! :) Okay, I seriously need to get to Bolivia! AMAZING!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hahaha, right?!! Lol, I knew you’d understand.

  • The World Wanderer

    “Pee breaks were often behind a low, non-shrubbery bush.” – I know what this is like! :) Okay, I seriously need to get to Bolivia! AMAZING!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hahaha, right?!! Lol, I knew you’d understand.

  • http://www.theworldofdeej.com The World of Deej

    Awesome stuff…I even liked the little bungalows for your last night. Looked like something out of The Shire:)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Oh, the ones at the Shire is way cuter – I’ve seen them. Lol, but you can actually live in these.. haha

  • http://www.theworldofdeej.com The World of Deej

    Awesome stuff…I even liked the little bungalows for your last night. Looked like something out of The Shire:)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Oh, the ones at the Shire is way cuter – I’ve seen them. Lol, but you can actually live in these.. haha

  • http://twitter.com/lazytravelers Lazy Travelers

    not quite sure what i thought bolivia would look like, but i didn’t think it would be this. OBSESSED with the salt village! wanna go NOW!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Add it to your rtw!

  • Lazy Travelers

    not quite sure what i thought bolivia would look like, but i didn’t think it would be this. OBSESSED with the salt village! wanna go NOW!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Add it to your rtw!

  • http://twitter.com/ilivetotravel Raul

    Great photography! It reminds me of the Atacama Desert and its scenery. The 10-hrs/day rides on bumpy roads is something I’ve had to do a few times (tourism and work situations) and I never really get used to them! Glad you got to go and check out this corner of Bolivia.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Right?! After a year, I’m still not use to the long bus rides.. ugh

  • Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    Great photography! It reminds me of the Atacama Desert and its scenery. The 10-hrs/day rides on bumpy roads is something I’ve had to do a few times (tourism and work situations) and I never really get used to them! Glad you got to go and check out this corner of Bolivia.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Right?! After a year, I’m still not use to the long bus rides.. ugh

  • http://travelingted.com/ Traveling Ted

    Very cool scenery, and I love the hot springs. What a cool destination.

  • http://travelingted.com/ Traveling Ted

    Very cool scenery, and I love the hot springs. What a cool destination.

  • Jenna

    I’ve been wanting to visit the salt flats so bad lately! It looks amazing, and your photos are great! I love the rock formations, and the little huts you stayed in look adorable!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Thanks Jenna. The rock formations are incredible in person. You should definitely go!

  • Jenna

    I’ve been wanting to visit the salt flats so bad lately! It looks amazing, and your photos are great! I love the rock formations, and the little huts you stayed in look adorable!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Thanks Jenna. The rock formations are incredible in person. You should definitely go!

  • http://twitter.com/passion_4travel Jessica Kleiner

    those flamingos are too cute! the only time i’ve seen flamingos were at the Flamingo in Las Vegas- haha. Would love to see them in their natural habitat! Will hopefully remember this place for the future!

  • jess_apassionandapassport

    those flamingos are too cute! the only time i’ve seen flamingos were at the Flamingo in Las Vegas- haha. Would love to see them in their natural habitat! Will hopefully remember this place for the future!

  • traci

    Hey there! Love your blog! I’ll be in Bolivia in just a few weeks and wanted to get to Tupiza from La Paz the same way you guys did. Were there any delays with your bus/train combo? Kind of on a tight schedule :

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      For us there weren’t any major delays with the bus/train combo. You just have to beware of protests that go on around La Paz. That seems to happen every now and then. When it does, it involves road blocks. Not good for people in transit. Have a blast!

  • traci

    Hey there! Love your blog! I’ll be in Bolivia in just a few weeks and wanted to get to Tupiza from La Paz the same way you guys did. Were there any delays with your bus/train combo? Kind of on a tight schedule :

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      For us there weren’t any major delays with the bus/train combo. You just have to beware of protests that go on around La Paz. That seems to happen every now and then. When it does, it involves road blocks. Not good for people in transit. Have a blast!

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