We enter Bolivia on land. The border crossing is fast and without any delay. La Paz city sits in a bowl surrounded by the high mountains of the altiplano (pic. 1). As it grew, the city of La Paz climbed the hills, resulting in varying elevations from 3,200 to 4,100 m. Our hotel is very close to the bus station and we pay the taxi driver way too much for the short drive.
As there aren't any 'must sees and dos' for us in the city, we flee to the countryside again. We visit Tiwanaku, which is the most important and oldest historical site of Bolivia. The ruins are up to 3000 years old. Unfortunately, a lot has been destroyed by the Spanish Conquistadors. It isn't the first time that we hear this.
The flight to Sucre (pic. 2) is very cheap - only USD 50pp - and this saves us a 12 hour bus ride. Sucre is the capital of Bolivia and the climate is much milder than in La Paz. We change to flip-flops and enjoy the warmer temperatures. Sucre is a colonial city with a well-preserved downtown and buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Most houses are painted in white - which gives the city a nice and clean touch.
We visit the local market and enjoy the various cafés along the main square. We even taste some Bolivian chocolate which tastes almost as good as the Swiss.
We take the bus from Sucre to Uyuni; this is a whole day trip. The scenery is breathtaking. We pass Potosi which claims to be the highest city (4,090 metres) in the world. From the bus, we are able to see 'Cerro Rico' - a mountain which is said to be 'made of silver'.
Arrival time in Uyuni is shortly before sunset. Uyuni has a population of bit more than 10,000 inhabitants and is visited by many tourists as the city is the gateway to the famous Uyuni salt flats nearby. We have to change our shoes again - it has become chilly and we are again at 3,700 m.
A once in a lifetime journey asks for a once in a lifetime hotel. Hotel de Sal Luna Salada (pic. 3) is about 40 minutes north of Uyuni in Colchani. Everything is made out of salt: walls, floors, tables & chairs even our beds. Very special and we like it!
We book a private day tour onto the salt flats. First we see some 'Ojos del Sal' which are outlets for subterranean rivers flowing beneath the surface. There's also a place where we can see how the salt bricks for housing construction are gained from the desert. Later, we race with our SUV Toyota 4x4 to 'Isla Icahuasi' which is an acient coral reef and hosts gigantic cacti. The drive is fantastic: white, flat landscape with some hills at the horizon (pic. 4). While we take a hike through the fantasy like landscape of Isla Icahuasi our driver prepares one of the most delicious meals we have had in Bolivia.
We all know the funny pictures which are taken in the desert. We cannot resist either and take one, two, three ... endless pictures (pic. 5) . It's a whole lot of fun!
The girls enjoy collecting salt crystals in one of the 'Ojos del Sal'. Our driver and tour guide is great and he loves the Uyuni salt flats - we can feel that. He recommends that the best time for visiting the Uyuni is March or April when the surface reflects in the thin waterlayer on the flats. We postpone this to a later expedition.
The extraordinary tour ends after an amazing sunset in the desert (pic. 6)! Certainly an A+ Day :-)
Many tourists do a three days tour in the Uyuni desert; starting in Uyuni and ending up in San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) or vice versa. For us, travelling with children, this seems to be too streneous. Instead, we decide to take the regular bus to Calama/Chile. There are only two buses a week to Chile and they leave Uyuni at 4 o'clock in the morning. We have never been so cold before whilst waiting for the bus to pick us up on a corner in the middle of the night. The ride itself was like travelling in a freezer. We are the only Europeans on the bus and the border crossing is much more complicated than from Peru to Bolivia. It takes us several hours and each luggage is checked carefully. Did we really think that a tour from Uyuni to San Pedro in Chile would be more streneous? Probably not - this ought to be checked out.
We arrive in the city of Calama/Chile in the afternoon.