There are some places in the world where you have to pinch yourself to check that your not in some crazy dream. In fact, you may feel like you have been transported from one world to another as you step out of your 4x4 to walk across desert, islands and gigantic rock formations...that's without even mentioning the salt flats.

Don't follow my flaw in booking your Uyuni TourFish Island

I spent hours reading reviews of drunk drivers, poor food, useless guides and discovered there are over eighty companies offering the tour, so I created my own shortlist with the intention of bargaining on the day. After six months in South America, I sadly let my purse strings take over and ended up handing over my cash to a company that didn't even have a name above it's door!

I myself wasn't too bothered on bagging an English speaking guide, but have come to learn the hard way that this often says more about the service itself. My guide didn't even introduce himself let alone provide any informative tidbits to the tour. It might be said that a well informed, experienced guide would pick up a few words of English over the years as a result of enjoying communicating with their customers!

After a delayed start, due to one couple arguing that they had been given misleading information when they paid for the tour, we headed straight to the ten thousand million tons of salt. Skidding across the seemingly indefinite surface of white sodium chloride in your 4x4 sure is a thrilling experience...even if you're squished three of you in the back seat. The better companies stick to six in a car meaning if you're a solo traveler like me, you might have more chance of being paired up with a new friend, rather than the seventh wheel among three couples.

4x4

I thought I had timed it perfectly para ver el cielo un el piso (to see the sky in the floor), but while there was some reflection for my yoga pose, there wasn't the mirror of the clouds and blue skies that made my jaw drop at photos I had seen online.

The Salt Flats

The views were still spectacular, but as some guides handed out dinosaur figurines and wine bottles I was a little disappointed that all we had to work with was a shoe, a cookie and a minuscule llama keyring. I would strongly suggest thinking ahead; this unique perspective probably won't be something you will come across again anytime soon. As we discovered when it took four goes at capturing a video of some of us jumping in and out of a shoe, it may need a few takes to get the precision required for the desired effect. If you are going to volunteer to play photographer, be prepared to get wet, as laying down creates the optimum level for the perfect shot.

All aboard the cookieRiding a keyring

On the second day of my tour I was enjoying breakfast with my group, when I was asked to get in a car to drop off my backpack in some shed, which I could only hope at the time was secure. Only then discovering that I would be joining a new group (not to mention a totally different company) I was dropped somewhere and placed into another vehicle. It obviously hadn't been explained to my new group either, as some made disgruntled comments about not having enough room at the back.

On route to the national park, we had some very impressive stops, the diversity of the landscapes was just mind-blowing.

Rock FormationsUyuni wildlife pics

For me that day was all about the flamingos, a bird that I would never have expected to come close to in Bolivia.

Flamingo

The young ladies from Israel were shocked to hear of the 150BS (just under 22USD) fee to enter Eduard Avaroa National Park, refusing to pay. Translating for my guide I explained that our accommodation was inside the park and though it was terrible that they had not been informed, it really was necessary if they wanted a bed for the night. Well worth the fee, watching the llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and flamingos wandering around their rainbow colored habitat was just breathtaking.

Eduard Avaroa National Park

At the accommodation for the second night, the Israeli girls were not at all happy to discover that hot showers were only available at an additional cost of 10 Bolivianos (1.50 USD) for five minutes. I was fully prepared to smell until the following morning at the hot springs and wow, what a treat that was. After visiting the fumaroles, again something unlike anything I have ever seen, my head relaxed back onto the rim of the natural pool, the hot water soothed my body and my eyes were treated to the most beautiful view.

Unwind at the hot springs

The rest of the final day was very much spent in the car, for me with a group who were either sleeping or silent due to their annoyance with the agency. The guide had apparently promised to return to the salts to see the sunset that they weren't previously able to capture, but had omitted (until now) to inform them this would be at an additional cost.  This really sums up my experience with both agencies that I encountered - overpromise and underdeliver.

I was wishing that I had stayed with my original group, until I bumped into one of the couples from the first day. Their car had broken down four times and they had spent extended periods of time at the roadside. Not only this, but in order to take one couple to the Chile border, they had to leave at 4am on the third morning, where they were held up and subsequently missed the hot springs. It was clear that whichever cheap company I was with I would not have avoided a car-full of complaining and unhappy customers.

Whether you opt for the standard tour which offers basic comfort levels but the same incredible landscapes or pay just a tad more for the premium, just don't make the same mistake as I did. The salt flats for most is a once in a lifetime experience and it's worth booking with a reputable company that has the enjoyable and smooth running experience of their guests at heart.

Book your tour with confidence here!

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