Into Bolivia…and into altitude!

We booked to do a three day tour to the Salar de Uyuni with Pamela tours, as they had been recommended by our hostel and were one of the cheaper options.  I had read really mixed reviews of all the tour companies, including stories of jeeps breaking down, terrible food and lodging etc…so we were hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. We left San Pedro at about 7.45am and headed to Chilean immigration, where we were stamped out of Chile. An hour’s drive saw us at the border, where we were stamped into Bolivia.


Customs entering Bolivia

We were divided into groups – our group was all from the same hostel in San Pedro, and was Reuben and I, a couple from Switzerland, a girl from Austria and a guy from Belgium.  We were really lucky with our group – they were lots of fun, and three of them spoke Spanish and could translate what we were being told.

Following customs, we then transferred into four wheel drives and drove to the entrance to the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina, and to our first stop – the Laguna Blanca, where part of the lake was frozen over.

Laguna Blanca


Our next stop was the Laguna Verde. This whole area was really beautiful.

Laguna Verde


We drove past the Rocas de Daly (named because they look like Salvador Dali’s painted deserts) and further up to the Aguas Termales – a hot spring where we could swim and look out onto a beautiful  landscape.  We were at about 4000 metres elevation here and I started really feeling the altitude with a strong headache.

Soaking at elevation


Our next stop was the Sol de Manana geyser, which was at 4,800 metres. It was really interesting to walk around the geyser field and see the bubbling mud – we would not be allowed to get that close in New Zealand! Unfortunately, my head really didn’t like the altitude. That night I had some tea with coca leaves, a local remedy that did help a little bit. Apparently the coca leaves are from the plant that is used to make cocaine but in tea it is fairly harmless and recommended for altitude sickness.


Reuben at the geysers



The final stop for the day was the beautiful Laguna Colorada (4278 metres), where we had both lunch and dinner at the “refugio” that we were staying at, which was right across from the Laguna.  The six of us who were travelling together all shared one room – it was pretty basic, but fine.  The Laguna was beautiful, with red tones, a salt island and flamingos.  We went for a walk around it and saw both grey and pink flamingos.  This was a very cold night – we had been warned it might go down to -15 and it definitely felt like about -10!

Laguna Colorada


Flamingos at Laguna Colorada


Our refugio

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Helen says:

    Karen the coke-head- love it!


  2. Jared says:

    The altitude sickness will improve with some time to acclimatize. The coca tea helps as well, i LOVED that stuff when I was there. It also helps settle the stomach if you have eaten something that didn’t agree with you.


  3. Lachlan says:

    The photos are wonderful, it’s so spectacular up on the altiplano.

    I sympathise with the headache. When Nicholas and I were up in Lauca National Park in the far north of Chile we were well over 4,500m and… ow! The headaches were most uncomfortable! And we were camping! See In fact, the mountain across the lake is Sajama volcano, the highest peak in Bolivia.


  4. Julie Bunnell says:

    Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde are beautiful. Is it called Laguna Blanca because of the ice or because of the salt?
    And love that photo of the refugio… did you all tidy up especially before it was taken? 🙂


  5. Kate says:

    Sucks that the altitude’s been making you unwell – hopefully that will pass quickly. Still, at least you get to be a druggie for a while 😀


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