Death Road & Uyuni Salt Flats - A Week in Bolivia
The journey to Bolivia…
I took PeruHop/BoliviaHop buses from Cusco to Puno to Copacabana to La Paz (Bolivia’s capital). The overnight bus ride from Cusco to Puno had comfortable fully reclining seats. I planned to spend at least one night in Copacabana but once I arrived in the town I decided I’d go on the boat tour to Sun Island (lasted about 5 hours and was $10 USD) and then continue on to La Paz that evening. If you go on the tour, opt to sit on top of the boat. Sun Island was beautiful and a relaxing place to eat, buy from local merchants and have photos taken with alpacas.
The highest capital city in the WORLD. 11,942 feet/3,639 meters above sea level. Please be mindful that it will take one to two days to acclimate to the altitude.
Budget: Wild Rover - Party hostel with Irish bar, great for meeting other backpackers.
Luxury: Axix Hotel - A luxury hotel that won’t break the bank. Beautiful pool and artwork with an awesome restaurant in the posh area of La Paz. You can find most of the top rated restaurants within a few blocks of the hotel. Reachable by cable car. Last stop (Irpawi) on the green line and then an ~7 minute walk.
La Vida- Vegan restaurant offering a lunch menu for 39 bolivianos (~$6USD). Get there early to ensure you’re able to get the soup and juice of the day. Once they’re out, they don’t replenish.
La Pecha (pictured)- Upscale vegan restaurant offering a three course lunch menu for 100 Bolivianos (~15USD) and a 6 course dinner menu for 200 Bolivianos (~$30USD). Delicious!
ONA in Axix Hotel- Upscale restaurant, delicious food, great cocktails, very busy during the weekend.
There are several companies that offer a similar service and picking the “best one” at the best price was an overwhelming decision. I read great reviews about Barracuda and decided to go with them. I went for the full suspension bike and felt safe during the entire ride. If you mention that I sent you, you may get the tour for 570 Bolivianos (full suspension bike) + 50 Bolivianos tax which goes directly to the village. Gustavo and Marco were great guides. Gustavo was very thorough when explaining each part of the road and made sure we took ensured our safety by taking breaks regularly. Marco was a great photographer (although the camera was a bit outdated) and mechanic (fixed all issues on the spot). Also, Andre in the office (I booked a day in advance... bit it was low season) was super knowledgeable and his English was perfect. Thankfully, no one on my tour suffered from injuries. Although my friend who was the fastest took a small tumble but was completely fine. The pool after was refreshing and the buffet lunch was delicious. Make sure to layer up. It was windy, cold, and rainy but by the afternoon we were all in t-shirts. Bring sunglasses and sun screen as well!
Soccer game. Estadio Hernando Siles stadium is the highest in the world and games there are such a fun and unique experience! Tickets can be purchased online on todotix.com up until the day before the game or in front of the stadium the day of the game. If you buy them from a scalper try to negotiate... Especially if you're buying multiple! Note that they don’t sell alcohol at the stadium. So prepare accordingly beforehand. ;-)
Ride the cable cars without a plan. The best and most affordable way to see La Paz. You can ride the cable car for less than $1!
Even though I didn’t do one… Go on a walking tour! Red Cap Walking Tours was recommended to me.
See a Cholitas Wrestling Match. Traditional outfits, women fighting, and shitty acting? What more could you want on a Sunday evening? I personally didn't get the chance to see it but I got several peoples' opinions. Most of the men seemed to like REALLY enjoy it and the women were 50/50. I'd love to hear what you think!
Off to Uyuni…
Uyuni Salt Flats/Salar de Uyuni
I was told by BoliviaHop to book a tour prior to arriving in the town of Uyuni. Although I heard from backpackers that it was significantly less expensive to book in the town of Uyuni. Being the frugal traveler (or just person) that I am, I decided to take the latter advice and headed to Uyuni without a single thing planned (common theme). I took an overnight bus that left La Paz at 10pm and arrived in the town of Uyuni around 6:30am. When I arrived there were people surrounding the bus asking if I needed a tour. Feeling overwhelmed, I took a few of their brochures, said a few thanks, and found a cafe nearby to strategize. I looked up a few of the locations of the top rated companies, pinned them in Google Maps and made a b-line: Red Planet, Salar de Uyuni and Quechua Connection 4wd were at the top of my list. I also knew that my friend had paid around 850 Bolivianos when she did the tour so I used that as my benchmark. After doing some "shopping around," most companies said their price for an English tour was between 1000-1300 Bolivianos and for a Spanish tour 700-800 Bolivianos. I ended up paying 760 w/transfer to San Pedro de Atacama Chile for a Spanish tour but wound up being put in an English group (essentially saved 300 Boliviano). As far as finishing the tour, you can either end the tour where you started in the town of Uyuni or in San Pedro de Atacama (Chilean desert). San Pedro is a super cool desert town and I decided to end there because I was planning to fly from Calama, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina. Which ultimately didn’t work out… Thanks Corona. That said, I would not recommend the company that I went with (not listed above) and they were well rated. Here's why: The car was hanging on by 'it's last leg,' and it ended up breaking down when the others from my tour were heading back to Uyuni. Everyone else paid for the English tour but the driver/tour guide refused to speak English and he didn't explain things thoroughly. All in all, it was still a wonderful trip and I am still in awe by the breathtaking landscapes. Also, met some great people from Holland, England and the United States. I recommend taking layers as some days were warm and then the others were extremely windy and cold.
Here are important questions to ask before booking your Uyuni tour:
Does the car have seat belts?
If it’s summer or winter, is there heat or AC in the car?
When were the tires last replaced?
Is there hot water at the hostels/hotels?
How many others are signed up for the tour? There are usually six seats for passengers
What do the meals consist of?
Is the national park entrance ticket included? (Typically it’s not included and it’s an additional 150 Bolivianos)
The most important thing is your safety as you’ll be in the car in the middle of no where for hours on end.
Here are some pictures:
I'd love to answer any questions that you have and hear your thoughts about the post! All comments are appreciated. :-)