Bolivia is a landlocked South American country with a turbulent past. After being looted by the Spanish for centuries, there was a struggle for independence, and later wars with neighbouring Chile, to which Bolivia lost its access to the sea. Military coups and counter-coups ensued, but since the turn of the century things have improved.
Bolivia is still South America's poorest country, despite great natural riches, including silver ore and various other minerals. But these have traditionally been exploited by outsiders with little benefit for the vast majority of the population. The discovery of vast lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni provides the chance to make Bolivia a more affluent country.
La Paz is the world's highest administrative capital, resting at more than 3,500m above sea level. It is located in a bowl-like depression surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano. Overlooking the city is the towering, triple-peaked Illimani. Its peaks are always snow covered and can be seen from many parts of the city. A very elaborate cable car system makes for getting around very convenient.
A small town at the edge of an extensive plain at an elevation of 3,700m above sea level, Uyuni is best known for the nearby huge salt flat of the same name. This Salar de Uyuni is in fact the largest salt lake/salt pan in the world, and simply mind-boggling to see. Throw in some huge cactuses, scary mummies and a graveyard of rusting old steam trains, and it's a one-of-a-kind experience.
Salar De Uyuni was formed as a result of drying up of a lake called 'Lago Ballivian' about 40000 years ago. It is said to contain 10 billion tonnes of salt. As Salar De Uyuni is exceptionally flat and easily spottable, NASA supposedly uses this place to figure the positioning of satellites. When the rain covers the salt, the landscape turns azure blue as the plain reflects the sky. Drive across the salt flats when this reflection occurs and you will think you're above the clouds.
Uyuni ➜ San Pedro de Atacama [Chile]
3 day tours of Salar de Uyuni in 4×4 jeeps is the most popular way to cross over to Chile. The first day is spent in Salar de Uyuni, with the night in one of the basic salt hotels on the Salar itself. These hotels are almost completely constructed out of bricks made from dried salt, it gets very cold in there. The second and third days are spent seeing colored lakes, hot springs, flamingo flocks, hot geysers, eerie rock formations – such as Arbol de Piedra (Rock Tree), and painted volcanoes. You will be immersed in a rugged part of the world. The stars in that unpolluted place will take your breath away.