I'm not sure if it could be classed as off the beaten track, it certanly a well trodden road !! but its still so remote you feel you are the first person to ever see it, If that makes sense
The start of a epic journey, one which i shall never forget
My first stop the train grave yard climb amongst them get your camera out and fire away
When i did this trip in 98 we only met one other group!! I wonder if that would be true today
The title might sound crazy but this tour is extremely popular and you see plenty of cars with tourists all the way, at least 50 or more cars with 6 passengers each per day. I would not call that "off the beaten path" but it is great and interesting and highly recommendable.
You see a lot of llamas on your travels around Bolivia and Peru, and enough alpaccas too, but vicunas, their wild and undomesticated relative is a much more rare sight. I snapped this shot from the truck as they scampered from the road. The graceful animals' fur is the most expensive clothing material and reported to be the warmest too.
We woke up really early on the third day. It was still dark outside so it was freezing cold. We drove uphill for about 1 hour to the Sol de Mañana Geysers. As always, Nico Schumacher made sure that we were the first there. The geysers were quite nice! We got to see the sunrise there. Since we were early, the sulfur fumes were going hot. Also, the mud melting holes were acting up like beasts. The view of the sun appearing through the vapors was amazing.
Though we were getting tired of the strange rock formations by now, this stop was a welcomed relief to get out of the truck on the way back to Uyuni. It was nice to walk around, get some fresh air, and of course, snap a few photos.
All of my off-the-beaten path tips on Uyuni are related. It all starts when we headed off to the Salar de Uyuni and the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. Our ride was a Toyota 4x4 Land Cruiser. There where 6 passengers including our guide, Nico 'Schumacher' (a nickname given to Nico for his speedy driving). So on we went, 3 Dutch, 1 Israeli, and me :). Our first stop was the Salar de Uyuni. It has to be one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen! The Salar de Uyuni is the largest and highest salt flat on Earth. We stopped right after the entrance to see the unearthly contrast between the salt flat and the surrounding lands.
We drove half through the Salar de Uyuni and stopped at Isla Pescado (local name is Inkawasi) for lunch. This island in the salt flats is surrounded by salt, not water. The giant cacti on the island, some over 12 meters high, have lived for thousands of years. Oh, I saw a Ñandu (locally called Suri and its scientific name is pterocllemia pennata), which is a weird large bird. The scenery is amazing, specially the sharp contrast of the island with the salt flat. We drove half through the Salar de Uyuni and stopped at Isla Pescado (local name is Inkawasi) for lunch. This island in the salt flats is surrounded by salt, not water. The giant cacti on the island, some over 12 meters high, have lived for thousands of years. Oh, I saw a Ñandu (locally called Suri and its scientific name is pterocllemia pennata), which is a weird large bird. The scenery is amazing, specially the sharp contrast of the island with the salt flat.
We exited the Salar and continued to the small town of San Juan (elevation 3800 meters above sea level), where we spent the night. The dorm room we got reminded me to the room of the seven dwarfs in Snow White since it had small beds all clustered together in a small room :).
The next day was a busy one. We woke up early and drove to the most extraordinary scenery imaginable. It was almost as if each day was getting better and better. We started the day by crossing the less spectacular Salar de Chiguanai. Then we stopped at a lava flow rock formation to enjoy the view of Volcan Ollague. Anyway, the lava flow was amazing.
Afterwards, we drove through several lagunas, some of which had colonies of colorful Flamingos: James Flamingos (with their pink body and tails), Andean Flamingo (with the black tail and pink bodies), and the Chilean Flamingo (with white/gray bodies). We saw them all on our lunch stop at Laguna Hedionda (hedionda meaning smelly in Spanish, named after its sulfur smell).
We stopped in the desert at some other rock formations, which was the home of a family of vizcacha rabbits. They look like a mixture of a rabbit and a squirrel. Who knows, perhaps a pair got horny and as a result the first vizcacha was born.
Our next stop was at the Arbol de Piedra, which is an interesting rock formation. The desert continued on. The view was amazing. Since it was so high, the surface lacked plant life so it looked almost like a picture from Mars. Shall we throw a conspiracy theory out there?
We finally got to the Laguna Colorada (elevation 4,278 meters above sea level), where we spend the night. We hiked to the Mirador to enjoy the gorgeous view of the lagoon with its many colors (red, blue, yellow, white, etc).
After the geyser, we drove down to the thermal waters at 4300 meters above sea level. On the way, we passed an amazing desert like scenery, which I was again looked more like a picture of Mars, then on Earth. Anyway, I was a bit reluctant at first, but after seeing the others relaxing in the thermal waters I decided to join them. So with freezing weather, I took my clothes out, put my swimming trunks on, and ventured into the thermal waters. The water was a nice 30' Celsius, which made for a sharp contrast with the near freezing temperature of the air. In fact, there was ice on the surface of the small lake, which lies not even 10 meters away from were the thermal water lies. Surprisingly, I didn't get cold once I left the bath.
We ate breakfast here before continuing on. After eating, we continued on to the Laguna Verde, a beautiful lagoon with strange foam on the water edge. The mighty Volcan Llicancabur overlooks this lagoon. I walked around part of the lagoon to enjoy the change in colors with the different light.