Accommodation: included in the price of the tour. Hostel-like, with very basic toilet and sleeping facilities. The first night was particularly cold, and the discomfort was augmented by the effects of altitude sickness. Sleeping bags were definitely necessary during the night. For extra money, a more luxurious hotel option is available.
Food: also included in the price of the tour and provided by the cook who travelled with us. Simple and far from luxurious, the food provided was nonetheless hearty and well-balanced. For instance, meals included spaghetti bolognese with vegetable soup or schnitzel with mixed salad. In addition to the ample food provided for each meal, we were also provided tea and coffee prior to dinner.
Tour Price: Tours cost approximately 1800 Bolivianos / 200 GBP / 2000 HKD per person. Tour agencies normally charge extra for an English-speaking guide, as well as add-ons such as sleeping bags and oxygen. Warm clothing, hiking boots, sun protection, extra water, and a flashlight are required. For our particular tour, a deposit was required upon booking; the rest of the payment was done at the end of the tour. While tipping is not strictly required, we felt it was appropriate to tip 10% of the tour fee, to be split between the drivers, cook, and tour guide.
- The main advantage of beginning a tour in Hito Cajon is that this itinerary ends at the Salar on the final morning with a sunrise over the salt flats. Tours are also possible from Tupiza (near the Argentinian border) or Uyuni.
- We recommend booking the Salar tour in advance. Before booking, ensure that the tour agency is reputable by doing ample research online, and that the agency replies with confirmation of receiving the deposit. Additionally, insist on details such as starting time and place. While cheaper last-minute tour options from San Pedro are available, it is hard to determine the quality of such tours.
- If you are keen to visit the Salar during the rainy season to see the famous mirror effect, February or March would be your best bet, though there is no guarantee of rain. Be aware that during the wet season, some regions of the Salar are inaccessible and the chances of your jeep breaking down are also higher.
- There are several potential destinations following the Salar tour. These include Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia, noted for swathes of chalk-white colonial buildings; Potosí, a relic of Bolivia’s silver-mining past, where tours to cooperative mines can be arranged; and La Paz, the sprawling capital of Bolivia.
Stay tuned for our next installment in hectic La Paz.
Photo credits: Catherine Yuen, Yinnie Tong, Keith Chan