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Southern Bolivia - Sucre, Potosi, Tupiza and Uyuni tour

BOLIVIA | Tuesday, 20 November 2012 | Views [6250] | Comments [5]



I had great expectations from Sucre. I have heard from so many people about how charming the place was and I was really looking forward to spending few days there.

The bus journey was awful. I was on the bus that kept getting flat tyres and then in the middle of the night just stopped for 2 hours on the side of the road. Eventually we made it to the suburbs of Sucre and that’s where the driver finally gave up and unloaded us all. No wonder he did that as the wheel had a gigantic hole and it was clear that the bus was on its last legs.

After a combi ride to centre I settled into the Wasi Masi hostel.

The luck was not with us…There was no water in the place and we could not check in until much later since the whole of the dorm went out the previous night and was nursing their hangover…

So we decided to go and discover the city. There is no denying that the place is lovely but it’s also quite small and one day is sufficient to get the feel of it.

The next day was a market day in the nearby Tarabuco. To be honest I really think that by that stage I have seen too many markets and was not massively impressed. It was, however, a perfect opportunity to do some Alpaca shopping as well as listen to something that seemed like indigenous people talent show…

With not much more to see or do in Sucre we set out to the mining town of Potosi.

The main attraction and indeed reason to go there is to visit the mines.

 I had really mixed feelings about it. For one I don’t particularly like small spaces and although I have never had a real panic attack I wasn’t sure that testing that theory 2 km under the ground was the best idea.

Secondly, I really wasn’t convinced that the tours were not exploiting the local miners. As these are real working mines I felt that the whole idea was similar to visiting a Zoo. It just didn’t sit right with me.

But, I did get convinced to do it. The fact that you bring presents to the miners and that the whole site is owned by them rather than some big corporation made me more at ease.

It was an interesting, if uncomfortable, experience.  I somehow thought that the conditions were going to be much worse… It wasn’t exactly a picnic but there are oxygen lines pumping the air, there is not that much of a danger of gas leak, miners work on their own account and even though it’s hard manual work there are some retractors to get the stones out of there…

But, I would not make a good miner as the tight spaces and the fear of cave in made me not want to linger down there for too long…

Potosi itself is quite a pleasant place. It is a ‘real’ city where people live and work rather than a backpacker central. And… comes with a cinema. So, for the second time in my travels I got see a film!

The next morning we left for Tupiza.

 I loved Tupiza. It’s a dusty, Wild West kind of place, where there is absolutely nothing to do but ride horses in the nearby canyons. The scenery is amazing with red rocks surrounding the town and the occasional sand storm.

So of course we spent the day exploring the environs of the city. We did the ‘triathlon’ which combines jeep tour, horse riding and mountain biking. It’s a whole day thing which lets you experience pretty much everything there is to see.

And it was awesome, we had really good fun and the views were wonderful. We also had a great guide who told us a lot about the history of Bolivia and Tupiza. And we got to play cowboys - perfect kind of day!

Then it was off to more desert fun at Uyuni.

Now, you can actually do the salt flat tour from Tupiza and avoid going to the horrid town of Uyuni. But it is much more expensive (BOB1200 vs 700), and you cannot connect to San Pedro de Atacama unless you go as a private tour (again, more cost). Now, this is only the case in low season as when there are more people you can get to Chile for the price of the tour which is BOB1200. If you don’t want to go to Chile I would really recommend paying more and doing it from Tupiza. You go in smaller cars and slightly different route to the rest of the tours which means that you avoid the crowds.

But since we wanted to go to Chile we had no option than to start from Uyuni.

The bus journey from Tupiza to Uyuni might be scenic but there is no real road so it’s pretty painful.

On the plus side you get to stop and the world’s worst shithole. I cannot remember the name of the place but if you ever pass it you will know what I am talking about. Uyuni is pretty and full of life in comparison.

As soon as we got to Uyuni we were on a mission to find the tour and get out as soon as possible. Which is exactly what we did…

I loved the tour of the salt flats!!! We did 3 day option and as far as staring into the whiteness of the desert, that was enough for me.

1st day was all about salt and taking the ‘creative’ pictures. It is amazing to see that much salt and when you walk away from the crowd a bit, the vastness and emptiness of the place just hits you.

We watched a most beautiful sunset over the desert and then spent the night in the Salt Hotel.

2nd day was all about the standard kind of desert and the lakes and the flamingos. We got up early to see the sun rise and, hand on heart, it’s been one of the most amazing ones I have seen on my travels.

 I thought I have seen enough high altitude lagoons to last me for a lifetime but Laguna Colorada is just breath taking and spectacular. I stood at the shore for ages taking in the amazing beauty.

The next day, after a ridiculously early start at 4.30am, we went to the geyser field. It’s really fun to see and the fog makes it look otherworldly and mystical.

After that we jumped into thermal baths and after couple of hours of chilling we went to see the perfect green of Laguna Verde and then were dropped off at the Chilean border.

Tags: bolivia, mines, potosi, salt flats, sucre, tarabuco, tupiza, uyuni




Thanks for sharing this - I've been trying to work out my route from Sucre - Tupiza - Uyuni to do the Salt Flats tours - but if it is possible to do the tour from Tupiza it seems like it might be the better option! Do you mind me asking which tour company you went with? There are so many with mixed reviews.

  Ange Dec 24, 2012 9:05 AM


Hi Ange

I went with Andes Salt Expeditions but from Uyuni. They were absolutely fine and we had lots of fun. We paid BOB750 with transfer to San Pedro Atacama. The best (but most expensive) operator at the moment from Uyuni is Red Planet (if its high season you need to book in advance).
From Tupiza I would recommend Adventure tours - really nice people and all amazing guides.

  kamzam Dec 24, 2012 10:53 AM


Question (as you mentioned the bus to Sucre was terrible), how was the transportation (bus also?) from Sucre to Uyuni? I've heard many horror stories, but I can't find a alternate way to get to my ultimate destination (Tupiza). Thnx much in advance!
Can't wait to hit up the Salt Flats!

  Dee Jan 30, 2013 5:45 AM



Sorry to break it to you but that journey isn't great either. Bus is the best option and the road is pretty terrible (when choosing a bus company try and have a look at the bus itself). Unfortunately it's kind of standard in that part of Bolivia... Also there have been unexpected cancellations but I guess it's all part of the fun.
I am sure you will have amazing time at Salt Flats, it's an incredibly beautiful place!

  kamzam Jan 30, 2013 6:31 AM


Hi kamzam,
Thanks very much for the suggestion of Adventure tours in Tupiza, I will check them out. A little apprehensive of the bus from Sucre to Tupiza but seems it will have be a case of grin and bear it!
Take care,

  Ange Feb 13, 2013 1:44 AM

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