Day 1: Lagoons, Hot Springs, Geysers, Stone Tree & Salt Hotel
In the morning we left our Hotel in Chile and went on the bus for 1.5 hours to get to the Bolivian border. After the painful immigration process (2 confusing forms and two offices), we hopped into the 4x4s which was our transport for the next 3 days.
Our first stop was at the green lagoon. We saw some flamingos (which was nothing compared to what was to come) and built little stone towers which is an Incan ritual to bring luck (you make a wish after building the tower).
Next stop was the hot springs, it was amazing. We paid under $5AUD each to go to the toilet, get changed and entry into the hot springs. We stayed there for about 30minutes (only 6 out of the 18 of us went in).
We had lunch at the hot springs and then drove until we reached the geysers. We found out that they only go off in the morning, but the mud was still bubbling and there were large steam plums.
Following the geysers, we visited the red lagoon and then the stone tree, where we played around on the rocks for a while and Ricky got told off by the tour guide when we tried to climb everything.
In the late afternoon we arrived at the Salt Hotel. It’s right next to the lagoon and is owned by the tour company. We were all exhausted and dehydrated with mild altitude sickness, so the coca tea that night was amazing. Unfortunately we could only charge our phones/laptops for an hour, we also had no WIFI, hot water and pillows. Our dinner made up for it though, we had a 3 course feast.
Day 2: More lagoons, San Juan, Necropolis & Cactus Island
We woke up super early in the morning, had breakfast, went to the toilet (they were ecological toilets btw). The first stop of the day was at the last lagoon, with the most flamingos we’ve ever seen (it started with cañapa). We then stopped at another rock formation which was at the base of the volcano. All the rocks were volcanic, and we spent about 30mins climbing around on them. After blowing a tyre in the 4×4, we finally made it to San Juan.
We had lunch and then visited the necropolis and museum of the ancient people who lived there around 1200 AD. The necropolis was kind of creepy with large stone tombs with the skulls inside. It was under $5AUD.
Following San Juan we finally made it to the salt flats and took plenty of stupid perspective photos.
Our last stop was the cactus island in the middle of the island. After breathlessly (the altitude screws you) climbing all the way to the top there is an awesome view and an ancient sacrifice table.
Another 45 minute drive and we were at our hotel at the base of another volcano. This place was much nicer, however the food wasn’t as good. We out-warmed out welcome really quickly when one of the guys in our tour hilariously stepped over some wet bricks that the locals had made (and roped off). There were Llamas everywhere and that night a few of the crew got drunk which resulted in one of the girls running around and knocking on each door/running from the Llamas.
Day 3: Salt Flats again & Dakar Rally
The third day was our last day of 4x4ing, so we stopped in the salt flats again to take more photos, and then visited the salt hotel in the middle of the salt flats. The hotel isn’t meant to be there and we were told that it is illegal, but our guide said that since it’s been there, no-one has bothered to follow them up on it. We visited another small little town and wandered the markets and watched their manual salt processing.