Bike travel, commuting and more


Bolivia XVII: Cycling the Salar

Riding the Salt lake

Riding the Salar

Fulfilling one of my dreams for this trip

After visiting the Salar on our jeep tour, I wanted to live the experience of cycling on it. I have read dozens of websites, seen hundreds of pictures of other cyclists, and I wanted to have the personal experience of cycling in the salt.

Late lunch in Uyuni
Having lunch before our late start

The most adventure cyclists would cross the Salar completely, usually from North to South, entering from Copaisa and coming out in Colchani on the East. However, this means a lot of riding in the nothingness and sleeping inside the Salar, which is extremely cold. Instead, and after getting a tip from fellow cyclist Felix in Oruro, we will just cycle to the Salt hotel, about 8 km inside the Salar, which will give us enough experience of cycling on salt, while the owners allow travelers like us to sleep inside.

Vicuna sign on the road
The sign matches the view

So this is what we did. We left late, as usual. So late, that the first thing we did was going out for lunch. Afterwards we had an easy and flat ride of 30 km to Colchani, the entrance to the Salar. We had a headwind but it never got too strong, just annoying. Again we saw many vicunas on the way.

Colchani to the Salar
Leaving the asphalt and approaching the Salar

In Colchani we had to turn west, and the asphalt ends, switching to a very corrugated dirt track, very uncomfortable to ride, and caused by the heavy trucks extracting salt from the Salar. Once we were at the edge of it, the moment was magic.

Riding into infinity
Riding into infinity

It was late in the evening so there was a great evening sun, and most tourists come in the morning, so it was really quiet. We stopped often to take pictures or talk to each other about how great it was. The kids were tired and it was cold to sit in the tag-along so they both sat in the trailer and quickly fell sleep.

Salt hotel and Plaza de las Banderas
Salt hotel and Flags Square

The salt hotel was already closed, but the owners live there, so as promised they let us in to mount our tent inside. We would have roommates though, as a Venezuelan-Brazilian traveler couple was there selling their crafts and would spend the night with us.

Salt hotel inside
Our arrival in the Salt hotel

They were really nice to the kids and we had dinner together. It got cold inside but it was much colder outside so we were happy to be there. I wanted to take some pictures of the amazing sky but unfortunately it was cloudy, enough to see millions of stars but not to get sharp pictures of them.

Salt hotel inside
Our room for the night, with dinner table!

The next morning we got to enjoy the early sun as the first tourists don’t arrive until at least 11 am.

Music video in Uyuni
These guys were making a music video

The other couple got to mount their stall to show their crafts while we got to try the usual funny perspective pictures so typical of the Salar, with mixed results.

Helmet in Uyuni
After many tries…
Bottle in Uyuni
…the kids joined the party too!
Bike bottles in Uyuni
Maybe next cover for the cycling Beatles?
Simon fighting a dragon
Simon fighting a dragon!

After that we cycled back to Uyuni, taking more pictures now with the strong blue midday sun.

Cycling in Uyuni
No traffic, just salt tracks
Ojos del Salar
Checking the bubbles made by the water layer below
Salt truck in Uyuni
Letting a salt truck pass first
Dirt track to Colchani
Salt is over, back to a dirt track to Colchani

We stopped to have lunch in Colchani, the usual broaster chicken with rice and fries. The restaurant owner offered us to keep Thomas as helper in exchange for a free lunch but somehow he was not interested.

Eating chicken in Colchani
Free chicken for life and you give me the little gringo…!

Back in Uyuni, we went to the Casa Ciclista Pingüi. Casas ciclistas are apartments or houses that open their doors to cyclists, usually for free, to spend a few nights in there and share a kitchen and experiences. You are expected to contribute with the running costs and with the cleaning, but it is a great way to save money when staying in the big cities. There are unfortunately not that many but the best part is to meet other fellow cyclists.

Casa Ciclista Pingüi
The very nice Casa Pingüi in Uyuni

Our next move after this will be to continue South to Tupiza.

Family in Uyuni
Family portrait in the best studio

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  1. Maria

    Que fotos tan preciosas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Que risa con la de cambiar al gringo por pollo jajajajaja, sois mis heroes!

  2. Jose

    Cierto que las fotos son espectaculares y otras originales, pero todas muy bonitas las del Salar. Cuidaros!

  3. Katherine

    Que maravilla de Lugar, y super cheveres Las fotos. Y lo mas espectacular escq disfrutaron de Las mejores horas del dia. El sol del amanecer y Las estrellas de la noche. Solo una pregunta. En tanta uniformidad de paisaje sin carreteras, ademas de la brujula, como sabian cual era la ruta a seguir? Nombras los salt tracks, como no confundirse con un chistocillo que se le dio por andar en circulos?

    • Comment by post author

      Por suerte el gps del celular funciona en el Salar. Sino, basta con orientarse con el sol, que allí siempre brilla. Nos dijeron que los locales prefieren salir de allí antes de que anochezca, porque es fácil perderse sin referencias. Y en la orilla norte los chinos están haciendo excavaciones para extraer litio y a veces dejan agujeros que son casi imposibles de ver entre tanto blanco del suelo sin referencias…

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