Bolivia’s tough. It’s a landlocked country, and most of it sits at about 4000 meters above sea level (that’s 12,000 feet, or 2.5 miles). Do you know how hard it is to breathe at that altitude? I didn’t!
Allow me to paint a picture.
Uyuni is where I resided for a month while in Bolivia. It’s in the Potosi department in the south, and it sits on the cusp of Salar de Uyuni (the largest salt flats in the world).
This is a desert region, barren — like being on the moon or in a dusty old ghost town (except this place is populated.
The temperature in Uyuni is hard to describe. The sun will scorch your skin during the day, but because the altitude is so high, the weather is not particularly hot. Rather, the sun can still feel warm on you, but the air is still cold. I actually ended up getting THE WORST sun blisters all over my mouth when I was there. Why? Because I didn’t put on sunblock at 10:00 in the morning. YES. I said ten in the morning.
As far as the temperature, it vacillated by about 60 degrees between night and day. Between that and the lack of rain, the altitude, the dusty desert air, several of us got sick.
The housing situation wasn’t the easiest, either, with seven of us sharing the toilet with the house owner and her husband, plus the two families living in the back of the property. The toilet, of course, didn’t flush (we had to pour water to flush it manually). That’s pretty common throughout Latin America. Also, no toilet seats (fair warning!).
To take showers, it was either walk a mile to the public restrooms/showers or take a bucket shower at home (time-consuming and not easy to accomplish while sharing a single outhouse with so many people).
Despite these circumstances, I actually LOVED Uyuni. Bolivia was my favorite country of the three I visited in South America (Peru and Ecuador being the other two), and a ton of backpackers and tourists go through there to see the salt flats.
Here are some other reasons I loved Bolivia:
The people! I love the people! The government isn’t a big fans of Americans (or any non-communist nation, really), but the people are warm and welcoming.
The weather was always sunny while I was there, every single day (I went in March, which is their autumn).
You can find some gems for eating, and there are a lot of great tours on the salt flats — be sure to stop by Hotel Tonito and Minuteman Pizza when you’re in Uyuni!
The landscape is incredible, especially out on the salt flat. It really is like being on the moon or on some other world.
When the altitude got to be too much, they have te that helps. And it’s good with honey, yum.
One word: salchipapas. These are fries with either bits of hotdog or another meat, usually with a fried egg. It’s street food and makes a great snack.
The country has two capitals (sort of): La Paz and Sucre. One is the executive and legislative seats of their government, the other is the constitutional capital. But still. Kinda cool, huh? And I can tell you firsthand, La Paz is a really neat place with MASSIVE mountains around the city.
All right, so even though I felt like this some of the time while I was in Bolivia…
And there might’ve been some of this…
There was also a lot of this…
And in the end, I felt like this, and I definitely want to go back…