A trip through the surreal landscapes of Bolivia

Discover the best places for landscape photography in Bolivia

 

Let me tell you about a place in South America so close to the sky, it will make your thirst for oxygen palpable and you’ll be grasping desperately for air with every breath you take. It’s a place devoid of trees and flowers where the ground beneath you is blinding white in color and the wind blows a taste of salty dust in your face.

A view from Incahuasi island
Salar de Uyuni sunset

It is an otherworldly landscape, a desert you can walk through for weeks without encountering a single soul. Temperatures are unforgiving and while you will need clothing worthy of an arctic expedition when the night falls, during the day a simple summer t-shirt will be more than enough for you to be comfortable under the warm Bolivian sun.

That’s how I remember the barren landscape of Uyuni salt flats. It is a place I have wanted to visit for a very long time and it lived up to all the expectations I had and more!
Led by our Bolivian driver and a guide in their jeep, we drove for hours through the salt flats each day, stopping every now and then for food and some fresh air, to take a few pictures and revel in the dreamlike beauty of what was around us.

Tree of Stone natural rock formations, close to Dali desert

Coming from London in England, a place like Uyuni could not be further from what I was used to in my day to day life. I literally felt like I had just landed on another  planet!

Normally, on my travels I am more interested and inspired by the people I meet, their stories and local traditions. Portraiture is what I am comfortable with when it comes to being a photographer. The whole trip through Uyuni however, offered me a chance to photograph the changing landscapes instinctively, without  much planning, just letting the camera do it’s thing and hoping at least some of the magic will have been captured by the lens.  There was a sense of lack of control, as if the camera had a mind of its own and I was there simply to enable it to do it’s job.  By day two I was also already suffering with the first symptoms of altitude sickness and every effort to wander, explore and take photos felt like an overwhelmingly intense physical exertion. The headaches and breathlessness added to the overall feeling of it all being somehow unreal, just a dream.

The Cactus island of Incahuasi

We drove for 3 days, passing through salt flats, the Cactus island of Incahuasi, the volcano of Ollague, green and red lagoons inhabited by hundreds if not thousands of pink flamingoes. There was the early morning visit to the Geiser Sol de Manana at nearly 5000 m altitude, then a stop to admire the barren valley of Southwestern Bolivia with its now famous Dali desert, appropriately named for its striking resemblance to Dali’s surreal landscape paintings.

Sol de Manana geiser at 5000m altitude
Pink flamingos can be found gathered around Laguna Verde
Laguna colorada at 4270m altitude

There is so much to see in and around Uyuni and you’re only limited by the time and budget you have for your trip there. In the small town of Uyuni which is a starting point for most tours, you’ll find plenty of tour operators offering to take you to the salt desert. Shop around, some prior research on the companies always helps and enjoy making memories for a lifetime!

My trip was organised with the help of Nassum Travel whose main office is in La Paz, Bolivia

 

 

Useful links:

Bus company travelling from La Paz to Uyuni  http://titicacabolivia.com/en/

Uyuni travel tours https://www.nassum.com

 

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