Salar de Uyuni, rightly one of Bolivia's star tourist attractions, is the world's largest salt flat covering 12,000 square kilometers. It's also the highest, sitting at 3,600 meters. In addition to the salt flats, there are some amazing mountains, geysers, lakes, and other scenery in Bolivia's southwest corner, near its border with Chile.
There are so many companies offering tours that it was difficult to choose intelligently. All of them essentially do the same three-day circuit. The primary difference are vehicle condition, food and accommodation, and driver. I read some of the reviews (all good, of course) posted at Cristal Tours and decided to give them a shot (520 Bolivianos/$65 for three days, two nights). I joined five people from Catalan, Spain (Gloria, Laia, Jordi, Mickey, Ferran) and one German (Lars).
Our combination driver and cook was Jose Luis, a young Bolivian. He only spoke Spanish, so my new Catalan friends would have to translate for me (It turned out that Lars too was somewhat fluent in Spanish having picked it up while traveling through Mexico). Our transportation was a well-worn Toyota Landcruiser.
Our tour began in the morning at Cementerio de Trenes, a graveyard of rusting locomotives just outside Uyuni. We then proceeded to the salt flats west of Uyuni. Although it is the rainy season, the salt flats were completely dry and brilliantly white (During the rainy season, water usually covers the salt flats, creating a mirror image of the sky). The salt itself was hard, compacted, and crystallized—nothing like table salt. We stopped at Isla Incahuasi, an island populated with cacti in the middle of the salar, for lunch. After lunch, we continued on to a tiny town named San Juan for our night's accommodation. After dinner, some local children entertained us with music and song.