Updated May 14th, 2019.
Exploring the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve in the Sur Lipez province in Bolivia means spending a few days at more than 4,000 meters above sea level, in the middle of the desert, and discovering out-of-the-extraordinary landscapes every day!
Colorful lagoons, hot springs, geysers, strange rock formations, volcanoes, flamingos, cacti and the famous Uyuni Salt Flat: this is what the reserve has to offer! Are you ready to embark on this amazing adventure?
You can explore the Uyuni Salt flats via a professional tour or you can make the trip independently. If you’re not confident to explore the region independently, better sign up and hop into the jeep of an experienced Bolivian driver who knows the desert like his pocket!
Tours depart from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile or from Uyuni in Bolivia. You can either make a loop and come back to your initial destination or just cross from one country to the other. It is up to you!
No matter what your travel plans turn out to be, you will spend three days that you will never forget! Here we go!
Read more about backpacking Bolivia!
Things to see in the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve
Here are some examples of the extraordinary landscapes that you will explore during your excursion in the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve.
- Laguna Colorada
As you walk around the lagoon, you will love to see how the color of the water changes from pitch red to purple and blue and pink!
- The mountain of seven colors
Your little jeep will take you deep into the desert!
- The Polques Hot Spring
The air temperature might be below zero when you reach the Polques Hot Spring but as you jump into the water, you will love this warm bath in the middle of the desert!
- Laguna Blanca
The “White Lagoon” is a beautiful lagoon located at an altitude of 4,350 meters, a few meters away from the Bolivia/Chile border. It strange color comes from the high concentration of minerals suspended in it.
- El Geyser Sol de Manaña
You might feel like you have just landed on planet Mars when you reach El Geyser Sol de Manaña! Pitch red rocks and boiling mud bubbling on the ground: this is what you will see as you make this incredible stop at an altitude of 4,900 meters!
- Laguna Hedionda
Take some time at Laguna Hedionda to admire the colony of flamingos standing a few meters away from you! There are a number of different species here, see if you can differentiate them from each other!
- El Arbol de Piedra
Strong winds have carved this strange seven-meter-high rock formation. Doesn’t it look like a stone tree?
- The Uyuni Salt Flats
You will then reach the highlight of your excursion (and maybe of your whole backpacking adventure in South America): the Uyuni Salt Flats!
This desert, entirely covered with salt, spreads over 12,000 square kilometers and is located at about 3,650 meters altitude! As the lake that covered the area in prehistoric times gradually dried up, it left this huge salt area. Wake up early to see the sunrise from the Fishermen Island!
How to find a tour
If you are starting your excursion from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile you will find many travel agencies in the main street (Calle Caracol) that will organize this adventure for you.
If you are starting your excursion from Uyuni in Bolivia, you will find travel agencies around Avenida Potosi. It is also possible to arrange a three-day salt flats tour directly from La Paz. Day one will be spent exploring Salar de Uyuni and the following days will involve checking out the National Reserve.
Places to head next?
If you end your excursion in San Pedro de Atacama, you should definitely stay a few days there to explore the incredible landscapes located around this little hippie town: the moon valley, El Tatio geyser, lagoons, etc.
If you end your excursion in Bolivia, you can then take a train or a bus to head towards the highest capital in the world: La Paz! You will need to plan ahead if you want to take the train as there are only a few departures each week.
About the writer: This destination guide was written by Aurélie Moureaux who runs for the travel blog, La Petite Valise d’Aurélie (which means little suitcase). Originally from Bordeaux France, she spent 12 years studying, then working in Paris, before leaving her 20-square-meter Parisian apartment to go and explore the world! Follow her adventures on Facebook here.