We started the month of August 2017 in the town of Uyuni on the edge of the world’s largest salt flats, the Salar de Uyuni. After driving around this giant white expanse we drove a spectacular, high altitude route in the southwest corner of Bolivia. We then drove around Bolivia’s wine region and then to two of its most historic cities, Potosí and Sucre, where we ended the month. In total, our road trip traveled 1,513 miles (2,435 km) in August 2017 and you can see the same spectacular scenery that we saw through the windshield of our truck in the drive-lapse video at the end of this post.
August 2017 South American road trip driving route in Bolivia
We began the month with a short drive from the town of Uyuni to explore the former mining town of Pulacayo which is now a ghost town.Then it was time for a unique on the road less expanse of the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat (see 1:07 to 3:55 in our time-lapse video, below). At 4,086 square miles (10,582 sq km), it’s a seemingly endless sea of white. To put this into perspective, the Salar de Uyuni is a little smaller than the state of Connecticut, a bit bigger than Lebanon, and a bit smaller than Jamaica. The empty vastness messes with your sense of perspective and lets you play with reality.
Next up was a spectacular loop known as Bolivia’s Southwest circuit, named, no surprise, because it loops around the remote Southwest corner of the country up to the Chile border. This epic high altitude drive starts at over 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) and goes to over 16,000 feet (5,000 meters), taking in numerous lakes in a variety of colors from green to red to white, some filled with thousands of flamingos.
In addition to the multi-colored lakes, this route includes the highest geyser basin in the world at 19,000 feet (5,800 meters), snow-covered volcanoes, hot springs, and a desert area of rock formations known as the Dali Desert.
The downside of all this awesomeness was the road, or lack thereof. At times the severely washboarded track made it feel like we were navigating our truck over one foot seas. Over two days we drove 316 miles (500 km) on this route. At one point, at the very southern end of the loop at Laguna Verde, we came to within 8 miles of where we were in March on the other side of the border in northern Chile.
You can see most of the drive (sorry we had some tech problems so a few bits are missing) from 6:00 to 17:00 in the time-lapse video below. Highlights include flamingos at Laguna Hedionda (7:58), Sol de Manana geysers (10:33), and Laguna Verde and Licancabur Volcano (12:24).
After this adventure, we continued on more horrible roads, down to the town of Tupiza which is near where Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are said to have met their end. Then we were off to Tarija, the heart of Bolivia’s wine-producing region.
From there we headed north to the historic heartland of Bolivia. First was Potosí, a UNESCO World Heritage site, founded in 1545 as a mining town. A reasonable percentage of Spain’s wealth in the 17th and 18th centuries came from the silver-rich mountain that looms over the city. From Potosí we continued to Sucre, another UNESCO World Heritage site, where the country of Bolivia was founded.
Our complete road trip driving route map for August 2017 in Bolivia is below.
And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Bolivia in August of 2017 in our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera which is attached to our dashboard.
Here’s more about travel in Bolivia
Bolivia is such a beautiful country … it would be a dream to road trip it!
Yes it is. We’ve been enjoying lots of surprises here!
I watched your vid. The salt flat was amazing. Is it mined? All the small towns and communities looked extremely clean. No trash! Overall, the open area you were driving through looked rather bleak, a tough place to eke out a living. Joyce
Hey Joyce! The salt flat is cut by hand and blocks of salt are then dried, cleaned, packaged and sold by local families. Very artesenal. And, yes, much of the environment is not easy to live in – dry, high altitude, windy, cold, and under a burning sun. But beautiful!
Bolivia sure looks like an amazing country for a roadtrip!
It is (despite some absolutely heinous roads)!