Peru to Bolivia for UYUNI salt flat
Exploring Cusco early morning
This day was the last day in Cusco and we flew to Bolivia 10:30 in the morning. We wanted to see more stuff in Cusco, so we woke up like 5:30 in the morning and we started to walk around the city by 6am. Peru’s morning starts pretty early since they are close to the equator. It is already bright by 5:30, so we could start our day early.
Our google said the San Pedro market opens at 6am, so we headed over there in order to do last souvenir shopping and possibly getting breakfast. However, it didn’t open of course.. We didn’t know what time it was going to open, so we decided to check out Saqsaywaman ruin in Cusco.
Saqsaywaman without the entrance ticket
We went back to Plaza De Armas and made our way to the ruin. But before that, an unbelievable thing happened to us. I happened to run into my friend from San Diego in this freaking Peru! I knew she was also traveling Peru and was in Cusco, but it was 6:30 in the morning and how this was even possible! We go to same university in San Diego, but we have never run into each other there, but here in Cusco, Peru. What a coincidence.
Anyways, after the surprise, we walked up a hill to get there for 10-15 minutes. Again, Cusco is already in over 3000m altitude so we were out of breath. When we got there, one random guy came to us and started talking to us. He said the ticket to the Saqsaywaman ruin is 70 soles per person, and he could take us to a secret spot that we could see the ruin partially for 60 soles. (I forgot how much we started). It was too expensive for that partial tour, but we didn’t want to pay 140 soles for two of us either. So we bargained the price to 40 soles and asked him to drop us off at Plaza De Armas so we didn’t have to walk down the hill for another 10 min.
He drove us to Pukamuqu where has a statue of Jesus and you can see the whole view of Cusco.
He told us to walk 5 min to Saqsaywaman and we just have to walk down to the exit and meet him there again. To be honest, it was not that exciting, because we could only see partially of course. I guess that was what we could see for what we paid. I would like to see the whole thing if I ever come back there, but I guess it was a good move for us since we didn’t really have time until our flight.
We walked back to the San Pedro market because it was already past 7:30 and we thought it would open. Although it was open, I would say half of the market was closed, it was still early. We got some fresh fruit juice for the breakfast and we shopped some little souvenir.
Bus from San Pedro market to the airport
So there is a bus stop right in front of the San Pedro market and we saw bunch of a different kinds of buses went through all the time. So we thought maybe we could catch a bus to the airport instead of grabbing a taxi. We found out that we had to take a blue bus with “aeropuerto” on it. Soon after we waited, the blue bus came, and I asked how long does it take to the airport. And guess what happened to us? OMG the bus run away. We were in the middle of the conversation but I guess it didn’t matter for them. It was gone. We couldn’t believe what happened right in front of us. Seemed like these buses don’t want to stop for awhile, they just run away as soon as they get some people on the bus. So we decided to hop on the next one no matter what, and we didn’t have to miss another one again. 10 min later, the blue bus arrived. We didn’t even mention that we were going to the airport, we just jumped on the bus. I kept my eyes on the google map to see if we were going to the right direction and I asked how much is the bus ride to a guy sitting right in front of us. I didn’t understand how much but thank god Josh knew how to count. So it was only 80 cent soles? not even 1 soles, which is only 25 cents in USD.. What in the world. When a bus lady shouted out “AeroPuerto”, we raised our hands and paid 2 soles for both of us, and left the change with her. The bus stopped right in front of the airport, and we finally made it. We were good on time and it took us like 20-30min to get there, which wasn’t bad at all. Compare to take a taxi for 20 soles, taking the local bus was the move, we were so stoked that we made it to the airport and experienced the local transportation.
Cusco to Uyuni
We were finally leaving this beautiful city to another amazing place, Uyuni in Bolivia. Uyuni has a salt flats which is really famous for its reflection during the winter/rainy season. This is one of the places that I had wanted to come once in my life. We just needed a luck for the weather. An hour flight to La Paz, and we had to do 30min transit there. I remembered we landed slightly late, and we rushed to the gate for the next flight. Surprisingly, we did the transit in 10min! It was an international flight, so we even went through immigration and everything but it only took us 10 min.. Impressive. lol We didn’t have to miss the flight again, and we landed in Uyuni after an hour. We could see the salt flats and even the reflection of the sky from the window when we were landing! We were already stoked about this new destination.
The airport was super small.
Uyuni airport to the city
When we got out of the airport, taxi drivers were all talking to us as usual. I read that we were supposed to pay only $3 or 18 boliviano to the city, so I tried to pay only $3. However, the driver kept telling us $5 or 18 bolivianos, and we didn’t quite understand why it can’t be $3 at first, but he meant that $5 includes the commission fee. We thought they use US dollars as well in bolivia from our research, however it seemed like they don’t like USD as much. I know it is still cheap to pay $5 for the taxi, but I’m so used to bargain everything from my Bali experiences (They usually charge 200% more to the tourists at first and the price goes down dramatically if you bargain and know the local price lol), so I got this weird habit here. He dropped us off at a tour agency called Hodaka mountain expedition. I searched where was the best Uyuni salt flat tour agency, and all the Japanese site recommended this agency.
Uyuni tour with Hodaka Mountain Expedition
We wanted to book a tour that night and another day tour the day after. We only got two days in Uyuni so we had to join tours as many as we could. Even though the weather was not great that day, we booked the sunset/stargazing tour and day tour for the next day. It was $24 for each tour, so we paid $48 per person for these two tours. We still had time until the tour at 4, so we checked in to our hostel of the night, and got some pastries and snacks for the night tour. We stayed at ar Marjor hostel. Their shower was not hot, it was warm but kinda cold-warm water. but other than that, it wasn’t that bad.
Oh and they didn’t take US dollars at local shops so we had to do money exchange. We were scared not to find any money exchange in town, however there is couple money exchanges. The only thing was they were very picky with the bills. If the bill had some scratches or even tiny ones, they would not take it. So be sure to bring clean bills to Bolivia.
Uyuni tour (sunset and stargazing)
After getting pastries from a local shop and some snacks, we all gathered at the Hodaka agency at 4pm, and we headed to the slat flats. Our team had 6 people with a 4×4 Toyota, and the drive was about an hour from the town. We picked up rainboots before we went, which was included in the tour fee. Interestingly, most of the Hodaka guests are Japanese. I think they got so many good reviews from Japanese people online, and the Japanese are most likely to join this tour if they do some research about Uyuni. So Josh and other two Mexican couple who was friends of another Japanese were the only non-japanese and I felt super interesting to be with this many Japanese in this other side of the world haha
Unfortunately, that day was super cloudy and even raining sometime. So we could not have a high expectation for the salt flats, but the weather could be change easily especially in this 3700m high altitude. When we go there… The sky was all gloomy but we could see the reflection!
It was windy but the surface of the salt flat was glassy somehow. We were amazed by the world that we didn’t know. The best season for the Uyuni is the rainy season so we could see all the reflection, so we need luck for the weather. So at least it wasn’t raining when we were out there. We took so many pics and we did a fun group photo session with our tour guide. They knew what they were doing so some of the photos came out really good with the reflection.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t really see the sunset, and it was really cold outside so we waited in the car until the sky cleared up. Even though we waited until 8 ish and clouds were getting thinner, we couldn’t get to see full of stars in the sky. There was a thin layer of the clouds and we could barely see the stars. So we just played with lights and took fun pictures.
When it’s full of stars, I can’t even imagine how it would be. All the stars would reflect the salt flats and it must be like standing in a galaxy or something. I was really hoping to experience that, but we didn’t have a luck for that. We just got a reason to come back to this amazing place.
We already enjoyed our first day in Uyuni and didn’t know one of the best experiences in our life was going to be waiting for us the next day. You don’t want to miss the next blog. Cheers