Bolivia // The southern Altiplano //

The far southwest

Covering some nine thousand square kilometres of the Altiplano west of Uyuni, the Salar de Uyuni is the world’s biggest salt lake, and one of Bolivia’s most extraordinary attractions. Equally dramatic is the Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, a 7147-square-kilometre wildlife reserve covering the most southwestern corner of Bolivia and ranging between 4000m and 6000m in altitude. South of the Salar de Uyuni, en route to the Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, you also pass Ollagüe, Bolivia’s only active volcano, followed by a series of ancient lava fields, several lakes populated by flamingos, and some surreal rocky outcrops.

Even compared to the rest of the Altiplano, the Reserva Eduardo Avaroa and, especially, the Salar de Uyuni can get extremely cold. Though by day the sun can take temperatures as high as 30°C, the high altitude and reflective surface of the Salar mean that little heat is retained, so night temperatures can drop below -25°C, and as far as -40°C when the wind-chill factor is included – one of the widest day-night temperature fluctuations anywhere in the world. Take a good sleeping bag to supplement the blankets that are usually available in the refuges, a warm hat, gloves, a windproof jacket and several layers of clothing including a fleece or woollen jumper and, ideally, thermal underwear. You should also take sun block and sunglasses to counter the fierce glare – snow blindness is a real possibility here.

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