Bolivian Southwest: Reserva Eduardo Avaroa

Getting up before dawn, and with hot cups of tea barely able to hold the fantastically cold morning at bay, we were treated to a ringside seat of the sunrise over the Siloli Desert. As the colours of the mountains sprang back to life and some of the sun’s warmth finally penetrated the four layers of clothing I was wearing, we clambered back into the car and headed towards the Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa and the border with Chile.

First stop in this bewildering landscape was the wind sculpted Arbol de Piedra, the Stone Tree, a huge lump of rock that over millennia has been carved by wind and sand into its current tree-like shape. That would be reason enough to stop and marvel at it, but it also stands in a vast desert plain surrounded by mountains streaked with colour making it one of the most surreal sights of our trip. Our early start was rewarded with having the whole desert to ourselves.

Heading towards the Arbol de Piedra, Reserva de Fauna Andina Avaroa, Bolivia
Arbol de Piedra, Reserva de Fauna Andina Avaroa, Bolivia

Even with the sun rising in the sky, at this time of day and at this altitude the temperatures were freezing and it was impossible to stand still for long without the cold piercing through clothing and footwear. It truly is an inhospitable place, but one an estimated 50,000+ tourists travel through every year.

A short journey to the south of the Arbol de Piedra lies one of the wonders of the whole region, Laguna Colorada, whose striking red waters contrasted against the deep blue sky are an extraordinary sight to behold. Although it looks like the scene of a toxic spill, the red colour is the result of algae in the water – the main source of food for the flamingos that thrive in the region, including the rare James flamingo which breeds in Laguna Colorada.

Laguna Colorada, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia
Flamingos in Laguna Colorada, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia
Flamingos in the mist, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia
Flamingos take flight, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

It’s a little like “Ten Amazing Things to Do Before Breakfast”, but climbing in altitude to a whopping 5000m we drove on towards the hellish looking and smelling Sol de Manana geyser. As you approach these boiling pools of mud and steaming fumaroles the nauseating stench of sulphur is overwhelming, but even that can’t take away from the wonder of the volcanic activity that is all around.

The first thing you see when you arrive is a jet of highly pressurised steam shooting out of the brown earth and making a screaming noise not dissimilar to the sound of a steam train whistle. The jet is probably about 15 metres high and the steam is hot!

Steam jet at Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Walking around the site is a bit like doing a day-trip to Hell and you have to be careful, the cracked earth can give way and collapse into bubbling mud underneath – as the sign says it’s Peligro. And did I mention the smell? Awful.

Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia
Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia
Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia
Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia
Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Leaving the fire and brimstone behind we set off for the furthest reaches of Bolivia to where the Laguna Verde and Volcan Licancabur nestle on the border with Chile. The drive passes a stretch of barren landscape that suddenly takes on the look of a sculpture park combined with a Japanese garden. Known as the Rocas de Dali, it is a peculiar sight.

Rocas de dali, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia
Rocas de Dali, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

I must confess that the one thing I’d really been looking forward to seeing was the last thing we’d see on the Bolivian side of the border – Laguna Verde. I’d seen photos of the stunning green water – created by chemical reaction – with the backdrop of the towering Volcan Licancabur and was excited to be finally able to see it in person.

As with much of life, it was something of a disappointment. There was little water and the green colour was, at best, subdued. Still you can’t hold that against the Bolivian Southwest, it is a privilege to spend time there. Next stop Chile.

Laguna Verde, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

90 thoughts on “Bolivian Southwest: Reserva Eduardo Avaroa

  1. Hi,
    Thank you for sharing the pictures from your trip, very beautiful indeed. I wanted to know, did you rented the car or were you using a tour operator? I’m planing to go from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile to Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia and can’t see to find a rental car company that will rent me an SUV to go to Bolivia.

    1. Hi Ady,
      It will be difficult to find a company that rents cars between countries. We hired a car and driver in La Paz to go to Sajama National Park and then to the South West. It wasn’t cheap, but we wanted flexibility and didn’t want to go on a tour from Uyuni. We hired in La Paz because we were going to Sajama, but long term and short term visitors to Bolivia will tell you that finding a reliable and knowledgeable driver in Uyuni can be difficult.
      If you want flexibility you can hire a car to pick you up at the border between Chile and Bolivia, otherwise the typical routine is to join a tour once you cross the border. I haven’t tried, but companies from Tupiza had a better reputation than those in Uyuni.
      Good luck and hope you find a solution, Paul

      1. Hi Paul,

        Thank you for the quick reply. I’ll start looking for tour operators from Tupiza.


      2. Forgot to ask, do you still have the contact info of the person who drove you from LaPaz?

        1. Hi Ady, it was through this company, who came recommended to us. Not a cheap option but we felt it was worth it. Good luck and all the best, Paul

        2. Hi Paul,
          Thanks for the link.
          Best wishes,

      1. Magical place love it. Though the second time I was there must have been -10^oC.

        1. Trying to watch stars at night was so cold we had to do it in 5 minutes stints before getting back to the warmth.

  2. Giovanni Ferreira December 13, 2012 — 3:58 pm

    Beauty photos, nice adventure

    1. Thanks Giovanni, it is a truly beautiful part of the world.

  3. rimassolosailingaroundtheworldm December 12, 2012 — 2:20 am

    Very a beautiful country, very nice articles. I really enjoy it to read.
    Happy Holiday

    1. Thank you, sadly Bolivia is a landlocked country so not likely to be a port of call for your next round the world adventure! Best, Paul

  4. That’s very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  5. thetalkinghangover December 11, 2012 — 12:28 pm

    excellent. another place to dream about visiting. thanks.

    1. Exploring Bolivia is definitely one to go on the list, it’s a very beautiful place.

  6. Woahh!! Too beautiful for words! Love the post so much! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Well deserved 🙂

    1. Thanks Anarya, much appreciated. Bolivia is such a diverse and beautiful country, it makes taking photos easy. I visited Sri Lanka a few years ago, really beautiful as well – plus it has beaches – your posts about Sigiriya and Kandy brought back some good memories. Best, Paul

      1. I’d love to visit Bolivia some time. I didn’t know how diverse it was. 🙂
        Thank you so much for going through my posts. I really appreciate it :). Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to Sri Lanka’s beaches but maybe next time. 😀

  7. Aww. Sorry bout the Laguna Verde… it’s definately a better sight when the rainy season hit that part of the country and the mountains are snow topped. We went in March last year and it was awesome (apart from our guide, who apparently didn’t like his job very much). Did you also find the pig in Arbol de Piedra? 🙂

    1. Didn’t find a pig, but to be honest it was so cold the only thing on my mind was trying to save my toes from frostbite. I guess end of rainy season would be good, if I get the chance I’ll go back in March/April – its not too far from Sucre!

      1. Pig’s still there, look closely at your picture. You live in Sucre? I can warmly recommend the pumpkin soup at Florin, so yummy! Just like all the other dishes they have on their menu. I live in Santa Cruz, nothing much to recommend there.

        1. Ha, ha. Number of times I’ve looked at that picture and not seen a pig! Brilliant. How’s the rainy season treating you in Santa Cruz? Only spent a few days there earlier this year en route to and from Samaipata but thought it had some nice restaurants – sushi at KEN was good (you can’t get sushi in Sucre) and we had a good lunch at a German-Bolivian place near the centre, can’t remember the name but a nice patio area outside.

        2. Still have to try out KEN, it’s definately on my list. And yep, the German place is very nice indeed. Also worth for an almuerzo: La Taverna in the street with the many restaurants (big christo statue on one end, palacio de justicia on the other). Very good deal and you can eat as much as you like.
          Rainy season hasn’t been that rainy yet which is good. Maybe my shoes get spared from mold this time…

        3. Same here, a few rainy days but not much although it did rain for twelve hours the other day so I shouldn’t speak too soon. Just came back from the Atacama Desert so it’s quite nice to see rain and green things again!

        4. Let me know if you guys come through SC again, then we could meet at Alexander near the Plaza for a nice chocolate brownie.

        5. Sounds good to me, thanks for the invite. Ditto if you find yourself in Sucre – not sure if the pumpkin soup is still on the menu though!

        6. WHAT?? In March it still was… But the rest of the meals on the menu are also awesome.

        7. Haven’t eaten there recently, but they do the best burger in town for sure!

    1. Thanks. Just been checking out your travels in the Philippines – jealous of all that beach time, the only downside of a landlocked country like Bolivia.

      1. Hehe thanks 🙂 yeah true, you well have to check it out 🙂 do you live there?

        1. Yup, been here for seven months and counting…loving it, but just had to go to Chile to get seafood and see the ocean.

  8. Thank you for making the travel to this place easy and beautiful through your photos! I hope to see it for myself one day. It’s going on my “bucket list”.

    1. Thanks Carrie. It is a beautiful part of a beautiful country. Bolivia is full of surprises so put some extra time aside for diversions when you visit!

  9. The images on this blog are exquisite! Can’t wait to go to South America myself one day 🙂

    1. Thanks Kavita. This whole continent is full of beauty and surprises, Bolivia especially and, because it is less well known than some of its neighbours, it is more off the beaten track. Best, Paul

      1. Ah your comment makes me wish I was there right now! Thank you for the tip Paul 🙂

  10. That is awesome! You have captured the area beautifully with your camera!

    1. Thanks Anita, the hard work is all done by the landscape – it is so beautiful, especially in the early morning. Best, Paul

  11. Reblogged this on njgarrell and commented:

    1. Thanks for the reblog Jean. The whole south west of Bolivia is so beautiful, but then this country has so many areas of beauty. Best, Paul


        1. If you come to Sucre be sure to let me know, after seven months living here I have a few suggestions of places to visit!

    1. It is. I hope to go to Colombia next year, any tips?

  12. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

    1. Thanks for the reblog Oyla, much appreciated. Best, Paul

    1. Thanks for the reblog misentopop, much appreciated. Best, Paul

  13. Talking about something unearthly–I meant that in a good way. The photos are just W-O-W! The write up made it appealing all the more.

    I would salivate to set foot that place if ever.


    1. Thanks Sony, if you get the chance it is one of the journeys of a lifetime (in my opinion)…and it is definitely unearthly! Best, Paul

      1. To set foot on the place will surely be a journey of a lifetime.

        I could like see myself in the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth now. Hehe

  14. Wow. Love the photos, thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks Chica, the photos really take themselves. Best, Paul

  15. jalal michael sabbagh. December 10, 2012 — 1:13 am

    Wonders of nature ,l like to see in the future.Great post fascinating picture.Wishing you happy holidays.jalal

    1. Thanks Jalal, it is a beautiful part of Bolivia. Happy holidays to you as well. Best, Paul

  16. A beautiful land. Harsh, but beautiful. Thanks for posting this up.

    1. Thanks Patrons of the Pit. It’s a beautiful place. Have you ever visited Bolivia? Meat on the parilla is a firm favourite here. Best, Paul

      1. Never been, but would love to some day. Enchanting land looks like.

        1. It is and people here are super friendly as well. Well worth the journey.

  17. The geyser looks incredible! I didn’t know they made that much noise, but it certainly sounds loud from your description. Great post!

    1. Thanks Jessica, it was an incredible journey. The geyser is really loud, I wish I’d had a video camera with me and recorded it. Just had a quick look at your site, I love visiting Spain, such a diverse country – and the food is great. I’ll be checking out more. Best, Paul

  18. Wow. Ummmeyzing pictures:) love them all.

    1. Thanks Goyting, it was a real adventure and the landscape photographs itself! Best, Paul

  19. Those are really powerful photos. How dramatic those flamingos look against the simplicity of the natural backdrop, also.

    1. The landscape of the south west of Bolivia is amazing, truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. It’s a bit odd seeing flamingos in that landscape! Best, Paul

  20. nazarioartpainting December 9, 2012 — 10:13 pm

    Oh God really, really beautiful. Thank You for sharing the photos.

    1. It’s pleasure to share such a beautiful landscape, thanks for dropping by. Paul

  21. Totally awesome!

  22. Oh, I so want to go on this trip. I do love a desert. Ooh and a flamingo.

    1. Hi Mrs Carmichael, it is one of the trips of a lifetime and definitely one for the bucket list. Best, Paul

  23. Your photos make it look amazing

    1. Thanks, I wish I could claim it was all me but the landscape just photographs itself. Best, Paul

  24. It does look beautiful

  25. Your photos are wonderful. Thank you for sharing and congrats on FP!

    1. Thanks McCracken Love, it was a trip of a lifetime! Just had a quick look at your site, some interesting stuff there will investigate further. Best, Paul

  26. What an amazing adventure. I love seeing blogs from different areas. Do you really think you will go back to Laguna Verde?

    1. Thanks Segmation. All things are possible, but Laguna Verde isn’t that easy to get to as you can tell. One day maybe!

  27. nice

  28. I agree Laguna Verde doesn’t look that great but the rest of your photos are amazing!

    1. Thanks Faz, it was a bit disappointing especially as I’d seen some beautiful photos of Laguna Verde from other travellers. There’s always next time. All the best, Paul

    2. I think it still looks awesome. I haven’t seen the other pics to compare though.

      1. It is still a brilliant place, but see a photo when the water is high and almost luminous green…truly unearthly.

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