Get off the beaten path » Seeing the world from a different point of view

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  • Get off the beaten path

    It's so easy to stick to the tourist trail, stay in hotels the Lonely Planet recommends, eat where everyone else eats and visit all the famous sights you've seen on telly and in magazines. While these experiences can be nice, you'll have the best adventures if you wander off the trail. Who's to say that just because a sight is famous, that it's actually any good? In fact, as soon as you discover what else the world has to offer that is not in the guide book, you'll realise that most famous sights are astonishingly underwhelming - if you can get through the crowds to see them.

    As well as the fact that the greatest sights you'll see, people you'll meet and experiences you'll have are off the beaten path, it's also much cheaper to get off the tourist trail than to stay on it.

    I realise that as soon as you find a place that’s genuinely off the tourist trail you want to keep it to yourself, but if you share, then others will share, and the world will open up around you. I’m not talking about taking three flights, two boat rides and a lift on the back of a donkey cart just to find an empty beach, I’m interested in the gems that are simply hidden away from the regular tourist areas, be it a lesser-known Thai island, a unique area of a big city, an unusual hotel or just a sight that no one seems to have noticed.

    If you've ever come across anything like this, let me know and I'll share it on this site!

    That's me, by the way, jumping in the air at a sand dune in Punta Gallinas, the most northerly point in Colombia.

Leaving La Paz

My flight out of La Paz, Bolivia, finally arrived not a moment too soon, and within an hour I was in the beautiful capital city of Sucre. With no plan other than to enjoy a Bolivian city that wasn’t La Paz, I soon bumped into a tour group made up of English, Canadian, Australian and Swiss people. We spent two days together wandering around the beautiful city, watching a parade and drinking a lot of hot chocolate in Chocolate Para Ti, an awesome chocolate café. I also spent the time enjoying Bolivian prices before my upcoming trip to Chile and Argentina.

Just two nights in Sucre and I was off to Uyuni, a small, dusty town where the salt flat tours kick off. My first morning there I met a German brother and sister Julia and Paul, an English guy Jeff and an Australian couple, Sarah and Patrick. None of us was booked on a tour, and the Jeeps seat six, so we were happy to all go together knowing who we were going to be spending the next three days with, squished up very close and personal for many hours in a car. Squished is definitely the word for our in-car situation, especially in the back seat – we were all practically married by the time we said goodbye.

The salt flats tour was amazing, and had the best scenery I’ve seen in all my life. First we went to the salt flats and took the obligatory perspective-skewing photos, which I’ve always wondered about – it turns out you don’t need to be very far from the camera at all to get an awesome photo of the group being stamped on or eaten or held in someone’s hand. Also, looking at others’ photos before, it appeared that they had the salt flats all to themselves, which was very far from the case!

After playing with perspective and licking the ground we went to the train cemetery where you can see cool rusty old trains, then on to a red lagoon full of flamingos, several other beautiful lagoons, a natural hot spring (aka Gringo Soup), a big rock that looks like a tree and that was made famous by Salvador Dali, and past hours of endlessly jaw-dropping landscapes. In just one view you can see snow-topped mountains, multicoloured rolling hills of red, pink, brown and orange, volcanoes, desert, lagoons, salt flats, sand dunes and arid land dotted with tiny scrubs, all at once.

On the first night we stayed in a salt hotel, where everything but the toilet was made of salt – the beds, the tables and chairs, the floor and the walls. The second night we stayed in a smelly, cold concrete block hostel in the middle of the desert and slept with sleeping bags, blankets, hats and gloves (we were at almost 5,000m altitude). The whole trip cost only £85 and was absolutely spectacular.

Then it was straight on to Chile!

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May 11, 2011 - 7:46 am

Katherina - Again, great pictures! A couple of friends of mine have a similar one in Uyuni – its a must :)

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