On the deserted outskirts of the small, dusty town of Uyuni is the ‘Cementerio de Trenes’ or Great Train Graveyard. This train graveyard is a fascinating beginning to one of the most extraordinary tours you will ever embark on. The cemetery is marked only by a small sign that explains very little about the site. Here you can explore old rusting train carriages and get some cool photos to add to what is bound to be the most impressive album of your travels.
Uyuni has been an important transportation hub for trains in South America since the end of the 19th century. Plans to expand and build an even bigger network of trains out of Uyuni in the 19th century were halted by the collapse of the mining industry in the 1940s. Many imported trains from Britain were abandoned outside Uyuni. Rather than decommissioning the trains and selling them as scrap, the demoralized people of Uyuni left the trains to rot, leaving the mass train cemetery we see today.
Of course, the remains today are very different to what lay here 70 years ago. Firstly, many pieces of metal have been robbed because there’s no fence or guards surrounding the trains. However, more importantly the location of the ruins has impacted significantly on their appearance. The salt winds in Salar de Uyuni have corroded all of the metal from the trains, leaving rusty scraps ideal for visitors to climb on an explore.
All salt flat tours stop at Colchani train graveyard, where the local tour guide will be able to give a detailed history and description of the site. One and three day tours starting from Uyuni arrive here in the morning on the first day of the tour. They usually spend around one hour between the train graveyard and Colchani, giving you plenty of time to explore and capture footage of these interesting sites. Conversely, those starting from San Pedro de Atacama arrive here on the final day of the tour and also spend one hour between the train graveyard and Colchani.