The world’s largest salt flats
Don’t be lazy and just take out your camera: there are a thousand ways to capture Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world.
To reach the salt flat you need to take a flight to the town of Uyuni, in the south-east of Bolivia. There you can book guided tours and the essential 4×4 vans to explore Salar de Uyuni. You are welcomed on the outskirts by the community of Colchani, which is mainly devoted to the extraction of salt. Opposite, the enormous white surface opens up, which allows you to better appreciate the curvature of the land. It is calculated that it contains ten billion tonnes of salt.
Thousands of years ago, there were several lakes in the area and it was their evaporation that formed the white esplanade that we can now walk along today. However, not everything is white: in Salar there are also volcanoes, coloured lagoons and even a garden of giant cacti, Incahuasi Island. The Coloured Lagoon, which is host to thousands of flamencos, or the Green Lagoon at the foot of the Licancabur Volcano, are some of the many hidden treasures in this white desert. There is also a cemetery for steam trains and even mummies that are over 2,000 years old. The five mummies were discovered in a small cavern at the foot of the Tunupa Volcano, close to the village of Coquesa. If you climb the volcano you can admire the enormity of the salt flat from its summit of 5,432 metres.
The landscapes, which are already spectacularly diverse, change according to the time of year. In the rainy season for example, the salt flat becomes a giant mirror where it is hard to distinguish between the sky and the earth. Other times you have the feeling that you are on another planet, because of the hills of salt that stick out the ground and that are reminiscent of the Moon’s surface.
A cactus on Incahuasi Island
Photo: Josef Friedhuber
To sleep, we recommend an experience that is also slightly extra-terrestrial: el Palacio de Sal (the Palace of Salt) hotel. It was built in 1998 so that travellers would be able to spend the night in the desert at a hotel in keeping with the environment and the landscape that surround it. It is made completely of bricks of salt, from the walls to the furniture. The speciality of its restaurant is, of course, salt-roasted chicken.
Hills of salt in the desert