El Salar de Uyuni
Located in Bolivia’s southern province of Potosi, the Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flats on earth (10,000 sq km’s / 4000 sq miles). The region is the same size as the BIG island of Hawaii! So I leave the snow of home to find an even whiter environment!
The salt flats are among the most visually dramatic places on earth and it is becoming easier to visit. We were in fact rather spoiled and flew from La Paz to the surreal town of Uyuni. Setting aside delays, the flight is a mere 45 minutes and the views from the air and worth the cost of the flight.
Overland, the trip is between 8-11 hours … but also dramatic.
In dusty Uyuni we stayed at the new – and randomly custom – Jardines hotel. I would totally recommend this hotel (for one night). Uyuni itself has its train station (where I once arrived at 2am to below freezing weather), a clocktower and the bizarre train cemetery.
The altitude on this plateau is 3660 meters (12,000 ft). The sun burns in the day and the southern stars are crystal clear during the cold nights.
The trains rust slowly in this desert and stand as monuments to the dictatorial mismanagement and corruption of the 1970’s.
Moving on from Uyuni, the real highlight is the salt. We stayed in the magnificent Palacio de Sal – the world’s first hotel made of salt.
Out on the salt flats every view is amazing. Sunglasses are an absolute requirement, as is a hat and the strongest sunscreen available.
Local residents process the salt and add iodine for thyroid health. The flats are also home to the largest lithium reserves on earth.
Visitors drive throughout the flats in four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers. The owner-operators are in a constant battle against salt damage, but tourism is bringing good business to the region.
From the Salt Flats, the road to Potosi is now paved. The canyons and high plains are spectacular, with no shortage of vicuñas and llamas!