Spanning more than 4,000 miles, Salar de Uyuni is dubbed as the earth’s largest salt flats seen in the south-western part of Bolivia. This surreal spot of the globe welcomes you with its expansive glistening white salt. Large lithium-rich brine reservoirs lie underneath the somewhat cemented salt of the region. It offers an extraordinary experience like no other. You will be in awe of its thick salt crust extending to the horizon that is covered by quilted, polygonal salt patterns from the ground.
So, how was the Salar de Uyuni formed? This question usually pops into the very core of every traveller. The high plateau (Altiplano) here does not have any drainage outlets so water from the surrounding mountains is collated. As time passed, the collated water formed a giant lake. Its high salinity is noted to have long been evaporated under the Andean sun leading to the formation of salt flats.
An alternative account from the Aymaran legend notes the involvement of the mountain surrounding the Kusku, Tunupa and Kusina salt flats. According to the legend, these mountains were giant people and that Kusku and Tunupa are a couple. Tunupa’s tears formed salt flats when Kusku betrayed his wife Tunupa for Kusina. How romantic!
Getting to these salt flats depends on where you come from. Tours here originate from the following points:
Uyuni in Bolivia – This serves as the go-to jump-off point for most travellers. You can easily book your trips here since it is close to the flats. Book your flight from La Paz to Uyuni through BoA and Amaszonas. There are also overnight buses for transport from La Paz through Todo Turismo and Trans Omar.
San Pedro de Atacama in Chile – This 3-day tour is offered by agencies will drive you to the border. There a Bolivian operator will take care of the tour you booked.
Tupiza in Bolivia – If you come from Argentina, this could be your best starting point. Tour operators here will recommend you to take a four-day tour from Tupiza that culminates a tour to Salar de Uyuni.
Taking a 4×4 tour across the fantastic salt flats is the most notable and the best way to experience this destination. You could go for a shared tour of up to 6 tourists or arrange a private tour for a more comfortable trip. Both tours usually include a night stay so it would be best to bring warm clothes and sleeping bag. Put on sun cream because the salt reflections accentuate the sun’s effect.
Though tours are available for one day or for multi-day visits, it’s best to go for a multi-day tour as the wildlife and landscapes here are superb. What’s to be seen? Hot springs, adorable llamas, wild flamingos, neon turquoise and apple-red lakes as well as volcanoes are just among the things to get you wowed in this region.
If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, try a night stay in one of the salt hotels in the area. Locals build structures using cemented salt bricks as building materials are of no avail. Everything in the hotels here is constructed from salt blocks.
There are two seasons to consider before visiting the region. The rainy season starts from December to April allowing you to witness the breathtaking mirror effect of the salt flats. The dry season, from May to November, is best spent for a drive across its white landscape untouched by the rainy season. Peak season strikes in the months of June through August where most travelers book their respective tour.
Make your next adventure an incredible experience to Salar de Uyuni.