Exploring Salar de Uyuni – The World’s Largest Salt Flats
Exploring Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest Salt Flats, is a one-of-a-kind experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Spanning over 10,000 square kilometers, the Salt flat is coated in a layer of salt up to 10 meters thick in some places. The salt flat is vast and featureless that it appears as if you’re standing on the surface of another planet.
Uyuni Salt Flat is an otherworldly place. It is in southwestern Bolivia, and the vast expanse of white nothingness will never fail to amaze you!
How the Salt Flat Was Formed
Salar de Uyuni is one of the most unique places on Earth. The empty landscape is in a thick layer of white salt that stretches as far as the eye can see. But how did this place come to be?
Salar de Uyuni formed around 30,000 years ago when a giant lake known as Lake Minchin dried up. As the lake began to dry up, it left behind a thick layer of salt sediment. Fast forward a few million years, and the weight of the deposit caused the salt to deform and buckle, creating the otherworldly landscape we see today.
Things to do at the Salt Flats
The Uyuni Salt Flat is also home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife. Pink flamingos are wading in the brine lakes that dot the landscape – if you are lucky to see them!
The Cactus Island in the middle of nothingness is an excellent place to enjoy the giant cactus plants. Go hiking to the island’s top and see the views of complete whiteness from an elevated landscape.
And, of course, take a lot of perspective photos. Perhaps the fantastic images you saw online are why you want to visit this incredible place. You can even bring your toys or props to use. Usually, the driver/tour guide volunteers to be the photographer, and he knows what to do.
Watching the sunset from the frozen salt flat (in July) with wine in your hand is a perfect combination to end the day.
Lithium Hiding Beneath the Salt Flats
In addition to its natural wonders, Salar de Uyuni is also an important source of lithium. This valuable element is useful in batteries for cell phones, laptops, and electric cars. Experts estimate that Salar de Uyuni contains about 70% of the world’s lithium reserves. Let’s see what lithium can do to the community around the flats and the country.
Ways How to Get to Salar de Uyuni
The Uyuni Salt Flat is located in southwestern Bolivia, near the border with Chile and Argentina. The best way to get there is by taking a bus or train from Bolivia’s larger cities, such as La Paz or Sucre. Once you arrive in Uyuni, you can tour the salt flat or explore it on your own.
Take a One Day or Multi-Day Tour
If you decide to go on a tour, many companies offer both day trips and multi-day excursions. These tours typically include stops at nearby attractions, such as Laguna Colorada (a red lake with flamingos) and the Valley of the Rocks (lined with strange rock formations). Click the thumbnails below for the type of tour or excursion you want.
I booked an overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni. The ride was comfortable, and I did sleep well. When I arrived, the tour agent I booked for a 3-day tour from Uyuni (not from La Paz) met me and whisked me off to our transport with other adventurers. If the bus isn’t your thing, you can take a tour by taking a plane – more comfortable and more expensive.
Do it on Your Own
Exploring Uyuni Salt flats on your own is also possible, but not recommended for first-time visitors. This option is best for experienced travelers who are comfortable navigating unfamiliar territory. If you go alone, bring plenty of food and water, as no services are available once you leave Uyuni.
When to Visit Salar de Uyuni
The best time to visit the Uyuni Salt Flat is during the dry season, which runs from April to November. During this time, the skies are clear, and the temperatures are mild – ideal for exploring the salt flats and photographing.
Where to Stay in Uyuni
The town of Uyuni was dead when I was there in July 2022. Pandemic-related restrictions were just lifted in some countries, and businesses were not fully operational yet. If you want to stay for a night or two, bear in mind that the accommodations have basic facilities. I’d recommend Casa del Sal (Salt Hotel), a hotel built with salt blocks and replete with local Andean decorations. It’s in the city center and has a good wifi connection.