After an already amazing 3 days, we reached our finale: the Bolivian Salt Flats (ie. Salar de Uyuni)!
Our day started early, leaving the warm and cozy confines of our Salt Hotel at 530 AM in order to catch the sun rise over the salt flats by 630.
This was most definitely worth it, as the light was beautiful and it seemed the best way to appreciate the hexagonal shapes the salt makes as the water evaporates.
The Bolivian Salt Flats are the largest in the world, with an area of 10,500 square kilometres… think roughly the size of Hawaii. The salt reaches a depth of 125m.
The flats are essentially a dried up salty lake. When the water from the lake evaporated it left only the salt behind. In some ways it is a sad sign of global warming, as the lake used to be connected by a small river to Lake Titicaca. Unfortunately these lakes and rivers are slowly disappearing.
Since the salt flats are a dried up lake, they have a few islands popping up (much like Lake Titicaca). We hiked around one of these, amazed at all the cacti populating this island.
What was also cool to see was that, having once been fully underwater, the ground of the island was all covered in dried up coral. We hopped from one coral to another, dodging cacti bristles, and watching the end of the sun rise until it was time to enjoy some breakfast.
The remainder of our morning we spent driving on top of what felt like an endless lake of salt. White all around you, and all you can see on the horizon. It was really an amazing sight to see!
It also meant that you could really play with the perspective, coming up with several silly shots to see just how creative we could get:
These salt flats are not just used for our viewing pleasure; people harvest the salt regularly. Collecting the hard salt is used to make bricks for things like buildings. The top layer of soft salt is dried and iodized, and then used for table salt. The workers sell 1 kilogram of this salt for 1 Boliviano (ie. 20 cents).
In the end, our Bolivian Salt Flats tour was everything we had imagined and so much more! We’d recommend it to anyone in a heart beat, with just the advice to bring some warm clothes and all the camera equipment to need as you won’t be able to stop taking photos!
PS – Did you know the Dakar Rally goes through the Bolivian Salt Flats?
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: DRY VERSUS RAINY SEASON
There are two options when visiting the Salt Flats: wet season versus dry season.
Wet Season goes from December until March/early April. At this time a layer of water accumulates on the salt flats giving it a mirror-like illusion reflecting the sky. It is an amazing site! The negative of this time of year is that over a meter of water accumulates in some areas and the ground gets soft, making a number of surrounding areas inaccessible by car.
Dry Season is the remainder of the year, from late April to November. At this time the Salt Flats are an endless field of white, allowing some silly photo-taking with a play on perspective. The ground hardens at this time and all areas of the flats tend to be accessible.
Which is better? I don’t think there is any true answer to that; both sights are beautiful! It depends on which appeals more to you…
Loving your blog!!! My friend and I are in the middle of booking a trip to Bolivia and Peru. We’ve already booked the Inca Trail but we are basically wanting to do exactly what you guys did in terms of itinerary and it looks like we want to go for about how long you did. Could you share more info about the timing/interary of your trip?
So exciting to hear that! I’m sure you’ll love visiting both countries; we found it to be an amazing trip overall.
We keep meaning to put together a post of our itinerary, but until then, here is our rough outline:
Days 1-3: Lima, Peru
Day 4: Morning bus to Ica, then to Huacachina where we spent the day. Overnight bus to Arequipa.
Day 5: Arequipa, Peru. Stayed here overnight.
Day 6: Colca Canyon, Peru (took a day tour which picked us up from Arequipa and dropped us off in Puno, where we spent the night).
Day 7: Lake Titicaca (day cruise from Puno; but you can choose to do multi-night cruises if you want. The cruise dropped us off in La Paz, Bolivia in the evening – very convenient!)
Day 8-9: La Paz, Bolivia
Day 10: Daytrip to Pitosi (overnight back in La Paz)
Day 11: Daytrip to Sucre (Note the trip is about 3-hours each way – not everyone may be willing to do that in one day. If you have time I’d stay overnight in Sucre.)
Day 12: La Paz. Overnight bus to Tupiza – the starting base for our salt flats tour the following morning.
Day 13-16: Salt Flats Tour – starting in Tupiza, ending in Uyuni (and on the last day we flew out of Uyuni to Cuzco).
Day 17-18: Cuzco, Peru
Day 19-22: Inca Trail
Day 22-23: Cuzco (to shower, wash our things, relax a bit after the trek)
Day 24: Morning flight to Lima (which we explored some more for the day). Flew home late that night.
I wouldn’t have changed much about our itinerary, other than always wanting more time in each city (but wouldn’t you always want that?!). I would have stayed in Sucre longer – perhaps staying there for 2 days and spending one less day in La Paz. We used La Paz as our home base so we could feel settled for a while, instead of always being on the road.
If you have any further questions, feel free to ask. We’d be happy to help!
What an amazing trip! I am also planing to visit Peru (Lima, Inca trek) and Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni and the national part), maybe Cuba too around April! I didn’t really follow your itinerary (date and places), Is there any possibility you could send to me or explain here your itinerary? I really want to travel the same route!! Thank you soooo much!
Look forward to hearing from you!
We are so excited for you going to South America soon! It was an amazing trip and we would be happy to share it with anyone and help them have a better trip. I am currently working on a summary post with all the details. However, if you want details right now just send us a quick note or email and I would be happy to send you a quick itinerary and how we did it all.
Dear Shane and Sandra!!
Happy New year!
Sorry for the late reply and thank you for sharing the itinerary!!
We unfortunately delayed our South America trip because of the Zika virus, but we.have visited some other nice countries in 2016 – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Slovenia, Istria (a region of Croatia), southern France including Andorra and Monaco. Since we live in Sweden, the trip to Peru and Bolivia which I prefer to do in April and at least 3 weeks long will be postponed to 2019, and we would like to follow your itinerary then :D!
We have booked our trip to Prag, South Korea and Portugal.for 2017 and look forward to reading more of your amazing travel stories!
Happy New Year to you as well! It sounds like you made the most of your year and travel adventures despite the Zika virus. We’re happy to hear that!
We are heading to Dubai and southern France this year. Any recommendations for us?
All the best,
Thank you for your wishes!
Dubai was not actually as amazing as we thought. Mostly because the modern skyscrapers with luxury hotells and shopping malls are not our taste. But I still recommend you:
1. Visit the Burj Khalifa and do it 1-2 hours before sunset and stay until it is dark, so you can take nice pictures of Dubai both at daytime, sunset and night. You should also watch the fountain show at least once on Burj Khalifa, it is beautiful from the air.
2. Going to the Umm Suqeim Beach to see sunset besides the Burj Al Arab is also nice! There is a sea food restaurant called Bu Qtair, fired big fish and shrimps with the traditional naan bread, very delicious.
Use metro and taxi to get around, taxi is quite cheap :)
If you have at least one day free, please visit Abu Dhabi, especially Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is so magnificent and amazing there. We stayed there 4 hours, took a guided tour and got many beautiful day and night pictures.
You can also visit Ferrati World if you like to try the world’s fastest rollar coaster :)
We went to Midi-Pyrénées, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence during mid August last year. There are usually many tourists during summer and it is hot, but if you like to see beautiful sun flowers and lavender fields, late June until early August is best choice.
We were i Barcelona for two days then took train to Perpignan to rent a car. Then we visited Le village d’Eus (nice village) and Villefranche-de-Conflent (recommend to visit the Fort Libéria) on our way to Andorra.
After Andorra, you can visit Niaux Cave if you like to see paleolithic cave paintings that is over 14,000 year-old. Underground river of Labouiche/Riviere Souteraine de Labouiche near Foix was also interesting. The whole boat tour in the cave was in French (we understood nothing, but maybe you can :D).
The Medieval City in Carcassonne is sooo beautilful! A lot of tourist too :P. We also visited Abbaye de Fontfroide, Narbonne and Minerve (nice litttle village) before we arrived in Béziers. I love this city and you can also rent bike or take boat to travel along the Canal Du Midi.
Nîmes is like French Rome, has a rich history and remarkable Roman remains. Les Baux de Provence is also recommended. You must watch a show in Carrières de Lumières, very unique experience. The fortress there is also worth to visit, they perform medieval-style duels and fire with the biggest trebuchet siege engine!!
Marseille and Nice are also nice, but I love Cassis and the Parc National des Calanques. You can either take cruise or hike in the park (good route: start from the Port Miou Calanque → Calanque de Port Pin → a Refuge du Piolet → Calanque d’en Vau). If you take car or bike, must go through the Crêtes tourist route, very scenic road!
If you are in Nice, do visit Menton and Monaco! :)
Good luck and contact me if you need more info! :)
Wow, thank you for all of your recommendations! Those were incredibly helpful, and it’s thoughtful of you to take the time to write to us.
Your details of southern France have me wishing we had more than 2 weeks there! It sounds like there is tons to see. We’ll have to do our best. I don’t think our French is any better than yours, so we’ll have to get practicing :)
I hope all is well and we look forward to hearing from you again soon.
i don’t often leave comments on blog posts, but wanted to thank you for yours! i read several of your bolivia posts and found them really helpful! you have a lot of great tips in there :) i liked your descriptions of the flamingos – i didn’t know baby flamingos were grey. i also thought your concise comparison of the wet vs dry season, that was something i was wondering and you described the two seasons very clearly. from reading your posts, i will be sure to dress very warmly. i leave tomorrow from vancouver, canada to la paz!
So great to hear from you! I’m happy to hear our blog posts were helpful for your travels. We are thrilled to hear you’re heading to La Paz and Bolivia! Have a safe and wonderful trip, and we’d be happy to hear some of your tips once you’re back.
You’re pictures look awesome! Thanks for sharing. My sister and I are planning a trip to Peru and La Paz in November. We take the night bus from La Paz and arrive in Uyuni in the morning. You mentioned something about a Salt Flats Tour. Which one did you do? Did you rent a car or was it apart of the tour?
Happy to hear you’re heading to Peru and Bolivia! We loved our trip there and are excited for you starting your travels.
We did the Salt Flats Tour a bit of the unconventional way. We started it from Tupiza instead of Uyuni (with Tupiza Tours); we chose to do this as the less traveled route, meaning we were part of a group of only 4 people and with only a couple of other jeeps. This is in contrast to the Uyuni tours where groups tend to be larger and a are part of numerous other tour groups. Touring from Tupiza also meant we saw more of the nearby Bolivian national park and saved the Salt Flats for the last day. We really liked it this way, but realize that this doesn’t work for everyone.
Sadly, since we went from Tupiza, we can’t offer you very much information on tours from Uyuni. I would read about each of them on Trip Advisor and pick one that works best for you. Sorry we can’t be more helpful!
Also, we didn’t rent a car. Every tour comes with a car and a driver, as some of the terrain can be quite tricky to maneuver and it would be easy to get lost on the flats.
Let us know if you have any other questions. We’d be happy to hear about your trip once you’re back!
Sandra & Shane
Stunning photos. Definitely would love to visit the Salt Flats. Looks like a super cool trip!
THE BEST PICTURES EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am speachless…………….