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…