From perspective-bending photos to volcanic geysers, this Bolivian gem will leave you salty… but in a good way
Salar de Uyuni, located in southwest Bolivia, is one of the world’s most unique and stunning destinations. This vast expanse of salt flats covers an area of over 4,000 square miles, making it the largest salt flat in the world.
The area’s otherworldly landscapes, including the bright white salt flats, colorful lagoons, and towering cacti, make it a photographer’s dream and a must-see for anyone traveling to Bolivia. But there’s more to Salar de Uyuni than just its natural beauty.
Visitors can also learn about the area’s history and culture, explore nearby towns and parks, and even dip in natural hot springs. In this roundup, we’ll explore some of the top things to do in Salar de Uyuni and help you plan an unforgettable trip to this incredible destination.
Here’s a list of things to do when visiting Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni:
- Salar de Uyuni: It’s the world’s most enormous salt flat, covering an area of around 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 square miles).
- The best time to visit Salar de Uyuni: It is during the dry season, which runs from May to November, during this time, the salt flats are hard and dry, making driving on them more accessible and taking better photos.
- Take a guided tour of Salar de Uyuni: Most tours last around 3-4 days and will take you to other exciting places in the area, such as the colorful Laguna Colorada and the geysers at Sol de Mañana.
- Take perspective photos of the salt flats: The vast expanse of the salt flats makes it a perfect location to take creative and surreal images that play with perspective.
- Visit the Salt Museum in Colchani: This museum gives visitors a deeper understanding of the salt flat’s history and the traditional methods of salt extraction used by locals.
- Stay in a salt hotel: A few hotels in the area are made entirely out of salt bricks and offer a unique experience for travelers.
- Witness the sunset and sunrise over the salt flats: The changing colors of the sky during these times of the day create stunning views and a peaceful atmosphere.
- Visit Incahuasi Island: This rocky island is in the middle of the salt flats and is home to giant cacti growing up to 12 meters (39 feet) tall.
- Take a hot springs bath: After a long day of exploring, relax in the natural hot springs near Laguna Colorada.
- Go stargazing: The clear skies make it an excellent location for stargazing and observing the Milky Way.
- Visit the Train Cemetery: This unique site is located just outside Uyuni and is a collection of old rusted trains abandoned in the 1940s.
- Go on a photography tour: If you’re into photography, several tours specialize in capturing the best shots of the salt flats and the surrounding area.
- Learn about the local culture: The area around Salar de Uyuni is home to several indigenous communities, and many tours offer opportunities to meet locals and learn about their way of life.
- Try traditional Bolivian cuisine: Several restaurants in Uyuni serve local dishes, such as quinoa soup, llama meat, and empanadas.
- Explore the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve: This protected area is located near Salar de Uyuni and is home to several species of wildlife, including flamingos, vicunas, and foxes.
- Visit the Geysers at Sol de Mañana: These geysers are located at 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) and emit steam and boiling mud from the ground, creating a surreal and otherworldly landscape.
- Take a trip to the nearby town of Potosi: This historic town is known for its silver mines, colonial architecture, and the Casa de la Moneda, a museum that showcases the history of the Spanish colonial mint.
- Go hiking in the surrounding mountains: The area around Salar de Uyuni is home to several peaks, including the Tunupa volcano, which can be climbed for stunning views of the salt flats and the surrounding area.
- Attend a local festival: Several festivals and celebrations are held in the area throughout the year, such as the Day of the Dead celebrations in November.
- Go birdwatching: The salt flats and the surrounding area are home to several species of birds, including Andean flamingos, Andean gulls, and Puna plovers.
Did you know?
One interesting fact about the Salar de Uyuni is that it contains up to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves. Lithium is a crucial component of batteries for electric vehicles and other electronic devices. Its increasing demand has led to plans for large-scale lithium extraction in salt flats.
This has sparked controversy among local communities and environmentalists concerned about the potential impacts on the area’s fragile ecosystem and indigenous cultures.
The best time to visit Salar de Uyuni when the salt flats look like a mirror is during the rainy season, which typically runs from December to April. During this time, the salt flats are covered with a thin layer of water that creates a stunning reflection of the sky and surrounding landscape.
The reflection effect is at its peak when the sky is clear and the sun is low on the horizon, usually in the early morning or late afternoon. It’s worth noting that the South American weather in Salar de Uyuni can be unpredictable, and even during the rainy season, there may be days when the salt flats are dry or covered with too much water to create a mirror effect.
A little history:
The discovery of lithium in the Salar de Uyuni dates back to the 1960s, but it was in the 1990s that large-scale extraction became feasible due to technological advances. In the early 2000s, the Bolivian government began exploring the possibility of developing its lithium reserves to boost the country’s economy.
Plans for lithium extraction have faced opposition from local communities and environmental groups who argue that the process could negatively impact the area’s delicate ecosystem and the livelihoods of the indigenous people.
Despite these concerns, the Bolivian government has continued to explore ways to develop its lithium reserves, including partnering with foreign companies to extract and process the mineral.