The Bolivian Salt Flats – Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

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After 3 days stuck in a jeep exploring the magnificent landscapes of Southwestern Bolivia, we were excited to finally make it to the Salar de Uyuni – the largest salt flats in the world.

The night before, we caught our first sight of this amazing natural wonder as we made our way to our final night’s accommodations, which were located on the edge of the salt flats. We were put up in a hostel that was made entirely of salt – walls, floor, tables, and even the lamps were all large salt blocks.

Inside the salt hostel, where almost everything was made from salt.Inside the salt hostel, where almost everything was made from salt.
Inside the salt hostel, where almost everything was made from salt.07-Jan-2011 18:47
 

Despite the unusual choice of building material, we had our best night’s sleep of the entire tour in the salt hostel. It turns out salt is a good heat and sound insulator, so that night was both warm and silent.

Our comfy beds in the salt hostel.Our comfy beds in the salt hostel.
Our comfy beds in the salt hostel.07-Jan-2011 18:47
 

The next morning we were up early, once again, in order to see the sun rise over the salt flats. We climbed into the jeep and sped across the flats stopping after we had a reached a point where every direction was completely the same – blindingly white and, of course, completely flat.

The jeep on the salt flats.The jeep on the salt flats.
The jeep on the salt flats.08-Jan-2011 06:14
 

The sun rise was brilliant, beginning with a small dot of light far off on the horizon, and growing into a huge ball of orange that enveloped the sky.

Here comes the sun.Here comes the sun.
Here comes the sun.08-Jan-2011 06:10
 

Breakfast was at Isla Incahuasi, an “island” which is actually the remnants of an old submerged volcano.

Isla Incahuasi, surrounded by the Uyuni Salt Flats.Isla Incahuasi, surrounded by the Uyuni Salt Flats.
Isla Incahuasi, surrounded by the Uyuni Salt Flats.08-Jan-2011 08:00
 

Here, our guide explained the history and formation of the Salar de Uyuni. Tens of thousands of years ago, the area was actually a large saline lake. Over time, this dried up, leaving the remaining salt desert and islands.

The Isla Incahuasi island was covered in cacti and coral-like structures. We climbed to the top of the hill in the middle of the island to enjoy a stunning view of the surrounding salt flats.

At the top of Isla Incahuasi.At the top of Isla Incahuasi.
At the top of Isla Incahuasi.08-Jan-2011 08:05
 

After the island, we were driven out to the middle flats, where absolutely nothing but endless white can be seen in all directions.

Striking a pose in the middle of the salt flats.Striking a pose in the middle of the salt flats.
Striking a pose in the middle of the salt flats.08-Jan-2011 10:54
 

The complete lack of anything to focus on makes for some interesting visual illusions and entertaining photos.

Big Erik, Mini HeatherBig Erik, Mini Heather
Big Erik, Mini Heather08-Jan-2011 15:34
 

Cameras essentially lose all sense of depth, and can focus on near and far objects at the same time.

No photoshop involved - playing around with the optical illusions on the salt flats.No photoshop involved – playing around with the optical illusions on the salt flats.
No photoshop involved – playing around with the optical illusions on the salt flats.08-Jan-2011 11:01
 

We played around with different angles, perspectives, and props.

Erik standing on the shoulders of a giant.Erik standing on the shoulders of a giant.
Erik standing on the shoulders of a giant.08-Jan-2011 10:21
 

Our favorite photo makes it appear as if Heather is eating me with a spoon. In actuality, I’m sitting about 30 ft in the distance; Heather is close to the camera, and we all worked closely together to line up the resulting shot.

Our best shot - Heather eating Erik on a spoon.Our best shot – Heather eating Erik on a spoon.
Our best shot – Heather eating Erik on a spoon.08-Jan-2011 09:59
 

At the edge of the salt flats, we were shown an area where salt is harvested. It is first pushed into big piles to dry, before being sent to a number of nearby factories, where it is dried, bagged, and shipped around the country. Nearly 25,000 tons of salt is mined here each year.

Piles of salt, drying in the sun before processing.Piles of salt, drying in the sun before processing.
Piles of salt, drying in the sun before processing.08-Jan-2011 12:22
 

In addition to regular table salt, the salt flats contain about 50% of the world’s lithium reserves. Plans are underway to begin extracting this valuable mineral, which is an important component of modern day batteries.

We ended the tour in the town of Uyuni, but before it was completely over we had one final stop – the train cemetery.

Uyuni's train cemetery.Uyuni’s train cemetery.
Uyuni's train cemetery.08-Jan-2011 14:19
 

Here, massive old locomotives have been left to rust away their final days in the Bolivian desert. These trains all looked quite old, with large steam boilers, however steam engines were used in Bolivia through the 1970s so it’s hard to tell their exact age.

Old, rusting, steam engines.Old, rusting, steam engines.
Old, rusting, steam engines.08-Jan-2011 14:27
 

The trains made for some excellent photo opportunities.

Conductors on the world's slowest train.Conductors on the world’s slowest train.
Conductors on the world's slowest train.08-Jan-2011 14:40
 

After 4 days, hundreds of miles, and countless hours in the bumpy jeep, our tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats and Southwestern Bolivia had come to a close. Our trip through this remote, barren environment was completely unforgettable, and one of the major highlights of our time in both Bolivia and South America.

2 thoughts on “The Bolivian Salt Flats – Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

  1. Bob Curtis

    Glad you guys had such a sweet time at the salt flats ;-)

    You got some great photos to go with your salty descriptions.
    This chapter will be a highlight of your book, guaranteed.
    Can’t wait to edit it with you guys, in person.

    Keep up the great work. We are enjoying reading about all your adventures.

    loveyoumissyou,
    dadder

    P.S. Sorry for the corny “salty/sweet” references. Couldn’t resist – dad jokes!

    Reply
    1. Heather

      Thanks, Dadder! We really loved the Salt Flats! One of our favorite places yet. The photos were a blast & a few came out really well.

      Glad you’re enjoying our posts.
      Almost officially caught up now! :)

      Reply

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