One of the most amazing places I went to with Y and R this year had to be the Bolivia Salt Flats – in September, as part of a Y’s big birthday. Bolivia was one of the 2 new countries – the other being Peru, that we visited over a whirlwind journey in 2 weeks with our trip all planned smoothly by Lightfoot Travel. It’s only befitting to start the first of my South American journey blog posts with our wondrous pictures of the salt flats which was really breathtaking.
My trusted car for the road trip in Uyuni.
Fun facts of the Bolivia Salt Flats
The Bolivia Salt Flats, otherwise known as Salar De Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers. It was once part of a prehistoric lake which covered a large part of Southwestern Bolivia, and eventually they evaporated, forming a layer of salt over the entire area. It also holds one of the largest lithium reserves in the world, establishing Bolivia as one of the biggest exporters for lithium after Chile and Australia. One of the most interesting things our guide Karla told us is during the wet season, the entire area becomes a large reflective mirror, and given the Bolivia Salt Flats is very flat, it makes the area perfect for calibrating satellite by institutions such as NASA!
Enjoying the salt flats close up!
The Bolivia salt flats was one of the first highlights after we were whisked to the Train Cemetery (more of that in my separate post on what I saw in 4 days in Bolivia) which we got to enjoy in 24 hours including a night stay in a salt hotel. After visiting the salt factory, we were brought to Ojos De Sal, otherwise known as the Eyes of the Salt Flat in Potosi. These are essentially outlets for subterranean rivers flowing under the Uyuni Salt Flat. And the water is bubbling from the expulsion of minerals like magnesium, sulphur and lithium which explains for the muddy looking water. Usually the tours to Salar De Uyuni will definitely start with a visit to this interesting spot, hence it’s pretty apt to be known as the ‘eyes’ before we proceed to see the ‘body’ of the salt flat.
Eyes of the Salt Flat (Ojos de Sal)
Close up of the bubbling water.
Blue skies amidst the Eye of The Salt Flat.
Bolivia Salt Flats at Mid Day
Our first view of the Bolivia Salt Flats were just breathtaking and pretty much made us forget how tiring it was to get here, especially given the high altitude at 3656m. It felt quite surreal seeing so much salt just going on and on forever with nothing but blue skies set against it as the backdrop. We spent much of the first 30 minutes in the heart of the salt flat taking lots of fun pictures which you can see below before adjourning for lunch.
First views of the Bolivia Salt Flat, woww!
Close up of the salt flat.
Don’t I look so much bigger than Y now?
Our new Alpaca toy friend also wants to get a pic here.
Lunch was a simple affair with packed boxes of grilled chicken, pasta and some greens and soft drinks. We definitely felt special being the only ones brought out to here to enjoy lunch under the sun and fluffy clouds. And in case if you are wondering if I seasoned my food with the salt here, nope I didn’t as I heard it still has to be purified further to become proper table salt.
My first time having lunch on a salt flat!
Lunch spread at the back of our car.
Bolivia Salt Flats at Sunset
Not to be missed are the views of the Bolivia Salt Flats at Sunset, as the colors of the sky have iridescent shades of blues, purples, oranges, pinks. It was just so beautiful and the mood was pretty romantic. We managed to catch the sunset in time after a quick visit to the oldest salt hotel Playa Blanca (not in use as a hotel due to lack of proper lavatory). Y and R had a fun time doing “heart” shaped signs in the sunlight and enjoying some lovely red wine with Samuel our driver, and Karla our guide.
In front of the Bolivia sign not far from the oldest Salt Hotel.
Love is in the air!
Red wine at sunset, just perfect!
Does the pinks in the sky match my fur?
Love the iridescent colors of the sunset.
Sunrise at Bolivia Salt Flats – where the moon meets the sun
This was probably the most unforgettable experience and views of the salt flats when Karla and Samuel came to pick us up at 5.30 am in the morning from our hotel – Luna Salada to catch the morning sunrise. For one, the temperature in September at this time was freezing probably it felt like -5 degrees celsius, and R and Y weren’t well equipped with thick clothing, as we probably never thought the temperatures will be so cold or that we be up this early. We went to the middle of the salt flats where we could see the moon beaming from the top, with the skies awashed in a pale blue. There was such serenity in these few moments as we enjoyed the views at this time. We waited here with our hands freezing, videoing the sky as the hues changed and waited to see the sun rise. Thank God for the thick blankets that Karla brought and hot coffee which helped to keep my furry paws nice and warm. One thing I have to stress is it’s hard to do this during the wet season, as Karla our guide said the area we drove to get these amazing pics at sunrise will be way too submerged with water to allow the vehicle to enter, so it’s only during this dry season could we do this.
Moonglow above the salt flats.
Sitting under the moon.
Sun is pushing through the salt flats.
One of my favourite colors of the sunrise.
Amazing to see such colors.
My favourite moment of the sunrise.
Catching the last glimpse of the sun before we ride off.
Where we stayed – Luna Salada
When covering the Bolivia Salt Flats, it’s probably wise to stay at a salt hotel to get the full ‘salty’ experience. Luna Salada otherwise known as the Salt Moon Hotel, is situated on the banks of Salar De Uyuni and has a great paranomic view of the surreal white salt flats. The hotel is built using salt blocks and designed in the style of Bolivia’s indigenous homes with colorful accents, handcrafted furniture and warm fireplaces in the reception and other common gathering places.
The rooms were comfortable complete with their own bathrooms, heating and hot water, and has a spa where you can book for a massage if you feel super tired from all the travelling. I didn’t think the massage was strong enough for me, but it was still a nice welcome to the end of a long tiring journey to see the salt flats. The only thing I felt the hotel needs improving is definitely their food, enough for me to regret not bringing my instant cup noodles.
Finally at Luna Salada, can’t wait to get some rest.
Tucked in bed.
I am smiling, but not really liking the food.
Chilling in one of the living spaces.
Quaint walkways outside the rooms.
When to visit Bolivia Salt Flats? This seems the most popular question I got asked after my trip. Honestly it depends on your preference.
Dry Season (July to October) – we went in September and our guide Karla – told us September and October is the best time for seeing, as there aren’t so many tourists compared to July and August, the weather is dry which meant that we could drive right to the middle of the salt flats where typically it could be so wet which prevents us from taking some amazing pics. The weather is sunny and cool, temperatures can drop to freezing below 0 degrees celsius in the morning and rise to 20 plus degrees celsius at mid day.
Wet Season (December to March) – This is where you can get to see the flats with a film of water on them, creating a giant mirror of the sky and makes for some amazing pictures. We deliberated a lot on whether we should have waited to go here then, but decided to do the dry season because climate wise is nicer in September. Definitely no regrets but gives us an excuse to visit Bolivia in future perhaps in the wet season 🙂
My favourite colors of the sunrise. Definitely my favourite pic.
My favourite moment with Y at sunset.
How I got here?
First we flew into the La Paz International Airport in Bolivia. We stayed here overnight before heading the next morning on a short flight via Bolivia Airlines (BOA) to the Uyuni Airport, also known as Joya Andina Airport. It takes about an hour to get there, which isn’t too bad, as compared to travelling by bus or train, which I heard is possible too, but obviously much longer the journey. Then the sightseeing begun! The local operator which tied up with Lightfoot Travel to bring us around is Rutas Del Sur. Remember to ask for Karla as your guide! She’s amazing. Website address: http://www.rutasdelsur-bolivia.com/, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking a jump above the salt flats!