Otherworldly destinations: Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia

A wide open expanse of desert, carpeted with crystals and stretching as far as the eye can see, dotted with pink flamingos and cacti-studded islands. It sounds like a place you might dream up on a night where your brain is feeling particularly active. But it’s real, and you’ll find it in Bolivia.

Salar de Uyuni is located in the southwest corner of the country, surrounded by the Andes mountains. Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, covering nearly 11,000 square kilometres. Once a prehistoric lake, Uyuni dried out thousands of years ago, leaving behind the lunar-like landscape that we see today.

Wondering how the flamingos came about? Well, they’re drawn to the lake because of the abundance of plankton that live in the shallow waters. And although they look pink, they’re actually naturally white. The red algae stains their feathers over time, giving them an accidental pink coat.

Highlights of Uyuni Salt Flats

If you’re a photographer (even an aspiring one), prepare to fill up your camera roll. The Bolivian salt flats provide endless opportunities to play around with light, reflections and optical illusions.

When the conditions are just right, the dried out lake fills with a small amount of water, creating a mirror effect. It looks at if the whole horizon is reflected back on the ground (upside down of course).

Playing around with different objects and having people stand at varying distances from the camera makes for some creative shots as well.

How to get to the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia?

Most visitors base themselves in La Paz, Bolivia’s largest city. From here, there are plenty of options to visit the salt flats. You can opt for the economical overnight bus which, while not the most glamorous way to travel, is cost and time efficient. Alternatively, you can hire a private driver who doubles as a tour guide while you’re there. Or, for a totally stress free option, joining an organised group tour is a great way to hit the highlights without having to do much planning yourself.

If you’re a confident driver, you might choose to rent a car and make the journey independently. With this option, you’re also free to explore nearby Lake Titicaca.

Where to stay near the Bolivian salt flats?

As mentioned above, most travellers set up a base in La Paz before visiting the Bolivian salt flats, however, there are options closer to the action. The town of Uyuni itself has a wide range of accommodations, from shared dorms to luxury boutique hotel stays.

Hotel Palacio de Sal is a gorgeous, spacious hotel in the heart of Uyuni constructed out of salt bricks. The restaurant and bar receives rave reviews from past travellers, and the spa provides a relaxing sanctuary after a day of exploring the salt flats.

Hotel Jardines de Uyuni is another comfortable option, just a 400-metre walk from the bus terminal. The hotel features an indoor pool and a dedicated concierge who will help travellers book day trips to the salt flats and other nearby attractions.