Salar de Uyuni

Worlds Largest Salt Flat

The “Uyuni tour” is a three day tour that most backpackers do moving from the Atacama Desert in northern Chile to southern Bolivia or vice versa. The tour takes in various amazing sceneries: multi-colored lakes, volcanoes, desert scenery, wildlife and also, to end with, the grand finale of the spectacular Salar de Uyuni – the largest salt flat in the world at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi).

The same reasonably priced tour is run by various agencies based in either in Uyuni, Bolivia or San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. You gather a group of about five people together and then you all take a jeep in which you travel for the three days, driven by your tour guide and accompanied by your own chef.

Salar de Uyuni

flickr image By Nouhailler

Going from Chile to Bolivia, the first stop is Laguna Blanca (White Lake), so called because of the amount of borax mineral in the earth. The wind then mixes it all up in the water and hence gives it its white colour.

The next stop is Laguna Verde (Green Lake), again so called because of the copper in the earth giving it its fantastic aqua/ turquoise color. Next to this lake are some thermal springs so you can get out and have a swim if you wish.

Laguna Colorada (Colored Lake) is next. As the name suggests it’s a multi-colored lake of white, orange and green – the orange color being caused by micro-organisms living in the water. Fortunately this is the favourite food of flamingos which can be observed here along with plenty of llamas. The scenery really is stunning here.

Salar de Uyuni

flickr image by jo vh

The accommodation on the first night is in a “refugio”, a kind of basic shelter where you sleep in a communal room. It gets pretty cold at night so make sure you have lots of warm clothing with you! Yummy food is prepared for you for all meals by your own cook.

Day two of the tour and you travel along the seemingly endless desert, passing stone “sculptures” shaped by the wind over many years, and through the variety of landscape, and past more beautiful flamingo-studded lakes.

Day two’s accommodation is a salt hotel. It’s on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni and yes it’s made of salt! The bricks are salt, the beds are salt, the tables, all down to the floor which is powdery salt crystals. Lick the walls and see! Plus here you have a nice cosy room to yourself. The sunset here is awesome and once the sun goes down the full moon lights up the desert.

Rise and shine early for the final day three where you head off before dawn to the Isla Incahuasi – an island in the middle of the flats which sprouts gigantic cacti and is the perfect mirador (viewing spot) to watch the sun come up.

In the warmer months it rains and so the flats turn into a lake albeit a shallow one where the water sits on the salt. When it’s dry season though, the dry salt forms into brilliant white crazy paving making for some stunning photos.

You then get to visit a salt processing operation and a “train cemetery” which again make for some great atmospheric photos.

This tour is just fantastic and amazing value. I don’t know where else on earth you can get to see such amazing desert scenery and witness the enormity and beauty of the vast salt flats.

If you go to Chile or Bolivia, or are looking to go to South America – this is a complete must-see to book into your agenda.


Date posted: 25th May, 2011

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