Salt Flats of Bolivia, know before you go

by on 5th June, 2015

Salt Flats of Bolivia, know before you go

See the famous salt flats,Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, through Andean Trails’ Maria’s eyes, in this week’s blog, and check our Pinterest Uyuni board here.


Maria writes:


Through the world’s largest salt flat 

With an area of 12,000 km² and a layer of salt almost six metres deep, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat.

It lies in Bolivia’s south-western area, at some 3,700m, and is a totally flat, white field of colossal dimensions in which there is almost no point of orientation.

Everything here seems very surreal, like a moonscape. We are at the same height as Mont Blanc, but there is neither ice nor snow.

Instead, we are surrounded by coloured lagoons in the midst of a plateau, with stacked, white man-made borax hills poking out of the ground.

In the early morning, it’s great to wake up to go to see the sunrise on the island of Incahuasi.

Amid the flat terrain of salt, on this island the silence, serenity and the solitude of the multiply the indescribable emptiness of this landscape.


The history, its people and its industry 

Salar de Uyuni is the remainder of an ancient sea that once filled the highlands of Bolivia.

Remnants of this sea endures, at Lake Titicaca, Lake Poopo, Coipasa and Uyuni.

It can still be very wet here, so locals have constructed platforms of tightly packed sand and salt to help them to access and mine the vast salt deposits of the Salar.

However, in this white desert it is difficult to find these platforms. If driver passes too close to the shore, inevitably the vehicle will get stuck in the salty mud.

In the village of Colchani, people work in family enterprises to extract the salt. First, they make small hills of salt so that the water drains off.

The dried salt hills are then loaded onto trucks and taken into the small villages that surround Uyuni, to be processed. The salt is cleaned and dried completely, and then returns by truck to the families which extracted it. They then sell the salt for human consumption across Bolivia.



Salt Flats of Uyuni, Bolivia


Salt hotels

Some 10 km further west of Colchani and there are salt hotels – with the entire building made of salt.

Blocks as large as rocks were formed by people in the same way as the towers, and then used as building bricks.
Those blocks are lumped together and then sculpted in order to make salt furniture – tables, chairs, beds etcetera – which decorate the salt hotel.

Read Kat’s excellent blog about choosing salt hotels or backpacker bunks in Uyuni.


When to go?

If you are ready to accept the testing travel conditions, whenever you travel, you can experience a side of nature that’s hard to imagine from home.

The best time to travel to the Salt Flats is the winter months of July to November, when the salt floor is (almost) completely dry.

Winter in the Bolivian highlands means sunny and dry days with clear air. Is also brings cold and starry nights, with temperatures dropping between -10 ° to -15 ° C – and no central heating! Bolivia’s summer (Dec-April) is the rainy season and can make travel difficult.

The salt flats are filled with plenty of water and its surface is soft and muddy, although, the optical ‘mirror’ effect created in the Salar is incredible.

In the middle of the Salar, there exists a solitude that will give you a sense of freedom, but also the emptiness of this landscape will make you feel completely at peace.

Contact us for more.


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