One of my most anticipated stops on our whirlwind tour of South America was the Salar de Uyuni. Located in southwestern Bolivia, this is the world´s largest salt flat, spanning over 8,000 square kilometers. It’s almost the size of Ireland!
For those of you who aren´t familiar, a salt flat is essentially a dried ancient salt lake, which creates a really bizarre and amazing landscape. The flat is bright white (almost blindingly) and stretches as far as the eye can see. It is ringed with high mountains as well as a few islands throughout.
We took a 3 day tour of the salt flat and surrounding areas. Our guide, Carlos, was absolutely incredible and very knowledgeable. We started the tour at the salt flat, learning about its formation and history. Bolivian people still harvest raw salt off the flat and then ship it throughout the continent. It provides about 40% of all the salt for Chile and Argentina.
The flat itself was really beautiful. It has a sun-dried top layer of the salt, that is a few feet thick, so you can walk and drive on it. You are literally driving on a salt lake. It is so vast that you lose all sense of perspective. The sheer whiteness of the flat boggles the eyes (as well as the camera!). It felt like another planet, because it was unlike any other landscape I have ever seen.
The first night of the tour, we stayed in a hotel entirely made of salt, except for the roof. They use the thick layers of salt to create bricks for the walls, tables and beds and then use the crystalized salt for the floor. This is an ancient building method that proved to be incredibly comfortable and warm. Quite an experience!