The Uyuni Salt Flats (Part 1)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 8, 2018
If the karate kid was filmed in Bolivia
If the karate kid was filmed in Bolivia

If you manage to make your way to Bolivia, I highly recommend making your way down to the Uyuuni Salt Flats or Salar de Uyuni. This is one of the most memorable destinations I have been to since leaving my job, and it is a gem of Bolivia that makes for an incredible experience. The Uyuuni Salt Flats are a very, very large lake of salt in the sourthern part of Bolivia, and one of the most beautiful pieces of natural landscape I have ever seen.

The salt flats of Bolivia are the largest and highest salt flats in the world. With a surface area of 10,582 km and about ~3500 m above sea level, it is a majestic display of nature.

Fun fact: The flats contain about ~70% of the worlds lithium. There are 10 billion tons of salt in the reserve. That’s a lot of salt! Every year about 25,000 tons are extracted.

People go to the salt flats for a number of reasons. As a tourist, you’ll probably be going for pictures and a really fun experience! The salt flats have a few unique properties that make photography in the area incredibly memorable including a mirror world and perspective games.

That’s right, at the Uyuni Salt Flats you can enter a mirror world and make yourself look really small (or big). It’s incredible and more pics below.

This post will mostly cover Day 1, which highlights the trip to Salar de Uyuni

Getting to the Uyuni Salt Flats

When you travel through Bolivia from the North, the typical route is Copacobana, La Paz, Sucre, Potosi, and Uyuni. In this route, you get a wonderfully diverse experience of beautiful beaches in Copacobana, the markets of La Paz, the calm and white city of Sucre, the mines of Potosi, and then the salt flats of Uyuni. Each city offers a completely different experience that makes traveling in Bolivia so special.

From Sucre, which is a city in the lower area of Bolivia, you can take a bus to Sucre which takes approximately 6 hours, or a bus to Potosi first (3 hrs). Check out the map below to see how to get there.

Route through Bolivia
Navigating through Bolivia

Arranging for a tour

It’s typical when you get to Uyuni to arrange a tour to see the Salt Flats. There are a variety of tours for a varied length, but I recommend the 3 day tour. Not only do you get to see the Salt Flats, but the tour takes you right to the border of Chile and you get to see some amazing Lagunas and natural Geysers. I’ll talk about that in the next post.

My guess is all the tours are more or less the same, however just to be on the safe side I booked with a tour agency that I had heard good reviews about from people traveling. It costs 850 Bolivianos (or about $120). It turned out to be a good call, because we manage to convince our driver to stay in the salt flats for the sunset, and it was so worth it. It was hands down the best sunset I have ever seen in my life.

The Train Graveyard

Leaving around 10:30 A.M, the first stop is a train graveyard. It’s the least impressive site in the entire trip and yet the trains are quite beautiful and worth a short stop. The site features a handful of beautiful trains that have been abandoned and rusting to the dry and unemphatic climate. On the way to Salar de Uyuni, it is the first stop and makes for a cool photo location.

At little bit of fun at the train graveyard
At little bit of fun at the train graveyard
At little bit of fun at the train graveyard

The Main Event: Salar de Uyuni (The Salt Flats of Uyuni)

Since going to travel, this has been one of the top destinations I’ve wanted to go to, and it didn’t disappoint. The salt flats of Bolivia are one of the main reasons for going to Bolivia. Going there, it is difficult whether do decide to be more impressed by the power or the beauty of the area. At nearly 10 billion tons of salt, this is the largest salt flat in the world and incredibly beautiful

At little bit of fun at the train graveyard

At little bit of fun at the train graveyard
Crystallized patterns change as you move through the flats
At little bit of fun at the train graveyard
Playing with perspective

Perspective shots

One of the unique and cool parts about the Salt Flats of Uyuni is that you can play around with perspective shots. Given the pure white canvas, depth is difficult to determine in the area and so it is extremely common to play tricks with the camera and play around with perspective.

Playing with perspective
Some fun with the mirror effect
Saying no to dinosaurs
Playing with perspective

Mirror Effects

The best time to go to Uyuni is after a rainy day, as a small layer of water above the flats create a “mirror of water”. This gives some amazing shots of symmetry and reflection.

At little bit of fun at the train graveyard
Mirror effect gives some really amazing views
Some fun with the mirror effect
Playing with symmetry
Some fun with the mirror effect
Some fun with the mirror effect

Sunset

Wow! That’s the first word I think of when I think of the sunset I saw at the salt flats! Because we had a mirror image of the sky during the sunset, sunsets at Uyuni display an awesome form of color symmetry, which made it incredibly special. If you manage to get to Uyuni, make sure to ask the driver to try and stop for the sunset. It was not originally part of the tour, but I am so glad we asked.

If the karate kid was filmed in Bolivia
If the karate kid was filmed in Bolivia
Uyuni Sunset
Uyuni Sunset

Stars

There is almost no light pollution in the salt flats of Uyuni, so it is possible to see incredible stars. While I was there, I managed to catch the Milky Way and clear views of many constellations. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera that was capable of taking good enough pictures of the sky, so I’m attaching a photo I found on the internet of some of the views of the stars in the salt flats of Uyuni.

If the karate kid was filmed in Bolivia
Credit to: www.boliviahop.com for this picture.

Conclusion

The Salar de Uyuni is a gem of Uyuni that is one of the primary reasons to visit the country. Part 2 will talk about the next two days of the trip, but I highly recommend making your way to the salt flats if you make it to Bolivia. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming up. Also, I’ll upload more pics but I’m waiting on my group to send them over as we took some photos on other people’s phones.

Ciao,
Andor