Salar De Uyuni, the world´s largest salt flat, feels more like an extraterrestrial planet with a terrain that is unlike anything else on planet earth. Set in the southwest corner of Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni is 12,106 sq km of a vast salt flats that expands beyond your vision without a horizon in sight, giving anyone who visits the ethereal experience of feeling,¨out of this world¨. The formation is said to have occurred nearly 40,000 years ago when Lago Minchin, a lake that sat at about 4,000 meters above sea level, dried up and left the concentrated salt area known as Salares de Uyuni. Anyone who is about to embark on a trip to South America, cannot afford to miss this natural phenomenon.
When to go
Uyuni, is a town that sits about 30 minutes outside the start of the ¨tourist loop¨, is a gritty, lack-luster pueblo that has an industry that directly caters to tourists. And although there is not much to see in this dusty little town, this will be your starting point for any Salar de Uyuni tour. Since the town sits at about 12,000 feet,as you may expect, the weather is freezing and dry. Most of my traveler friends, myself included, acquired a nice little cold after journeying through the harsh temperatures of this extreme terrain. If you are coming from a lower elevation, beware. It is easy to become dehydrated if you are not careful. My advice is to travel to Uyuni in the summer months, (end of September to March). The weather will be a bit more forgiving and it also happens to be the low season for travel in Bolivia that facilitates a more intimate experience.
How to choose a tour
As mentioned above, the town of Uyuni will be starting point for your Salar Tour. The minute you de-board your bus you will be bombarded with a plethora of options for tours and packaged deals. Beware, as mentioned in many guidebooks, the tour groups that exist in Uyuni are highly competitive and tour representatives are likely to be very persistent in trying to sell you a tour. The standard three day tour runs at around 800-2,000 bolivianos. Depending on your luxury standards, you can find a solid tour for around 800 bolivianos (about 100 U.S dollars) that includes all meals, plenty of water and for the most part, sufficient accommodation. If you want something more ¨cushy¨ then you have to spend a little more. The extra money may give you more room in the jeep (that you will be spending an ample amount of time in) possibly an English-speaking guide, more food, and shelter at a very comfortable salt hotel.
What to bring
Bring water, lots of it. The high elevation mixed with an extremely arid climate can be tough on your nervous system. Again, if coming from a lower altitude, it may be best to stay at a moderate altitude before arriving to Uyuni. This will ultimately give your body some time to adjust. Snacks are recommended as some of the tours are known for skimping on food. Sunblock is a must; you will be blasted with the powerful rays of the sun for the majority of your tour. You will spend a good amount of time in a jeep that tours the flats so, I recommend bringing along card games, reading material, or anything else you think would be helpful to pass the time.
Salar de Uyuni is has been the highlight of my trip through South America. I have never in my entire life experienced something so unorthodox and magical. Although the terrain and the climate can be taxing on the body, the trip is well worth the sacrifice. Just be prepared, take care of yourself, and get ready to experience a little slice of heaven.
Have you been to Salar De Uyuni?