Salar de Uyuni

Possibly the most surreal place I’ve ever visited, and am ever likely to visit, Salar de Uyuni are the largest salt flats in the world, larger than Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America. Here can be found an near endless white landscape in which you lose all sense of perspective, bubbling springs, hotels made of salt, and huge, ancient cacti on islands in the salt flats. It’s like nowhere else I’ve been, and understandably is one of the top destinations in Bolivia, attracting around 300,000 visitors a year.

Uyuni is the main hub for visiting Salar de Uyuni, with conveys of 4WD vehicles leaving at pretty much the same time to visit the same places. Thankfully they tend to spread out over the course of the day, reducing the crowding effect. Overcrowding was an issue though at the first stop at the Train Cemetery, 3km outside Uyuni, full of people climbing on the trains for photos.

After lunch in Colchani we reached the edge of the salt flats, home to bubbling springs.

Further on is one of the oldest hotels on the salt flats, built over twenty years ago with blocks of salt, as was the sizeable Dakar memorial nearby.

The extensive flag collection was photogenic flapping in the wind.

Stopping in the middle of nowhere brought home the expanse of the salt flats, with wonderfully photogenic crusting patterns. In places the salt flats are up to 120m deep.

Islands appear to shimmer in the distance.

The most surreal and spectacular place was Isla Incahuasi, an island made of fossilised coral, home to huge cacti, some over a thousand years old.

From the top of the island it is easy to imagine it being surrounded by the lapping waters of a lake, which used to exist before evaporating leaving behind the salt flats.

To add to the surreal setting there was a local band filming a music video.

The day ended with a rather pleasant, if cold and windy, sunset over some of the islands in the salt flats.

Author: jontycrane

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