25 Reasons why you should visit the Salar de Uyuni

1) To climb on modern ruins

The first stop on our journey into the Salar de Uyuni was the Railroad Cemetery. You are free to explore these modern ruins, climbing on top of them or searching out their gutted innards. Our guide Abel, explained to us that the area was used by American Engineers during the silver rush here in the 1860s. Decommissioned trains were stashed here and used for parts. Eventually the Silver-mine closest to the cemetery was closed down and the trains were left to wither and become part of the barren landscape. In the picture below, you can see that it’s not only trains that the Salar has claimed, a dog has also succumb to the harsh environment.

Salar De Uyuni sites

Train Cemetery

2) To feel a deep connection with nature

Now don’t go and call me a hippy just yet. Hear me out.

The Inca and other indigenous tribes have held pagan beliefs in Bolivia for a thousand years. Although Christianity was introduced by the Spanish 500 hundred years ago, today the connection with nature is as palpable in Bolivia as pop culture is in the United States. Need an example? Pachamama, or mother earth, still receives sacrifices in the form of Llama fetuses before any construction is undertaken in Bolivia. The landscape is so beautiful and awesome (and I believe I am using awesome in it’s proper form here), you begin to understand their veneration.

Seven Color Mountain

Seven Color Mountain

3) Because Zorro is here

Well, Zorro just means fox in Spanish, but still! Officially the Andean Fox is a protected animal. Unofficially, some locals chop off their tails or noses because they are considered lucky. Run Zorro, Run!

Salar De Uyuni sites

Andean Fox better known as the Zorro fox

4) To let your inner creativity loose

I kept on thinking of the Kid’s in the Hall sketch where a disgruntled man played by Dave Foley squishes the head’s of unsuspecting people on the street from a safe distance (if you don’t know who the Kids in the hall are, then I’ve just dated myself. Ugh!). Perspective Pictures are a must when you visit the Salar. After a lunch of Llama and Quinoa, it’s officially time to look like an idiot. Luckily, we weren’t alone. In every direction, we saw people sticking out their limbs at weird angles and pretending to be hit by imaginary items, just to create the famous forced perspective pictures.

The Salt Flats of Bolivia sites

I’m crushing you like a bug

5) Road trip!

Most tour companies in the area sell a 3 day / 2 night trip that includes not only the Salar, but the desert and altiplano surrounding it (a guide to choosing a company can be found here). In that amount of time, you can see soo much – approximately 18 different stops. The Salar de Uyuni is definitely one of the top things to do in Bolivia and probably in all of South America as well.

The Salt Flats of Bolivia sites

7 People in the jeep is the norm

6) Because the Salar de Uyuni may have held the lost city of Atlantis

The Salar de Uyuni was not always one of the driest places on earth. It was actually one of the wettest – it used to be a lake. According to Abel, the people of Atlantis lived above the ancient Paleolakes of the Salar in caves. After doing a little research, it seems that there is some backing to Abel’s claim. Some researchers believe that Atlantis was located on the Pampa Auallagas mountain that is located close to the Salar.

Sites to see in Salar de Uyuni

Incahuasi Island is the remains of a volcano that protruded above an ancient lake from 40,000 years ago

7) To take one hell of a Facebook photo

If you are into that type of thing. As a blogger, I am totally, um, not. Really, at all.

Sites to see in Salar de Uyuni

What the hell am I looking at?

8) To see the Vicuña roam freely

Vicuña are relatives of domesticated Alpacas. At one point Vicuña were on the endangered species list. In 1974, not more than 6,000 were alive. Today, they are doing much better, with a population around 350,000.

Sites to see in the Salt Flats of Bolivia

Vicuña wool is very expensive. The animal produces a new coat only once every three years and the wool can only be sheared from wild Vicuña that are captured and then released.

9) To see the salt of the earth. Literally.

Some of the slightly bigger towns in the area produce salt. Here a laborer seals a salt bag with fire from a propane tank. There is an estimated 10 Billion tons of salt in the Salar, of which only 25,000 tons are mined annually.

The town we stayed at our first night – which turned out to be the hometown of our guide – only had a population of 20 families. The people of the towns mostly subsist on Llamas and quinoa… mostly (Abel told us that sometimes a tourist who pisses them off goes missing. I’m pretty sure he was joking… pretty sure)

The salt flats of Bolivia

The salt produced here is only sold in Bolivia

10) To take Mortal Kombat photos

Because inside every, bearded 33 year old man, there is a 12 year old boy inside who just wants to jump kick things (crap, now I’ve really dated myself). Alternatively, if you go during January, you can take photos where a shallow amount of water acts like a mirror to the sky.

The salt flats of Bolivia

Finish him!

11) You will automatically take awesome photos

Ok, maybe I’m not strictly using awesome correctly, but the reality is that wherever you point the camera, there is a 90 percent chance of capturing something interesting (90% is of course, totally scientifically proven and pulled directly from my ass).

The Salar de Uyuni

According to Abel, the railroad is still in use.

12) Volcanos!

I love volcanos. There is something so primal about them. On our second day, we saw Ollagüe, which on the backside contains one of the world’s highest roads and also a working sulfur mine. Ollagüe is active as well; you can see the plume of smoke on the left side of the mountain.

The Salar de Uyuni of Bolivia

Ollagüe Volvano sits at 19,252 ft ( 5,868 m) above sea level and has a prominence of 5,531 ft (1,686 m)

13) There are places that look like they belong on another planet

Canapa Lagoon is surrounded by gold and yellow shrubs. The shrubs look so out of place; almost like they were grown on some alien planet.

The Salar de Uyuni of Bolivia

Laguna Canapa is surrounded by three volcanos: Caquena, Tapaquillcha and Canapa.

14) To have lunch with this view

On our second day, we ate lunch at a place called the Stinky Lagoon. Its name is due to the high sulfur content in the lake. On a windy day, it can be quite, well, stinky, but on the day we went my lunch went down without a side-smell of egg.

Salar de Uyuni

The view more than made up for the mediocre food.

15) To see a ton of Flamingos

There are three different types of flamingos in the Salar: the James flamingo, the Chilean flamingo and the Andean flamingo. The Jame’s Flamino can only be found in the high altitude plains of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The weird gray looking one is a juvenile, but I am not sure from which species.

The Salt flats of Bolivia

Juvenile flamingos have not yet developed the signature pink coloring.

16) Science!

The Stone tree is seven meters high. I was told that the unique shape is due to the top being rich in iron, while the bottom is not, which results in the unusual erosion.

IMG_2908

Árbol de Piedra (“Stone tree”) is about 21 ft (7 m) tall and is made primarily of sandstone

17) To feel like one of the sand people from Star wars

Or obi wan kenobi. Your choice.

Salar de Uyuni photos

Road warrior

18) Because there is water the color of rust

The red coloring of the water in Laguna Colarada is caused by sedimentation and a special type of algae and clashes nicely with the white islands made of borax.

Photos of Salar de Uyuni

Laguna Colorada. Told you, tons of flamingos.

19) To see a town stuck in the 50s

Actually, that might be overstating the technological advancement of this place. On our second night, we stayed in Wallajara, a town without hot water, electricity (after 7 pm) or heat. Because there is no light pollution, it is a great place to watch the sunset or star gaze, or both!

Salar de Uyuni facts.

Wallajara as dusk settles in. The temperature reaches about 70 °F (21 °C) during the day, however dips quickly at night to between 16 and 41 °F (−9 and 5 °C).

20) Unforgettable sunsets

Due to the relative flatness of the area, you can enjoy the full spectrum of color that extends all the way down to the horizon. The haze of colors that dreamily fused together in the sky is something that will stick with me for a long time.

Towns of Salar de Uyuni

Taken outside of Wallajara

 21) To divert a geyser with your foot

At an altitude of 16,400 feet (5,000 meters), you will find yourself in the middle of Sol de Mañana, which contains mud baths, fumaroles and geysers that emit sulfuric gases. Our guide Abel, pictured below, showed us that you can divert the gas of one of the geysers with your foot. Alternatively, you can jump through it. Really.

Secrets of Salar de Uyuni

Abel being the man.

22) To soak in the natural hot springs

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was soaking in the hot springs. It was near the end of the trip and many people decided that they didn’t want to make the effort. Don’t make that mistake! The water is so refreshing and hot, while the outside air is so cold. The juxtaposition of the two makes this one of the most memorable parts of the entire trip.

What to see in salad de uyuni

The hot spring can reach about 113 F (45 C).

23) The Salvador Dali desert

Some people say that Salvador Dali got his inspiration from this desert. Others say this desert got its ideas from Salvador Dali – admittedly, the people who say that are mostly high.

What to see in Salar de Uyuni

Some of the rock formations look like animals, although it’s a little hard to see in this picture

24) To see the Green Lagoon

 When the wind is right, this lagoon is a spectacular emerald green due to deposits of lead, magnesium, sulfur, and arsenic. When it’s not, you have to be a bit more creative to get a good picture. 

Laguna Verde - What to see in the salt flats

Forced perspective pictures can be done outside of the Salt Flats

25) To grapple with the meaning of this sign

Do you know what it’s trying to say? If so, leave your answer in the comments below.

No flying flamingos in Salar de Uyuni

Huh?

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  • Juli

    awesome pictures. i want to travel there, too ;)
    juli

  • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

    Thanks Juli!

  • http://boliviainmyeyes.wordpress.com/ Bolivia ‘In My Eyes’

    Great article! and amazing pictures:) Salar de Uyuni is fun – I really must go there back in a rainy season:)

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Thanks! I really want to see it in rainy season too. Totally different then.

  • Rod Peel

    Excellent pictures, I have yet to visit this white wilderness. The sign actually means ‘do not disturb the flamingoes by crossing the bottle line and making them fly away’ A picture paints a 1000 words!

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Right on Rod!

  • Marcos Andres Symons

    the sign means “don’t scare the flamingos”

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Correct sir! It’s considered very bad manners to make the flamingos fly just to capture a picture.

  • http://www.yTravelBlog.com/ yTravelBlog

    Such beautiful pictures. This place is getting higher on my bucket list!

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Thanks you two!

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  • http://www.sushibytes.com JB & Renee

    Very creative and fun list Andrew haha! Not the typical list at all. Love it. Hope to make our way to Salar de Uyuni as well. Sooner than later we hope. Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Gemma

    We just did a day tour but it really was a highlight of our 18 month career break so far. Had such fun with the sunset photos, our guide was very talented! Nice to see lagoons which we missed. Great shots.

  • Mary

    Thanks for the post. You took some incredible, incredible pictures. What time of year did you go? I want to be sure we’ll see flamingos but I’ve heard that they don’t go to Uyuni until November.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Hi Mary, Thanks for the kind words.

      I went there in August and there were still Flamingoes.

  • http://bit.ly/2hPTUEd Geraldine lukovic

    I love this post that you shared here with us.