March 16th, 2017
This was by far my favourite part of the entire trip in South America. The Salt flats were just incredible, I remember being amazed at the images before going but when you get there it’s a completely different experience. I honestly felt like I was in heaven.
Q: So what exactly is the science behind the salt flats?
A: Approximately 30,000 years ago, most of southwestern Bolivia was covered by a series of prehistoric lakes in the lowest point of the Altiplano plateau. The water leached salt from the surrounding mountains and these massive deposits remained when the lakes dried up. The Salar contains many important elements, including sodium, magnesium and potassium. It’s contains almost half of the world’s reserves of lithium (used in most batteries, cell phones and other devices).
The bright white landscape stretches for more than 4,000 square miles and the flat surface creates an optical illusion void of objects that help the eye understand perspective or depth of field. If the surface is wet, it turns into a shimmering mirror that perfectly reflects the sky. The region does not get much rainfall, but overflow from nearby lakes floods the flats during the southern hemisphere’s summer.
As I joined a tour for this part of my trip it was all arranged for us. But if you are travelling alone I would suggest finding three other people to share a car with and also take some amazing photos!
The best time to visit the salt flats is springtime (September-November), as it is not too cold and there is more sunshine. However, I went around rainy season (March and had the unique experience of seeing the salt flats reflecting like a mirror.
Some key tips before going:
- Check the weather, as you want to be able to get the reflection for the best photos.
- Wrap up warm (pack layers) and wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet
- Pack sunglasses, hats, gloves and strong sunscreen
- Make sure your camera is fully charged
- Pack snacks and water (tours don’t usually provide water and so it’s essential to stay hydrated because of altitude sickness as you go up to 6000 metres above sea level)
- Bring props for your photos and get creative!
- This is a one a lifetime experience and I really recommend going for the longer tour and staying for sunset as you’ll want to spend as much time there possible
Just outside Uyuni is an antique train cemetery which you will definitely pass through on the tour. The railway was built towards the end of 19th century and mainly used by mining companies until its collapse in the 1940s.