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Climbing out of your jeep onto the Uyuni salt flats gives you a feeling akin to Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon. A blindingly bright light hits you. Impenetrable silence permeates the cool, thin air, and flat white nothingness meets a bright blue sky in every direction. At certain angles, a few blurry volcanoes and cacti covered islands can be seen far in the distance.
Salar de Uyuni was formed some 40,000 years ago when a giant prehistoric lake dried up. It is the biggest salt flat on the planet, covering over 10,000km² of Bolivia´s Southwestern region. The arid landscape is marked by an array of environmental marvels; multicolored mineral lakes, steaming geysers and psychedelic rock formations to name a few. This is Bolivia at its best and one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders on the planet.
• Lagunas Colorada, Blanca and Verde – At altitudes well over 4000m, these large lagoons are home to many flamingoes as well as algae and minerals that give the water amazing colors.
• Isla Incawasi – Located in the middle of the salt flat, the island is covered in giant 1000-year-old cacti that grow at a rate of 1cm per year.
• Solar de Mañana Geyser Basin – 4850m above sea level, these steaming geysers and bubbling mud pots give off a smell like rotten eggs.
• Arbol de Piedra – Among a landscape of distinctive rock formations, this particular stone has been sculpted into a perfect Saharan tree by the howling, sandy winds.
• Salt Hotels – there are several hotels located on the salt flat where everything from the walls, beds and tables are made from salt bricks.
There are advantages and disadvantages to visiting Uyuni during different times of the year. Between April and October the region is cold but dry, meaning that you can walk on the salt flats without getting wet. From November to March it is the warmer wet season, making it harder to navigate the salt flats but creating a spectacular mirror effect. As with any other desert, the temperatures at Uyuni are extreme all year round. A piercingly hot sun lasers down during the day, but as soon as night falls temperatures can drop well below zero Celsius. No matter what time of year it is, visitors to Uyuni should always wear protection against the harsh sun, wind and cold.
By bus, it is most common to arrive from Potosi (approx. 6 hours) or Oruro (approx. 8 hours).
Uyuni also has a modern train station with services to and from Oruro (7 hours), Tupiza (5 ½ hours) and Villazón (8 ½ hours). Train tickets should be booked at least a few days in advance.
Daily 4WD services travel to and from all of these locations and more.