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The Infinite Uyuni: Heaven's Mirror

A dazzling white expanse framed by snowcapped mountains and volcanoes, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni (The Uyuni salt flat) is one of South America’s most astonishing sites. While covering 4,000 square miles, it’s not only the largest salt flat in the world, but one of the highest as well.

 

Stretching for mile upon mile to bring the very curve of the earth’s sphere into view, the infinite white and cobalt-blue scenery is simply surreal. In the wet season, Uyuni is layered with a sheet of water that turns the salt flat into a giant mirror of the heavens, brilliantly reflecting the immense and shifting Bolivian sky; while in the dry season, the flat reveals to travelers a shimmering sea of salt. At any time of the year, though, a tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats is always an otherworldly experience.

 

Contact one of our South America experts so that Surtrek can begin coordinating with you to plan your perfect Uyuni salt flat experience.

What you’ll experience on a Uyuni Salt Flat trip

 

A journey through the vast white wilderness of Uyuni promises an ethereal journey unlike any other. Experience the feeling of floating in infinite, dimensionless space when a thin sheet of water extends across the plain to form a giant mirror that reflects the cerulean sky. Venture out on a captivating voyage across the hypnotic sea of salt to visit the Incahuasi or Pescado “islands,” which are actually volcanic-rock outcrops marooned in the middle of this vast salt plain.

 

Discover the Galaxy Cave and the pre-Incan Devil’s Cave cemetery – both swathed in ancient legends and local traditions. Then, witness some of the thousands of colorful pink flamingos that form flock on Uyuni’s shallow lakes.

 

As a trip to Uyuni takes you near or through La Paz, Lake Titicaca, the Atacama Desert, and Santiago de Chile, why not consider adding one of these or other destinations to your tour?

 

Just contact us here at Surtrek and ask about the possibilities for experiencing this dream-like and inspirational Bolivian adventure.

 

Is it safe to visit the Uyuni salt flat?

 

Though Bolivia is one of the least-developed countries in South America, its crime statistics are quite low, with the Uyuni Salt Flat in particular considered quite safe. The primary concerns when exploring this endless sea of salt are ill-equipped tour-vehicles and reckless drivers working for third-rate tour companies.

 

To protect our clients from such risks, Surtrek partners with reputable on-site tour operations whose guides and drivers well-vetted and experienced, as well as trained to cope with emergencies. In this same vein, their well-maintained jeeps are equipped with emergency radio equipment, first-aid kits, seat belts, and emergency blankets.

 

In addition, your guides will point out how you can stay safe on the salt flat, advising you not to attempt to walk into the enormous desert or cross it on foot, and recommending you wear the appropriate clothing for the cold Uyuni nights, etc.

 

Best time to experience the Uyuni salt flat

 

Uyuni is one of those places where there’s really no good or bad time to visit – it all depends on what you’re seeking.

 

For those wanting to experience the giant mirror effect of the wet salt flat, visit during the December-March wet season. Or, if you prefer warmer weather and want to see the dry salt desert extending into the horizon, visit between May and November.

 

At Surtrek, we recommend visiting the salt flat in late April. During this transitional period, you’re likely to see the best of both seasons, both the dry salt desert as well as areas evidencing the giant mirror effect.  In addition, this window is not as cold as in the winter, the rainfall is limited, and fewer tourists are around.

 

What to pack for visiting the Salar de Uyuni

 

Conditions on a tour of the Salar de Uyuni vary widely. Hiking and sleeping at 12,000 feet above sea level (about 3,600 meters) can get pretty chilly, especially at night. Nonetheless, the sun can get intense at high altitudes. This means that you’ll want to pack so that you can dress in layers of clothing that can be added or taken off according to the temperature.

 

To be fully prepared for the Bolivian salt flats, you’ll want to pack such clothes and the other items for visiting the Salar de Uyuni:

 

CLOTHING 

 

  • Hiking boots – waterproof, sturdy, ankle supporting, with anti-slip rubber soles, and comfortably broken in
  • Hiking socks – moisture wicking with medium-to-heavy cushioning, depending on the cold)
  • Flip flops – especially if visiting during the rainy season. You don’t want to walk out into the salty water with a pair of your nicest hiking boots or favorite shoes. The salt is a pain to get off!
  • Long pants (khakis or pants that easily roll up (read: not skinny jeans) if you visit the salt flat during the rainy season
  • Hiking pants – sturdy & waterproof but breathable
  • Moisture-wicking base layer tops and bottoms (“long underwear” or “ski underwear”) – mid-to-heavy weight fabric that’s next-to-your-skin. For hiking and sleeping. Merino wool (recommended) or polyester blend. No or little (moisture-retaining) cotton.  Fleece leggings can also be worn in especially cold areas (i.e. Tierra del Fuego)
  • Insulating mid-layer “soft shell” micro-fleece &/or puffy jacket – Fleece, synthetic down, or water-resistant down recommended.
  • For the December-March wet season, consider packing a rain/wind-shielding “hard shell” outer layer jacket – Waterproof (but breathable) and wind-proof “hard shell,” i.e. Gortex waterproof jacket
  • Skullcap or sun hat
  • Hiking Gloves

 

PERSONAL CARE

 

  • Sunscreen to block the rays!
  • Water! While most tour companies will include water with meals, you might want to pack a quart or two for yourself. Nothing cures altitude sickness better than chugging water and staying hydrated!

 

GEAR

 

  • Backpacks – infinitely easier to transport than rigid suitcases, especially on 4WD adventures, where bags are usually stacked on the roof of vehicles.
  • Extra memory cards – don’t get caught out with a full SD card! Plan ahead and bring plenty of spares, you’ll be surprised at just how many photos you are likely to take.
  • Fun props for perspective shots – as you’ll definitely be taking some cool shots!

 

NOTE: These are the essential items to bring along from home specifically for the salt flat. Once you’ve decided on your trip, including all of the other destinations you plan to visit, Surtrek will provide you a more detailed packing list.

 

Getting to the Uyuni salt flat

 

Arriving in Bolivia via another country, most travelers land in La Paz. In this capital city, Surtrek guides will welcome you and assist you in reaching the town of Uyuni, traveling to the village either by plane (45 minutes), by train (a scenic but logistically challenging 7-hour ride), or by a marathon 10-1/2-hour bus journey.

 

The neighboring village of Uyuni is the starting point for most journeys to the salt flats, as the Salar de Uyuni is situated just 20 minutes outside of town.

 

Why tour the Uyuni Salt Flat with Surtrek?

 

With over 25 years of introducing adventurous travelers to authentic, tailor-made luxury travel experiences across South America, Surtrek is adept at offering some of the best and most complete tour services on a trip to the Uyuni Salt Flat.

 

With our experienced travel team of 25 members strong — including native speakers of five different languages — we will work one-on-one with you to custom-design a Uyuni tour that perfectly suits your particular interests and needs.

 

Contact one of our South America experts so that Surtrek can begin coordinating with you to plan your perfect Uyuni salt flat experience.

 

Highlights

 

  • Journey through the blinding white wilderness of Uyuni, the largest salt flats on planet earth
  • Visit Uyuni’s eerie “Train Cemetery,” peppered with abandoned train cars, left exposed to the elements
  • Stay at a hotel built entirely from the salt of this erstwhile lake and blending seamlessly into their brilliant white surroundings
  • Experience the earth’s “largest mirror,” formed when the flats are covered with a thin a sheet of water that reflects the immense, cobalt-blue skies
  • In the middle of this sea of salt, visit marooned “islands” of volcanic rock, where grow gardens of centuries-old gargantuan cacti
  • Sight some of the 25,000 pink South American flamingos that arrive here annually during their breeding season
  • Visit the otherworldly “Galaxy Cave,” as well as the “Devil’s Cave,” an ancient cemetery of a pre-Incan tribe
  • Enjoy the optical illusions created from the completely blank backdrop (think photos of your friends being eaten by a toy dinosaur or crushed under a shoe!)

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