What it's like to visit the biggest salt flat in the world, a 'magical sea of mirrors' that can take days to reach



Slide 1 of 19: 
 I visited Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, which is the
 largest salt flat in the world. 
 During my trip to the salt flat, I encountered beautiful wild
 flamingos, red lakes, and an island of cacti. 
 It took days to get to the salt flat, which sometimes looks
 like a 
 surreal field of mirrors or a stunning sea of white. 
 Salar de Uyuni is also famous for 
 being photogenic - tourists are known to take
 surreal-looking perspective photos here. 
 Visit
 Insider's homepage for more stories. 
 The world's largest salt flat,
 also known as 
 Salar de Uyuni, is
 located in southwest Bolivia and it covers over 
 4,000 square miles of the Earth's surface.
 Over the years, it has become
 quite a tourist attraction - the main lure being the quirky
 perspective photos you can snap on the white salt. It is
 also known for being a bit tricky to travel to. 
 Here's what it's like visiting
 the largest salt flat in the world, one of the most breathtaking
 places I have ever been to.
Slide 2 of 19: 
 For starters, I paid $160 to get into Bolivia, since US citizens
 must pay for a visa to enter the country. 
 Like many other travelers, I flew into La Paz, 
 the highest capital in the world which lies over 10,000 feet
 above sea level.
 From there, I traveled by bus to Tupiza, a town in southern
 Bolivia.
Slide 3 of 19: 
 The salt flats in this area are protected, so you can't freely
 enter them - you must be on a tour.
 As soon as I arrived in Tupiza, I found plenty of places offering
 tours to the salt flat. 
 I didn't set up a tour ahead of time, so I browsed a few
 different options for quite a while and selected the one that
 seemed the best for me. 
 I ended up paying roughly $195 for my ticket and began my
 four-day tour to Salar de Uyuni the next day.
Slide 4 of 19: 
 I jumped in an eight-seat, four-wheel-drive Land Rover and began
 my shared tour with three other travelers.
 The tour company I used also brought along an English-speaking
 guide, a cook, and a driver.
12 Highly Unnecessary Things People Waste Money On
Slide 5 of 19: 
 Along the way, I got to see and experience Bolivia's incredible
 landscape.
Slide 6 of 19: 
 Our meals were provided by and
 prepared by the cook and we stayed in simple accommodations,
 including a hotel made entirely from salt.
Slide 7 of 19: 
 The first day of the drive was tough because we drove up in
 elevation for about eight hours, since the 
 salt flat is about 12,000 feet
 above sea level. 
 I drank tons of water, since it's important to stay hydrated in
 order to ward
 off altitude sickness.
 On the second day, we jumped in hot springs, took photos at
 Laguna Verde, a famous green-colored lake, and watched geysers
 spring from the earth.
Slide 8 of 19: 
 During the third day, we visited Laguna Colorada, a famous
 shallow lake, and Árbol de piedra, an isolated rock formation.
Slide 9 of 19: 
 We also stopped by Lagunas Altiplanicas, where we spotted a few
 different species of pink flamingos.
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Slide 10 of 19: 
 We woke up at about 4 a.m. on the final day of the tour, driving
 an hour across the salt flat to get to a place called 
 Isla Incahuasi (Cactus Island) so we could watch the sunrise.
 The island is a little hill on Salar de Uyuni filled with thick,
 giant cacti. We got to the top of it just in time for the sun to
 rise and shine on the pure white salt flats.
 To get into the island area, I had to pay an entry fee that came
 to about $4.33, but it was totally worth it.
Slide 11 of 19: 
 I visited during the dry season, so I didn't experience the
 magical reflective effect firsthand. 
 The mirror effect of the salt flat occurs during the wet season,
 which is from around December or January to
 April.
 During these months, a thin layer of water covers the surface of
 the salt, which makes it look like a perfect mirror in
 perspective photos.
Slide 12 of 19: 
 When I visited in November, the
 salt flat looked like a sheet of fresh snow, but it was crunchy
 to touch.
 Even though the salt was not quite as cold as snow, it was winter
 when I visited and it was quite chilly so I wore as many warm
 layers as I could. 
 Visiting during dry season did not hinder my experience - in
 fact, I think it's better to go during this time because visitors
 can access more areas of the landscape and there's less of a risk
 of tours getting canceled due to excessive rain (which is
 common).
Slide 13 of 19: 
 After we arrived, the tour guide
 took us across the salt flat so we could take pictures in a more
 secluded spot.
 Here, we had about two hours to
 be goofy and snap tons of perspective photos.
Slide 14 of 19: 
 For some photos, the props (toy
 dinosaurs, boots, soda bottles) should be close to the camera,
 while the model is farther away in the background.
 You can also do the reverse,
 standing close to the camera and moving props far away, which
 might make you look like a giant. 
 It took us a few tries to get
 this perspective thing just right, but once we did, it was super
 fun to pose and snap photos.
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Slide 15 of 19: 
 We did a couple of theatrical videos, such as having one person
 pretend to be a giant while they chasing the rest of the group,
 or having the group pretend to walk on a tightrope between two
 shoelaces.
Slide 16 of 19: 
 I could look for miles and not see anything but a flat, white
 surface. I found it to be peaceful, stunning, and extraordinary.
 I'm also really glad I brought my sunglasses, since the white was
 incredibly bright.
Slide 17 of 19: 
 I wish I knew how cold it was going to be at night in this part
 of Bolivia since temperatures dropped well below freezing and our
 accommodation on the tour didn't have heaters.
 If I were to do this again, I would bring a really warm jacket.
Slide 18 of 19: 
 I learned later on that a lot of
 tourists bring toys, such as dinosaur figurines, to use as props.
 We weren't prepared for this, and we only had a bottle of wine
 and a jar of Vegemite.
 Still, they made for some
 hilarious photos. 
 I'm also glad I wore dark
 clothing, since it seemed to really pop against the white and
 blue backdrop of the place.
Slide 19 of 19: 
 I had a wonderful adventure to and on this famous Bolivian salt
 flat and I'm glad I did my research about tours before I went.
 All in all, whether you visit during the wet season or dry
 season, Salar de Uyuni will surely take your breath away. 
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The world’s largest salt flat,
also known as
Salar de Uyuni, is
located in southwest Bolivia and it covers over
4,000 square miles of the Earth’s surface.

Over the years, it has become
quite a tourist attraction – the main lure being the quirky
perspective photos you can snap on the white salt. It is
also known for being a bit tricky to travel to.

Here’s what it’s like visiting
the largest salt flat in the world, one of the most breathtaking
places I have ever been to.

I traveled to Bolivia during my five-month backpacking trip across South America in 2018.

For starters, I paid $160 to get into Bolivia, since US citizens
must pay for a visa to enter the country.

Like many other travelers, I flew into La Paz,
the highest capital in the world which lies over 10,000 feet
above sea level.

From there, I traveled by bus to Tupiza, a town in southern
Bolivia.

I began my tour from Tupiza, a town that looks as if it’s from a beautiful, old Western movie.

The salt flats in this area are protected, so you can’t freely
enter them – you must be on a tour.

As soon as I arrived in Tupiza, I found plenty of places offering
tours to the salt flat.

I didn’t set up a tour ahead of time, so I browsed a few
different options for quite a while and selected the one that
seemed the best for me.

I ended up paying roughly $195 for my ticket and began my
four-day tour to Salar de Uyuni the next day.

Getting to the salt flats was quite a journey that involved multiple days of driving.

I jumped in an eight-seat, four-wheel-drive Land Rover and began
my shared tour with three other travelers.

The tour company I used also brought along an English-speaking
guide, a cook, and a driver.

We began the tour with three days of driving across Bolivian Altiplano to end in Salar de Uyuni on the fourth and final day.

Along the way, I got to see and experience Bolivia’s incredible
landscape.

For the first three days of the tour, we drove up to 10 hours per day.

Our meals were provided by and
prepared by the cook and we stayed in simple accommodations,
including a hotel made entirely from salt.

Along the way, we stopped in plenty of beautiful places.

The first day of the drive was tough because we drove up in
elevation for about eight hours, since the
salt flat is about 12,000 feet
above sea level.

I drank tons of water, since it’s important to stay hydrated in
order to ward
off altitude sickness.

On the second day, we jumped in hot springs, took photos at
Laguna Verde, a famous green-colored lake, and watched geysers
spring from the earth.

We also saw a red-colored lake.

During the third day, we visited Laguna Colorada, a famous
shallow lake, and Árbol de piedra, an isolated rock formation.

We saw animals, too.

We also stopped by Lagunas Altiplanicas, where we spotted a few
different species of pink flamingos.

By the fourth day, we had arrived at Salar de Uyuni.

We woke up at about 4 a.m. on the final day of the tour, driving
an hour across the salt flat to get to a place called
Isla Incahuasi (Cactus Island) so we could watch the sunrise.

The island is a little hill on Salar de Uyuni filled with thick,
giant cacti. We got to the top of it just in time for the sun to
rise and shine on the pure white salt flats.

To get into the island area, I had to pay an entry fee that came
to about $4.33, but it was totally worth it.

The salt flat is known for looking like a magical sea of mirrors — but it doesn’t look like that year-round.

I visited during the dry season, so I didn’t experience the
magical reflective effect firsthand.

The mirror effect of the salt flat occurs during the wet season,
which is from around December or January to
April.

During these months, a thin layer of water covers the surface of
the salt, which makes it look like a perfect mirror in
perspective photos.

I visited Salar de Uyuni during November, which is part of the area’s dry season.

When I visited in November, the
salt flat looked like a sheet of fresh snow, but it was crunchy
to touch.

Even though the salt was not quite as cold as snow, it was winter
when I visited and it was quite chilly so I wore as many warm
layers as I could.

Visiting during dry season did not hinder my experience – in
fact, I think it’s better to go during this time because visitors
can access more areas of the landscape and there’s less of a risk
of tours getting canceled due to excessive rain (which is
common).

We had two hours to take photos on the salt flats.

After we arrived, the tour guide
took us across the salt flat so we could take pictures in a more
secluded spot.

Here, we had about two hours to
be goofy and snap tons of perspective photos.

To get the perfect shot, the photographer must get low to the ground.

For some photos, the props (toy
dinosaurs, boots, soda bottles) should be close to the camera,
while the model is farther away in the background.

You can also do the reverse,
standing close to the camera and moving props far away, which
might make you look like a giant.

It took us a few tries to get
this perspective thing just right, but once we did, it was super
fun to pose and snap photos.

Taking pictures was especially cool because we had a group of people to work with.

We did a couple of theatrical videos, such as having one person
pretend to be a giant while they chasing the rest of the group,
or having the group pretend to walk on a tightrope between two
shoelaces.

It was such a breathtaking experience to be on the salt flat.

I could look for miles and not see anything but a flat, white
surface. I found it to be peaceful, stunning, and extraordinary.

I’m also really glad I brought my sunglasses, since the white was
incredibly bright.

That said, I wish I knew a few things before I went.

I wish I knew how cold it was going to be at night in this part
of Bolivia since temperatures dropped well below freezing and our
accommodation on the tour didn’t have heaters.

If I were to do this again, I would bring a really warm jacket.

I also wish I had brought more props for photos, but I am glad I wore black.

I learned later on that a lot of
tourists bring toys, such as dinosaur figurines, to use as props.
We weren’t prepared for this, and we only had a bottle of wine
and a jar of Vegemite.

Still, they made for some
hilarious photos.

I’m also glad I wore dark
clothing, since it seemed to really pop against the white and
blue backdrop of the place.

All in all, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am glad I did.

I had a wonderful adventure to and on this famous Bolivian salt
flat and I’m glad I did my research about tours before I went.

All in all, whether you visit during the wet season or dry
season, Salar de Uyuni will surely take your breath away.

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