Crazy fact of the day: Britain’s size is approximately 244,000km squared, whilst South America’s is over 80 times bigger at 17,840,000km squared. Incredible ay?
Despite its daunting size, there is one common denominator which unites most travellers’ agendas, and that’s a stop at the Salt Flats near Uyuni in Bolivia.
The Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, spanning about 12,000km squared (nearly 10 times the size of London) in south-western Bolivia. Now a salty desert, thousands of years ago it existed as a huge lake/sea which evenutally evaporated leaving behind a layer of minerals and salts which nowadays are feeding the region’s economy. Unlike traditional deserts, which have sand in abundance, the Salar de Uyuni features vast expanses of glistening white salt. The landscape is entirely flat, bar a few small ‘islands’ such as Isla Incahuasi, which only accentuate its surreal beauty.
Surrealness is probably the best word to describe this environment, purely because this piece of land blends so many geographies in its vast emptiness, it feels like walking into a work of art. From never ending expanses of white crystal-like terrain, to red layered mountainous rocks, to soft beachy sands – our excursion here showed us all sorts of sights. Indeed, we left Uyuni in a large 4×4 with our friends Hannah and Jen (and a Polish couple who weren’t particularly warm so we nicknamed the woman Felicia) and spent 3 days in a Jeep discovering the land whilst making our way down to Chile.
In between abosorbing the views and taking a few iconic photos, our time was mostly spent squeezed in the car playing ‘I spy’, testing our riddle skills, reading, and eating biscuits and Haribos (after 2 days of eggs and chips we were grateful we’d stocked up on Oreos). Our stop-offs, accomodation and meals were all organised by our tour operator so weren´t necessarily 5 star but certainly added to the experience. On our first night for example we stayed in a hostel made entirely of salt blocks with salt covering the ground (it felt like being at an indoor beach but having to wear scarves and jumpers, quite bizzare), and on our second night we slept in -10° degrees and woke up at 4am to see the sunset.
Seeing as our time was mostly spent falling in love with the surroundings – a train cemetery, lagoons of all sorts of colours, rocky mountains, soft mountains, volcanic mountains, thousands of flamingos, geysers, hot springs and plenty of lamas – I think the best way to explain what we experienced is just by showing you…
Next stop: San Pedro de Atacama in Chile for more stories of South American deserts.
Ciao for now! x