There is no place on earth quite like Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni; salt diamond ground, mirror glass-like roads, snowy volcanoes, and hot springs, the largest and highest salt desert in the world has seemingly endless wonders to see and experience. The Uyuni salt flats striking landscapes have inspired artists, writers, and fascinated travelers from all over the world. Adventure-loving travelers will find out there is much to see and do in the salt desert of Uyuni; from majestic volcanoes to multicolored lagoons, to entire buildings made of salt, the salt flat travel days will be packed full of amazing, once in a lifetime views and activities.
8 Visit The Train Wagon Cemetery
To start off, visitors will be greeted with this fascinatingly eerie sight already on the way to the salt flats: a cemetery made of abandoned trains and wagons, the remains of the Antofagasta & Bolivia Railway, which ran through the region in the late 1900s. They were abandoned by workers and patrons when the precious metals and railways collapsed in the 1940s. Were they anywhere else, it’s likely the trains would be in better shape today, but due to the amount of salt in the air and wind of Uyuni they ended up oxidizing and deteriorating into the post-apocalyptic look, making it Uyuni’s very own open-air museum.
7 Stop And Rest At The Playa Blanca Salt Hotel
In 1998, in a feat of tourism pioneering, Don Juan Quesada Valda decided to build a hotel right at the center of salt flats, entirely made of salt, from the brickwork to the furniture. Though the hotel did open, the logistics of running it from the middle of the salt desert eventually deactivated it in 2002; despite this, visitors can still visit the salt brick building, which is still a restaurant. Once there, the Flag Plaza, which features flags from various countries (and football teams) and the Dakar monument make for fun sightseeing and photo-taking spots.
6 Get Steamy At The Sol De La Mañana Geysers
Trekking close to the Sol de la Manãna geothermal area, it's already possible to feel the smell of sulfur from the volcanic ground. The area is an uneven ground of reddish volcanic soil in contrast with the bubbling light mud pools. The steaming geysers, spheric geography, and the snow-capped volcanoes far beyond in contrast with the white planes of the salt flats make the whole place feel like a lunar landscape. The steam of the geysers can reach up to 15 meters in height and is at its most breathtaking, as the name suggests, in the morning.
5 Visit The Salt Village Of Colchani
Colchani is a small salt village, with roughly 600 habitants, responsible for the largest salt processing cooperative in Bolivia and distribution to Bolivia and Brazil. In Colchani, the local salt factory offers free tours (though tipping the local guides is highly encouraged!), as well as the Museo de Llama y Sal, which gives insight into salt production and showcases the salt sculptures, furniture, and brickwork. Colchani is the perfect place to do some craftwork shopping, with handwoven salt crafts and llama and alpaca textile goodies.
4 Explore Incahausi Island
An island in the middle of the desert? That’s right. Surrounded by a sea of salt Isla Incahausi - Inca house in Quechua - rises as an outcrop of rocky land, populated by giant cacti that can reach up to 10 meters in height. One of the highlights of most Uyuni tours, Incahausi is formed by a dormant volcano and a reef and fossil hillside that are the remains of the river Uyuni used to be hundreds of thousands of years ago. From atop the peak of the island is the perfect view of the extent of the Uyuni salt flat.
3 Check Out The Árbol De Piedra At Siloli Desert
Switching from salt to sand, in the proximity of the Uyuni salt flats we have the Siloli Desert, famous for its fun, statuesque rock formations. The centerpiece and most visited and photographed spot of Siloli, is the fascinating Árbol de Piedra, meaning “rock tree”. Formed by millions of years of volcanic sediments and erosion from the strong winds of the region, this five-meter-tall stone is shaped like an abstract tree, giving the whole desert a surreal outlook.
2 Take In The Colorful Lagoons
One of the most anticipated stops on tours of the Salar de Uyuni is the absolutely incredible lakes in the region. Laguna Hedionda is a glistening blue-white salt lake, famous for its native white flamingos. Laguna Blanca is a pure white lagoon, its color, like Laguna Hedionda, is due to the high percentage of salt and minerals that are suspended in the water; right beside it, its twin lake Laguna Verde, known for its unique turquoise to emerald color. Devoid of animal life due to its high percentages of arsenic, which helps give it that color, Laguna Verde is still a sight to behold at the bottom of the Licanbur Volcano. Finally, Laguna Colorada, arguably the most famous of them all, has stunned visitors with its gradient colors of deep blue and red. Cut across the lake is the contrasting white borax island, where travelers are likely to see flocks of pink flamingos in the summer and spring seasons; contrasted with the snowy Cordillera de Los Andes mountains in the background, it’s a sight unlike any other.
1 Take A Healing Bath At The Polques Thermal Waters
To unwind after so much adventure, there is hardly anything better than a healing bath in thermal waters. The mineral-rich waters of the Polques hot springs are usually at 29ºC, perfect for relaxing tired muscles and alleviating aches and pains. If the water isn’t enough, the stunning volcanic and salt flat scenery surrounding the natural pool are sure to relax anyone.
Make sure to bring your towels, bags, shoes, and a warm change of clothes to prepare for the temperature shock.