Open your South American travel guide or check your instagram feed. You will for sure find a photo of the Uyuni Salt flats. Endless widths of salts and mountains. In the dry season a geometric pattern of equally shaped salt bricks. During rain time the biggest mirror on earth, hard to tell where up and down is. But even if everything is upside down, with this article you will be able to keep track.
The Uyuni Salt flats are as incredible as nature gets. A thick crust of salt stretches over an area the size of more than 1.450.000 football fields. Bricks of salt wherever your eyes reach. In the rain season water covers the whole ground, mirroring the mountains, sky and yourself. The infinite seeming salt desert holds a great opportunity for optical illusion photos. You fighting against a dinosaur, sitting on your friends hand or looking out of a backpack. All possible.
And that is not all. The environment of the Uyuni holds gigantic cactuses, pink flamingos and red lakes. Volcanoes reach into the sky. An almost unreal experience. Come and feel like Alice in Wonderland.
Don’t forget you are pretty high up. The salt flats are at an altitude of over 3.500 meters or 12.000 feet. Some mountains or volcanoes are even up higher, the red Laguna lies on 4.800 meters or 15.700 feet. The further up, the less oxygen there is and your body needs to adjust to the change. So take your time to acclimatize, drink enough water and stay a couple of days in the city to take a slow approach.
Crazy temperature changes
You are in the middle of a gigantic desert. Here temperature works differently. During the day it can get really hot, but at night temperature drops beyond the freezing point. And because no one likes to end up as an icicle in the desert, we highly recommend you to bring some warm clothes. Pack your bathing outfit, but don’t forget to take a jacket and your favorite cosy hoody with you.
How long? Where?
You don’t have to start your tour from Uyuni. There are various options to do so. A good alternative is Tupiza, close to Argentina in the South. You can do a tour to the desert in one day or decide to go for a multiple day cruise through the astonishing landscapes. That way you will see way more of the diverse wildlife, volcanoes, colorful lakes and enormous cactuses.
When to see the mirror effect
If you plan to explore the Uyuni Salt Flats to experience the famous mirror effect, you need to go there during rain season. Generally it rains most between December and March, granting you incredible optical illusions and photos. A disadvantage is that the dissolving salt limits you in your route through the Flats. The weather can be quite unpredictable though, so be prepared for sun and rain likewise! And one thing is for sure: You will have a great time anyway. Rain or not.
Bring what you need
Your shopping options in Uyuni and other cities close to the Salt Flats are limited. So bring all you need with you. Warm clothes, sunglasses, a good camera and props for your perfect photo. Take some flip flops with you to not make your shoes wet, there can be layers of water in the desert. It is wise to have some cash on you. There are ATMs around, but sometimes they don’t work or have no cash to dispense. Finding a place to pay by card can be a hassle. There are supermarkets for all the basic stuff you need. Make sure to always have some snacks and water on you when you are in the desert. The incredible views might make you hungry and thirsty!