Step onto the biggest mirror in the world

You step out of your 4wd onto the wet, salt-lake surface and it feels like you’re stepping onto the sky. Vloggers Kara and Nate timed the weather to perfection to record a video about the surreal wonderland that Salvador Dali would have sold his last pair of socks to visit. To find out more about this Youtuber couple, visit the bio page of travel vloggers, Kara and Nate.

Kara and Nate’s visit to Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia…

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Largest mirror in the world.

You can see Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia from space. That’s one biiiiiiiig mirror. Originally “Lake Minchin”, this giant prehistoric lake has been pushed up over thousands of years to over 3,600 metres above sea level, creating the largest salt flat on the planet (10,582 square kilometres/4,086 square miles, and about 10 billion tonnes of salt). The trick is to time your visit…

The salt flat is dry most of the year, an awesome spectacle of endless brilliant white salt, but come rainy season (January to April)—as long as there isn’t too much rain making it impassable—the water on the surface of the salt pan reflects the sky in dizzying perfection. Don your sunnies and pack extra camera batteries cos it’s gonna be a hell of a ride, especially at sunset.

You can visit the salt flats on a 1-4 day tour from Uyuni in Bolivia (or San Pedro di Atacama, Chile), though 2+ days is recommended so you can witness the sunset over the reflected sky. There’s actually plenty to see on the longer tours apart from the salt flats: Geysers, hot springs, flamingo lakes, distant volcanoes, bizarre rock formations, cuddly viscachas (rodents that look like a rabbit that hide in rocky outcrops), cute alpacas, even a weird train graveyard.

The cactus island, “Incahuasi” or Fish Island, with it’s enormous old cacti sprouting everywhere overlooking the endless white flats is one of the coolest side-shows, BUT during the wet season (January to April) it can be inaccessible.

Perhaps the best add-on to a trip over the salt flats is the red lake, Laguna Colorada, a shallow salt-lake in the southwest of the altiplano of Bolivia, in Eduardo Avatoa Andean Fauna National Reserve. For photographers it’s worth the visit by itself for its amazing red colour and abundance of flamingos (especially between December and April). When it’s windier it’s more red!

For lovers of memorable hotels with a difference, near Uyuni there is Palace of Salt (Palacio de Sal) and Hotel Luna Salada, complete with walls, bed and furniture made of the salt cut from the salt lakes. Some tours will include this, or you can visit before or after a tour.

***Note: To visit Salar de Uyuni, you can do a round trip back to Uyuni, travel through to Chile (San Pedro di Atacama) or even start in Chile (but this is more expensive).

Salar de Uyuni sunset

Salar de Uyuni sunset

TIPS: 

Sunglasses are essential!! It’s blinding without them. Bring sun cream (even if it’s not hot, as sun at this altitude burns) and shoes that can cope with walking in some water. Pack for cool night temperatures, especially May to August when it can reach subzero.

Remember to give yourself time to acclimatise to the altitude in the area first.

Consider flying to Uyuni if you don’t like long, bumpy bus trips. (13-15 hrs from La Paz, though you can mix it up if coming from Sucre or Potosi)

Advice on choosing a tour and tour company (There are more than 75!):

  • Do more than a tour of 2 or more days at least to ensure you see a sunset over the flats. Ensure your tour specifically includes this.
  • If you don’t speak Spanish, ask if your driver speaks English. Tours in English are more expensive (often double), but if that’s too much for your budget, a driver with at least a little English really helps.
  • Ask how many people per 4wd on the tour.
  • Is National Park fee included in price? (Usually not)

When: Year round, but January to April for the mirror effect (but also possibly impassable during this time!)

Where: Uyuni, southern Bolivia

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