Experience ultimate liberation on the world's biggest salt flats
4,000 square miles of glistening salt might not sound like everyone's idea of a bucket list item, but it isn't just the white stuff that makes this place so special. Imagine escaping to a place where the only things to disturb your view are the occasional shadows of distant mountains and outlines of isolated islands. With nothing but sparkling white salt and a big blue sky, there is nothing to distract, no obstructions or nothing to enclose you. It is this overwhelming feeling of pure liberation and isolation, which stands in stark contrast to our day-to-day lives, that attracts visitors from far and wide to an ocean of salt in the middle of nowhere, 3,650 metres above sea level. The Salar de Uyuni is a genuinely astounding place and unique travel experience, that has to be seen first-hand to fully understand its special appeal.
During the wet season, from December to March, the Salar becomes flooded by a thin layer of water. Towards the end of this season, as the water recedes, the flats become accessible once again, treating visitors to the surreal sight of a huge reflective surface providing a perfect mirror image of the sky above and making for some breathtaking photos.
The downside to visiting at this time of the year is the increased difficulty of driving on the flats, meaning you can't penetrate as deep into them as you would when the Salar is in its default state and could even lead to cancellation if safety fears arise.
Just two miles outside of Uyuni is this extraordinary collection of abandoned locomotives and train cars from the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1888 the then Bolivian president saw the creation of a railway line as a ticket to prosperity and fortune following the loss of the coastline to Chile. Uyuni was to be a key transport and distribution centre, as minerals were brought by train from the Andes mountains across to the Chilean ports on the Pacific coast, all on British-built train lines.
The project never bore the fruit in the way government had hoped, indeed suffering from sabotage from local indigenous communities who deemed it a threat to their way of life. The train lines were deserted once and for all following the collapse of the mining industry in the 1940s, left to be battered and corroded by the salt-infused winds.
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