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Whether you are one of those travelers who have been everywhere and need the next great thing, or are the type who crave truly unique experiences – maybe even bragging rights – look no further than a trip to Bolivia.
Why visit Bolivia? In one word: Uyuni. The world’s largest salt flat, roughly half the size of Lake Ontario, is truly one of the most spectacular natural wonders on earth. Situated in the southwest region of Bolivia and roughly 12,000 feet over sea level, Uyuni will literally take your breath away. The endless expanse of white salt in every direction will blow you away, no matter how well traveled you are. During Bolivia’s summer months (roughly November to February), water accumulates over the salt floor of Uyuni, and the surface reflects the sky – creating optical illusions that will dazzle you, as the horizon disappears.
Uyuni is also the gateway to Bolivia’s Reserva Nacional Eduardo Avaroa, a magical wonderland of geysers, multi-colored lakes, colonies of flamingoes, petrified trees, and Bolivia’s answer to America’s Yellowstone National Park.
There is frequent air service from La Paz and the flight takes about 1 hour. The most efficient option, if overnighting in Uyuni, is to fly from La Paz to Uyuni early in the morning, stay overnight, then fly back on an evening flight back to La Paz on day 2. You don’t want to miss the sunrise and sunset. The light will change every few minutes, creating all kinds of visual effects as the sky reflects the ground.
The Salt Flats:
The salt flats start about 40 minutes’ drive north of the town of Uyuni, and stretch out as far as the eye can see. This vast white ocean of salt is unbelievable, and does not disappoint. There are no roads once you are inside the salt flats, so investing in a good driver with a sturdy 4×4 is a MUST. Your driver will navigate through the endless expanse of salt, guided by the sun, the surrounding mountains (when they are visible) and some of the islands in the middle of the flats, which act as reference points.
The most popular island is Isla Incahuasi, covered in giant cactuses that grow as tall as 30ft high. There is a small café at the foot of Incahuasi, the only place to get anything to eat in the area, and a popular spot. You can hike up to the top of the islands for great views of the salt flats and surrounding mountains.
Surrounding the salt flats are the high Andes, with volcanoes and peaks as tall as 18,000 ft. over sea level, so roughly 6,000 ft. higher than the salt flats, and where avid hikers can can explore and seek a fantastic view from above.
There is still salt mining going on today, and you can visit one of the salt cooperatives to see how the salt is extracted and harvested for sale.
Where to stay:
The 2 best hotel options in the area are both made out of salt blocks; the bed, hallways, walls, floors, bed frame, night table, etc. are all made of salt! They are simple and comfortable and perfect for a most authentic one night stay. Travelers need to book way ahead, as these hotels are very popular and are booked solid constantly, especially during high season (November to March).
To get started planning your dream vacation to Bolivia, South America, or beyond, contact Town & Country Travel at (805) 495-9888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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