The small town of Uyuni, Bolivia is simple and beautiful. Tucked in the mountains it feels as though the way life has been preserved from somewhere just after the invention of cars. Mud brick walls line its dusty forgotten streets, dotted by the occasional tireless women in bowler, flowing dress, and colorful blanket, the traditional clothing of the region. Past the lifeless rusty train tracks, an intense game of fútbol pounds the hard packed dirt of a crumbling stadium. Devoid of any grass, each frantic dribble releases a thick cloud of billowy dust. Everything in this modest town seems to cling to an ancient way of life, with one major exception. In the town’s central plaza is crowded by dozens of tiny companies offering the same thing: a tour of the Salar De Uyuni, the salt flats.
The salt flat adjacent to the town spans 4000 square miles. How big is that? It is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and it can be seen from space. The vast size and dry air even prevents tropical weather systems from passing by drawing out the moisture.
Standing on the salt flats during the tour, feels like you are in limbo, the stark white of the salt seamlessly transitioning to the unassuming clouds at the horizon. Your sense attuned, it is as if you are standing on a movie set which is only partly finished. The tour then makes its way to a great volcano. A desolate peak set well above the tree line, the volcano is skirted by a handful of llama farms and ancient stone walls. A small handful of pink flamingos remind you that even in the bleakest of environments life finds a way.
From the volcano the next destination refuses to even appear as a dot on the horizon until an hour of pushing the jeep to its top gear. A rugged island of sharp black volcanic rock makes a home for ancient cacti, some over 1000 years old. From its crown the meager jeep tracks appear as grey trails among a sea of frost.
Salar De Uyuni is unlike any place on earth. Its shear area puts you in awe, while its austere white twists your expectations. Truly unique, this place is not to be missed.