I’m just going to go right out and say it: we don’t give salt enough credit. Some of us are even terrified of eating too much of it because it will make us too bloated to fit into our skinny jeans. But the common table seasoning has a history as old as civilization, and way back when it was as precious as gold. In fact, salt preserved meat so that our ancestors could survive, was used all over the world in ancient religious ceremonies, and even played an integral role in the Ancient Egyptian mummification process.
Thus, I declare that it is high time we pay homage to the stuff that we now toss over our shoulders for good luck and pour gluttonously onto our McDonald’s french fries. And there’s no better place to do that than at the Salar de Uyuni in southwestern Bolivia. Salar stands for “salt flat” in Spanish, and at 4,086 square miles, the Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat on the planet. Doesn’t sound like something that’s up your travel alley? Allow us to convince you with these photos:
These surreal images are the result of the water that covers the Salar during the region’s wet season, turning it into one of the biggest natural mirrors in the world. This phenomenon draws people from all over the globe looking for a photo op like no other, but the reflection of the Salar is habitually used for a more scientific purpose as well: the large, flat area is the perfect surface for calibrating observation satellites, and works even better than the surface of the ocean when doing so. Oh yeah, and the brine pool resting underneath the hard salt crust holds between 50 and 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves that are currently being extracted to fuel your batteries.
Since Sucre (the closest major city to the Salar) is a five and a half hour drive away, it’s best to stay a few nights nearby rather than take the commute. You can stay in the nearby town of Uyuni, which has an eerie locomotive cemetery that you shouldn’t miss, but we suggest staying at the Hotel de Sal, which is right on the Salar — and made completely of salt blocks.
There are several tours offered that give you the chance to experience the salt flats, and if you’re up for a bigger adventure, some (like Quecha Connection and Ruta Verde) even take you to explore the outskirts of the region over a three day period.
So if the Salar de Uyuni wasn’t already on your life list of travel destinations, add it now. Because salt has done a lot for you over the course of several millennia, and it’s about time we all pay our respects.