White crusted earth stretches as far as the eye can see with only the sky and a few hills to define its infinite sprawl. The Bolivian salt flats, known as the world’s largest salt flat, is a whopping 4,633 square miles—the remains of an ancient, dried up lake covering most of the country’s southwest area. In the rainy season from January to March, the salt flats of Bolivia reflect the heavens—appearing to the naked eye as if you’re walking or driving on a mirror. In the dry season, Salar de Uyuni—its official name in Spanish as its located just outside the small town of Uyuni—offers a multitude of optical illusion photo ops. I’ll give you some tips on how to pull these off below.
As part of an eight-day tour in Peru and Bolivia with Cox & Kings, staying on the Uyuni salt flats in an tricked-out Airstream was the one of the highlights of the trip. The glamping experience includes a transport to a secluded camping site, private chef, fully-stocked bar for happy hour around the camp fire, bikes for exploring and comfy beds to sleep in while listening to the wind whip wildly across the ethereal nothingness. And I’m not the only one enchanted by the experience. Celebrities such as Jude Law and Jim Carey are big fans of the Airstream adventure as well. And if stillness, silence and solitude (i.e.—a digital detox as there is little to no Wi-Fi) is what you seek, you’ll love it too.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from this surreal place, some courtesy of Jenny Adams, a writer pal for mags and her blog Buddha Drinks Fanta, who was also on the trip…
Incahuasi Island aka Cactus Island is just one of the strange sights to see on the salt flats.
Inhaling all that dry air and salt does something to the brain…you just can NOT help yourself from #jumpshots.
Besides tourism, salt mining is one of few industries on Salar de Unuyi.
Glamping in an Airstream on the salt flats was one of my all-time favorite remote stays. So peaceful…
Part of the Airstream experience with Cox & Kings is a fireside sundowner with nibbles and drinks.
Some of the most insanely beautiful sunsets happen here. This was outside Cristal Samaña—a motel made entirely of salt, including animal and fictional figurines (think Santa Claus and snowmen) throughout. Although not five-star, the funk factor makes it a 10 in my book.
One of the noisiest bike rides (and most exhilarating) on the planet due to the CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH sounds the tires make rolling over the salt crust.
In the opposite direction of the Galaxy Caves, a crazy cave with bone-like formations, is this vista—ideal for a moment of contemplation.
When in the Uyuni salt flats, magicians aren’t the only ones who can pull things out of a hat!
Photo tips on taking optical illusion shots on the salt flats:
- Bring props: Hats, toys, slingshots, statues, etc.
- Wear bright colors and use brightly colored props. They pop best on the white backdrop.
- Use a smartphone, not a fancy camera.
- Laying on the ground works best for people+figurine shots.
- Focus the camera on the prop, not the people behind it.
- Position camera roughly one to two feet from the prop.
- Depending on the size of the prop, position friends approximately 10-30 feet behind it.
- Shoot on smooth salt flats, with no cracks or fissures; the whiter the land, the better. But, it still works with dingy, crack flats too!
Jenny Adams and me fleeing for our lives from a very stiff Godzilla character…. Photo courtesy of Jenny Adams.
How to Book Your Own Salt Flats Trip
Visit Cox & Kings for a bevy of Bolivia trip options—all completely customized to your interests. Depending on what you’re looking for, the luxury tour operator—organizing cool trips since 1758(!)—has city-centric to outdoorsy to multi-country themes. I was a guest of theirs for the second time this year — the first was in Nicaragua — and absolutely love their attention to detail and bespoke itineraries with lots of exclusive outings highlighting true local color and culture.