At over 3,600 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Altiplano, the Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flat – is a place unlike anywhere else in the world. Stretching over 11,000 square kilometres, there is nothing but blindingly white, crystallised salt as far as the eye can see.
Uyuni shimmers with surreal, mirror-like reflections that stretch as far as the eye can see in rainy season and appears as a mesmerizing bright, white desert in dry season: both are equally jaw-dropping.
In this Blog I am trying to introduce you to Unique accommodation options and experiences when you visit Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia.
The best places to stay in Uyuni are the salt hotels of Luna Salada and Palacio de Sal – made entirely from blocks of natural salt – or in a private Deluxe Airstream Camper with your own dedicated chef on the fringes of the northern shore of the Salar – or at Kachi Lodge which is set on a wooden platform near a cacti covered island, the six suites turn a stay on the altiplano into the most luxurious adventure.
DELUXE AIRSTREAM CAMPER:
These comfortable, stylish & unmatched Deluxe Airstream Campers are especially
re-designed to make your voyage in Uyuni an extraordinary experience in the middle of the Salt Flats. Their solid & aerodynamic cabin, right space and technology, grant comfort and safety to guests.
Their cozy beds, electric blankets, bathrobes, hot showers, fridge, central heating/AC and perfect isolation against wind and challenging weather, are the unbeatable characteristics of these Deluxe Airstream Campers.
To enhance this unique experience, they also offer “Sky Lounge Explorer” offering all the facilities & services a traveler might desire while enjoying the Southern Stars through a panoramic glass cabin & roof.
You may also use this moveable lounge to support special day visits or just to relax during sunset.
The service team provides round-the-clock assistance with personalized attention. The gourmet culinary options are prepared and served by an experienced chef with fresh local ingredients. The special Sunset Cocktail offers tasty d’oeuvres and a variety of drinks & altitude wines, hot beverages and a bonfire to complement the experience.
During the day, 4WD units with a private guide & chauffeur, are ready to take you to classic places as well as hidden treasures on and around the Salt Flats, such as Cajchi Island with its giant Cacti and isolated surroundings, archeological sites such as Ayke or Alcaya, geological formations like Chiquini Cave, a Salt Cave, Mummies, drive up to the Thunupa Volcano Crater or through a canyon filled with different volcanic clay formations.
Enjoy cultural encounters with native communities, biking on the salt plain, hikes & trekking possibilities or simply watch herds of Llamas, Alpacas & wild Vicuñas, flamingos and quinoa fields. Health & Safety is covered by first aid prepared guides, oxygen tanks throughout, and prompt communication systems via radio, satellite phones, Walkie-Talkies, and mobile phones.
The Camper experiences are available throughout the year. During rainy season, access to the Salt Lake is limited due to flooding and a longer transfer is provided to the Camper basecamp at the shores of the Salt Flats, while the solar-powered Sky Lounge Explorer remains on the flooded Salar.
Exclusivity is their most precious comparative advantage in order to assure a unique experience. After all, it is all about creating an intimate atmosphere with incomparable journeys that encompass style, design, authenticity, wellbeing, innovation and passion for details on integral exclusive services.
Standing directly on the Uyuni Salt Flats, at an altitude of 3’600 m, at the foot of Tunupa Volcano, Kachi Lodge is something very unique.
Set on a wooden platform near a cacti covered island, the six suites turn a stay on the altiplano into the most luxurious adventure. One where comfort and designed interiors meet the great outdoors: from the warmth of the dome-shaped suite, the salar unfolds like a mirror in the rainy season, or crystalline landscapes the rest of the year.
At Kachi Lodge, the visionary mind-set of its founders pushes the boundaries of sustainable travels further: cutting edge green infrastructures, commitment to local culture and communities are a daily reality. Operational all year round.
Luxury Bedroom Dome:
Each of our six domes offer all the comfort you can expect from a luxury lodge: 28 sqm bedroom, comfortable bedding, private bathroom, with running hot water.
Inside design includes bespoke furniture crafted out of regional materials, bespoke textiles and a unique painting by Gastón Ugalde – internationally known as the Bolivian Andy Wahrol – set the tone in each suite.
Decorative details also add a welcome twist to the interiors: state of the art bedding comes with a handmade woven blanket (in naturally dyed lama and alpaca wool), hot bottle cover and pair of cushions made and designed in La Paz by Andi’Art.
A pellet stove delivers a comfortable temperature between 19 and 23°c.
As guests, the portfolio of activities within an hour of the lodge is vast: it ranges from cultural and ethnic excursions to the ancient archaeological site and scared grounds of Alkaya – where ancient mommies can be seen – to high altitude hikes on the nearby Thunupa volcano (5321m), amidst ochre and red coloured earth. Breathtaking.
A daily visit to the quinoa fields or walk to encounter lama farmers amidst their herd are a unique way to understand the local culture – and the dedication needed to fight the extreme climate and make a living out of it.
Sunrise hikes followed by a breakfast at the tip on an island surrounded by giant cacti is a unique way to start the day while sunset drives to catch the last rays of light are spectacular every time, especially when comfortably installed with a glass of wine or cocktail prepared on the spot.
During the rainy season, the salar turns into a thin lake where one can paddle, canoe out or simply enjoy a photographic session as clouds endlessly reflect on the surface of the water.
At night, when the telescope is out, the sky seems to open up and pour stars above one’s head. The salar is a place of endless possibilities.
A celebrated international artist, Ulgade plays with all kinds of medium: photography, land art, installations using local textiles, carved out soft sculptures that mimic cactus forms and shaman spirits, his talent has no boundary.
Uldage’s passion for the salar has been an on-going adventure for the past 50 years: he believes it is filled with countless spiritual meanings and is an endless, sacred place to be explored.
Additionally, Ulgade has nurtured a one-of-a-kind relationship with the Jijira community – the village next to which the lodge is set up – for over 40 years. Whether Uldage invents an endless salt-staircase on the salar, or plays with coloured mirrors to reflect its immensity, the possibilities are infinite and bewildering.
On demand, Gaston organizes art and photography master classes at Kachi. For any guest, it’s most probably the most thrilling, memorable experience one can live on the salar.
PALACIO DE SAL HOTEL
When you’re looking for a Hotel in Salar de Uyuni, there’s no hotel more fitting than Palacio de Sal, a property entirely made of salt. Everything from the floors, walls, furniture, ceilings and sculptures is made of the material. It is the first salt hotel in the world.
Each room comes with a domed ceiling composed of salt bricks which often feature small stalactites – you can actually gently grab some salt for a taste when you touch them. However, no matter how much you like salt licking the walls is discouraged as this can tamper with the structure of the hotel.
HOTEL DE SAL LUNA SALADA:
Away from the hustle and bustle of the town of Uyuni sits Luna Salada Hotel, overlooking the vast expanse of the Salar de Uyuni. Constructed entirely out of salt blocks and local materials, the hotel has simple yet stylish interior decoration and is perhaps the best accommodation option in the area. The hotel design takes into account lighting and maximizing on space in the rustic rooms.
Luna Salada is comprised of thirty rooms, each equipped with standard amenities that include down feather pillows and king or twin beds, private bathrooms, hot water, hair dryer, a central heating system and electric blankets for those chilly evenings. Desks are made out of salt, and there is Wi-Fi available at additional cost.
Guests can enjoy a meal of Andean fare accompanied by national wines in the Tunupa Restaurant with incredible panoramic views of the salt flats in the dining room.
At Luna Salada guests are invited to curl up by the cozy fireplace, borrow a book from the library, play a game of table tennis in the game room or spend an evening stargazing. For a daytime adventure, Luna Salada offers bike rentals and excursions to the salt flats so that guests can make the most of their stay in this spectacular setting.
My favourite: 2 Nights Experience
– Overnights (Dry Season): Day 1 Deluxe Campers & Day 2 Salt Hotel
– Overnights (Rainy Season): Day 1 Salt Hotel Lake Day 2 Deluxe Campers
- 2-3 Nights stay at Kachi Lodge
- 2 Nights stay in Deluxe Camper
- 2 Nights Kachi Lodge and 1 Night Deluxe Camper
- 2 Nights Kachi Lodge and 1 Night Salt Hotel
THINGS TO DO:
- Spend the night in a stylish, deluxe Airstream with your own dedicated chef
- Climb cacti-studded islands in the middle of the salt flats of Uyuni for panoramic views
- Journey to the bright green and red lagoons of the Eduardo Avaroa reserve by 4×4
- Photograph the mirror-like reflections of the Salar
- Star gaze at night with an astronomer
- Sleep in a hotel made entirely from blocks of natural salt
My Favorite Experience:
At night, when the telescope is out, the sky seems to open up and pour stars above one’s head: thanks to the lack of pollution and the altitude, the stars and milky way appear to be brighter than ever. The salar almost seems like a constellation of its own at night as the salt crystals created myriads of little sparks: in this context, learning about constellations in the Southern sky is unforgettable.
WHEN TO VISIT THE SALAR DE UYUNI: DRY AND RAINY SEASON
Uyuni is a year-round destination, though visiting during the drier seasons, from May to October, is ideal. Travel from November to March can include heavy downpours that can impede transportation over the Salar de Uyuni (when it is not possible to reach the rock outcrops covered in cacti in the middle of the Salar), although conversely the salt flats have the remarkable appearance of a mirror during rainy season which is remarkable for photography enthusiasts.
The Salar de Uyuni is located at over 3,353 metres (11,000 feet) above sea level, comprised of a salt-crusted surface ranging from tens of centimeters to a few meters, with underlying brine composed of sodium, lithium, and magnesium chlorides. From May until October, this mineral-rich surface renders an expanse of land, a silent, motionless vastness that extends far into the horizon.
However, during the rainy season, from November to March, the Salar becomes coated with a shallow layer of water, creating a mirror-like appearance. Both seasons yield breathtaking views of the land and many visitors are inspired by the Salar’s surreal characteristics. The landscape provides magnificent material for photographs–from the colorful and quirky to the pure and poetic.
THE WEATHER IN SALAR DE UYUNI
Another consideration to take into account is the extremely chilling temperatures at night, ranging from -9 and 5 °C (16 and 41 °F). During the day, the temperature stays relatively stable, with a peak at 21 °C (70 °F) in November to January and a low of 13 °C (55 °F) in June. To prevent altitude sickness, every hotel is readily equipped with oxygen should guests need it.
HOW TO BOOK:
Travel to Bolivia, South America from India is never for 3 Days, it always a longer crafted trip (atleast 2 weeks, if not more) to include other locations in Bolivia or neighboring destinations like Chile, Peru, Brazil or Argentina.
Bolivia as a Solo destination has a lot to offer. You will need services of a Travel Designer, who is an expert in this region to help you plan a trip of a lifetime. I can recommend using services of Delhi based Experiential Travel Journeys Pvt. Ltd., which is a Boutique Luxury Travel Design Company specialising in trips to South America, and for that matter all unique, off-beat, off the grid remote destinations Worldwide. They have the requisite connections, knowledge and expertise to design a trip to suit your preferences, expectations and budget.