The Salar de Uyuni: Where Heaven Meets Earth

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White. An endless ivory carpet stretching for miles and miles up to the horizon. ¿Puede bajar la ventana por favor? Richard nods and opens the badly tinted window on my right side. I put my face out to breathe in the fresh cold air – the SALTY fresh cold air! I squint my eyes and look as far as I can, where the unending white ground meets the spotless blue sky in a shiny silver skyline. Next to me, Kerstin squeezes my hand. We both smile like two happy kids who just got a handful of sweets. Finally, we’ve made it to the Salar de Uyuni!

 

Getting to the Uyuni Salt Flats was an unexpected adventure. We were supposed to start this trip the day before. But things don’t always go as planned in Latin America. Patience is the key word, especially in Bolivia.

 

No worries, the airport is only 30 minutes from your hotel! Marta seemed very confident. After all, she’s a local from La Paz, Bolivia. So, we trusted her and got ready for the transfer at 7am.

 

But La Paz has 1 million inhabitants. And there’s 1 million more in El Alto, the “upper city”. Traffic is crazy and air pollution is almost unbearable in this city. Less than 10 minutes after we left our hotel in La Paz, I knew that we wouldn’t make it to the airport on time. In slow-motion we maneuvered around a car accident on the freeway. All the roads were instantly blocked. Our driver Raúl did his best to find an alternative way. He looked calm, but we could sense that he was nervous as time went by.

 

We drove past the richest neighborhoods, where huge villas with manicured lawns look like an immaculate suburb in Southern California. But we also raced through many deprived areas where poverty is truly critical: slum housing, mountains of trash, dead dogs along dirt roads… Instead of 30 minutes, it took us almost 2 hours to arrive at the airport.

 

 

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Thanks to Roberto from our travel agency Peru Inside Out, who explained to Marta that she must find a solution and modify our whole itinerary, we got another flight to Uyuni in the evening. Our 3-day-tour through the salt flats and colorful lagoons started without us at 11am that day. So, Marta ended up offering us a private tour with Richard and his (antediluvian) jeep on the following day.

 

Our driver Richard was not very talkative. OK chicas. Estamos en el Salar de Uyuni. The world’s largest salt flats. Approximately 11,000 square kilometers. The results of a prehistoric sea that went dry. Slowly throughout thousands of years. ¿Preguntas?

 

The good thing is that you don’t need much explanation when exploring the Salar de Uyuni. I didn’t even google it before arriving, and it doesn’t matter. The beauty of this vast scenic place speaks for itself. So, we politely said no whenever Richard asked if we had a question, and let him continue listening to his 90s mix of pop and salsa music.

 

 

From time to time, Richard would stop the jeep and tell us to climb out. ¡Fotos, chicas! He’s not very communicative, but maybe it’s because he would have preferred to have another career. We quickly guessed that our driver probably wanted to become a photographer or maybe even a film director. Together with his friend, who drove a group of 7 in another jeep, Richard suddenly announced he wanted to shoot a movie of us. He instructed us what to do and drove his jeep around us with one hand, while his other hand held my iPhone. That clip is stunning, just like all his photos of us.

 

During the dry season (May to August), the surface of the salt flats crack into geometric patterns. This is what we saw at first when Richard accessed the salt flats. An endless white carpet with crystalized hexagons.

 

But after driving for half an hour, the surface got more watery. Normally it’s only during the rainy season (December to April) that a thin layer of water covers the salt flats, turning the white carpet into a reflective mirror-like surface.

 

 

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Now we finally had a pregunta for Richard. How come we were honored to drive through these mirror-like salt flats when it was not the rainy season? He turned down the volume of his music. The salt flats look like this, because it rained a little bit several days ago. He opened my window, and the fresh cold air – less salty now – put another cheeky smile on our face.

 

Unlike my window, which could only be opened by the driver, Kerstin’s window was totally broken and couldn’t even be opened. Richard must have sensed our tiny bit of discontentment, because he suddenly stopped the car. ¡Más fotos, chicas!

 

 

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As we stepped out of the jeep, there was one thing that immediately struck the both of us: the utter silence. Quieter than the stillness of eternal night, or the hush of early dawn. The only sound we heard was the noise of our feet stepping on the watery salt flats. It was magical.

 

Long puffy clouds were sailing through the cerulean sky. And their twins were sliding over the watery ground.

 

Standing amid the Andes, we are where heaven meets earth. This is our paradise. A wisp of eternity. Speechless, we clutch the fleeting impression tightly. Wondering whether we will ever be able to put in writing what we merely sensed. A wisp of eternity, isn’t that a treasure to hold onto?

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Salar de Uyuni: Where Heaven Meets Earth © Travelwithmk.com

Follow Mei:

Traveler - Storyteller

Mei is a 30-something Archaeologist, born and raised in Luxembourg. Besides traveling, she loves eating sushi and stinky cheese (although not at the same time), as well as listening to Kerstin's funny stories while driving on long road trips. She's afraid of heights, but adores panoramic views. Her favorite places are those she chose to live in: Paris, Greece, San Francisco.

24 Responses

  1. Rachelle Gordon
    | Reply

    I’ve been dying to visit these salt flats for a while now! We have a mini version of them here in Salt Lake City, but nowhere near the vastness of Bolivia!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh good to know that there‘s a mini version of salt flats in Salt Lake City! We‘ll certainly go there next time we head to the US!

  2. Meghan Ramsey
    | Reply

    This looks like an incredible experience! It looks like you are walking on clouds and your description is such a beautiful way to describe the feeling you had when you got there (I’ve felt that same way stepping onto places like the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon)! I need this experience too.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Hehe.. thanks Meghan! You should definitely go to the Uyuni Salt Flats! It‘s not crowded at all, so you‘ll certainly have an even more amazing experience than at the Great Wall of China or in Grand Canyon! 🙂

  3. SherianneKay
    | Reply

    11,000 square kilometers is huge, Salar de Uyuni sounds amazing! Heaven meeting earth is a great description, the mirroring is incredible. It may have been a good thing to not have a talkative driver and you got a great video out of the deal!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yep, 11,000 square kilometers, that’s actually 4x Luxembourg! Lol!

  4. Jennifer
    | Reply

    Ugh, that’s not at all what I had in my mind for La Paz! That kind of traffic sounds like Manila, which was a city I didn’t care for in the least bit. But I guess La Paz is a necessary evil if you want to visit certain parts of Bolivia?

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yeah most people go through La Paz to get to Uyuni. But despite the traffic jam, there are some very interesting places to explore. We‘ll write about it soon. 😉

  5. 100cobbledroads
    | Reply

    Bolivia is surreal. Dry season and winters both seem to be great times to visit Bolivia. We have a similar place in India called Rann of Kutch, where this landscape is visible.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Whether winter or summer, it’s equally cold in the high altitude in Uyuni. The only difference is if it rains or not. 😉 Good to know about Rann of Kutch, we‘ll add it to our bucket list!

  6. Carissa
    | Reply

    Eversince I saw a viral post in facebook about the Uyuni Salt Flats, I promised myself that I would absolutely visit this magnificent place soon! Me, being able to see it and experience it in person would totally be a HEAVENLY experience for me! Can’t wait yay! Thanks for sharing with us your experience.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      You’re welcome Carissa. We hope you’ll get to explore the Uyuni Salt Flats soon!! 🙂

  7. Danik
    | Reply

    So hoping to be here very soon when I get to South America for the first time. I love your phtographs, it truly does look like heaven with the white landscape.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks Danik! There is so much to see and do in South America! But remember not to leave out the Bolivian salt flats!

  8. Mizhelle
    | Reply

    Love the photos! I love how the clouds are reflected in the waters.

    Were there many people when you got there? I know this spot is pretty popular among Japanese travelers but I’m not sure how crowded it gets.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      No it was not crowded at all. We didn’t even see any Japanese tourist in the Bolivian salt flats!

  9. Carolina Colborn
    | Reply

    We have been systematically crossing off items on our bucket list. After all, we are already 70. But today, one more got added: Salar Uyuni in Bolivia. I can’t get enough of this symphony in white!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Carolina, you absolutely NEED to visit Bolivia, and especially the Uyuni salt flats. You’ll love it! 🙂

  10. Christina
    | Reply

    Salar Uyuni in Bolivia has been on my to-visit list for years. I love the reflections and can certainly see why it looks like a place where heaven meets earth. Your photos are fantastic. It’s great that you got a chance to have a good look around Bolivia’s Salar Uyuni.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      It was also on our bucket list for many years, so we‘re glad that we finally visited Bolivia this year! If you get a chance, you should go there too, Christina! 😉

  11. Eric Gamble
    | Reply

    So awesome! I have had Salar Uyuni in Bolivia on my bucket list since I create the Bucket List Project! I always love looking at the pictures of the reflections and all of the crazy optical illusions this desert area creates. Love your pics. It looks like you guys really enjoyed creating fun pics at Bolivia’s Salar Uyuni!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh yes the Salar de Uyuni was simply breathtaking! Despite the freezing temperatures and the distance to get there, we didn’t regret it at all, and will definitely go back. You should move it up on your bucket list! 🙂

  12. eclecticgal
    | Reply

    This is somewhere I really wanted to visit and your amazing instagrams make me even more envious. When I last looked the flights were prohibitively expensive from the UK – guess I will just have to keep shopping around

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      I heard that one of the low-cost companies will soon fly to Lima, Peru from London. So perhaps next year you can fly to Lima and travel to Bolivia from Peru.

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