People associate the Bolivian Salt flats as a bright, crystal white moonscape that provides tourists with fun photo ops. Obviously, this isn’t wrong and quite frankly we couldn’t resist.
We visited the Bolivian salt flats with two bucket list items to tick: to see the salt flats and to see the Milky Way.
Standing at 3656 meters above sea level, with its dry air, no precipitation from April to November and being almost completely uninhabited, the salt flat provides the perfect setting for stargazing.
We took a walk down the tourist strip in Uyuni to do a little window shopping. Uyuni is the small town located on the edge of the salt flats that acts as a tourist jumping off point for salt flat trips. The town is predominantly made up of hotels, pizza parlours and travel agencies. Most of the agencies line the town’s central road and compete for tourists’ dollars.
We bartered our way down the streets and eventually settled on a small travel agent who seemed to specialise in South Korean tours for our stargazing trip. After filling up on standardised Uyuni pizza we returned to our Korean tour meeting point at 4pm and met our fellow stargazers who were a mix of Chinese and Taiwanese travellers.
Snuggled up in a road weary 4×4, we set off into the flats. The ground underneath us turned from dusty sand to crunchy salt as we went further and further off road. We passed several other off-road vehicles going the other way, taking their travellers back to Uyuni for the last flights out of town.
Once the dust and sand were behind us and we were truly in the middle of a seemingly never-ending moonscape of salt, salt and salt… we stopped for the obligatory comedy photo shoot involving oversized dinosaurs and a Pringles tin:
As the sun started to fall we headed back into our vehicle to get to the main event: the flooded plains.
The salt flats are over 4000 square miles in size and only vary in altitude by 1 meter. Basically, they’re incredibly flat.
During the rainy season from November to April the flats flood. The water, with it’s salt backing becomes a giant mirror offering a perfect reflection of the sky and anything that stands on it.
We visited the flats in May and luckily there were still some areas that were flooded and displayed this incredible spectacle. There were also some clouds hanging around in the sky to give our mirror something to reflect and our sunset something to light up.
Armed with the provided wellies and a burning desire to Instagram our lives, we jumped into the shallow waters to take in our sunset.
As the sun descended towards the skyline, the colours in the sky started to burn red both above and below the horizon. Not only was the thin air, the high altitude and the absence of light pollution giving us an extraordinary spectacle, the mirror below was giving us a 2 for 1 special offer with the sunset lighting up the sky above and below the horizon.
Once the fire in the sky had burnt out, the darkness slowly enveloped and the temperature dropped. Thankfully we’d brought our warmest clothes, but after the euphoria of the double sunset, a palatable sadness seemed to hang in the air.
But not for long.
Soon faint glints of light started to prick and poke their way through the darkening curtain of the night sky. The faint lights grew louder and sharper and were followed by more and more faint lights around them.
Over the next hour the sky itself became pure black and when you joined up the faint lights, you could finally see it: The milky way.
It hung over us like a giant arch and over the course of the night moved from just over the horizon to directly above us. Had we stayed out the full night, it would have completed it journey across the skies and gone to bed under the far horizon.
As testament to how beautiful it was, the temperature was probably well below zero but no one on the trip really noticed or cared.
There are plenty of 2, 3 and 4-day trips out to the Bolivia Salt Flats available from Uyuni, but in one night we had seen and experienced everything we could have wanted from the salt flats, Bolivia and maybe even our entire trip to South America.
Bucket List: Double tick!
Last modified: 22nd January 2021
Your pictures are absolutely stunning. Uyuni is such a great place. I wish I knew how to take night photos like this. Great post.
We are seeing so many people visit the Bolivian Salt Flats. Seeing the never-ending moonscape is certainly not something we would want to miss. Your views as the sun set are truly stunning! They flats seem to go on forever. But the night sky got even better. Definitely something that I will plan on doing. Thanks for sharing this delight.
I’ve never even heard of this place. Looks absolutely amazing! I’m curious, you shopped around for tours? Were they that varied in price? Or overall experience? Or basically a ‘driver’? Looks like you had plenty of time to soak in all in and get some stunning photos, so I’d be keen for a similar tour.
It sure is breathtaking there! We pretty much went into each shop (tour company) to ask how much the tour we wanted would be, what it included, how many people would be on the tour and length of time we’d be out there. Then made our decision on which company to go with. They aired massively in price and what was included (so definitely shop around). We were out there for hours, and it felt like time was rushing by but standing still at the same time! Crazy, beautiful place and we’d definitely recommend it!
Absolutely amazing Rachel. Reminds me of the night clarity in New Zealand. Especially in the Lake Tekapo area on the South Island. About the greatest visibility on earth. I know these salt flats are right up there. Brilliant photos.
I’ve seen many photos of the Bolivian Salt Flats, but that photo of you with the stars is just captivating. This officially goes to my list now.
I’ve only ever seen pictures of the salt flats during daylight, never at night. Needless to say I’m in awe!!! Your photos are absolutely spectacular and I can’t begin to imagine how much more beautiful it must’ve been in person. Hoping to tick this off my list soon too!
I didn’t realize the salt flats ever flooded — it must’ve been amazing to see the reflections in the water! Just curious, what is “standardised Uyuni pizza?” sounds questionable…
Great photos! Thanks for sharing this with us, It’s somewhere that I’d love to visit someday!
Once again more fuel to fire my longing to witness all this. Such a rare and interesting place! First the geography – such vast flatness, the reflections must be astounding and that sky sounds almost spiritual. Bolivia is on the list.
The giant mirror on the flat floods with a reflection of all above sounds absolutely amazing, so fantastic that you got to experience that… and the milky way – dream come true! Great inspiring wanderlust post!
The salt flats really are incredible- I took a four day tour from Tupiza to Uyuni but had no idea you could do a separate stargazing tour! It must be one of the best places in the world to see stars, what a magical place.
Do you mind me asking how much you paid and if you can remember what tour company you went with? We’re heading to Uyuni in a couple of weeks and this is the exact type of tour we are looking for x
Hi, I am interested to know the tour company & tour price too.
Lovely sky in your pics! I also love to travel and I’ve recently switched to a healthier lifestyle and training for a race with SportMe marathon training app, which calculates distance, time, pace and calories. Finding new running routes is always a challenge, such as sneaking in my runs into my destinations. Your blog posts are a true inspiration.
Thanks for sharing this.