The cracked, luminous Bolivian Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) are instantly recognisable for two very different reasons. These other-worldly rock formations are the biggest ‘salt desert’ on Earth and present unique photo opportunities for visitors keen on playing with perspective. Or just making it look like you are a giant.
But Bolivia isn’t the only place that travellers can be awed and/or amused by salt. We’ve rounded up the top three salt deserts for all your surreal lunar-like landscape and funny photo needs.
The Bolivian Salt Flats in the Andes, Bolivia
The world’s largest and most famous salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni – stretching over 11,000-sq-km – is genuinely breathtaking (a word that we are very strict about using). This harsh landscape (and the resident flocks of ostentatious pink flamingos) is best viewed from the Incahuasi Island: a rocky outcrop on an extinct volcano that is dotted with giant cacti.
As if the salt flats weren’t enough, many of the local accommodations are built out of salt blocks, with hotels like the Hotel de Sal Luna Salada providing rooms overlooking the Uyuni salt mine. Meanwhile, the Hotel Palacio de Sal has gone a step further and provided guests with furniture made out of salt and a ‘salty regional menu’.
The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA
The dense salt pan of Tooele County, Utah, is glows in the midday sun and the Bonneville Salt Flats race track (the Bonneville Speedway) has been used to set multiple land speed records. The Bonneville ‘Speed Week’, ‘World of Speed’ and ‘World Speed Finals’ take place in August, September and October respectively.
Visitors in search of a more peaceful experience will usually find the flats underwater from January to March, which creates that mirrored effect the Bolivian Salt Flats are famous for. And while it may not be as big as their Bolivian cousin, the Bonneville Salt Flats were the filming location for Independence Day, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Knight Rider. Stay less than 20 minutes’ drive from the Bonneville Salt Flats at Wendover Inn.
The Etosha Pan in Kalahari Basin, Namibia
Set in the Kalahari Basin in Namibia, the Etosha Pan is over 120 km-long and is covered with a thin crust of salt for most of the year. During the rainy season, a thin layer of mineral-rich water appears, reflecting the sky for that impressive ‘mirrored’ effect. The Etosha Pan is surrounded by the Etosha National Park – the word ‘Etosha’ translates to ‘Great White Place’ – and the south side of the pan is home to herds of bush elephants.
A few especially rainy years have seen the pan rise to 10cm-deep and become a breeding ground for flamingos and the great white pelican. Admire the local flora and fauna by staying at the Okutala Etosha Lodge, overlooking a waterhole popular with the local giraffes.