My alarm yanked me out of a deep sleep at 5:00 am. I stretched, flipped on the light, and let my eyes adjust to the unfamiliar surroundings. Surprisingly, my bed was comfortable, and the room was pleasant with the light gently reflecting off the pure white walls. Not bad for a stay in the Salt Hotel, where the rooms are small igloo-shaped domes, and the beds are spartan and crafted from salt.
I was staying in Uyuni, Bolivia with a church youth group as part of an annual mission trip to southwestern Bolivia. We planned to trek across the Uyuni Salt Flats, and we’d spent the night there in preparation for this day. I dressed and stepped outside into a desert-like landscape. The ground was a pale shimmer of light-colored dirt mixed with salt. The air was dry and cool, and the day stretched before us like a blank canvas waiting to be created. We loaded up the car and set off for a two-drive across one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever experienced.
Called the “Mirror of the Sky,” this area is the world’s largest salt flats with over 4,000 square miles of land. Remarkably, these flats were seen by Neil Armstrong as he stood on the surface of the moon. As we drove along, I began to see the ground become solid white with pools of water here and there. During the rainy season, these flats can actually appear to be a giant lake with a mirrored surface. Because it is the flattest place on Earth, there are many different photo perspectives that allow visitors to capture the stunning beauty of this landscape.
We planned to take a triangular drive around the salt flats. When we reached our first stop along the outer edge of the flats, we piled out of the car and had a wonderful 3-course meal prepared by local guides. The view here was endless, with flat stretches of pure white salt ringed by a dome of bright-blue sky. We spent the next several hours capturing the natural beauty in photographs. Then we headed off to an island in the center of the flats, where our group hiked up a small mountain pocked with caves and cacti, some of which reached the size of a two-story house. We could see for miles and miles in every direction, and enormous mountains in the distance now seemed the size of tiny anthills. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I’ve honestly never experienced anything like it since. I can see why Neil Armstrong wanted to visit this place, to experience nature in a way that is unmatched anywhere else on Earth. Our final leg of the journey was to travel back to the Salt Hotel, and we stopped halfway to take photos of the stunning sunset. I was filled with a sense of awe as the sun slipped below the flat horizon, almost like seeing a sunset on the ocean as warm pinks faded to deeper orange and red hues and finally to a thick purplish blue.
My blank canvas was now filled with images and memories of the Uyuni Salt Flats of Bolivia. There simply is no place like it on Earth, and I have a greater appreciation for travel and the wonders of other lands and culture because of my visit there. My advice to others is to make sure you pack a sense of adventure and a willingness to get off the beaten track in your travels.
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