The Best Desert Getaways: 9. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

If the expansive flat isn't salty enough for you, the hotel will be

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni     Photo: Adventure Life

This 4,086-mile expanse, the world’s largest salt flat, holds an estimated 10 billion tons of salt. It’s also where 50 to 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves originate—a good reason to see the Salar de Uyuni now, before the world’s cell-phone and electronics manufacturers gobble it up.

The appeal of this place is the play of light on these wide-open spaces: Sitting at almost 12,000 feet above sea level on the Altiplano of southern Bolivia, the Salar de Uyuni is almost entirely devoid of wildlife and vegetation, save for three species of pink flamingos (who get their coloring from the pink algae and crustaceans they ingest), a rare hummingbird species, and an occasional Andean goose.

In the middle of all this desolate white sits the Isla de Pescadores, a bizarre, fish-shaped island dotted with cacti. The real bragging rights for the visit will be the nights you spend at the salt hotel, where the walls, bar and tables are built of salt—just don’t lick the walls. There’s even a saltwater pool out back. Adventure Life offers an eight-day “Backroads Bolivia” tour that includes two nights in the Salar de Uyuni ($1,825).

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