Salt Hotels and Lithium in Bolivia

Art & Architecture
April 9, 2010 8:00 am

After a five-month study abroad stint in Buenos Aires, my friend Ashley and I packed one school-sized backpack each and set off on a three-week tour of northern Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil in December, 2008. This excursion to the salt flats was part of that South American route.

The Bolivian salt flat, also known as Salar de Uyuni, extends for 4,086 sq. miles, making it the world’s largest. In a large pool under the salt, over 50 percent of the world’s lithium supply is waiting to be harvested, and on the hour-long ride into what felt like the middle of a white ocean, we saw several lithium- and salt-extracting sites (which basically consisted of one crane and a couple guys hauling blocks of salt).

Besides the condiments and battery power, the Salar de Uyuni provides a trippy photo op. Behind a camera lens, the white appears as though it will never end, distorting your field of vision. Read: If I run really far away, it looks like a mini-me is sitting in Ashley’s hand. Now that’s a true backpacker’s souvenir.

We started in Uyuni, a small mining town closest to the salar (salt flat).Uyuni was a train hub until the mining industry collapsed in the 1940s.Plenty of antique trains were left behind, as well as tourists' graffiti.P1060003*"Such is life." And it's not bad.Dust tornadoes are apparently pretty common in summer months.The Palacio de Sal, or "Salt Palace," made entirely of salt, was once a hotel.It has been closed to overnight stays, but rumor has it you can bribe someone....But beware midnight police raids, which leave you stranded in the salt desert.The hotel's swimming pool (that few would dare to swim in)Snacks and candy bars are sold inside.Tourists are served lunch inside on salt tables and salt chairs.P1060041*Salt sculptures of major world landmarks decorate the inside.The Egypt room.P1060048*P1060049*Ashley and I, playing with the field of vision in front of the camera.P1060437*P1060438*P1060440*Incahuasi was the next stop. It's a rock island in the middle of the salar.Incahuasi provides a great view of the surrounding white ocean.The island offers thousands of cacti and some interesting rock formations.Trucks must drive on designated "roads" to keep the salar from getting dirty.
Ripley Tours

We started in Uyuni, a small mining town closest to the salar (salt flat).

P1050987*

Uyuni was a train hub until the mining industry collapsed in the 1940s.

P1050995*

Plenty of antique trains were left behind, as well as tourists' graffiti.

P1060003*
P1060008*

"Such is life." And it's not bad.

P1060015*

Dust tornadoes are apparently pretty common in summer months.

P1060023*

The Palacio de Sal, or "Salt Palace," made entirely of salt, was once a hotel.

P1060028*

It has been closed to overnight stays, but rumor has it you can bribe someone.

P1060031*

...But beware midnight police raids, which leave you stranded in the salt desert.

P1060027*

The hotel's swimming pool (that few would dare to swim in)

P1060036*

Snacks and candy bars are sold inside.

P1060038*

Tourists are served lunch inside on salt tables and salt chairs.

P1060041*
P1060042*

Salt sculptures of major world landmarks decorate the inside.

P1060044*

The Egypt room.

P1060048*
P1060049*
Ashley and I, playing with the field of vision in front of the camera.
P1060437*
P1060438*
P1060440*
P1060397*

Incahuasi was the next stop. It's a rock island in the middle of the salar.

P1060412

Incahuasi provides a great view of the surrounding white ocean.

P1060426*

The island offers thousands of cacti and some interesting rock formations.

P1060434*

Trucks must drive on designated "roads" to keep the salar from getting dirty.

Tara for TKGO

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2 Comments

  • The pictures are both hilarious and extremely captivating. What an awesome trip!

  • This is awesome! I can’t wait for more coverage on your South American adventures. As someone who hasn’t been yet, your posts really give a sense of the ‘real deal’ trip I’d love to take!

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