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Explore salt flats from North to South America

03.25.2015
Topic South American Travel

Explore salt flats from North to South America - Image

It's always nice to take a step back from the day-to-day and admire nature's beauty. If you look around, you can likely find majesty in the mundane.

With natural sights to take your breath away on all seven continents, an amazing experience is never too far from your destination of choice.

If you're embarking on United States travel or South America travel, you have the opportunity to see some of Earth's gifts to mankind - salt flats.

North America
Head to northwestern Utah to see the expansive Bonneville Salt Flats. This historic landmark evolved from Lake Bonneville, a body of water that covered one-third of Utah, plus areas of the bordering states, according to the Utah Travel Industry website. The lake mostly dried up, leaving behind Utah's Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Located along the Utah-Nevada border, these 30,000 acres of salt crust are a top tourist destination. Within that space, there's quite a bit of diversity. You'll see areas where salt is piled more than a metre high toward the centre, while the edges contain marshes and swamps. The central areas may not have much plant or animal life, but the views are spectacular. These salt flats are made of 90 percent common table salt, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management.

The land is owned and managed by the BLM. Because it's a delicate environment, it's important that travellers stay on marked roads and in approved areas. Utah.com explained that overnight camping isn't allowed on the flats, but there are areas nearby where you can pitch a tent for the night.

South America
Deemed the second most awe-inspiring natural wonder by CNN, Bolivia's Gran Salar de Uyuni is a must-see destination if you're travelling in the area. According to Business Insider, the Uyuni Salt Flats are nearly 100 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats. In fact, it's the world's largest salt plain.

Lonely Planet explained that the flats came from Lago Minchin, a prehistoric body of water that took up much of Bolivia's southwest region. The 12,000-square-metre area is completely covered in salt, which makes it sparkle and shine. When water peaks through or during rainy season, the Uyuni Salt Flats create a perfect reflection of the sky.

Other highlights include the Luna Salada Hotel, which was mainly constructed using bricks of salt. Check out the interesting formations across the plains from the area's freezing and thawing cycles. While much of the desert lacks flora and fauna, animals such as flamingos and foxes can be spotted in Uyuni.

Bolivia has made efforts to conserve the land in recent decades, particularly in regard to salt miners. However, trains once ran through the plains, which you can still see evidence of, Business Insider explained.

According to past visitors on TripAdvisor, there's way more to see than you can manage in a single day. Consider taking a three-day tour through the desert, perhaps even across the land to the border of Chile. Several local companies offer trips, which can be hit or miss. Often the guides don't speak English, which may be problematic. Be sure to check reviews of the tour companies before you complete any bookings. Lonely Planet suggested confirming that the vehicles are equipped with seatbelts, first-aid supplies and radio transmitters for emergencies. You may also want to inquire about each guide's training and experience.

PriceOfTravel recommended visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats between November and March if you want to see them covered in water. For travellers searching for blue skies and photo opportunities along a vast white backdrop, April through October is the best time of year to plan a trip.