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I have one singular travel goal above all else. But because it’s pretty difficult, I’m taking my sweet time achieving it.
The most magical place on Earth is beside the tiny town of Uyuni, Bolivia. Twelve thousand feet above sea level, nestled in the Andes Mountains, is a gigantic salt desert. It’s the largest of its kind and spans 4,000+ square miles.
There are lots of things to see around Uyuni, like the famous salt hotel, breathtaking scenery, and local culture. But I just wanna go to wade through the sky.
What Is Salar de Uyuni?
The words “salt desert” don’t sound remarkably enticing, but there’s one unique feature about Salar de Uyuni. It’s insanely flat. Across the thousands of miles of desert, the average elevation varies by ~3 feet. That’s an indiscernible variation. And it makes possible the most stunning phenomenon.
After rainfall, the water perfectly sheets the ground to create a natural mirror.
Because of the unusual flatness of Salar de Uyuni, the water doesn’t collect anywhere; it’s just one big puddle! And the white salt below the water is the perfect canvas to reflect the firmament.
So you can splash around in the yellows and oranges of a sunset. Or dance on top of the Milky Way!
Why I’ve Been Delaying a Visit to Salar de Uyuni
There’s an obvious catch to a place like this. A successful visit is entirely dependent on the weather.
If there is NO rain during your visit, you’re wandering through a parched white desert as far as the eye can see. Visiting Salar de Uyuni with no rain can still be stunningly beautiful, but it doesn’t have the wow factor that comes with the mirror effect.
And if there is TOO MUCH rain during your visit, you won’t see a mirror effect. It makes the salt flat look like a big tranquil lake.
There has to be the PERFECT amount of rainfall. And that’s dang near impossible to predict. Which is why I haven’t yet purchased my ticket to the show.
I don’t want to spend miles & points to fly to Bolivia and NOT get what I came for. Who knows how long it may take for the mirror to emerge?? I’ll wait to visit when I’m able to stay a while.
In this video, you can see both the effects of too much water, and just the right amount. The starry night at the end is unreal!
The rainy season of Bolivia lasts from November to March. I’ll dedicate perhaps a week to discovering the area while I wait for the perfect weather. Until then, maybe I’ll check out the Bonneville salt flats in Utah.
How to Get to Salar de Uyuni With Miles & Points
The city of La Paz is the most common entry point for international travelers headed to Uyuni.
It’s easy to reach La Paz from the US for nearly free. For example, it costs:
- 20,000 American Airlines miles one-way in coach
- 30,000 United Airlines miles one-way in coach
You’ll earn more than enough miles for a round-trip coach flight simply by opening a single card!
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is currently offering a 60,000 American Airlines miles sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
And with the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, you can earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Which you can then transfer to valuable partners, like United Airlines!
La Paz is still a ~7.5 hour drive from the town of Uyuni. You can take a bus for ~$20, although I’ve heard the road gets really bumpy.
You can also fly from La Paz to Uyuni for ~$150 round-trip.
Is anything on earth prettier than Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia?? I’m legitimately curious.
Salar de Uyuni is my ultimate bucket list item. It’s the world’s largest natural mirror. But only after a very precise amount of rainfall.
You can fly round-trip to Bolivia for as little as 40,000 American Airlines miles or 60,000 United Airlines miles in coach. And there are plenty of great card offers right now, like the Citi American Airlines Platinum Select and the Ink Business Preferred. That can earn you enough rewards for a free round-trip ticket with their sign-up bonus alone!
If you’ve been to Salar de Uyuni, I’d love to hear your tips!