South America boasts some of the most impressive, and seemingly unreal, salt flats in the world – together they thrill travellers looking for unique landscapes and breathtaking photographs to take home. Two of the most popular salt flats to visit are Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia and Salinas Grandes in Argentina. But with so much ground to cover on your travels and so little time, which one should you visit?
Salar de Uyuni, in southwest Bolivia, is the world’s largest salt flat / Image Source
SALAR DE UYUNI
If you’ve been dreaming about a trip to South America, you’ve definitely seen the pictures of the mesmerising Salar de Uyuni. It’s the favourite site for incredible forced perspective photographs. Not only is it the world’s largest salt plain, it is also the most unique to visit, with the Incahuasi “island” in the middle – a rocky outcrop jutting out above the endless sea of white, dotted with giant cacti. It is the perfect spot to watch the sunrise.
Top reason to visit: It is the pinnacle of salt flats. If your travel itinerary has a spot open for a tour to Bolivia, it is well worth your time.
Keep in mind: If Bolivia isn’t specifically on your travel list, it is quite a detour from Argentina, and does require a certain amount of roughing it, particularly if you take a multi-day tour through the high altitude terrain.
The bright blue natural pools are a great attraction at Salinas Grandes / Photo by Daytours4u
Argentina’s largest salt flat is Salinas Grandes, a vast plain in the northwestern corner of Argentina spanning 525 square kilometres across the provinces of Jujuy and Salta, close to the borders of Chile and Bolivia.
Top reason to visit: The location of Salinas Grandes means it is easy to visit on a day tour from Salta or on a trip combining some of the spectacular surrounding attractions in Salta and Jujuy. If you’re hiring a car, you can even drive onto the salt flats yourself – a unique experience. If you’re passing over from Argentina into San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, these salt flats are located on the way.
Keep in mind: As impressive as Salinas Grandes is in terms of its size and unique deep blue pools, it doesn’t offer quite the same appeal if your main goal is taking perfect forced perspective photos or want that classic mirror effect (if you’re lucky enough to time your visit with some rain).
The salt flats are unmissable if you’re travelling in northern Argentina / Photo by Daytours4u
CHOOSING WHICH SALT FLAT TO VISIT
In an ideal world, visit both salt flats. They are both truly impressive, and each have their own unique characteristics, making them both memorable experiences. They are also convenient to combine in one trip if you’re travelling by land from Bolivia to Argentina, or vice versa.
However, you will most likely be limited by your travel itinerary. If you’re short on time and are focusing on Argentina, then Salinas Grandes is your best bet. If you want to travel through Bolivia, no trip here is complete without visiting Salar de Uyuni and the surrounding high altitude landscapes.
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Vast salt flats amidst the high deserts of the Andes are one of the many enchanting reasons to visit this region of South America. Be sure to check out Argentina4u for tours to Salinas Grandes and its surrounding areas.
By: Nicole Eberhard, travel writer and avid explorer, with a Masters in English Literature.