SALAR DE UYUNI, BOLIVIA

SALT HOTEL "LUNA SALADA"

August 2015

This trip. If I told you I had been dreaming about it since I was 18, would you believe me? 9 years guys! And in the middle of time, tons of excuses that never let me achieve this trip until now. Amazing how fast time flies, isn’t it? Without even realizing it, life starts to slowly pass us by. That is exactly why I switched my 9-5 for this. Wanderlust. The type of wanderlust full of conscience. The trips that feel like a breath of fresh air to the soul. The hotels that are going beyond their ways to protect nature. And the cultures and people that make it all happen. That is precisely what I try to inspire with the WaterThruSkin lifestyle, and we are not stopping anytime soon! Infinite eco-friendly hotels and holistic and exotic cities to chase after. And, if you are following my steps, this hotel “Luna Salada” and the destination have to be on your list! In case you’ve never heard of Salar de Uyuni, it’s a 12,000km2 salt desert in Bolivia, South America. Stories tell that these mesmerizing salt flats were an ocean approximately 24 million years ago. Due to movements in the tectonic plates, 4 lakes formed but only one, Lake Minchin, didn’t get any water flow from rivers therefore it evaporated 40,000 years ago giving birth to Salar de Uyuni; a white as snow paradisiac salt dessert surrounded by dozens of mountains.

Ok, so… “Luna Salada” is the 6th eco-hotel review for the blog and probably tops my list of the most astonishing hotels I’ve ever visited. Its architecture and design made my mind spin more than any algebra calculation I faced in school! From the minute I walked through the hotel’s entrance, to the salt walls of the hallway to my room, to my room itself, I couldn’t stop wondering about how in the world they built something so beautiful out of a renewable natural resource as simple as SALT. Luna Salada is a 3000m2 property built entirely out of Uyini’s salt, cacti wood (another sustainable natural resource) and stones with 50 rooms, a holistic spa, views of Salar de Uyini (salt flats) and a vegetarian/vegan restaurant that all together manage to attract over 10,000 tourists per year. Getting there is a bit tricky and you will need 7+ days to enjoy Uyuni to the fullest. I was there only for 4, hence, I only got to do a 1.5 day tour instead of the full 4-day one. On the positive note, the fact that I did not get to visit all the natural places Uyuni has to offer, has me eagerly planning another visit in December when it’s a bit warmer. :)

In summary, this is what my 4 days were like.  

Day 1: There are many ways of traveling to Uyuni from different cities in Bolivia. Most people take a plane from La Paz to Uyuni but I chose the adventure so I took a 3-hour bus from La Paz to Oruro where I stayed and wandered for a few hours waiting for my 7pm train from Oruro to Uyuni. I arrived in Uyuni 7 hours later. The bus ride was ok. A bit cold and scary because it was snowing in Oruro but I slept most of it. The train ride was an amazing experience!!! Not only because I got to take my dad along with me on this trip which made everything that much more fun, but also because the train exceeded all my expectations! I felt as if I was a character in an old movie. The wagons were wonderfully aged adding magic to our journey. Each passenger received a pillow, a thick blanket, and a snack bag. The train had a small restaurant that served lots of vegetarian options and wine too!

We arrived at Uyuni at 2am and were received by a driver the hotel sent to pick us up. 30 minutes later we were at the hotel lobby with our chins dropping in awe of what our eyes were seeing. It was honestly mystical heaven! We went to bed around 4am but I was so excited I barely closed my eyes and woke up with the sunrays peeking through our window at 7am.

Day 2: We started with an 8am breakfast at Luna Salada. The pictures will take your breath away guys.  Breakfasts are served buffet style with the most magnificent views of the salt flats. After that, my dad and I decided to enjoy the rest of our morning walking around the hotel and its surroundings taking pictures and videos. For lunch, we took a taxi to the town of Uyuni where we had a delicious quinoa soup. Most of the restaurants in Uyuni serve vegetarian and vegan options. Whichever one you choose, make sure you order the quinoa soup. So simple yet extremely flavorful! Our afternoon was spent wandering Uyuni and talking to different tour agencies to find the best option. We went with Empexa and their driver Agustin. I recommend them 100%.

For dinner, we drove back to Luna Salada were I was surprised by Chef Luciano with a vegan dish that felt like an exotic flavor explosion in my palate. It was the perfect combination of a vegetable cordon bleu with quinoa, potatoes, beet chips and every other colorful vegetable you can imagine.

Day 3: We started with an early power-up breakfast and were immediately on our way to explore Salar de Uyuni. Our tour lasted about 10 hours and included Salar de Uyuni, Volcano Tunupa, Isla Incahuasi, and Ojitos de Sal. We ended our day with a magical hour sitting on top of our car watching something I’ve never seen before: the sunset in Salar de Uyuni. I felt part of it. The sun came down slowly and there was nothing standing in the way between me and what I was experiencing. It was freezing cold but I felt the orange sunrays warming up my body. Then they turned pink and later purple. It was lovely! Our dinner at Luna Salada was special this time as well because I got the chance to enjoy a 3-hour long conversation with the hotel’s owner, Maria.

Day 4: Our last day in Uyuni! After breakfast I melted on the hotel spa’s massage table and received two treatments I had never heard of before. Salt & quinoa exfoliation. Holistic treatments that use Uyuni’s natural resources. Salt is supposed to open up all your pores and clean your skin, and then quinoa hydrates and nourishes your skin. This 60-minute experience took place next to a fire stove with direct view of the salt flats.

We checked out at noon and took a taxi back to Uyuni to visit the Train Cemetery with trains over 100 years old. It was magnificent! The colors will blow your mind away! Later that day, we took our 12-hour bus ride back to La Paz.

Kind, green and misc. facts about Luna Salada:

-Built with nature in mind using renewable resources such as salt, stone and cacti wood.

-Bath supplies are all organic and biodegradable

-Vegetarian and vegan menu

-Hotel owners are very involved in the community and make yearly donations for public projects.

-Room rates range from $117-$255 per night and include breakfast

-Transfer rates from Airport or Train Station: US$35 each way

-PS: mention WATERTHRUSKIN for a special 15% discount. Email Paola at reservas@lunasaladahotel.com.bo to make your reservation. 

Good to know:

-Uyuni is very cold during winters (June-August). Luna Salada has heating and fire stoves.

-Bus ride from La Paz to Oruro: Bs 25. Take snacks and water with you. If traveling during winter time, make sure you are wearing tons of layers and take a thick blanket with you. 3-hour ride.

-Train ride from Oruro to Uyuni: Bs 120. 7 hours.

-Bus ride from Uyuni to La Paz: Bs 270. The best company is “Todo Turismo”. They’ll provide you with a vegetarian dinner, coffee or tea, snacks, movies, bathroom, pillows, and blankets. All in the bus! 12 hours.

-1 day tour of Salar de Uyuni: US$80-US$100 per person with private car, driver and meals.

-TAKE SUNGLASSES & SUNBLOCK! The strong sunrays reflect on the salt flats and burn fast.