SALAR DE UYUNI, BOLIVIA, & Los Andes
SALT HOTEL "LUNA SALADA"
What is it about traveling and adventures that get our hearts racing, make us write bucket lists, put our visualization techniques to trial, and even push a courageous few of us to clear our bank accounts without a hint of hesitation? Maybe it’s because we humans were not born to be slaves of the ordinary… slaves of routines… 9-5s. Glued to jobs and careers that pay our bills and insane luxuries but end up consuming our health and peace of mind. We’ve sadly been raised by society to believe we have to climb the corporate latter chasing a dream that is not ours simply because…. “success is measured by that house, that car, that outfit, the jewels, your bank account”. What happened to taking a minute to smell the morning coffee? To walking on moist grass BAREFOOT? To watching the trees and its leaves move in synchrony with the wind? To truly listening to a song and letting the lyrics take us to emotional moments we might have forgotten? To helping a friend carry boxes during a move rather than offering to pay for the movers? To maybe dropping a box on the floor and laughing it out loud like two sweaty children who’ve played outside for too long? To traveling to unknown countries by yourself with a few dollars in your pocket simply because you want to submerge in new oceans? What happened to taking risks and living life to the fullest NOW instead of saving everything for a future you’re not even certain of? We are here right now….today. Tomorrow is not up to us. Just like we’ve been blessed with a beating heart and a world of infinite possibilities, the universe- or God or whatever you want to call it- made us fragile too. Mortals. With a beating heart that can stop any second with no alert or notice. In my opinion, this was done on purpose. Very much so. For us to make the most of every second we have on earth. So…will you give traveling a chance? Investing in experiences and stories worth telling is probably the only investment you’ll never regret. And…who knows…you might even enjoy that freedom to such extent you’ll never settle for anything less than extraordinary! If you’re ready, this trip should be on your list. 100%! Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.
It’s the second time in a year that I travel to my home country’s salt desert. The first one was exactly a year ago to review Luna Salada for the blog. A sustainable hotel entirely made out of salt! I fell in love with this unique hotel and location at first sight and promised myself I would come back to host a wellness retreat. Fast-forward a year and there I found myself in August with six other souls reliving my experience. This time for 6 days instead of 4!!
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.
“Luna Salada” tops my list of the most astonishing eco hotels I’ve ever visited. From the minute I walked through the hotel’s entrance, to the salt walls of the hallways, 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. 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.
Last year, I traveled to Uyuni with my dad and decided to take the long, cheap, and adventurous option: Train & bus. (If this is what you have in mind, click here to read my old post.) This time, I got to Uyuni by plane. From Miami to Santa Cruz (stayed there 3 days with my family) and then another flight from Santa Cruz to Uyuni connecting in La Paz. If you do not wish to visit Santa Cruz, you can always travel directly to La Paz and take a flight from there to Uyuni. Round-trip tickets from La Paz to Uyuni sell for around $150-$200. The airline we used is called BOA.
Day 1: The hotel sent a driver to pick us up from the airport. The drive to the hotel is around 15 minutes. We used this entire day to relax at Luna Salada. Sleep, eat, read, spa, repeat! J The hotel offers the yummiest vegan and vegetarian options. Make sure you ask for them in advance.
Day 2: Our morning started with a yoga class I taught on Luna Salada’s terrace that looked straight into the salt desert. This experience was mind-blowing! Temperatures in Uyuni are usually very low- especially during the morning- but we had the sun shining right on top of us at 10am, which made our practice beautiful, warm, and smooth. After yoga we devoured a delicious plant-based breakfast made specially for us (tofu tortillas, fresh fruit, juices, oatmeal with nuts, etc) combined with the buffet, which was open to everyone. This day was also about relaxation. Holistic spa treatments, walking around the hotel and getting used to the altitude. For sunset, we decided to take a walk from the hotel to the point where the salt desert starts. This was by far one of the most astonishing moments in my life. Like EVER! After walking for about 10 minutes, we stepped on salt. The sun begun to go down, the stars and moon showed up, and there was nothing else in between the universe and us. The darker it got, the more magical! The moon and the stars looked so close to us, and the Milky Way seemed at our fingertips! We could see it all but we couldn’t see each other. Pitch black! The only light we had was the moon shining right on top of us and that was honestly more than enough.
Day 3: Our eco tours begun! Right after yoga and breakfast, we grabbed our jackets, boots, beanies and scarves and were on our way to discover Uyuni, Isla Incahuasi, and Colchani. Isla Incahuasi is a mountain shaped like a fish (also called Isla Pescado/ Fish Island) and is the home to the tallest and oldest cacti! These cacti grow 1cm per year, which means the tallest ones (10-12 meters long) are around 1000 years old! Once these magnificent plants die (dry up), people in Uyuni recycle them and make furniture. (Luna Salada has dozens of tables and chairs made of cacti. Gorgeous pieces!!!) We climbed Isla Incahuasi all the way to the top (20 minutes) to take the mesmerizing 360 views in, and finished our day with a visit to the “Reflejos”. This is an area of the salt desert where rain is accumulated, and the sunset -and every shadow- is reflected on that accumulated rainwater. Our drivers surprised us with wine and light snacks to accompany this one of a kind moment. Pictures don’t do justice, guys! And magical doesn’t even begin to describe it!
Day 4: The day our 2-day roadtrip begun! We woke up at 5am, packed our bags with all the necessities for 2 days and left the hotel in two cars around 6am. Direction: Chile! Well, at least the border of Chile. We visited the following places: San Cristobal, Valle de Rocas, Aguas Termales de Polques, Salvador Dali Desert, Laguna Verde, Geysers, and Laguna Colorada. We spent the night at an eco-friendly hotel running entirely on solar power in the middle of nowhere! Literally! Tayka del Desierto is a boutique eco hotel located in a desert 5 minutes away from the border of Chile. We enjoyed a delicious vegan dinner prepared by the hotel accompanied by a glass of wine. Each of us received a set of keys and a private room and bathroom with heating system. Lights and hot water were out by 10pm and so were we.
Day 5: We woke up once again at 5am. It was extremely cold. -4C. Thankfully, I had taken a warm shower the night before to remove all the dust and sulfur smell of our adventures from my body, so -as soon as I woke up- I rapidly proceeded to get dressed, put on my warm faux fur boots and as many ponchos and jackets as I could find, and headed to the restaurant to have breakfast before departing for another set of adventures. The restaurant’s view was INCREDIBLE! Huge glass windows surrounding the hotel in order for every guest to become one with nature. Stunning and priceless moment! Around 7.30am we were on our way again. This time to visit the Viscachas (wild Andean rabbits that look like squirrels) and see the remaining lakes: Laguna Hedionda, Honda, Chiarkota, and Cañapa. If you decide to take part on this adventure, make sure to take veggies or oatmeal cookies with you to feed the Viscachas. We did and the connection with these tiny fast-running animals was out of this world. Remember that energy is everything, guys. Animals sense it. If they feel threatened, they will not approach you. If they trust you, they will come near you and might even bite a piece of cookie straight out of your hand. It happened to me and made my day! We closed our day with a visit to the Train Cemetery with 100+ year old trains, and later arrived back at our first hotel, Luna Salada, around 6pm. Drained. We had a goodbye dinner, and called it a night.
Day 6: Everyone went back to their home countries in a state of bliss. The energy in Uyuni and Los Andes is pure. Mother Nature at its fullest. Refreshing. The type of energy you want to drown in. I can’t wait to visit this place again soon!
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
-The tour we did can be arranged directly with the hotel. Best tour guides in the world!
-PS: mention WATERTHRUSKIN for a special 15% discount. Email Paola at email@example.com to make your reservation.
Good to know:
-Uyuni is very cold during winters (June-August). Luna Salada has heating and fire stoves.
-Flight options: La Paz to Uyuni. Roundtrip $150-$200. Around 1 hour.
-If you rather take a bus, the 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.
-TAKE SUNGLASSES & SUNBLOCK! The strong sunrays reflect on the salt flats and burn fast.