Imagine a place so flat you seem to see the curvature of the planet, so barren not even the simplest life forms can exist. This is how people describe salt flats, one of the most unique natural features in the world. Salt flats can be found anywhere in the world offering a truly breathtaking sight. Vacation rentals are available in nearby cities, but for a unique, out of this world vacation, some of these salt flats offer overnight experiences.
1. Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
The Bonneville Salt Flats are found west of the Great Salt Lake, in western Utah, near the Utah-Nevada border. It looks almost like a frozen lake bed covered with snow, but it actually has a thick crust of salty soil making it impossible for any vegetation to grow. One of the best viewing points is along I-80, about 10 miles east of Wendover. There’s a rest area with restrooms and water, and even a spray station so you can wash the salt from your shoes. The closest places to look for a vacation rental are Wendover or Salt Lake City.
2. Death Valley Salt Flats, California
This salt flat in Badwater Basin is among the largest protected salt flats in the world covering nearly 200 square miles. This basin is the lowest point in North America with a depth of 282 feet below sea level. With rain falling on distant peaks, minerals dissolve from rocks and travel with the water to the lowest elevation. The water evaporates until only the salt remains, forming this magical salt flat. The delicate crystals can easily be crushed, so vehicles are prohibited off the already established roads in Death Valley. Temperatures easily reach over 100 degrees during the summer, so it’s best to visit Death Valley during the cooler months.
3. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni might be the most famous salt flat in the world, and at 4,086 square miles, ti’s also the largest salt flat in the world. Located in southwest Bolivia, near Chile and Argentina, you can join a tour from Uyuni, Bolivia, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, or Tupiza, Bolivia. There are two distinct seasons, the rainy season from December to April, and the dry season from May to November. During the rainy season, a thin layer of water transforms the flats into a breathtaking mirror reflecting the sky. During the dry season, the ground has hardened, so you can drive across the barren landscape to places that aren’t accessible during the rainy season. Try to avoid visiting during December and January because excessive rain can cause tour cancellations.
4. Etosha Pan, Namibia
“Etosha” means “Great White Place,” and what better way to describe this incredibly vast, white salt flat. This dry lake bed is part of the Etosha National Park, one of Namibia’s largest wildlife parks in northern Namibia. At the park, abundant wildlife also congregates around nearby watering holes, giving you almost guaranteed game sightings. In lieu of staying at a vacation rental, there are a range of accommodations at the park as well as restaurants, viewing decks, shops, and gas stations.
5. Salinas Grandes, Argentina
The Salinas Grandes is the largest salt flat in Argentina and the second largest salt pan in the world, after Salar de Uyuni. It’s located in the central-northern part of the country, at the foot of the Sierras de Córdoba mountain range. The Salinas are in Salta Province and can easily be reached by heading west along RP 52. You can also take a tour from Purmamarca, Tilcara, Jujuy or Salta.
6. Chott el Djerid, Tunisia
Chott el Djerid is the largest salt pan of the Sahara Desert. During the summer, the area is mostly dried and can be crossed by foot or car. Be very careful though, because the salt crust can break! If you think this salt flat looks vaguely familiar, you’re right. Chott el Djerid gained worldwide recognition when it was used as a filming location in the Star Wars series.
7. Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana
Another one of the largest salt flats in the world, Makgadikgadi Pan, is technically not a single salt flat, but rather multiple flats with desert between them. Most of the year, the area is completely dry and covered in the characteristic salty clay crust, but when it does rain, water accumulates on the surface attracting wildlife. Many have seen zebra and wildebeest on the grassy plains and even flamingos at Sowa and Nata Sanctuary. During this rare time, the rain transforms the salt flats into a powder blue lake, flowing over the pebble beaches.
8. Salar de Arizaro, Argentina
Salar de Arizaro is the second largest salt flat in Argentina after Salinas Grandes. Located in the Andes mountain range in northwestern Argentina, this salt flat covers an area of 617 square miles. For accommodations, look in the nearby villages of Tolar Grande and Caipe. This area is unique because it’s rich in salt, marble, iron, copper, and onyx and has mines for these resources.
9. Salar de Atacama, Chile
Welcome to the largest salt flat in Chile covering 1,200 square miles. While Death Valley is located below sea level, this salt flat is at a very high altitude of about 7,500 feet above sea level. In the middle of the Salar de Atacama is the Laguna Cejar, a small lake. Bring your swimsuit and take a dip. The salt concentration is high enough to allow a floating effect like the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan.
10. Namak Lake, Iran
Namak Lake is a salt lake located near the City of Qom, but it’s almost entirely dry. There is only about 0.38 square miles of water with a depth less than three feet. The lake is accessible by unpaved road and is an amazing place to watch the stars due to the minimal light pollution.
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