Hotel de Sal Playa Blanca

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Hotel de Sal Playa Blanca
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Tel: 591-62-25186 (fax, Hidalgo Tours)
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Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: Salt of the earth

Hotel de Sal Playa Blanca

This may be the only hotel anywhere to post a sign that reads "Please do not lick the walls."

It's tempting, but your doctor would not approve. At Hotel de Sal Playa Blanca in southwestern Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, a 4,000 square-mile desert that started out as a lake some 40,000 years ago, everything from floor to ceiling is made of salt. The walls are thick blocks of salt held together with more salt.

The view, a blinding white that stretches as far as the eye can see, seems arctic, but you're really looking at 10 billion tons of salt. It cranks up our blood pressure just thinking about it.

After a restful night on your salt bed, venture to sights like the Isla de Pescadores, (Fisherman's Island), an "island" of gargantuan cactuses that can reach some 30 feet in height with viscachas (long-tailed bunnies, kinda) scampering in their shadows.

Check out the bright-red Laguna Colorada, a red lake dotted with bright white borax islands, that's popular with flocks of flamingoes. Time it right, and you may catch their mating season, or see a herd of shy vicunas, a once-endangered (but now flourishing) cousin of the alpaca. And don't miss the amazing train graveyard, where locomotives go to die (and corrode from all the salt).

Visit from July to November, when the flats are driest. Travel to the Playa Blanca is easily booked from Potosi, the nearest town.

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