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vineri, 30 octombrie 2009

The Bolivian Salt Hotel

Salt hotel panorama
Image: Tati@

High amidst the Andean mountaintops is the hotel Playa Blanca, a solitary structure surrounded by an almost endless sea of white. The ‘white’ is not snow, but salt, 10 billion tons to be exact. So it makes sense that this most abundant of materials would be used to build an entire hotel, from the salt brick walls, floors and roof, all the way down to the tables, chairs and even beds. Come with us, and we’ll take you on a tour.

Salar de Uyuni from space
Salar de Uyuni from space
Image: ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and the Image Science & Analysis Group, Johnson Space Center

In Bolivia near the Chilean border, the salt hotel can be found in the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. The satellite image above shows Salar de Uyuni from space, surrounding Mount Tunupa. At 10,582 km² (4,085 square miles), it is 25 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States. Near Uyuni is the smaller salt desert Salar de Coipasa and two lakes, Poopó Lake and Uru Uru Lake. About 40,000 years ago, the entire area was covered by Lake Minchin, a giant prehistoric lake.

Only about 25,000 tons of the 10 billion tons of available salt is extracted from Salar de Uyuni each year. Major minerals found are gypsum and halite, and half of the world’s lithium can also be found here. Visitors of the Playa Blanca can expect to see huge piles of salt outside the hotel’s windows:

Salt piles
Salt piles
Image: Luca Galuzzi

Featuring a bar, living room, dining room and 15 bedrooms, the hotel provides tourists with a unique living experience. Visitors can lounge on salted stools and a picnic table by the ‘pool’ to soak in the view:

Salt table by water
Image: RastaChango

The building is built of salt blocks fused together by a mixture of water and of course, salt, which creates a strong, cement-like substance.

Close up of salt bricks
Salt bricks close-up
Image: Phillie Casablanca

Inside you’ll find yourself in a cozy, salty space:

Dining room
Image: Airin (i-ren ishii)

Image: adman_as

When the flats aren’t covered in water, visitors can take walks with salt crunching underfoot:

People standing on salt flats
Image: silvia_c77

And when the salt flats are covered in water, beautiful reflections are seen:

Reflection on water
Image: Chechevere

Interested in learning more about Uyuni and its surrounding area? Visit one of the highest lakes on earth, Laguna Colorada, or check out old locomotives at a giant train graveyard.

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