Sleep in a Bolivian Salt Hotel

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bolivia is the poorest country in South America but what it lacks in wealth and paved roads, it makes up for in natural beauty, history and character. Not only is it the country where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had their final showdown, it also boasts an infamous witch market, a flamingo-filled desert and the world's largest salt flats.

La Paz Witch Market

The La Paz Witch Market, also known as El Mercado de las Brujas, is not only popular with locals it also attracts tourists from all over the world. 

Located on Calle Jiminez and Linares between Sagarnaga and Santa Cruz, this is the place to go if you are looking for potions, dried herbs and seeds, soapstone amulets, dried snakes and frogs, aphrodisiac formulas and dried llama fetuses

Yes, you read that right, they sell a large assortment of dried llama fetuses.  These are purchased by the poor as an offering to the goddess Pachamama (Mother Earth) and buried in the foundations of new construction.  The wealthier Bolivians are expected to sacrifice a live llama.   It is estimated that 99% of Bolivians have a dried llama fetus thrown under the foundations of their house for luck.

 To ensure success in a new business venture, a dried llama fetus is burned on a plate of sweets and herbs, to strike it rich one should stick a cigarette in the mouth of a dried frog, if you place a dried armadillo at the entrance to your house it will prevent thieves from entering, an amulette d’amor will ensure you get hitched while a naked ceramic couple will improve your sex life, cure impotency and increase fertility.

Eduardo National Park

If you love pink flamingos, visit Eduardo National Park.  Their numerous lagoons including the White Lagoon, the Laguna Verde, Laguna Altiplanicas and Laguna Colorada are filled with them.  And when you get tired of flamingos, check out the geysers.  Despite their name the geysers Sol de Manna are not in fact geysers rather they are part of a geothermal field extending over an area of 10 kmē.  The sulfur springs field is full of mud lakes and steam pools of boiling mud.  Several holes emit the pressurized steam and are referred to as geysers however a true geyser emits water. 

Salar de Uyuni

At 10,582 square kilometers and at 3,656 meters above sea level, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat.  It was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes which over the centuries dried up and became covered with a few meters of salt crust.  Beneath the crust is a 2 to 20 meter deep pool of brine that is rich in lithium containing 50 to 70% of the world’s reserves.  Because of its large area which can be seen from space and its exceptional flatness, it is the ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of the Earth observation satellites.  In the center of the Salar there are a few islands which are actually the tops of ancient volcanoes.

As the Salar began to attract tourists from around the world, hotels made entirely from salt blocks cut from the Salar started to spring up.  The first, which was completed in 1995 and located in the middle of the salt flat, was dismantled in 2002 due to mismanagement that caused environmental problems.  Most of the waste had to be collected manually but wasn’t. Rather the sewerage was being pumped into the Salar.  The new salt hotels were built closer to the roads and in full compliance with environmental codes.

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