Lonely Planet Writer

Bolivia’s salt flats really feel like a galaxy far, far away

Few places on earth feel as surreal and otherworldly as Bolivia’s iconic Salar de Uyuni. Measuring an epic 12,106 kilometres-squared, these are the world’s largest salt flats – geographically speaking, they’re the legacy of an ancient salt lake that eventually dried up.

Uyuni feels like you’re floating in the galaxy, says Dominic. Image by Dominic Chiu Photography

Thanks to the massive salt deposits still there, in dry season you’ll experience an optical illusion of eerie white ‘nothingness’ as you pass through. In wet season however, the flats are covered in a thin layer of water. This results in the the sky being reflected absolutely mirror-like on the surface below, and the horizon seeming to disappear.

During wet season, the sky is reflected in the salt flats’ surface. Image by Dominic Chiu Photography

Enchanted by the idea of this strange and unlikely place, lots of travellers to Bolivia ensure that their itinerary includes a stop-off at the salt flats. Not all of them have a blockbuster-themed photo shoot in mind, however! Based in Hong Kong, travel photographer Dominic Chiu is a huge Star Wars fan, who’d dreamt of shooting a lightsaber battle in an epic setting. “I’ve always wanted do a photo shoot like this,”, he tells Lonely Planet. “Then I found out that Uyuni really feels like the ‘Universe’, as the reflection makes you look like you’re floating in the middle of the galaxy.”

The perfect setting for a Star Wars photo shoot. Image by Dominic Chiu Photography

Dominic set out to visit the flats as soon as he could. “I flew from La Paz to the Uyuni airport”, he says. “The flats are in the middle of nowhere, with only salts and sand, and a little town there.” When he saw Uyuni for himself, Dominic certainly wasn’t disappointed. “It’s truly magnificent”, he says. “Before I went, I saw photos of the place, and wondered would it fulfill my expectation when I saw it with my own eyes… and it surely did. Billions of stars in the Milky Way no doubt is exceptional, but with the mirror reflection effect, it just take the experience to a whole new level.” See more of Dominic’s work here.