El Palacio de Sal was first built back in 1998, envisioned as being the grandest salt hotel on Earth. Creator Juan Quesada Valda has followed up his dream meticulously, ensuring that the walls, floors, ceiling and even furniture such as beds, tables and chairs were built using salt extracted from the Salar. The impressive 30-room palace covers 48,500 square feet (4,500 square meters) and utilizes over a million salt bricks in its construction. Entire sections have to be replaced every year as they get washed away during the rainy season.
Standard rooms, VIP rooms and larger suites are on offer, with each lasciviously decorated chamber featuring the hotel’s signature igloo-style domed ceilings. All rooms have ample hot water and heating; a blessing on those freezing altiplano (highland) nights.
A number of stylish common areas including a fully stocked bar with salty furniture encourages interaction between guests. Those just looking to relax should check out the hotel spa which boasts a dry sauna, steam room and saltwater pools and baths. There’s even a nine-hole golf course to practice your stroke, although its hard salty surface might take a little getting used to.
El Palacio de Sal lies right on the edge of the salt flats, having moved from the center in 2004 due to environmental concerns. All hotels deep in the salt flats have been forced to close in order to protect the fragile environment as waste management has proven to be too challenging. Copycat salt hotels have sprung up over the years in an effort to cash in on Valda’s idea, although they have failed to emulate the same grandeur.
Visitors should be aware that the hotel has one very important rule – no licking the walls. This rule has been enforced to avoid degradation to the structure over time, so you’ll just have to take their word that the palace really is made out of salt.