Bolivia’s Magical Salt Flats
At over 3000 meters above sea level and stretching for over 4 thousand square miles of Bolivia, the magical Salt Flats of Uyuni or Salar de Uyuni is the largest and highest salt flat in the world. Found in southern Bolivia, in the Altiplano region, the landscape here is otherworldly and unmissable. Holding 10 billion tonnes of salt and acting as the largest lithium reserve in the world, the Salar de Uyuni is unlike anywhere else on earth and it is a huge contributor to the Bolivian economy, both due to its lithium reserves and its popularity with tourists.
The salt flats of Uyuni are speculated to have formed after a huge prehistoric lake, called Lake Minchin, dried up over 40,000 years ago. Once upon a time, this lake would have covered the majority of southwest Bolivia and, like the salt flats today, it was an impressive 120 meters deep. It is an extremely attractive place to visit for all budding photographers as the landscape lends itself to amazingly creative photo opportunities!
Between April and October, in the drier season, the vast landscape is dotted with salt mounds, a result of the cracking of the salty surface. These mounds stretch for as far as the eye can see, and add to the surreal atmosphere of this magical land. The flats, undoubtedly, remind visitors of sci-fi type landscapes and can really make you feel as if you have landed on another planet. In the wet season, from November to March, the flats transform into the worlds largest mirror, as the water-covered ground acts as a reflective surface which mirrors the sky and allows visitors to feel as though they are walking through clouds or disappearing into the sunset as the land and sky merge into one entity.
Although this could be described as one of the earth’s sparsest landscapes, remarkably, thousands of bright pink flamingos use the Salar de Uyuni as their preferred breeding ground every November. If you are lucky enough to visit at this time you may well be met with a vision of these majestic birds moving gracefully across the flats and flying in formation overhead, whilst being reflected in the crystalline ground below.
The salt flats also hold many more eye-catching surprises, such as the red lagoon, or Laguna Colorada, which lights up the otherwise minimal landscape with its bold red color. It is said that this bright colored lake attracts the famous flamingos. The bordering mountains provide a beautiful backdrop and are dotted with various intricate and interesting cacti.
Getting to Salar de Uyuni is surprisingly easy, as a short 45-minute flight connects Uyuni with La Paz. Uyuni town has all the general amenities you would need for a solid base of adventure. The town itself is home to charming street markets and offers an eye-opening glimpse into life in a remote region of the world. If you are truly looking to visit somewhere that will transport you to another world and ignite your imagination, Salar de Uyuni is a must-visit and offers an unforgettable experience all year round. Combine your visit with La Paz and other south-American countries and you will have most certainly achieved a once in a lifetime experience.
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