The Uyuni Salt Flats, or Salar de Uyuni, is the top tourist attraction in Bolivia, being located high up in the Andes. As it has many curious explorers, we have gathered some facts about it:
Formation of the Uyuni Salt Flats
The Uyuni Salt Flats were formed 30,000 to 42,000 years ago, when prehistoric lakes from the Andes crest started drying out. The main lake from the formation is Lake Minchin.
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt plain, measuring an incredible 10,582 square kilometers. For reference, that’s about the size of Jamaica.
NASA uses them for their satellites
Thanks to their massive size and flatness, the flats are perfectly visible from outer space, and NASA uses them to adjust satellite sensors.
Largest mirror in the world
With water, Uyuni Salt Flats create an incredible mirror effect. The perfect whiteness and flatness make them reflect just like a mirror. Due to their size and reflective proprieties, they are dubbed the largest mirror in the world.
The best time to book a Uyuni Salt Flats tour package and witness this phenomenon is in the rainy season (from December to April).
During the dry season, when the water has evaporated, another interesting phenomenon happens: from May to November, the vast planes are covered with white salt, with octagonal shapes formed on the surface. The shapes appear as a result of the drying process and the ventilation of the salt.
Uyuni is set high up in the Andes at a 3700-meter altitude so, if you plan on going there, some acclimatization is needed in order to avoid altitude sickness. It is also very cold there, with temperatures dropping below freezing.
A lot of salt
As you can expect from their size, there is much salt in the flats; 10 billion tons to be more precise. Of course, a part of the salt gets extracted every year, but only a small part of around 25 thousand tons.
While there is little wildlife here, 80 species of migrating birds, including three species of flamingos, come here to breed. There are several small islands where you can find giant cactuses and a few foxes and rabbits, as well as hot springs and geysers.
In the Uyuni Salt Flats tour package, you can see, in November, the three species of pink South American flamingo: The Chilean, Andean, and the rare James’s flamingos.
Batteries are made from this Flat
Uyuni has a large amount of lithium, a mineral used in the production of batteries, like the one you use in your smartphone.The Bolivian government claims that 70% of the world’s lithium reserves are concentrated in the Uyuni Salt Flats.
You can find a train cemetery here, where all the trains that were used in mining during the 1940s lay abandoned. The rails were built much earlier in 1892. The cemetery attracts thousands of tourists every year.
The Uyuni Salt Flats is one of the most attention-grabbing places that nature has to offer, with its white vastness making it seem like an otherworldly landscape.