One of the best experiences as a guide is to see the reaction of my clients when they see the Salar de Uyuni for the first time, their first reaction is priceless because they do not expect how immense and unique it is, as if it were another planet, the second moment is when they witness the sunset in the Salar de Uyuni, that infinite sky where you do not know where the horizon ends and the sky begins, merging between clouds and magical colours that make you feel tiny but at the same time special, definitely a place where you can find yourself.
At over 3000 meters above sea level and stretching for over 10,582 km2 or 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.
HOW WAS FORMED?
The Salar de Uyuni was formed after the remains of Lake “Minchin”, a paleolake that dried up due to the process of global warming that began after the end of the last ice age (10.000 years)
This “Minchin” Lake was fed by rivers that came from the volcanoes that are in the surroundings of the current Uyuni salt flat, the chemical composition of these volcanoes added with the dragging of material in the wáter formed a highly saline lake, that when it dried up formed a salt flat, unlike what many believe, it is not a salt crust, it still contains brine inside.
Evidence of this is the fact that every summer the salar becomes a lake again in the wet season, from November to March, when the flats transform into the worlds largest mirror, as the water-covered ground acts as a reflective surface which mirrors the sky and makes you feel like you are walking through clouds or disappearing into the sunset as the land and sky merge into one entity. 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.
We see more evidence with the stromatolites on Incahuasi island called by the local guides “petrified coral” which indicates the level of the former lake Minchin.
So no, it is not sea water that was trapped when the Andes mountain range was formed.
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.
It is an extremely attractive place to visit for all budding photographers as the landscape lends itself to amazingly creative photo opportunities!
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 Bolivian cities and you will have most certainly achieved a once in a lifetime experience.