Salar comes from Spanish, meaning salt flat. Uyuni originates from the Aymara language and means a pen. Uyuni is also the name of the town that serves as a gateway for tourists visiting the Salar. Salar de Uyuni or Salar de Tunupa rests atop Bolivia’s southwestern Altiplano. It is some 11000 feet above the sea level and is world renowned for one thing- salt!
It is one of Bolivia’s most famous attractions and one of the largest salt flats in the world. The Salar de Uyuni was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes and is technically a salt lake itself. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness to it. This crust serves as a source of salt and also covers a pool of brine which is rich in lithium.
The flatness of the salt crust varies only a meter in altitude. Scorched by the day, frozen by night, the flats harbor one of the most extreme daily temperature dichotomies on the planet.
People living along the lake live in a village called Colchani. The residents earn their livelihood by salt mining. Salt here is often carved into different souvenirs and sometimes even furniture. These souvenirs are later sold in the markets and are a major tourist attraction. Most of the salt that is extracted is either utilized for economic gains or used in human consumption.
The Salar is virtually devoid of any wildlife or vegetation. Vegetation mostly includes the cacti which grow at a rate of 1 centimeter per year. Every November, Salar de Uyuni is the breeding ground for three species of pink South American flamingo: the Chilean, Andean and rare James Flamingos, their color presumably originating from feeding on pink algae.
As it is located far from the cities, a number of hotels have been built in the area. Due to the lack of conventional construction materials, most of the hotels are almost entirely built from salt blocks cut from the Salar.
It gets even prettier during the sunset and at night when the stars are high up in the sky. Imagine yourself in such a unique landscape. It’s worth a visit!