Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Frozen in the depths of winter, the world’s largest saltwater lake is transformed in to a giant, sky-reflecting mirror during rainy season.
Salar De Uyuni salt flat with an area of 10,582 sq.km and is located at a height of 11,995 feet above sea level. Salar means salt in spanish and Uyuni is the name of the city in the southwest of Bolivia which serves as the gateway to the salt flats. During the rainy season, a thin layer of water settles on the surface of the salt flats thus producing a mirror image of the sky above.
The salt flats are a result of the gradual transformation of a giant prehistoric lake that existed about 40,000 years ago. The crust is a composed of a mixture of salt and other minerals such as potassium, magnesium and lithium, with approximately 50% of the world’s lithium reserves coming from this place. Lithium is used in almost everything from medicine, to batteries, ceramics, rocket propellants, nuclear weapons and in the polymer industry.
The Salar has a number of animals such as the Andean goose, Andean hillstar, Culpeo, Horned coot, Bolivian vizacha and during the month of november even pink flamingos can be seen.
Flamingos seen here in the day time is most common during the month of november.
The only vegetation seen on the salt flats are giant cacti, certain shrubs and quinoa plants.
Best Time To Visit
There are basically two seasons during which you can visit Salar De Uyuni, the dry season and the wet season.
If you would like to catch the mirror effect in which the sky is reflected off the surface of the salt flat, then you should visit the salar during the wet season. The wet season extends from December to around the second week of April with January receiving the most amount of rainfall. In the other months during the rainy season, the number of days of rainfall is less than 5 per month.
During the dry season which extends from mid April to November, the mirror effect is not visible but the salt flats still look incredible. Also, the salt flats are easier to navigate during this season thus enabling you to visit all the attractions in the area such as the Incahuasi Island, Tunupa Volcano, Train Cemetary, Laguna Colorado, Laguna Verde, Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, Palacio De Sal and many more.
Altitude sickness does seem to be a problem for a number of travelers, so you might want to get acclimatized first. Coca leaf tea is also said to be helpful in dealing with altitude sickness.
If you would like to camp, there are some decent camping sites such as the Isla Del Pescado and Jiriri. It is a good idea not to camp on the Salar though as at night time drivers might be drunk and things could get dangerous.
There are a number of tour operators and most people would recommend Red Planet which is generally regarded as the preferred tour operator to go along with but they are also the most expensive. Other popular operators include Brisa Tours, Quechua Connections, Blue Line Tours and Your Travel. A 3 day/2 night tour might cost you around 800 bs per head for a 6 person group or 1000 bs per head for a 4 person group.
Flights are available from La Paz To Uyuni.
Buses are available from La Paz, Oruro and Potosi.
Trains are available from Oruro and Villazon.
You also have the option to rent a car from La Paz and self drive but that can be a bit dangerous and road signs may not be clearly visible.