The Salar de Uyuni at 4,086 square miles (10,582 sq km) is the largest salt flat in the world! It’s located in the Daniel Campos Province in Potosi, southwest Bolivia, near the Andes crest with an elevation of 11,995 feet (3,656 m) above sea level.
It’s also a major breeding ground for varies species of pink flamingos, and also serves as a transport route across the Altiplano in Bolivia. The transformations between several prehistoric lakes formed the Salar, which is covered by a few meters of salt crust that has extraordinary flatness; this crust covers a pool of brine that is rich in lithium.
Salar de Uyuni
The Salar holds 50% to 70% of the lithium reserves on the planet, making it the world’s largest lithium deposit! With clear skies, exceptional flatness of its surface and the large area turn the Salar into a natural mirror, the best option for calibrating satellites!
In this area very few things are able grow, except for the giant cacti, the cacti, grows about 1 centimeter a year and can reach the height of 39 feet (12 m). Other plant life includes; Thola, Pilaya, and quinoa bushes. Each November the Salar is the breeding ground for three different types of pink South American flamingos; the Andean, the Chilean, and the rare James flamingos, 80 other bird species are also present.
The Salar spreads over 4,086 square miles (10,582 sq km) that’s about 100 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats, which are located in the United States.
Under the surface of the Salar de Uyuni is lacustrine mud that’s interblended with salt and also saturated with brine. In the center of the Salar can be found a few “islands” these so called islands are actually the peaks of ancient underwater volcanoes! With an estimated 9,000,000 tons Bolivia holds the world’s largest lithium reserves; lithium is a vital component of most batteries. This information attracted several foreign corporations that wanted to extract the lithium, but the Bolivian government has decided to build its very own pilot plant and extract 1,200 tons – 30,000+ tons of lithium annually.
The train cemetery is one of the major tourist attractions located at 1.9 miles (3 km) outside Uyuni. Due to the vast number of tourist who visit (especially during the Bolivian holidays!) the area a few hotels had to be built, most of them are almost entirely made out of salt blocks cut from the Salar, the first “salt hotel” was built in 1993-1995.
Salar means “salt flat” in Spanish and Uyuni comes from the Aymara language which means “pen” or “enclosure”. Meaning Salar de Uyuni can be translated to “The Salt Falt of Uyuni.” There is also a city name Uyuni that many tourist pass through when visiting the Salar.
This area’s average temperature is often stable, that peaks at 70°F (21°C) in November through January and lowers to 55°C (13°C) in June, the nights are cold all year long with temperature from 16°F and 41°F. The humidity is quite low, 30% to 40% all year long, the rainfall is also quite low 0.039 inches to 0.118 inches (1-3 mm) a month between April through November. Although the rainfall may increase in January to 2.8 inches (70mm). Even in the rainy season the number of days it actually rains is less than 5 per month, with the exception of January of course.