Home to over 10 Billion tons of salt, the Uyuni Salt flats are a wonder like no other.
It truly is a beautiful sight. The layer of salt goes on for as far as the eye can see. A hexagon pattern crusts the surface, bringing slight dimension to the endless sea of white.
The Salar de Uyuni or the Uyuni Salt Flat is found just outside the small town of Uyuni (hence the name the Uyuni salt flats). Uyuni offers many different tours of the salt flats ranging from 4 hours to 4 days. No matter which tour you do, just bring your camera!
While the salt flat appeared after a prehistoric lake dried up, local legend tells a different story about how the salt flats were formed. Here is a the legend told by https://www.salardeuyuni.com
“Legend has it that the mountains surrounding the salt flat were once giant people and that the mountain goddess Yana Pollera (the nearest peak to the salt flat) was involved with both Thunupa and Q’osqo. When Yana Pollera became pregnant, the two male volcanoes fought tirelessly and tenaciously over who the father was. She sent her baby far away to protect its safety but immediately became worried that it wouldn’t survive alone. In an attempt to care for her baby, she flooded the plain between them with her milk so it could be fed. The milk eventually turned to salt, leaving behind the miraculous Salar de Uyuni.
Alternatively, Aymaran legend tells another obscure story about the formation of Salar de Uyuni. Again, this story believes that the mountains were once people and that Tunupa and Kusku were married. After Kusku deserted his wife for Kusina, Tunupa was left heartbroken and her tears are said to have formed the salt flats.”
Largest Salt Flat in the World
The Uyuni salt flat is the largest salt flat in the world. According to our guide, the
salt flat is over 12,000 square kilometers, holds over 10 billion tons of salt and it grows more everyday. The Salar de Uyuni was a prehistoric lake that evaporated, leaving behind the salt crust that is now visible from space!
There are parts of the salt flat that are completely dry, and parts that are partially submerged underwater. The sizes of each area greatly depends on what time of year you visit (wet season or dry season). There are aso parts of the flats that are home to some pretty cool animals, like flamingos. Seeing as it covers thousands of square kilometers, there’s so much to see, like insane rock formations, mulitcoloured lakes, geysers, and even a few villages. These different attractions are all scattered around the sat flat though, so to see them all you will have to do some traveling.
Even though parts are submerged, the salt flat is just a crust; a layer. In some areas of the salt flat the first bit of crust is quite thin, thin enough to poke through with your foot so you can see a bit of very salty water beneath it. This water trapped underneath the layer of salt continues to evaporate and leaves MORE salt behind, so the Uyuni Salt Flat is constantly growing in size! Water isn't the only thing under the salt though…
While all the buses and cars drive on top of the flats, the real value is hidden under the salt. Salar de Uyuni is host to loads of lithium, and according to https://www.salardeuyuni.com it is home to around 70% of the world's lithium reserve, which I had no clue about until after we left.
Lithium is an important element that is mainly used in batteries, electronics, and glassware. It’s estimated that the world consumed 93,000 tons of lithium in 2021 alone, however there isn’t much being extracted from the Salar de Uyuni. Different sources have different reasoning as to why this is. Some say it’s because the lithium is poor quality, others say it's because the region is too wet and cold for the standard lithium extraction process, making it expensive.
Fun Fact: Movie Set!
Because of its almost unearthly look, the Uyuni Salt Flat has been featured in many different movies, including Star Wars the Last Jedi. Other movies include The Fall, Utuma, Salt and Fire and more.
Recognize the salt flats? The only difference is that there aren't massive, futuristic war machines walking everywhere or a Jedi standing out in the open.
If you are looking for an amazing place to get some pics for instagram, look no further. The salt flats are perfect for any kind of photo or video you can imagine. The never ending salt flat is the perfect backdrop. It’s serene yet intriguing and beautiful. In some areas, the water on top of the salt forms a mirror effect, giving the opportunity for some insanely cool pictures. Sunset is also stunning if you stick around for it.
The guides at the salt flat are very well versed with taking photos, and will probably suggest a few poses to try. A few of those photos will probably be perspective photos, and maybe a few with a dinosaur as well.
Dinosaurs seem to be a recurring theme in the area, they are everywhere! My best guess is that it’s because of the Cal Orck’O Dinosaur Footprints in Sucre, which is a quick 6 hour drive away.
Overall, the Uyuni Salt Flats are a must see of Bolivia. It is absolutely stunning. Depending on your intentions while visiting there is a range of tours, although to be completely honest, unless you’re there to take loads of photos at every time of day, visit the different lakes, see the flamingos and do everything the salt flat has to offer or sleep overnight in the salt hotel, then I personally don’t see what you can do on a 4 day tour, even though the views are breathtaking. The Salar de Uyuni is well worth the trip if you are in Boivia. Some people travel to Bolivia exclusively to see the salt flats. If you are visiting the salt flats, bring some warm clothes, it can get cold. Also be aware that salt will get on your clothes wen you walk around the flats. It is such a unique place, and I cannot stress this enough, charge your camera!