It has been described as the eternal sky during the rainy season when the ground perfectly reflects the sky. Used as the backdrop for surreal visual illusions during the dry winter season and enjoyed by hundreds and thousands for its ability to isolate one from the world.
It is the Salar de Uyuni.
The landscape... my god that landscape...
Where and geography
This surreal natural wonder called the "Salar de Uyuni" is located west of the town of Uyuni in Bolivia and sits at an elevation of 3,656 meters ( 11,995 ft) above sea level. Covering an area of 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 square miles), it is the largest salt flat in the world and was created about 30,000 to 42,000 years ago after the prehistoric lake called Lake Minchin dried up.
"The landscape is sprinkled with all colorful shades from the deep blue sky, bright white salt, vibrant greens and reds"
The landscape is sprinkled with all colorful shades from the deep blue sky, bright white salt, vibrant greens and reds from wild quinoa to limited vegetation that exists due to the dry nature of environment. Within the salar you can find an island called Isla Incahuasi where 12 meter high cacti, almost four stories, can be found. Even mammals can be found in this small island that lies in the middle of this desert! The small type of rabbit is called Viscacha and can be spotted with a keen eye in this otherwise inhospitable habitat due to its ability to perfectly blend in with the surrounding rocks. This island does not contain any natural springs or free flowing water for that matter so this animal gets its necessary water intake by eating surrounding vegetation. In turn, the surrounding vegetation gets its water during the rainy season.
Beneath the thick salt deposits left behind by the vast salt lakes that evaporated hundreds of thousands years ago lie the largest deposits of lithium in the world with an estimated 60% of the precious and highly sought after chemical. This chemical is what currently powers the very device you may in fact be using to read this. It is the primary component of lithium batteries which power today's smartphones, tablets, laptops, and electric vehicles. Because of the high demand for these products and ever more growing demand for electric vehicles, this precious resource has high demand it will exponentially continue to increase year over year. While lithium stands to bring great economic benefits to Bolivia, the great salar has been doing so in its natural form and continues to do so today by way of tourism. Every year it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of tourists from all parts of the world visit this vast wonder of nature. Not surprisingly so given its natural beauty and surreal landscape. Furthermore, visiting it during different times of the year will offer a completely different experience.
Weather and when to go?
From December to the beginning of April is the rainy season and when you should be able to experience the beautiful mirror like effect along with preferable milder temperatures with average highs in the low 70's and lows in the 50's. Winter spans from May to August with highs in the low 50's to lows in the low 30's. The winter months will offer visitors a canvas type of backdrop perfect for the popular visual illusions taken by tourists.
Tours- Don't pre-book!
Utilizing a tour guide is highly recommended since the salar can be difficult to navigate and the lack of visual points of reference can easily lead to disorientation. Various tour guide agencies can be found throughout the town of Uyuni near the main plaza. Tour packages can range from 500Bs to 600Bs (72-86 USD) for a 3 day tour that mainly focuses on the salar while other 5 day tours include other points of interest such as the Laguna Colorada, Laguna Azul, Salvador Dali desert and hot springs. That tour will cost about 700-1000 Bs.(100-145 USD) but prices vary greatly depending on the quality of accommodations that are included and competition with other agencies. One thing is certain, you do not need to pre-book your trip! Once there you will find plenty of agencies to choose from along with better prices.
"At night the sky throws a grandiose performance with the view of a clear night sky that is lit up with thousands of stars un-obscured by light pollution or other distractions."
With its varied and colorful landscape with the distant snow capped mountains, surrounding volcanoes, wild quinoa, four story cacti, canvas white ground that reflects the beauty of the sky, the salar is truly a site to be had and experienced. There is something to be said about immersing yourself in a place unlike any other, in a desert, surrounded by what can seem like nothing but in turn, at that moment, becomes everything. That everything is peace, serenity with oneself during the day under the clean blue sky lacking of other sounds with the exception of the occasional gentle gust of wind. At night the sky throws a grandiose performance with a view of a clear night sky that is lit up with thousands of stars, un-obscured by light pollution or other distractions. In those very moments, one cannot help but to just lie back, meditate and just stare in awe at the pure beauty of this world we live in.