The South American continent has almost all the fascinating things that nature has to offer; talk of the Amazon rainforest and river, and a lush flora and fauna of some of the peculiar species of wildlife you’d ever encounter. In Bolivia, there’s an infamous village called Ollagüe, just off the Chilean-Bolivian boarder, there is a salt lake that showcases a flat empty landscape, a volcanic background, an intense cold, and that feeling of being so small and lost in the beauties of nature. Dear friends, let’s take a tour of the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest natural mirror.
Related media: Salar De Uyuni | 4 Day Tour | Bolivia | Cinematic Drone Video 4K
The World’s Biggest Salt Reservoir
Salar de Uyuni, translates as “Uyuni salt flats,” is a salt lake basin located in the Andes, southwest of the Daniel Campos Province in Bolivia. It’s the biggest salt flats in the world which covers an area of 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 square miles), and culminates at 3,656 meters (11,995 feet) above sea level. There’s an estimated 11 billion tons of salt in the basin, and can be as much as 10 meters (32.80 feet) thick at it’s center — less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually.
That’s not even the most peculiar feature about the salt lake. During the rainy season, it becomes the largest natural mirror in the world; and during the dry season, it becomes a white desolated salt desert. Despite the name, however, it’s not completely flat: there are a few small islands, the main one is Isla Incahuasi. There are 80 species of birds (visiting and migrating) at Salar de Uyuni, including three species of flamingos.
The salt lake is home to 70 percent of the world’s known lithium reserves, and it seems the Bolivian government has a huge interest in mine for revenue. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses Salar de Uyuni to figure out the positioning of their satellites. Roughly 30,000 to 42,000 years ago, it was believed to be part of a giant lake.
A Tour Of Uyuni Salt Flats
How on Earth do I get a tour? Good question! As far as we know, it depends on you, for instance, when you want to visit, the route you’d want to take, and your expenses — of course, your pocket does count. For most tour companies leaving Uyuni, they all take the same route there, and also do so at the same time. So expect to see a lot of cars on the flats. There are frequent direct buses from the cities of La Paz, Oruro, Sucre, Tarija, Potosí, and Tupiza in Bolivia; Calama in Chile; and Salta and Jujuy in Argentina.
(Take note that the route changes according to the season. For routes, check here).
When is the best time to visit? It depends on the seasons: either wet or dry, and for the sake of having a wonderful experience, we recommend the wet season. In the rain season, a thin layer of water is what creates that mirror image that has become so famous. But if you’re unlucky, it might rain, darken the sky, get bloody cold, and spoil the fun. In the dry season, the salt ground shows off the impression of a white desert, but the sensation of seeing a 360-degree of nothingness is jaw dropping.
If you’re planning on a visit, don’t think of replicating someone’s experience you saw on Instagram, but rather go for what you feel suits you. Here’s a summary to help you plan better the timing of your visit.
January to March is wet season, and the best time for the mirror effect; The fishing island of Isla Incahuasi, a part of the tour during the dry season, will most likely be closed. For March and April, the thin layer of rain still remains and the island reopens. But it all depends on that time of year. June to September comes the dry season and the coldest time, so make sure you gear up. And finally, November and December are the warmest months, but don’t be fooled in Bolivia, with such altitudes the weather is cool all year round. It might even be raining in November.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Mon, Mar 15, 2021.