Some Fascinating Facts About Bolivia’s Spectacular Salar de Uyuni

It is truly one of the most incredible places on earth! And typically when we tell folks that the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the largest salt flat in the world, they’re quick to as: “Well, what about Bonneville?” Well, the Bonneville Salt Flats in Nevada are indeed among the largest salt flats in the United States, but they only cover about 40 square miles. The Salar de Uyuni, on the other hand, covers 4,000 square miles! So the salar isn’t just bigger than Bonneville – it’s a hundred times bigger! Crazy.

There are actually lots of crazy things about the Salar de Uyuni that make it a truly remarkable place. And here are a few! Check ’em out:

It’s estimated that the Salar de Uyuni contains roughly 10 billion tons of salt. 10 billion! And yes, when we say salt, we mean salt. Like, regular ol’ table salt. The most abundant minerals on the salar are halite (which is common table salt) and gypsum, which is commonly used in things like drywall. There is a small local mining cooperative that extracts salt from the salar for use and export, but less than 25,000 tons are extracted every year. So there’s plenty of salt to go around!

The solid salt crust of the salar is, on average, a few meters thick. But it can be as thick as 30 feet in some places!

In addition to salt, the salar also contains between 50 and 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves.

The salar rests at an altitude of 11,995 feet above sea level. And it’s not perfectly flat. But it’s just about as flat as anywhere on earth. Recent measurements with sophisticated equipment tell us that although the salar spreads out over 4,000 square miles, its surface elevation varies by less than a single meter. Pretty dang flat!

The salar was formed some 40,000 years ago after a giant prehistoric lake called Lake Minchin completely dried up, leaving several areas of salt flats, including the salar itself.

As mentioned in the episode, there are roughly 35 islands out on the salar, including the incredible Inca Huasi island, which translates to mean “house of the Incas.”

The salar is a photographer’s wonderland. Seriously. Thanks to the flat, endless expanse of the salt flat there’s a natural lack of depth perception. Which means you can get really creative and take some super cool photos. Remember to bring props! We bought a small rubber dinosaur in the town of Uyuni for two dollars, and it turned into one of the best investments of our trip!

It’s not actually on the salar, but just on the edge of the salar near the town of Uyuni lies a train cemetery that is a heck of a sight to see, and a lot of fun to explore. Check out the video from our visit to the train cemetery, and learn more about it, here!

Sure hope y’all get the chance to visit Bolivia, and the Salar de Uyuni someday. It’s absolutely one of our favorite places on earth!

Until then, cheers y’all! And safe travels.

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