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The Salt Desert of Uyuni, Bolivia

Travel guide > Uyuni


Located in western Bolivia are the famous salt flats, the Salar de Uyuni. These expansive flats have become quite a tourist destination over the years, both for their uniqueness and their beauty. You can't find any other place in the world that is quite like the Salar de Uyuni.

It is the world's largest salt flats, measuring in at more than 4,085 square miles. The area was not always made of salt, however. 40,000 years ago, there was a huge inland sea called Lake Minchin. As time wore on, the lake began to dry up. When it did, two lakes were left behind –Uru Uru Lake and Poopo Lake. In addition, there were two salt flats, the Salar de Coipasa and the much larger and far more famous Uyuni.

The salt flats have been a great boon to the people living in the area as well. Many people work to mine the salt, pushing it into huge piles so that it can be dried before it is brought to processing. About 25,000 tons of salt are removed each year, but with more than 10 billion tons of salt in the desert, there is no chance of running out of the stuff!

Besides just mining the salt, the people have realized just what a great tourist opportunity the salt flats could be if marketed correctly. Thus, a number of tours have grown up in the area, taking people to the salt flats as well as areas beyond, including the foothills of the Andes. It is for this reason that Uyuni is growing each year and becoming more and more popular with vacationers – and not only the adventurist that would have frequented the area in the past.

Nowadays, the area is a place that is friendly to tourists of all ages and nationalities. One can find lodging at incredibly low prices, as well as local goods and handicrafts at reasonable prices.

This is an incredible place to visit. Besides just the salt flats, you can visit a number of "islands" in the sea of salt, as well as the salt hotel. Another draw for quite a few tourists is the flamingos that congregate for breeding in certain areas around Uyuni. One can find Andean, James's, and Chilean flamingos.

If taking a tour of Bolivia, you may want to think about stopping and seeing the salt desert. It is unlike anything you've ever seen.

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Last Updated 04 July, 2008 - 11:55 AM -0400

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