Machete Tours - Peruvian Travel Ecotourism - Peru and Latin American Tour Operator

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The biggest salt lake in the world

By Karin Schill

(17/12/2015) Salar de Uyuni in Southwest Bolivia is the largest salt lake in the world. It is a fantastic nature phenomenon with a fauna and flora that must be experienced in real life. This area is also important for mining of salt and lithium.

Peru and Bolivia Tour

The salt lake in Uyuni is located on the Bolivian Altiplano at an altitude of approx. 3650 meters above sea level. This nature phenomenon was created when a pre-historic lake dried out about 20 000 years ago. It formed two minor lakes and two salt lakes. Lake Poopó is a smaller lake located right next to Lake Titicaca, which means that when it flows over in the rain season it sometimes floods the salt lakes as well.

The salt lake in Uyuni covers an area of 10 582 km², which makes it into the worlds’ largest salt lake. The area is covered with salt water which is rich on Magnesium and Lithium. Approximately 50 % of all the Lithium in the world can be found here. Each year the mineral is mined to be used in Lithium batteries. Each year they also mine 25 000 tone salt. The salt water lake is covered with a several meters thick crust that contains of salt. The salt crust is white-brown in color and has a special pattern, which has been created due to the pressure of the water underneath it. The salt lake is specific for the area and when you visit it you get the feeling that you are standing in the middle of a lake covered with ice in the winter, rather than in a dessert. On some places the crust is thinner and there you can cut it open and search for salt crystals.

In the outskirts of the salt lake you can visit the old train cemetery. It is located 3 km outside of Uyuni. Here you can find old steam locomotives and railroad wagons from the 19th century. The trains were abandoned in the 1940s when the mining industry in Bolivia collapsed. In the middle of the salt lake you can also find several islands. Most famous is Incahuasi Island, where large cactuses grow. They can reach 12 meters in height. The salt lake is also a breeding ground for 80 different species of birds. The most famous is the pink flamingos.

The salt lake in Uyuni is the second most visited tourist attraction in Bolivia. Tourism is increasingly important for the region as it employs a lot of people. The best time of the year to visit the salt lake is in between November and January when it’s summer in the region. The average temperature is 21 degrees Celsius in the daytime during these months. However the nights are still cold so it’s important to bring a jacket or sweater for your visit.

If you want to travel to the salt lake in Uyuni we can recommend our Peru and Bolivia Tour You can either travel there on your own or together with a group.