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Salar de Uyuni and Mt. Tunupa

Listed under Natural World in Bolivia.

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Covering an area of 4,680 square miles (12,121 sq km), Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat. At an elevation of 11,970 feet (3,650 meters) it is filled with an estimated 10 billion tons of salt. Contemporary maps usually name the salt flats Salar de Uyuni, for near their south-eastern border is the small town of Uyuni. Local people however, whose ancestors have lived nearby for hundreds of years, say its true name is linked not to Uyuni but to the sacred mountain of Tunupa. Rising like a mirage from the northern extremes of the Salar, the long extinct volcano of Tunupa is 17,700 feet high (5400 meters). There are no roads across the vast salt flats, only tracks left by the occasional jeeps which take travelers to view the other worldly place. In the middle of the Salar, piercing the blazing white, is the small island of Isla Inkahuasi. Also called Isla de Pescadores, its sharp crags of volcanic rock are as black as ink. The only evidence of island life are a profusion of tall, green cacti and dozens of shy rabbits with long, cartoon-like ears. Every November Salar de Uyuni is also the breeding grounds for three breeds of South American flamingos. There is something inexplicably magical about this unique place and simply by being there one experiences a state of inner peace. No effort must be made to reach this state, for the environment gives it to you.

Photos: Salar de Uyuni and Mt. Tunupa

More from Sacred Sites about Salar de Uyuni.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers


Had ours been the only tour car on the salt flats, it would have been great, but it really was ruined by the utterly ridiculous number of tourists. And it was difficult to fully appreciate what we were seeing when it felt like we belonged to a sort of tour car zoo. Possibly, if we'd gone during low season, it would have felt more secluded, but I was very disappointed with how touristy it had become. If you have time, I wouldn't say miss it out. I'd just be aware that it's not all its cracked out to be.

Salar de Uyuni & Lagunas Colorado & Verde

Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat is a pale, bare, bleached landscape. The desert of dried salt indicates there was once a large body of water in this southwest portion of Bolivia. Nearby are the Laguna Colorado and the Laguna Verde.

The Laguna Colorado is known as the home of flamingos whose bright pink feathers contrast nicely with the colour of the lagoon's water tinted by the colours of its plankton which the flamingos love to eat. The Laguna Verde is home to micro organisms which cause the lake's waters to change through various shades of green throughout the day it is also surrounded by extinct volcanoes.

Both lakes are a stunning contrast to the bleakness of Salar de Uyuni creating a truly unusual scenery.

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