GPS: -20.165603632806, -67.403522596344
Visiting Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flat), situated on the Bolivian Altiplano (high plain) at an altitude of over 3,600 metres, travellers will find a salt flat that lies at the heart of the mountain ridges of the Andes. This white and uniformly flat desert covers an area of over 10,000 km² in a region with austere living conditions. Appreciated for its natural beauty, its absolute silence and its optical illusions, Salar de Uyuni represents an area as vast as Lebanon or Jamaica. Its salt plain is full of mineral resources. It forms the largest terrestrial salt reserve in the world and its subsoil contains the largest lithium deposits on the planet.
At the beginning of the geological era of the Pleistocene, around 2.5 million years ago, Salar de Uyuni was covered by an inland sea. This was trapped by the sudden uprising of the Bolivian Andes and ended up in two gigantic salt lakes in the south of the country (Minchin and Tauca). During the prehistoric era, about 40,000 years ago, these lakes gradually dried up to form a salt desert which included Salar de Uyuni and Salar de Coipasa (5 times smaller than the Uyuni Salt Flat). Only a little further north of Salar de Uyuni, in the Oruro Department, are two small salt lakes (Poopó and Uru Uru lakes). These small lakes are remnants of the initial large saltwater basin.
The expanses of Salar de Uyuni create an unreal, incredibly white landscape with an immaculate horizon stretching as far as the eye can see. Covered by several volcanoes, the southern part of Salar de Uyuni is home to the highest salt lakes in the world. These wetlands provide a natural habitat for Andean flora and fauna, including flamingos that gather here in their thousands to breed. Every year, between January and April, the flat surface of the desert is covered with a thin layer of water, creating a bewitching mirror effect. Characterised by its arid environment, this Bolivian province of Sur Lípez is the highest inhabited region in the world after the Tibetan plateau. Together with Salar de Atacama (Chile) and Salar del Hombre Muerto (Argentina), the salt flat of Salar de Uyuni forms the Lithium Triangle. This white desert, attached to the Puna de Atacama (or Atacama Plateau with a size of 180,000 km²), is coveted by the largest multinationals for its mining resources. Nothing could be less surprising when one knows that this immense desert contains more than half of the world’s lithium reserves.