The Uyuni Salt Flat is one of the top tourist attractions in Bolivia. The salt lake is located in the south-west of the country, close to neighboring Chile. With an area of around 11,000 km², the Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt lake in the world. The salt pan is at an altitude of 3,650m above sea level. About 40,000 years ago the Lake Minchin was at this place, which slowly dried up and turned into a salt desert. The salt crust is up to 90 m deep. Gases and sources can still be seen at the so-called ojos (eyes). The salt lake is around 135 kilometers wide and 112 kilometers long. The amount of salt in the Salar de Uyuni is estimated at 10 billion tons. Salt is broken down on the edge of the salt pan.
The salt lake was named after the city of Uyuni, which is located east of the lake. The town was built in 1889 as a military base in the Saltpeter War against Chile. Bolivia lost the war and lost its access to the sea. The small town with around 20,000 inhabitants now lives from tourism, which attracts visitors from all over the world. Uyuni is cold and dry, a difficult environment for plants. There are few trees to be seen in the city. The center is at the intersection of Av. Acre / Av. Potosi. There are bigger buildings and a beautiful clock tower there.
Uyuni is the starting point for tours on the salt lake. There are many hotels, shops and restaurants, an airfield and many tour operators who drive their off-road vehicles to the places worth seeing on the salt pan.
The Uyuni Railway Cemetery is the city's most famous attraction. The construction of the railway line was started in 1872 and was used to transport goods from the mines to the port of Antofagasta on the Pacific. After the war against Chile, the port city belonged to the neighboring country. From 1940 the mines were no longer profitable and the railway line was no longer needed. The trains were parked in Uyuni and have been rusting outside the city gates ever since.
The "Cementerio de trenes" railway cemetery is a popular photo opportunity for tourists and Uyuni's number 1 Instagram spot.
There are multi-day tours on the Salar de Uyuni. The accommodations are often very modest, better accommodations are usually available at an additional cost. There are slopes for all-terrain vehicles on the salt lake. The cheapest providers often have the worst vehicles and the most primitive accommodations. It's worth checking out the cars and accommodations before booking. You can find various providers on the Internet, where you can check the route, price and performance in advance.
The rainy season is between November and April, when a thin layer of water forms on the surface, transforming the lake into a gigantic mirror. If the water is not too high, you can still drive over the salt pan. Therefore, you can actually visit the Salar de Uyuni all year round.
Isla Incahuasi is located in the middle of the salt lake. It is the main attraction of the Salar de Uyuni. The island is significantly higher than the flat salt pan and offers a great view over the salt lake and the surrounding mountains. The Isla Incahuasi is well developed, there is a tourist center and hiking trails. The island is famous for its up to 10 m high cacti of the species Echinopsis atacamensis, which can live up to 1,000 years.
On the Salar de Uyuni there are other sights, such as the island of flags. Visitors from all over the world have left the flag of their homeland at this place. The result is a colorful sea of flags that has become a popular Instagran spot. The salt hotel and the salt production are also shown to tourists on most salt lake tours.
About 230 kilometers southwest of Uyumi is the area "Sol de la Manana" with the Laguna Colorada. A reddish lake with bubbling mud. If you drive a little further you come to Chile. A few kilometers across the border is a field of hot geysers that spray steam and boiling water into the sky. The El Tatio geyser is the most famous in the region.
Welcome to Uyuni
The Uyuni Salt Flat is one of the top tourist attractions of Bolivia. The barren area magically attracts adventurous tourists. The largest salt lake in the world and its surroundings offer great landscapes with impressive nature.