Salar de Uyuni
The world’s largest salt pan covers more than 10000 km² in the southwest of the country at an altitude of 3600 meters.
Originally, it was part of the vast Andean inland sea Lago Minchins, which dried up millions of years ago to several runoff-free lakes in the Altiplano, including Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni. It is said to contain up to ten billion tons of salt. About 25,000 tons of this salt are mined by hand every year. However, the lye under the salt layer, which can be up to 30 metres thick, is far more interesting from an economic point of view, as it is believed to contain more than half of the world’s lithium deposits.
These days, however, tourism in particular is bringing money to the bitterly poor, seemingly hostile region, with extreme conditions where only a few animal species such as the Andean flamingo are able to survive. Trips over the Salar, interrupted by shorter hikes on the small islands, whose cactuses form a harsh contrast to the snow-white salt pan, are an unforgettable experience.
In the town of Uyuni, tours are offered to the Salar de Uyuni, e.g. to the popular photo motif of the railway cemetery of Uyuni, where the worn-out locomotives are rusting, or to the islands Isla Incahuasi and Isla de los Pescaderos.
For all who want to travel further to Chile, there are tours (with two or three overnight stays) to San Pedro de Atacama. These take you through the Salar de Uyuni and further through the Altiplano, past several (partly blood-red) lagoons and with a detour to the geyser field “Sol de Mañana”. Before reaching the border, one crosses the so-called “Dalí Desert” and passes the Laguna Verde at the foot of the volcano Licancabur.