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Salar de Uyuni – Largest Salt Flat Desert in the World

Salar de Uyuni is located in the Daniel Campos Province in Potosí in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes at an elevation of 3,656 m (11,995 ft) above sea level. It is very famous for its mirror effects and hence sometimes also known as World’s biggest mirror. It is believed to be formed around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago due to the drying of prehistoric lakes in the crest of the Andes, mainly the Lake Minchin.

Salar de Uyuni is part of the Altiplano Plateau of Bolivia in South America. The plateau was formed due to the upliftment of the Andes mountains for past few thousand years. It is surrounded by mountains from all sides with no drainage outlet. It is one of the most visited place in South America with tourists coming from all over the World. More on National Geographic official Page.

Salar de Uyuni - Largest Salt Flat Desert in the World

Salar de Uyuni – Largest Salt Flat Desert in the World

Also Read: Glacier National Park – World’s First International Peace Park

  • The word Salar means salt flat in Spanish and Uyuni originated from the Aymara language which means a pen (enclosure).
  • Initially Salar de Uyuni was thought to be completely flat but later some undulations was found.
  • Salar de Uyuni is roughly 100 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States.
  • Salar de Uyuni is believed to have 11 layers of Salt with a thickness of 2 to 10 meters each.
  • It is estimated to contain around 10 billion tons of Salt.
  • Every year around 25,000 tons of salt are extracted from this area.
  • Around 7% of the World’s Lithium is condensed in Salar. It also contains a large amount of Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium.
  • When there is very thin layer of water then the surface perfectly reflects the clouds making it like a canvas.
  • Red Lagoon and Green Lagoon in the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve around the Salar region is quite popular.
  • The Salar serves as the prime breeding ground for several species of Flamingos.
  • Due to large area, clear skies and exceptional flat surface, Salar is the most ideal place for calibrating the altimeters of Earth’s Observation Satellites.
  • The features of Salar de Uyuni makes it about five times better for Satellite Calibration than the surface of an ocean.
  • It acts as a major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano.
  • The Salar is mostly void of any major vegetation and wildlife. It is mostly dominated by Giant Cacti.
  • The nights are usually cold with temperature between -9 and 5 °C with low relative humidity. The rainfall varies between different months. It can be as low as 1 to 3 mm per month between April and November and as high as 80 mm in January.
  • During day time, the surface reflectivity for Ultraviolet light is very high at 0.69 with some minor variations.
  • One of the major tourist attraction in this place is an antique train cemetery. It is 3 km (1.9 mi) outside Uyuni and is connected to it by the old train tracks.
  • In 1940s, the collapse of mining industries led the abandonment of trains producing the train cemetery. Government is planning to change this into a museum.
  • The first hotel constructed from the Salar Salt block was Palacio de Sal which was erected in 1993–1995.
  • Major bird species present in this area are horned coot, Andean goose, and Andean hillstar.
  • Although Bolivian government does not allow any mining operations by the Foreign corporations but has plan to reach an annual production of 35,000 ton by 2023 in a joint venture with ACI Systems Alemania GmbH.
  • Fatal incidents are not very uncommon here due to unsafe vehicles, inexperienced drivers, speeding and lack of regulation.

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