Uyuni salt marsh, the flattest place on Earth

Uyuni Solonchak: Walking in the celestial mirror

The Uyuni salt marsh was the main goal of my trip to Bolivia. This place had been on my “where Leova wants to go” list for a long time, and remained almost the last item on it. I saw a lot of different pictures of these places, and I still couldn’t decide when it’s better to go, in the dry or wet season. But in the end, I was lucky to have an opportunity to travel now, at the beginning of the year, to catch the saline marsh in its unique state, when it is a huge mirror of ten thousand square kilometers.

The reflection of the clouds underfoot is exactly what thousands of tourists come here for this season. So, come with me, stomping through the beautiful Bolivian sky! 1. Uyuni is the largest salt marsh in the world. It is located in the southwest of the country, and is part of the Altiplano high plain. Its altitude is 3,650 m above sea level. Several tens of thousands of years ago there was a huge salt lake Minchin. The fact that Altiplano is surrounded by high mountains, and the water does not drain away into the ocean, it is so called “undrained area”. The climate changed, and all the water from the lake evaporated, leaving a thick layer of salt on the ground. Now it is a huge white spot, which can be seen from space. Moreover, its size and flatness are used to tune satellite instruments!

The area of the salt marsh is more than 10 thousand square kilometers. By the way, there are sort of similar places in the world – for example, the Bonneville salt marsh in the U.S. state of Utah. But all of them are much smaller than Uyuni.

2. it’s as dry as a desert most of the year.The surprisingly flat, white surface stretches to the horizon. It is covered with uniform “scales” of polyhedrons, a result of the drying of salt crystals.

3. the thickness of the salt layer here is several meters. On the surface itself, the crystals are small and densely packed, while below they become larger and more granular.

4. Water is present in the salt marsh all the year round, but during the dry season, its level is low, and it hides under the surface of the salt layer. Sometimes you can find a hole here, in the depth of which you can see the water level even in the dry months.

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5. But during the rainy season there is much more water. Its level rises three to five centimeters above the surface over the entire area of the salt marsh. That’s when you get that amazing mirror-like effect.

6. Local guides say that it is impossible to predict exactly what months the salt marsh will be under water. Most often it is January and February, but it is not guaranteed. There were cases when December was “wet”, and by the end of January everything had already dried up. There were cases when the salt marsh was flooded only in the second half of February.

But it is not enough to raise the water level. It was necessary to catch flooded solonchak in good weather to see the mirror effect. If it is raining during your visit, or even a breeze is blowing, you will only be able to see ripples on the water surface and there will be no reflection.

7. I don’t know how rare this phenomenon is, but in case the weather wasn’t on our side on the first day, we had two days planned for our program in Uyuni. However, we were immediately lucky, and arriving at the salt marsh after visiting rusty steam trains, we saw a beautiful calm surface, in which the clouds and mountains were reflected. In the distance on the horizon, space was furrowed by black dots of local off-road vehicles.

8. Without long thinking our drivers too have directed the cars to water. It was necessary to decrease the speed.

9. “When it’s dry here, we race at 100 km/h, but you shouldn’t go faster than ten on the water.” – Because of this, we were not taken to the island, which is in the middle of the salt marsh. It’s too long to get to it.

10. It is so shallow that when the car is standing still, the water is almost invisible – the wheels are almost entirely visible.

However, at speed, you can see the salt water splashing from the car in different directions. In general, photos of jeeps on the surface of this mirror, against the sky and mountains are the most successful shots. There are quite a few of these in this post, and this I still forced myself to sift out many of them!

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But to ride the car is certainly great, but I want to walk on these beauties with my feet! For this we were given a great rubber boots.

13. All immediately scattered who where, in search of the best photo angles.

14. By the way we could walk barefoot without boots. I tried it. The water is warm.

15. However, the surface of the salt marsh was not very pleasant for bare feet: the salt crystals turned out to be quite sharp, and stabbed my soles. In short, I finished this experiment very quickly.

16. Do you remember those pits, like in the picture (4)? Now they were completely underwater. They are quite deep and wide enough that you can fall through with your foot if you don’t look where you’re going. I don’t think it would be easy to drown in them, though.

17. The drivers drove us away from the other cars. Luckily the salt marsh is big and there is enough room for everyone. Look how beautiful it is.

18. Of course, against such a backdrop, we should immediately start taking funny pictures. We have saved a lot of these, I will not bore you with them.

19. It’s nicer to take pictures of people and cars from a distance. In these photos, the horizon line is completely lost.

20. If you go to Uyuni, take red clothing! They are in perfect harmony with the blue and white backdrops of the salt marsh!

21. Someone pulled a folding table with stools out of the car and sat down to lunch. This, by the way, is one thing you don’t think about beforehand, but when you’re walking around a huge shallow lake, there’s absolutely nowhere to sit down if you’re suddenly tired.

22. Turns out our drivers made us lunch, too. And not just like that, but in the shade of the tarpaulin stretched between the jeeps (which was very helpful, because the sun was getting very hot).

23. After lunch, the guides said they would clean up and suggested we walk over to those dark figures on the horizon. We amicably strode through the shallow water in that direction.

24. It appeared to be a few kilometers away. It is difficult to estimate the distance on equal space. In the end we were walking about forty minutes.

25. These low buildings turned out to be a former hotel made of salt, which was built on a small hill. I understood it wasn’t working now, but inside the building you could still go to the bathroom or buy something to eat or drink. These buildings reminded me of Burning Man Central Camp, a place where people flocked from all over who didn’t quite know where else to go.

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26. In front of the entrance there is a whole battery of flags of different countries. By the way, surprisingly, there was no American flag here.

27. Here is the room from the inside. The walls and columns here are made of salt bricks. It is quite stuffy inside and not very ventilated. But there is a small bar (prices are not the most humane, but if you suddenly feel like a beer).

28. In one corner someone drew a Soviet flag and wrote “Stalin for Everyone”. Fools everywhere!

29. Not far from the hotel there is a local monument, I think it was put up during the Dakar Rally.

30. Like I said, this salt hotel serves as a tourist attraction – it’s pretty crowded. Even here, a bride came to have her picture taken!

31. Well we didn’t come to the salt marsh to mingle with the tourists, so we quickly drove away from these houses to continue enjoying the beautiful views of the mirror surface.

32. The sun began to gradually decline toward sunset, and dark clouds appeared on the horizon. After a full day of great weather, a thunderstorm was coming our way.

33. However, looking back, the sky was a welcoming blue and the clouds looked fluffy and harmless.

34. And toward the setting sun, a whole drama of two skies was unfolding!

35. By the way, I think the best pictures of the Uyuni Solonchak are when there is a clear reflection of the sky in the water and a human silhouette hanging in the middle. Without that, the pictures look too abstract.

36. Although, silhouettes of cars look good in this context, too.

37. Evening was coming, the clouds began to give off the golden colors of sunset, and the clouds finally reached us.

38. But we decided that we would wait until sunset, since it wasn’t so long before sunset.

39. And then lightning began to flash over the salt hotel one by one. They came regularly, every 20 or 30 seconds. Don’t think that I was so lucky to get it the first time – no, there was just so much lightning that after many attempts I got a little lucky.

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This sight got us a little excited – after all, we were standing in the middle of a completely open space.

“Isn’t that dangerous,” someone asked the guides.

“No!” they reassured us. “We’ve been working here for years, in rain and thunderstorms. Never had any problems.”

40. Hearing these words, our brave team calmed down a bit, and decided to wait for sunset after all.

41. 41. When the sun had already touched the horizon it still rained. The reflections in the water immediately disappeared – once again emphasizing how important it was to get into good weather.

After sunset, we got in our cars and drove back to town for dinner. We had to go to bed early so we could get back to the salt marsh at sunrise. But I’ll tell you about that next time.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Lake Uyuni Salt Lake is one of the most interesting, unusual, and fascinating lakes in Bolivia, and it is not at all because it is a lake, but because it is completely different from our usual understanding of a lake. It is known all over the world because its area is 10,582 km² and it is considered the largest salt lake in the world.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Sometimes, while traveling in the most forgotten and abandoned place on the planet, where no people should live, in the desert at an altitude of almost 4,000 meters, you can stumble upon a truly unforgettable spectacle. Just imagine – a huge, solid lake of Uyuni, with an area of more than 10,000 square kilometers, the surface of which is mirror-like, almost completely flat. Once you find yourself in such a place, you can feel like you are on another planet.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

But as soon as you bend down and try to taste what’s under your feet, everything becomes very clear-it’s salt! A mountain of salt, a sea of salt, a desert of salt – this is the Uyuni Salt Pond, ten billion tons of salt!

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

So, Salar de Uyuni is a dried up salt lake in the south of the Altiplano Desert Plain, Bolivia at an altitude of about 3,650 m above sea level. It has an area of 10,582 km² and is the largest salt marsh in the world. It is located near the city of Uyuni in the departments of Oruro and Potosi in the southwest of the country.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

The Uyuni Salt Lake is itself a virtually dried up salt lake that is located in the south of the Altiplano Desert Plain, more specifically around the city of Uyuni in departments such as Oruro and Potosí. The most important mineral resources that this lake has, and more specifically the minerals that it contains are halite and gypsum. The entire lake itself is one big clump of salt, which is all along its bottom and runs to a depth of 8 meters, which is why during the rainy season in Bolivia the lake is filled with not much water and forms one large, or rather the largest mirror in the world. From an economic point of view, this salt marsh is very important for Bolivia because of its enormous salt reserves, which are still being extracted today. Altogether there are about 10 billion tons of salt in this one lake.

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Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Lake Solonchak Uyuni Lake Solonchak Uyuni

The interior of the Uyuni is covered by a layer of table salt 2-8 meters thick. During the rainy season, the salt marsh is covered by a thin layer of water and turns into the world’s largest mirror.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Salt in Uyuni Salt Pond is used not only for food and souvenirs for curious tourists. They even build with it, and literally everything inside the rooms is made of salt – beds, benches, tables. Groups who come here with overnight have a chance to spend the night in the unique salt hotel, it costs about $ 20 per night.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

The only thing that is forbidden to do inside such buildings, though it is very desirable – to lick all around. But, after the furnishings disappeared, the owners have forbidden to drive themselves that way, and have posted notices all around: “no licking!”

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Uyuni Saltmarsh. This is one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. A magnificent area with imposing salt deserts, with active volcanoes, with islands of cacti and geysers. And it’s all like alien landscapes.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

Giant petrified trees.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

And lots of saltwater pyramids.

Lake Solonchak Uyuni

The uniqueness of Lake Uyuni is used even in space – because of its large size, flat surface and high albedo with a thin layer of water, and minimal height deviation, Uyuni Salt Lake is an ideal tool for testing and calibrating remote sensing instruments on orbiting satellites. The clear skies and dry air of Uyuni make it possible to calibrate satellites five times better than if the ocean surface were used.

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