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The salar of Uyuni
country : Bolivia
place : south-west of the country

Your exploration will begin at the town of Uyuni, that seats on the edge of the salt desert near the border with Chile, at an altitude of 3,670 m. (12,040 f.) above sea level.
A four-day tour will cost you around U$D 100, plus park's entrance fee and tips to the guide.
You are better off by carrying some cash with you, small denominatons either Bolivars if Dollars and, of course, your camera gear by all means.
And talking about photography, see how both Bolivia and Chile look like from Space at South America through Astronaut Photography.
Salar de Uyuni has an average annual temperature between 20 degrees Celsius and -25 C. in winter.
From July to November the salt bed is very dry while in summer (November to March), being the rainy season, you might find it inundated, which makes the whole experience even more surreal.
A very unique South America vacation...

Antarctica might look somewhat like this at a glance, but it doesn't have the sheer flatness over an area of 10,000 square kilometers. Perhaps, then, it's more like an extraterrestrial planet with no people – just a windswept, briny atmosphere, thin in oxygen because of its height. But no – this vast expanse is right here on earth in one of our South American countries, Bolivia. It is Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats – and one of the most amazing sights – in the world.

Millennia ago, about 30,000 years or a little more, there was one big lake, Lake Minchin. It changed through different geological processes and ended up as two freshwater lakes and two saltwater lakes, one of those being Uyuni.

As time went by, Uyuni developed a thick salt crust of brine on top composed of lithium, magnesium and table salt.

Today, the salt is scraped up from the sheer flat surface of the flats into piles where it dries better and is easier to cart away. Some of the crust goes down meters into the brine; in other places it is just a few inches, as you can see below.

Half of the world's lithium in to be found in the brine under Uyuni's salt flats; this is extracted for use in batteries and medicines. Tourism is also one of Bolivia's biggest sources of income, and the salt flats are a must stop for most. Tourists get to stay in salt hotels: the first one built closed in 2002 because a few environmental regulations were forgotten – like what to do with waste materials – but others have been opened closer to the edge of the flats where there are roads to cart off the waste. Big blocks of salt became the bedrock of the hotels as this was the most readily available building material around. Below the man is cutting the blocks for construction.

There are also several lakes in the area that flood during the rainy season, sending cascades of water to cover Salar de Uyuni.

When it is covered in a sheet of water it becomes the largest mirror in the world.

Not only does the Salar provide salt, lithium, halide and gypsum, the proceeds of which the locals who pile it up get to divvy up as part of their cooperative; no, astronauts use the flats as well! It is one of the highest and largest flats on earth, and is smoothed from flooding every season – dissolving bumps and interference – so is ideal to use for calibrating the location of satellites.

The sun slowly sets on the flats, the golden colors shimmering back from the ground, making the whole lake look like it has turned into a fairies' party ground with fairy lights everywhere. It is a remarkable sight that is seen nowhere else in the world, nor probably in the universe.

Salar de Uyuni Attractions:
Isla de los Pescadores (Inca Huasi): Amazing place full of giant cacti that rises 150 meters above the surface of the salt lake.It also has archaeological remains from the Tiwuanaku and Inca civilizations.
Isla Cáscara de Huevo (Eggshell island)
Tunupa and Jiriri volcanoes
Laguna Colorada (Red laggon)
Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon)
Hotel de Sal (Salt hotel). Almost entirely built with salt, including furniture.

Salar de Uyuni is a fantasy world of its own you shouldn't miss.
As much as no tour to Peru would be complete without a visit to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, your Bolivia travel experience should include a visit to Salar de Uyuni, one of the greatest natural wonders in the heart of South America.

How to Get There:
By Air:
From Cochabamba (Bolivia) there are a couple of weekly flights with Líneas Aereas Canedo- around U$250 return. Check before as the Uyuni air strip was under remodeling last year.

Update (04-2011): The new airstrip is operational, with a length of 4km. According to the Bolivian government, Uyuni Airport will turn international by 2012.

By Bus:
From La Paz: around 12 hours ride.
From Potosi: 7 hours.
From Oruro: 4 hours.
There are also buses from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

By Train:
Uyuni town is an important transport hub in the region and several lines cross it.
If coming from Argentina, take a train at Villazon, border with Bolivia. Around four times a week at the price of U$D8.00.
There is also a train connection from/to Calama, Chile.

Where to Stay:
Tonito Hotel: Ferroviaria 60, Uyuni. ph. 591 2 (693 3186)
Hotel Julia: Corner of Ferroviario and Arce, Uyuni
Hotel Avenida: Ferroviaria 11, Uyuni. ph. 693-2078
Hostal Sajama: Potosí 35, Uyuni. ph. 693-3099

Source: http://www.unique-southamerica-travel-experience.com, http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com



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