Photos of Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat, Bolivia

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Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat

In the Potosí Department in southwestern Bolivia, the small town of Uyuni was founded in 1890 as a trading post. It is 240 kilometres southwest of Potosí and lies at 3,670 metres above sea level at the edge of a large plain, with the world’s most extensive salt flats, the Salar de Uyuni, nearby. Uyuni is a railway junction with around 10,000 people, a vast street market, and, uniquely, a “train cemetery” with old, rusting steam locomotives.

Bus stop in Pelca
Valley along the road
Village of Pulacayo
Clocktower, Uyuni
Avenida Ferroviaria
Steam locomotive, Uyuni
Street market, Uyuni
Salt mine near Uyuni
Salt blocks
Shop from salt blocks
Tour vehicle
Hotel Luna Salada
Salt block furniture
In Hotel Luna Salada
Cacti, Isla de Pescadora
Isla de Pescadora view
Salt lake view
Isla de Pescadora
Salar de Uyuni
Salt lake reflections
Dam across salt lake
Quinoa field
View to San Juan
San Juan village
Houses in San Juan
Near San Juan
Llamas near San Juan
Llama portrait
View to Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni (also called Salar de Tunupa) is the world’s largest salt flat with an area of around 11,000 km² at an altitude of 3,650 metres. The site was part of Lake Minchin, a giant prehistoric lake about 40,000 years ago. Eventually, the lake dried up. It left behind two modern lakes, Lago Poopó and Lago Uru Uru, and two salt deserts: Salar de Coipasa and the larger Salar de Uyuni.

Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt, of which less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually, with pick and shovel. The salt lake is also a breeding ground for three species of South American flamingos. There are tracks connecting settlements around it and several “islands”, like Isla de Pescadores, with its cactus stands. One of the highlights is the unique Hotel Luna Salada, built entirely out of salt blocks, inside and out. Various travel companies offer trips by four-wheel-drive vehicles around the area.