pictures of the World:       Salar de Uyuni - Bolivia
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Salar de Uyuni


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Salar de Uyuni


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Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa) located in South-East Bolivia, altitude of 3,656 m, is the biggest salt flat in the world, 10,582 km2, much more than many countries. The area contains 64,000,000,000 tons of salt.
Salar means salt flat in Spanish and Uyuni means a pen (enclosure) in Aymara language. Salar de Uyuni can be translated as a salt flat with enclosures.
Aymara legend tells that the mountains Tunupa, Kusku and Kusina, which surround the Salar, were giant people. Tunupa married Kusku, but Kusku ran away from her with Kusina. Grieving Tunupa started to cry while breast-feeding her son. Her tears mixed with milk and formed the Salar.
Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, rich in lithium, 60% of the world's lithium reserves.
Altiplano de Bolivia includes fresh and saltwater lakes, and salt flats, surrounded by mountains with no drainage outlets
Some 30,00042,000 years ago, the area was part of a giant prehistoric lake, Lake Minchin.
During the wet season, lake Titicaca overflows and floods Salar de Uyuni.
Underneath the surface of the Salar is a lake of brine 2 to 20 meters deep. The brine is a saturated solution of natran chloride, lithium chloride, magnesium chloride. It is covered with a solid salt crust with a thickness varying between tens of centimeters to a few meters. The center of the Salar contains a few "islands", which are the remains of the tops of ancient volcanoes which were submerged during the era of lake Minchin. They include unusual and fragile coral-like structures.
The large area, clear skies and exceptional surface flatness make the Salar an ideal object for calibrating satellites routes.

main attractions:
  • Fish Island, an isolated ecosystem similar to an oasis in the Salar formed by a great number of cactuses taller than eight meters
  • volcanoes
  • geysers
  • Stone Tree
  • Red and Green Lagoons

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    Salar de Uyuni
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    train cemetery
    One major tourist attraction is an antique train cemetery. It is 3 kilometers outside Uyuni and is connected to it by the old train tracks. The town served in the past as a distribution hub for the trains carrying minerals enroute to Pacific Ocean ports. The rail lines were built by British engineers 1888-1892. It was constantly sabotaged by the local Aymara Indians who saw it as an intrusion into their lives. The trains were mostly used by the mining companies. In the 1940s, the mining industry collapsed, partly because of mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned, resulting in the train cemetery.
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    Salar de Uyuni
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    Salar de Uyuni
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    Salar de Uyuni
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    all pictures on this pages (c) Ina Nowarski

    7-11 April 2003



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