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The Uyuni Salt Flat (Salar de Uyuni): Bolivia


Sweeping over 4,085 square miles of stark-white salt crust in southwest Bolivia, the Uyuni Salt Flat is the world’s largest expanse of encrusted salt.  The landscape is so flat, in fact, that the average altitude varies only within one meter.  It’s consistent flat surface is now used to calibrate Earth observational satellite altimeters.Ramblers who travel to the Salt Flat from the north will surely encounter unmaintained, dirt roads with vast rural landscapes and limited opportunities to provision.  Southern Bolivia’s roads were some of the roughest we encountered, so prepare yourself for the bumpy road ahead!  The town of Uyuni, however, has hostels and a large food market, as well as a few shops and internet cafes.  Don’t expect to find the greatest restaurants, accommodations, and speedy internet in Uyuni, but the bare minimum is available.

Camping out in the Salt Flat is an amazing opportunity.  Since there are only faint paths along the flats, drivers can roam in any direction they please, venturing out where only the white horizon can be seen from all sides.  The weather can be a bit cold and windy at night, but sunset, which is accented with a myriad of purples, blues, and reds, is a spectacular one, to say the least.

Make sure to check out the train cemetary during your visit to Uyuni – locals will point you in the right direction.  Rusty dilapidated trains lay in a deserted field about 3 km outside of town, serving as only a memory of the mining industry that thrived in Uyuni from the late 1800s to about the 1940s. Tourists congregate here for beautiful photo opportunities, and, climbing inside of these massive metal cars and engines, can discover the small details that make these old relics so extraordinary.   

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