Salar of Uyuni is the largest salt mine in the world. It is located in the department of Potosi in the southwest of Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, at an altitude of 3650 meters above sea level, with 10 582 km² (4085 square miles).
In the center is a group of islets, the most important of all is the Isla del Pescado, which is characterized by its huge cactus and houses some services. You can hire excursions from the town of Uyuni, and there is also the possibility to go from the city of Atacama (in Chile) through the Andes mountain range.
The Salar of Uyuni is the largest continuous salt desert in the world, with an area of 12,000 km². The salt is distributed in 11 layers ranging from 2 to 10 meters thick. The salt is about 120 meters deep.
It is estimated that the Salar of Uyuni contains 10 billion tons, of which less than 25,000 tons are extracted annually.
Salar de Uyuni, contains very important compounds for basic and industrial chemistry. There are approximately 11 layers of salt, with thicknesses ranging from less than one meter to ten meters. The crust that is on the surface has a thickness of 10 meters. The depth of the salt is 120 meters, which is composed of layers of superimposed brine and lake mud. This brine is composed of lithium, boron, potassium, magnesium, carbonates (borax) and sodium sulfates. A very interesting mineral is the ulexite, the stone television. It is transparent and has the power to refract the image of what is below to the surface of the stone. This salt is considered the largest reserve of lithium, although it is very difficult to extract due to lack of water.
The Salar de Uyuni becomes, at the beginning of every year, the largest mirror in the world. A gigantic extension, that reflects the light creating impossible optical effects. The earth and the sky merge in a unique way in the world, the horizon is diluted and the perspective is lost. For us, that is the Salar de Uyuni best time to go.
In summer, between January and February, it can be extended to the first week of March. During this time, there are generous rains in the Bolivian highlands, turning the Salar de Uyuni into something like a gigantic lake less than a foot deep. It should be noted that this phenomenon depends exclusively on the weather and rainfall, so that its appearance can not be completely guaranteed.
The best time to glimpse the mirror effect is from mid-January to the end of February. In this period, the rains that flood the salt are concentrated and produce this visual effect. It is important to keep in mind that in this period it is more likely to see the mirror effect, but it is not safe, because the weather conditions may vary from season to season.
To visit in depth the Salar de Uyuni it is advisable to take an excursion. In Uyuni there are several travel agencies that carry out this type of tours. The most typical Salar de Uyuni tours are one or three days.
Remember that during this Salar de Uyuni tours you reach very high levels and the altitude can cause headaches and fatigue. It is convenient that you spend a few days in San Pedro de Atacama to acclimatize yourself, if after three days there you continue with the symptoms, it is better to lower altitude and go to the doctor.
The 1 day tour is for all those who do not have more time to visit. In this excursion Colchani and the Hotel de Sal are visited and a part of the Salar can be appreciated.
The 3 day excursion is more complete, you sleep in accommodations prepared to receive tourists in small places. The 3-day tours include all meals. It does not include the entrances to the Reserves and Natural Parks.
On the first day you visit the Cemetery of Trains, Colchani, Hotel de Sal, Isla Pescado and you cross the salar to spend the night in a nearby town.
On the second day you leave the Salar de Uyuni to enter the Altiplano and the Eduardo Abaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve to visit the viewpoint of the Ollagüe Volcano, Piedra tree, the lagoons such as Hedionda, Chiar Kkota, Honda and Colorada.
On the third day, very early, we visit the Sol de Mañana geysers, the thermal baths, the Salar de Chalviri, Dalí Valley, Laguna Verde and the Licancabur Volcano. On the way back to Uyuni, we pass through Valle de las Rocas, Villamar and Culpina and San Cristóbal.
The creation of the Salar de Uyuni hotel in Bolivia, was in 1998 by the crazy initiative of a gentleman man, Juan Quesada Valda, pioneer in the salt hotels in the world. Juan's innovative and creative idea of building a hotel 100% salt (walls, ceilings, tables, chairs and others) was materialized in what he called the Salt Palace. Of unique architecture and suigeneris, its goal was to provide visitors to salt a place where to find the balance with nature and enjoy a pleasant and unforgettable break. For 2004 the Salar de Uyuni hotel was moved to the banks of the salt with the sole intention of offering a service according to the demands of customers. Since then the exotic, the modern and the autochthonous, combine to create, over more than 4,500 square meters, the first salt hotel in the world, in a tourist attraction worth knowing.