Salar de Uyuni — an arid, windswept salt flat in southwestern Bolivia — is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable vistas on earth. Part of the Altiplano, the Salar serves as the major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano and is a major breeding ground for several species of flamingos.
At 10,582 sq km (4,086 sq mi), Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat. An arid, windswept landscape in southwestern Bolivia, it is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable vistas on earth.
Part of the Altiplano, the Salar serves as the major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano and is a major breeding ground for several species of flamingos. At certain times of the year, nearby lakes overflow and a thin layer of water transforms the flats into a stunning reflection of the sky.
The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average elevation variations within 1 m (3.3 ft) over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50% to 70% of the world's known lithium reserves.
Located at the crux of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, Salar de Uyuni is part of the Altiplano of Bolivia in South America. The Altiplano is a high plateau, which was formed during uplift of the Andes mountains. The plateau includes fresh and saltwater lakes as well as salt flats and is surrounded by mountains with no drainage outlets.
The Salar is also a climatological transitional zone since the towering tropical cumulus congestus and cumulonimbus incus clouds that form in the eastern part of the salt flat during the summer cannot permeate beyond its drier western edges, near the Chilean border and the Atacama Desert.
The area has a relatively stable average temperature with a peak at 21 °C (70 °F) in November to January and a low of 13 °C (55 °F) in June. The nights are cold all through the year, with temperatures between −9 °C (16 °F) and 5 °C (41 °F). The relative humidity is rather low and constant throughout the year at 30% to 45%. The rainfall is also low at 1 mm to 3 mm (.03 to .12 in) per month between April and November, but it may increase up to 80 mm (3 in) in January.
The Salar is virtually devoid of any wildlife or vegetation. The latter is dominated by giant cacti (Echinopsis atacamensis pasacana, Echinopsis tarijensis, etc.). They grow at a rate of about 1 cm/a to a height of about 12 m. Other shrubs include Pilaya, which is used by locals to cure catarrh, and Thola (Baccharis dracunculifolia), which is burned as a fuel. Also present are quinoa plants and queñua bushes.