Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat measuring 10,582 sq km. Also called Salar de Tunupa, meaning “salt flat enclosure” in Spanish, it is located in the Daniel Campos Province in southwest Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni, formed as a result of transition of some of the ancient lakes, is a salt desert. The climate is the same all year round. The temperature can reach to a maximum of 20 degrees celsius during summer while the night temperatures ranges between -5 and 5 degrees throughout the year. Rainfall is scanty and the only source of water is from the nearby lakes.
The Salar de Uyuni sits at an altitude of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above sea level, near the crest of the Andes. The landscape is entirely flat with crust that is several meters thick which lies over a salty lake. During the dry season, the surface is made up of dry salt that appears like a sheet of hexagonal tiles. This pattern is formed owing to crystalline nature of the salt. In rainy season, the desert becomes a lake that is just six to twenty inches deep. During this time, saltness of the water and the salt layer under it, enables the light to be reflected ideally. This phenomenon makes it the largest mirror in the world.
The crust of Salar de Uyuni serves as a source of salt covering a pool of brine that is very rich in lithium. Around 50 to 70% of the world’s lithium is found here which is extracted on a large scale commercially. Around 11 billion tons of salt is believed to be present within Salar de Uyuni. This large and perfectly flat surface and clear skies makes it perfect for observing satellites. Inspite of the odd climate, it provides habitat to vegetation like cacti and to around 80 species of birds that include flamingos and rare hummingbirds.