I could name tons of conventionally beautiful bodies of salt water that I’d love to dip my feet into: The Dead Sea, The Great Lakes, the Pacific Ocean, and so on. Salt flats, however, are an entirely different story — an otherworldly natural confection. Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, spanning over 4,000 square miles in Bolivia. Among cacti-lined islands and flamingo populations, the snow-white sea of salt looks as if it came straight out of a Salvador Dali painting. But this scene is no mirage- it’s a very real place that won’t disappear if you pinch yourself.
CRYSTALLIZED ANCIENT TEARS?
So how did 10 billion tons of crystalline salt come into existence? According to the legends of the local indigenous Aymaran people, the origin story of this sight for sore eyes is actually quite romantic. Legend has it that the mountains surrounding Salar de Uyuni, named Kusina, Kusku, and Tunupa, were once three legendary giants. Apparently, legends are just like us — the giants were stuck in a messy love triangle. When Kusku betrayed his wife Tunupa for Kusina, Tunupa cried a lake’s worth of tears, which dried into the salt flats. If only all heartbreak could produce such beauty.
SALAR DE UYUNI’S ORIGIN STORY
The actual answer is surprising: it does come from a different world, but one rooted in the earth rather than mystical legend. Salar de Uyuni is the remains of an evaporated prehistoric lake. When the climate got hotter, the water simmered away, leaving a sparkling white desert-like flat that stretches as far as the eye can see.
You’ll be happy to know this region of Bolivia is no longer sweltering enough to dry up an enormous prehistoric lake, but actually pleasantly temperate. For the most surreal experience, it’s recommended that you visit between March and April, the rainiest months. Salar de Uyuni is exquisite all year long, but after rainfall, the flat becomes reflective and you will literally look and feel like you are walking on clouds.
LEARN MORE ABOUT SALAR DE UYUNI
Thanks to Jackie Dorey for the post! <3