Sunday, August 14, 2011

Top 50 Places I Want To Visit #50: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Since I made the mistake of starting this blog almost three months before my actual traveling starts, I'll make this list of the top 50 places I'd like to visit to fill the time between now and November 1st and also to whet the traveling appetite.

Coming in at number 50 is Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

A part of the Bolivian Altiplano, Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat. This looks like something from a completely different planet. Not only is it just plain cool by itself, but also for parts of the year, it gets covered with about an inch of briny water and becomes the largest, most awesome reflection pool in the world:

The flat is formed by years of layering of water and salt in what was a prehistoric lake. It's so flat that it is used to calibrate distance measurement devices in satellites - in all of its 4,086 square miles it only varies in altitude by less than a meter. Since it used to be a lake, there are some really cool "islands" spotting the surface.

These islands support all kinds of unique plants and animals, such as this Viscacha:

The flat itself is a major breeding grounds for flamingos:

There's also a really neat train graveyard left over from mineral distribution lines built by British engineers in the 19th century. The lines fell out of use partly because the local Aymara natives saw it as an intrusion on their lives and made serious efforts to shut down the operation, but mostly because of mineral depletion.

So where do you stay when you visit? Try one of these hotels made completely from blocks of salt:

Bottom line, this would be a sweet place to visit. Maybe as a part of a South America/Andes trip. Totally on my to do list.

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