Stretched like a shimmering white carpet amidst Bolivia's Andes Mountainssits the world's largest salt flats - The Salar de Uyuni. Formed over 40,000 years ago, when the prehistoric Lake Minchin dried up, it is also home to pink flamingos, 1000 year-old cacti and rare hummingbirds.
Estimated to contain over 10 billion tons of salt across 4,000 square-feet, it is not only the world's largest, but at 3,700 meters (12,139ft.) above sea level, also the world's highest. For many years, the flats were just used by the locals for mining salt. However, since being named one of the 25 wonders of the world by The Rough Guide Series in 2007, it has become a popular tourist destination.
The area has also become a partial mining zone since the discovery of over 5.4mm tons or about half of the world's supply of lithium, about five years ago. The metal is not only an important component of all cell phone and computer batteries, but also, those of electric cars.
Visiting the flats is not for the faint of heart. To get there, visitors have to make a grueling 300 km journey on unpaved roads from Bolivia's capital, La Paz. Things are not much better after that - With very limited accommodation to choose from, most visitors are forced to lodge with the local residents who do not have running water, electricity or even, bathrooms!
But most tourists seem to be able to overcome these minor inconveniences, given how stunning the area is, and the fact that the rooms cost a mere $15 USD a night and include the opportunity to participate in local activities like shearing llamas or delivering salt blocks to remote villages in exchange for food and other necessities.
While the salt mines are fascinating, even more amazing are the structures, which are made out of salt - and that includes not only the walls but also, all the furniture inside.
The best times to visit the salt flats is between July and November, when it is dry. However, bear in mind that the Salar de Uyuni is a semi-desert and experiences extreme temperatures, which means that the days can get uncomfortably hot and nights - freezing cold. People who have been to the area say it's the most amazing thing they have ever experienced. After seeing the pictures and the video, we are inclined to agree. What do you think? Be sure to add your comments below!
Resources: dailymail.co.uk, wikipedia.org,newsscientists.org.