What Bolivia’s Famous Salt Flats Look Like From Space

Bolivia’s famous Salar de Uyuni (salt flats) are breathtaking. From land, they stretch out over tens of thousands of kilometres of white, dehydrated earth, mirroring the changing hues of the sky. It’s no wonder thousands of tourists flock there each year.

Now, a satellite image, taken by Copernicus Sentinel-2B satellite in May and shared by the European Space Agency, has given us earth-dwellers a glimpse of what the salt flats look like from thousands of kilometres above – and it’s like some kind of abstract painting.

Uyuni_salt_flat_Bolivia
Photo: esa

Forty thousand years ago, the area was a large river that dried up and left a huge deposit of minerals behind. Now, Salar De Uyuni holds the largest concentration of lithium deposits in the world, meaning that as well as being home to a beautiful expansive landscape, it also shares a home with a bunch of different mineral extraction plants.

As Atlas Obscura points out, the out-of-place rectangular boxes look a lot like a computer glitch in the middle of a flawless white and turquoise sea.

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The ridges form as the salt crystallises from the evaporating water following the rains each year. Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa) is the world's largest salt flat at 10,582 km² (4,085 square miles)[1]. It is located in the Potosí and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, 3,650 meters high. The major minerals found in the salar are halite and gypsum. Some 40,000 years ago, the area was part of Lake Minchin, a giant prehistoric lake. When the lake dried, it left behind two modern lakes, Poopó Lake and Uru Uru Lake, and two major salt deserts, Salar de Coipasa and the larger Uyuni. Uyuni is roughly 25 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States. Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt, of which less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually. All miners working in the Salar belong to Colchani's cooperative. They work from dawn to dusk and most of them do not take a lunch break in order to take advantage of time, getting energy by chewing coca leaves. Every November, Salar de Uyuni is also the breeding grounds for three species of South American flamingos: the Chilean, James's and Andean flamingos. It is also a significant tourist destination; highlights include a salt hotel and several so-called islands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salar_de_Uyuni
Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Located in southwest Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni takes the title of world’s largest salt flats. From space or from land, we strongly suggest you see it at least once in your life.

(Lead image: Wikipedia Creative Commons)

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