The Uyuni Salt Flats and Potosi
The Salar de Uyuni
The Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flats) is, quite simply, breathtaking. It is the largest salt desert on the globe and seeing it is an unforgettable experience. Like a white carpet shimmering between far-off snow-capped peaks, it is home to cacti that are a thousand years old, pink flamingos, rare hummingbirds and hotels that are built completely from blocks of salt.
The flats, at 10,582 km squared, are believed to be the world's largest bed of lithium and Bolivia is hoping it will be a great source of income as it is used in the production of rechargeable batteries. It is to be hoped that the environmental impact will be gentle as it's an area of unparalleled natural beauty: a semi-desert surrounded by volcanic craters, rock formations and glaciers.
Potosi, built after silver was discovered in 1544, is believed to be the highest city on the planet. The silver mines were a source of great income for the Spanish, with approximately two billion ounces extracted in the Colonial period. The mines also had a noted effect on the indigenous people who were used as enforced (and cheap) labor.
The town is a fascinating stop on your Bolivia tour, with both religious and civil structures built to dazzle, the silver mines and the "Casa de la Moneda." Part of the city's charm is also due to the colorful and handmade clothing worn by the local residents. Because of its historical and cultural importance, it was declared part of the "Cultural Patrimony of Humanity" by UNESCO.
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