journey to uyuni
In January 2012, I visited northern Chile and Bolivia, and joined a three day Land Cruiser tour over the Andes, from the Atacama Desert to the salts flats at Uyuni.
The Atacama Desert is considered to be one of the driest places on Earth, and covers a 1000 km strip of land in northern Chile between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains. Average rainfall is about 15 mm per year. Some have compared the Atacama and its otherworldly appearance to that of Mars. The majority of tourists stay in the town of San Pedro de Atacama, and visit the many sights surrounding the town, including El Tatio geyser, Valle de la Luna, and Laguna Verde salt lake.
The journey over the mountains includes visits to natural hot springs, pink coloured, flamingo populated, high altitude salt lakes like Laguna Colorado, and drives across snow covered plateaus. Temperatures vary greatly from over 30 degrees celsius in the desert, to below freezing in the mountains.
Arriving at the world's largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, in the summer months during the wet season, is a magical experience. The salt flats are covered in a thin layer of water, that creates a mirror-like appearance to the landscape. Uyuni sits at an elevation of more than 3600 metres (12,000 feet), and is covered in metres thick layers of salt crust. It has an extraordinary flatness, which is used to calibrate altimeters for Earth observation satellites. The Salar also holds more than half of the world's known lithium reserves.