Wild Weather Has Turned Bolivia’s Salt Flats Into a Work of Art

While Bolivia’s Salt Flats have always been a wonder to behold, their recent weather-related transformations are mesmerizing. Read more about why in this recent piece from Atlas Obscura.

Stretching nearly 4,000 square mile across the altiplano at an elevation of about 12,000 feet, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni usually looks, to a satellite, like a whole lot of nothing: flat, white, featureless. The world’s largest salt flat is, of course, much livelier from the ground. It hosts large numbers of breeding flamingoes each November and is home to other species adapted to the salty surroundings, including several other birds and the adorably plump, bunny-eared viscacha, a rodent related to chinchillas. During the wet austral summer, typically light seasonal rainfall collects in a thin layer atop the salt crust. It creates a stunning mirror effect, famously drawing a different kind of wildlife, as off-road caravans of tourists turn up seeking selfies.

This year, however, extreme weather has stirred up a lot of trouble for those interested in the salt flat, or playa. High levels of precipitation have caused flooding, scuttling many tours and potentially disrupting the near-future plans of other people who like to snap images of the landscape: remote sensing scientists.

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