A spot of reflection is always good for the soul. And judging by these pictures, there’s plenty of room for that. For this is the world’s largest natural mirror, created when a thin film of water gathers on a vast plain of salt deposits. So magnificent is the dream-like sight that the salt pans in the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia have been dubbed ‘heaven on earth’ where people can walk through the clouds.
Photographer Takaki Watanabe captured a series of pictures of spellbound travelers as they took in natural wonder and played around with their reflections.
Mirror, mirror: A number of tourists enjoy the stunning sights of the salt flats in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, where the mineral deposits create the world’s biggest natural mirror
Takaki journeyed to the Potosm and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, where the magnificent sight can be found at an elevation of 11,995 feet above sea level. The amazing natural phenomenon is created when small amounts of water flood the plain makes it appear like people are walking on the sky. The salt flats stretch 6,500 miles making them the biggest in the world.
And just in case you still think these images are photoshopped, check out this amazing video:
Floating: A woman appears to be walking in the clouds as she stands on the salt flats in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, where the rare natural phenomenon of rainfall, the climate and salt creates a mirror
Pearly gates: The region has been dubbed ‘heaven on earth’ because of the way people like this appear to be walking in the clouds – just like heaven is portrayed
Stunning: These two people appear to be hanging above the clouds in the picture taken by photographer Takaki Watanabe
Posing: This group of women have their picture taken as they each stand on one leg and their reflection shines below them. The giant mirror stretches 6,500 miles
The South American geological wonder is so flat NASA use its surface to calibrate satellite orbits. Salt pans occur in areas which would otherwise be lakes or ponds if the climate did not evaporate the water quicker than the rate of rainfall. The result if the liquid can’t drain is massive deposits of minerals.
But despite the dry nature of Salar de Uyuni – there is a rare phenomenon when a true natural wonder brings the desert to life. The Salar as well as being stunning also contains the highest concentration of lithium – vital for computer and phone batteries – in the world. Between half and 70 percent of the planet’s supply of the precious metal is contained in the area.
Reaching for the sky: The salt flats are created when water collects on the vast deposits of salt. Tourists are able to walk across the surface… with wellies, of course
Precious: The salt flats contain more than half of the world’s supply of lithium, the mineral used in computers, phone batteries and electric cars
Popular: The salt flats have become more popular with tourists in recent years who are captivated by the shimmering reflections. The area is even used by NASA to calibrate satellite orbits
Hypnotic: The salt flats are some 12,000ft above sea level and temperatures reach 21C in the summer
Visitors to the area can take in the vast white expanse of salt and the stunning surrounding vistas, while staying with locals in an area which feels cut off from the modern world. For just $15 a day, tourists can lodge with peasant families in homes without running water or electricity – and outhouses used as bathrooms.
But despite the loss of home comforts, they can join in with local activities – such as the annual llama-shearing season in August, or joining llama caravans that deliver salt blocks to remote villages in exchange for food and other goods.
Although tourists have long been visiting the area, it wasn’t until around five years ago that interest grew in extracting the 5.4m tons of lithium which is found just below the surface of the salt.
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