LA PAZ – The Uyuni Salt Flat, one of the tourist gems of the Andes, for the fifth straight year awaits its stage of the Dakar Rally to show the world one of Bolivia’s greatest attractions when the fleet of motorbikes, cars, buggies, quads and trucks comes racing through this Saturday.
Uyuni’s salt desert in southwestern Bolivia is the world’s largest and highest, at an altitude of some 3,650 meters (12,000 feet) and covering close to 10,600 hectares (26,000 acres).
Since the world’s most famous rally set foot on Bolivian territory in 2014, it has kept its appointment with this vast white plain surrounded by mountains every year without fail.
The stage that roars through Uyuni is one of the most awaited by spectators at the race and also one of the most demanding for the drivers due to the altitude.
Participants are basically resting this Friday to recover their strength in La Paz so that on Saturday they’re in the best shape for the seventh stage between La Paz and Uyuni, a total of 423 kilometers (263 miles).
Since the inclusion of the Salt Flat in the Dakar Rally, the Bolivian government has taken advantage of the media coverage to boost tourism in the region.
The Dakar Monument created in 2014 has become a symbol of the desert and a must-see for the tourists who arrive each year.
In addition, local communities seize the opportunity to sell tourists souvenirs made of salt in the shape of the Dakar symbol, something unique in the world.
According to Bolivia’s deputy tourism minister, in 2016 Uyuni welcomed more than 300,000 foreign visitors, some 20 percent more than in previous years.
Peruvian sand dunes give way to Bolivian salt in a competition unlike any in the world, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary with its multi-stage race of all kinds of vehicles through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina between Jan. 6-20.