The salt lake Elton is located in the Caspian Lowland on the border with Kazakhstan. The nearest major city of Volgograd is 330 km away. The brine mineralization in Lake Elton is similar to the level of the Dead Sea, and outwardly Elton is very similar to the Bolivian Uyuni Salt Flat.
The term "unique" can be used in relation to Lake Elton, due to the properties of its brine, as well as therapeutic mud. Elton has the shape of a circle. Its area reaches 152 square kilometers.
In terms of size, Elton is the largest salt lake in Europe, although it is very far from the size of the Uyuni Salt Flat (10 thousand km2). There are salt lakes with a similar level of mineralization on other continents, but there are only two of them in Europe: Elton and Baskunchak. Both of these lakes are located in the Volga Delta, 100 kilometers from each other.
Lake Elton is drainless. It is fed by meltwater, as well as several streams. In spring, the depth in some places reaches 1.5 meters, but in summer and autumn most of the lake dries up. At this time, the water depth in the lake does not exceed 5 centimeters.
This allows people to walk on the lake, watching how the sky and clouds are reflected in the water surface. Salt crystals protrude above the surface of the water in many places, which create the impression of ripples from the wind on the sea. For a walk, you should definitely take rubber slippers, although stepping on salt crystals in Lake Elton is not as painful as on Lake Baskunchak.
The color of Lake Elton at different times of the year is yellow or pink. The color of the water depends on the vital activity of unicellular bacteria (Dunaliella salina). The lake looks especially beautiful in the rays of the sunset. The sun sets directly into the waters of the lake. At this moment, the shades of pink and yellow of the water look especially impressive.
Lake Elton is located at an altitude of 15 meters below sea level. There is a mountain Ulagan 6 kilometers to the east of the lake. Its height is 69 meters above sea level. Mount Ulagan is a salt dome over a large salt deposit. Tourists like to come to Mount Ulagan to admire the beautiful sunset when the sun sets in the waters of the lake.
Active salt mining was carried out on Lake Elton for several centuries, but by the end of the 19th century, it was discontinued, since the quality of salt from Lake Baskunchak is higher, and it does not require complex processing. Salt mining is still carried out on the Baskunchak Lake today.
In 1910, a medical sanatorium was opened on Lake Elton. Therefore, Elton became a balneological resort. In addition to salt deposits with high mineralization (brine), there is a therapeutic hydrogen sulfide mud in Lake Elton.
At first, the wooden buildings of the sanatorium were located next to the railway line. During the war, a hospital worked in the sanatorium, but in 1943 it was closed, and the buildings were dismantled for firewood. In 1945, the sanatorium was moved to a new location, 6 kilometers east of Lake Elton.
Now all medical procedures are carried out directly in the buildings of the sanatorium, but at the beginning of the 20th century, special wooden baths were built directly on the lake for mud procedures. Their wooden skeletons have been preserved to this day. Some amateurs come to the lake to take mud treatments, but here they usually smear only their feet with mud, since it is very difficult to wash off the mud in the water because of the shallow depth.
People come to the sanatorium Elton for the treatment of diseases of dermatology, musculoskeletal system, gynecology, and the nervous system. While the tourist infrastructure of the sanatorium and the village of Elton is at the stage of its formation.