The Salt Flats of Uyuni is the largest salt flats in the world, located in South America in the country of Bolivia. It is a super cool place to visit, they were like nothing I had seen before! The easiest way to visit the Salt Flats of Uyuni is by taking a tour. There are a couple of options for tours – ranging from a day trip to a 4 day trip.
When I visited, my goal was to get from La Paz, Bolivia to the Atacama Desert in Chile. The tour I signed up for had the option to end in the Atacama Desert which was great for me and worked out perfectly.
How to Get There
The tours for the salt flats usually start in the little town of Uyuni, just over 7 hours from Bolivia’s capital city La Paz.
My trip to the Salt Flats of Uyuni started from the capital city of La Paz in Bolivia. I had arrived there two days prior to when I wanted to leave for the multi-day salt flats trip (I had nothing booked), because I was hoping to get a cheaper price if I booked in La Paz, rather than booking online in advance! We couldn’t really find anything around La Paz, so we decided to risk it and head to Uyuni with no tour booked, hoping to find a tour we could hop on the day we arrived.
We ended up booking an overnight bus to take us from La Paz straight to Uyuni. We booked through the company Todo Turismo, because they had the best reviews and seemed the safest! We went to their office in La Paz, to make sure we had everything booked properly and ensure our seats were reserved, rather than booking online. Luckily their office was nearby our hostel, so we could walk there.
That night we headed to the bus station and waited to hop on the bus!
After an 11-hour trip, we arrived in Uyuni that morning. There were a bunch of delays in the night, so the trip took a little longer than originally planned (but really it just gave us more time to sleep 🙂 .
On arrival, different tour companies were waiting at the bus stop to pick up their clients and take them on their tours. Because we had nothing booked, we had to find our own way to the various tour company offices, which was fine!
We followed a couple that we had met at our hostel in La Paz, and ended up at the Andes Salt Expedition Tour office. We negotiated the price for a bit and ended up paying around $150 CAD for the base cost of the tour. This included food, transportation, and overnight accommodations. The only extra costs were admission into the various sites on the tour and sleeping bags we rented from the company!
*There was a mix up in price with the tour operator, we were told that $150 CAD was the price for a Spanish speaking guide, and it costs more for an English speaking guide. They ended up honoring the price and we received an English speaking guide, but make sure both you and the tour company are on the same page for both the price and the language of guide you need before booking.
Before setting off for the flats that morning, we had a bit of time to grab breakfast from a nearby shop and any other supplies we might need for the 3-day journey. We each picked up about 1 L of water, some mittens, a toque, and toilet paper from the local market!
Day one of the tour was filled with so many fun adventures –
Stop #1 The Train Cemetary
The first stop on the tour is a train cemetery. Here you’ll have time to explore the abandoned trains and take some fun pictures!
Stop #2 Colchani
Colchani is a town in Bolivia where you can pick up some souvenirs, any last-minute supplies before heading into the flats, and where you can visit a salt museum. At the salt museum, you’ll see how the salt is processed and you can support the locals by buying some salt to take home with you.
Stop #3 The Salt Hotel & The Flats
At the salt hotel, you will have your first chance to explore the Salt Flats of Uyuni and see some of the iconic stops of the flats! Outside of the Salt Hotel is where you’ll find the photo spots above, and is where most tours stop to have lunch.
Stop #4 Incawasi Island & The Salt Flats of Uyuni
After lunch is when the main part of the tour happens. Your driver will take you to a spot of the flats where no other tours are, which is when you’ll have the opportunity to take the fun perspective photos the flats are famous for!
After hanging out in your own spot of the salt flats, your guide will take you to Incawasi Island. Incawasi Island is an island you can explore in the middle of the flats that is home to a bunch of cactuses, big and small. The island has a little hike up to the top of a hill, which provides a great view of the salt flats!
*There is an entrance fee to access Incawasi Island that is not included in the price of most tours. The cost to enter is 30 BS, which is about $6 CAD or $4 USD.
A ton of stops at beautiful landscapes!
It was hard to keep track of where the tour was taking us throughout the day, but basically, we got in the car and they would drive us to a stop and we would get out, our guide would tell us about the location and we would have time to explore, and then we would get back into the car and drive to the next location!
The places we stopped at on Day 2 of our Tour of the Salt Flats did not include any salt flats at all. Instead, we toured beautiful landscapes that seriously look out of this world, and saw incredible animals including flamingos and even some type of little desert fox.
I didn’t expect this part of the tour when initially booking, but it was so so incredible I loved every moment of it!
We stopped at a lake where we saw flamingos, which was my first time seeing flamingos in the wild.
Our last stop of the day was exploring the geysers at sunset – so beautiful!
A few more beautiful stops
The last day of the tour was a shorter day of actual activities and was more focused on getting us back to where we were ending the tour (Uyuni or the Atacama Desert).
We stopped at a few more landscape locations before going our separate ways. Some stayed in the original vehicle and made their way back to Uyuni where the tour started, and some transferred vehicles to be taken to the Bolivia/Chile border, to continue on to San Pedro de Atacama.
Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama (or return to Uyuni)
We continued on to San Pedro de Atacama. It was really nice to have someone help us cross the border from Bolivia into Chile and take us to our next stop: San Pedro de Atacama. After crossing the border, we were driven in a minibus all the way to the town, and it was a super easy process!
Salt Flats of Uyuni Tour Details:
I paid around $150 CAD for my tour (not including extra costs). Including the extra costs, I paid about $200 CAD. This included all of the extra tour costs and my transfer to San Pedro de Atacama. We booked our tour on arrival in Uyuni with Andes Salt Expeditions.
*Like I mentioned above, there are different prices for hiring a Spanish guide and an English guide. You can try to negotiate prices, but make sure you are clear with what guide you are getting and the price of the tour.
When to go:
I went from May 31 – June 2, 2018. It was cold, but the salt flats were nice and white!
September to November will have the best weather conditions.
December to February you will have the best chance of seeing the giant mirror effect of the flats.
Any time of year will offer you something amazing though!
Most companies offer 1 day, 2 day, 3 day, and 4 day trips.
What to Bring on Your Tour:
Besides the basics (clothes, toiletries, the essentials…), don’t forget to bring:
- Sunglasses – it is so bright on the flats!
- Sunscreen – the white colour of the flats reflect the sun up and you can get burnt!
- Sleeping bag – if you have one. Otherwise, you can rent one from most tour companies (this is what we did)
- Bathing suit – There are hot springs you can visit one evening
- Warm clothes! – It can get chilly!!
- Water & snacks – you can buy these in the town before your tour leaves
- A copy of your passport – they recommend you bring one just in case, but I never had to use mine
- Extra cash!!! – there are parts of the tour that are not included in the initial fee, and there are no ATMs. So make sure you bring enough cash to get you through the journey
Hopefully, these suggestions help you plan your trip or inspire you to travel to Bolivia and the Salt Flats of Uyuni. Thanks for reading!!
Hey! I’m Kat. Based in Alberta, Canada I love to travel to the Rockies and explore new places around the world. Follow along on my adventures and find inspiration and tips for your own travels.