Bolivia: A day at the Uyuni Salt Flats

AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats
AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats

If you never have seen this location before, it’s neither you have been living under a rock or you don’t like to travel! Meet the beautifulĀ natural beauty of Salar de Uyuni, commonly called in English, the Uyuni Salt Flats.

Uyuni is not only about the Salt Flats, but also islands, coloured lakes and gorgeous Andean Mountains, which all combine to create an unforgettable landscape.Ā These flats used to be theĀ Lago Minchin, a prehistoric lake thatĀ coveredĀ the majority of the region. Eventually it allĀ dried up to leaveĀ the gem that we see today.

For our trip in South America, this locate was not to be missed.Ā The salt flat here in Bolivia is the largest in the world and quite high atĀ an altitude of 3,656 metersĀ (11,995 ft) above sea level.

If you have time, it is recommended to take a few days tour to be able to see it all, including the beautiful Red Lagoon. Sadly our trip was very rushed due to our main purpose of attending the Rio Olympics 2016. There are 1 day, 3 days or 4 days tour available.

Our guide for Uyuni in one day

The best time to go to Uyuni

First things first: when to go? The flatsĀ have a special sight that is not to be missed during the dry season. However, rainy season during February to April make it a totally different experience with the water forming a thin sheet of couple of inches covering the flats. With it,Ā a perfect mirror is created.Ā At first I was quite disappointed to miss it and only see the flats dry and then our tour actually brought us to an area with water for sunset!

AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats

Transportation from La Paz-Uyuni

We booked a bus with Todo Turismo, that ran overnight. Surprisingly a very comfortable ride that potentially would also have better seats than a flight in Economy Class with Emirates haha!Ā So yeah, toilet, comfortable seats, English speaking attendant service (seriously… not that you need them that much though), meals (ok not as good than Emirates haha) and drinks. The bus departs at 9 PMĀ everyday from La Paz, which gives you time to enjoy the city before jumping on the bus. Their offices to jump on the bus is not at the bus station itself, but 50 meters walk in from of it.

This bus getsĀ full several days in advanceĀ so we advice you to book it in advance to make sure you are not messing up your plans, especially if you are travelling on a strict schedule like we were. Note that you arrive around 7 AM, which will give you time to walk around and find the tour that fits you. They usually start around 10 AM.

Cost: AroundĀ 550Ā BolivianosĀ for 2 which is approx. 60-70$US
Comfortable option: You can fly to Uyuni as well, as it hasĀ a small airport. Costs aroundĀ 80-150 $US.

ReadĀ Going To Uyuni Salt Flats In Bolivia By Bus

AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats
Love my Namshi Arabic Brooklyn shirt! I love to see the face people give me when they see it haha!

How to book a tour for the Uyuni Salt Flats

Well, easy, research! Which we didn’t do due to crazy non-stop travels. Tudo Turismo office in Uyuni has wi-fi so we were able to identify the top companies. First to appearĀ was Kanoo Tours, but they don’t have an office in Uyuni, hence it works with them only if you have booked at the La Paz office or if you booked online (their tour has Spanish-speaking only drivers anyway…) Other top ones are Red Planet ExpeditionsĀ (known to be expensive from reviews)Ā ,Ā Andes Salt ExpeditionsĀ (the one we went for by accident while looking for Red Planet),Ā Salty Desert Aventours.

So we were lucky Andes Salt Expeditions appeared to have been one of the best tour operators anyways. Although our negative comment would be that because we were only 2, they had to threw us with another tour operator that had 2 seats left in their 4×4. I’d say this tour company would’ve probably been good if it was their car and guide. The other negative thing is that they had no boots for men that are size 44. Mitch took anyways a pair of 42 and had to tough it out if he wanted this awesome shots in the water!

Just be sure the tour company you go for explains the itinerary to you and gives you a copy of what is included and expected as additional costs. Pick your tour carefully, a lot of people has experienced reckless drivingĀ or have had a drunk driver.

Cost: Around 150 Bs/personĀ (25$US)

AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats

What was included in our Uyuni Salt Flats tour

  • Transportation in a 4×4 vehicle (they always try to fill up all the cars)
  • We actually forgot to ask for a English speaker driver, so let’s assume our tour had Spanish guide only haha
  • Lunch (Was very light, BBQ chicken with veggies, water & coke)
  • Rain Boots

AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats

What was NOT included in our Uyuni Salt Flats tour

  • Transport to La Paz-Uyuni
  • Entrance fees for the Incahuasi Island 30 Bs – Note that it is not reachable if the salt flats are flooded
  • Water
  • Small money for bathroom access at the Salt Hotel
  • Breakfast and dinner are not included (I mean it is basic day tour.. don’t expect any more than lunch)
  • Sunglasses and sun cream
  • Additional snacks and beverages
AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats
At the Train Cemetery

Day tour schedule at the Uyuni Salt Flats

  • Leave Uyuni in the morning around 10h30 AMĀ 
  • Colchani to see how the salt is processed. It is actually just a small commercial town where they sell you tons of tourist swag… the usual tourist stop during any tours!
  • TrainĀ cemetery
  • Then the driver will get you around theĀ Salar de Uyuni to get to the Salt Hotel, now transformed to a museum where all tours settle down for lunch break
  • Then you head to Isla Incahuasi (often called Isla Pescado), a random island in the middle of it all,Ā home to giant cactuses.
  • You will be back in Uyuni at around 5h30 PM, perfectly on time to catch theĀ overnight bus we had or a late flight back to La Paz
AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats
Cactus Island

Things you don’t want to forget

  • During dry season, it gets quite cold, so make sure to have warm clothes
  • A lot of water!
  • Sun screen, the sun gets pretty strong
  • Sunglasses are mandatory literally, or you will get so blind with all the whiteness!
  • Loose change always! I mean if you want to go to the bathroom at the Salt Hotel, it’s 5 Bs … what a rip off!Ā Colchani as well you need to pay…
  • Small toys or objects with what you can take fun perspective photos
  • Your Camera & extra batteries
  • Lip balm
  • Warm clothes and layers

AdventureFaktory in Bolivia at the Uyuni Salt Flats

Now go enjoy the Uyuni Slat Flats, make sure to take tons of pictures!

šŸ“øĀ Shot on Sony RX100 IV & iPhone 5s/6

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  • Bolivia Salar di Uyini is my dream destination. I really really hope to visit it in my lifetime!
    As much as I’m happy for this virtual tour by you, I’m equally jealous that you’ve been there! Lolz…
    Thanks for this detailed guide and tips. I hope to go on rainy season as well!

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  • Ty Janee

    Great photos! I’ve never heard about this place until now, but I learned a lot from your guide! Would love to explore it.

  • Based on your recommendation, I think I’d want to see this during the rainy season. That photo looks trippy, it looks like you’re walking on water. LOL.

  • Krysti Jaims

    Love this post! It’s one of my many dreams to visit the biggest salt flats in the world and your photos are so incredible! Fantastic guide as well, love that you’ve included all of the extras to think about and what to bring. Excellent read!

  • Smidge

    I love these perspective photos, however many times I see them. Nice guide to visiting, and great photos too. That cactus is flipping massive!

  • Jennifer Morrow

    I have been to White Sands in New Mexico, which is very similar and beautiful. Definitely looks like a great area to explore if I am ever in the nearby.

  • Sonia Sahni

    Perfect post! Perfect timing…i am off to Bolivia next month. I am a little worried though about the weather..I guess it gets really cold even during summers. Any packing advice that you have, for travelling in December?

  • Sheri

    What an awesome adventure. I think this is great and we would enjoy our time there.

  • Sasha

    Great post, I didn’t know you could do one day tours! The bus fare seems to have doubled since I was there in 2012 but the day tour seemed well priced. Such an incredible part of the world, seems like a different planet hey?

  • What a great post! I want to travel to Uyuni so bad, but there is so much information out there that it’s just overwhelming when I start to try to plan it! I’d much rather go off of a fellow traveler’s first-hand account, so thanks for this! Also, beautiful photos!

  • Sonia Sahni

    Suer duper post! Off to Bolivia in December! How many days should i budget for this trip, from La Paz and back?

    • Thanks! There are many 4 day tours – then you get to see that pink lake and all. We literally did a day tour only! Arrived early in the morning and left at night!

  • Amazing pics, you are looking really awesome.

  • The Analytical Mommy

    This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  • Salar de Uyuni is so unreal! I haven’t seen anything beautiful as this place! I could see myself having a photoshoot here!

  • Malaika Fernandes

    loved the write up. the photos are amazing, simply breathtaking

  • Hang Around The World

    Hi! I really like this post, it’s really interesting.
    When I read it I was able to imagine everything you’ve
    written. The photos did the remainder šŸ˜‰

  • Love30

    Gorgeous photos as always! Another time add to the list šŸ˜„ Ree Love30

  • Veethee Dixit

    Sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful experience. šŸ™‚

  • lexhan

    Quite an amaxing trip and fun images. Destination ChecK.

  • That’s awesome! Photos from salt flats are always just so stunning.. and then that big cactus! hahaha love it!

  • Kylie Wenn

    Oh my! This is such an interesting experience..I’d really love to hv this kind of travelling journey…

  • Jon

    Night buses are so under-rated. I use them whenever possible when travelling – saves you both time and hotel accommodation costs. What’s not to love?!

  • Carola

    The schedule sounds nice. This looks like a excision I would try. The Train cemetery looks very nice. I’d love to visit Bolivia. Never been there before. But there’s so much to see.

  • TalesOfABackpacker

    Salar de Uyuni was one of my highlights of my trip to South America, no doubt! I did the 3 day tour so got to experience the other scenery and lakes too – as you say its well worth it if you have the time!

  • Mitch this looks like an amazing experience. South America is starting to llo large in my travel plans over the next few years. The reflection off the water looks fantastic and makes excellent photo’s

  • Dry season seems like the popular time to go but rainy season makes the ground look so cool. Love your photos. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wow these are really amazing pictures… I love how you framed the moments and the beautiful places over there.

  • First of your photos are amazing! Second this looks so surreal and so epic! I am definitely putting it on my bucket list! šŸ™‚

    xo Saranda

  • Katrina Honer

    Your pictures are so awesome! I never knew Bolivia has salt flats so I’m def going to have to check this out!

  • I really want to visit Bolivia it looks so scenic and yet surreal! This is a great guide, I’ll be saving this for the future.

  • Saccharine Soul

    That plave looks amazing! Def on my bucket list

  • verushka ramasami

    Amazing pics.Thanks for all the tips ! will defo be saving this post.

  • This looks unreal! I’ve never been to South America but Peru, Colombia, and of course Bolivia are my travel dreams come true. x

    New York City: Downtown – Posh, Broke, & Bored

  • Jasmin N

    wonderful post once again! Looks like a wonderful destination šŸ™‚

    ~ Jasmin N
    Little Things With Jassy

  • Karoliina Kazi

    This is on my bucket list – loved reading your exciting post and seeing these incredible images.
    Karoliina xx

  • Christina Pfeiffer

    I have this on my bucket list. It’s such a unique spot! Where else would you suggest visiting in Bolivia?

    • It was simply breathtaking, you will love it. Bolivia is a hidden gem in South America, make sure you spend time in La Paz and also bike riding down the “Death Road.” I have also heard many good reports about Sucre being a great visit.

  • Christina

    The Uyuni Salt Flats are very high on my bucket list. We almost booked a multi-day trip to visit the salt flats when we were in San Pedro de Atacama. However, the long and bumpy ride did not sound so appealing as I was 6 months pregnant at the time. When we finally get to go, I will definitely be taking lots of pictures.

    • Yes you will be so happy when you get there, and you can show your kids the Salt Flats too! The Atacama desert is high on our bucket list and cant wait to go. Let us know when you make it there šŸ™‚

  • Luxury Travel Diva

    Definitely a ‘must see’ for a trip to Bolivia. Your pictures are terrific and fun too, brought the place to life!

  • Grassroots Nomad

    So cool! We’ve always wanted to visit these salt flat but haven’t made it there yet. I love your photos! Thanks for such a great guide!

  • Chantell Collins

    What a great experience! I have seen so many photos of this magical place! The last person I talked to – said that getting there was a trying journey so it’s nice to see that you got there comfortably :).

    • It is simply unreal, yes the trip to get there is not the easiest, but sometimes the best things in life are well and truly worth the battle. Make sure you check it out!

  • Paige Brown

    So cool! I’ve always wanted to go to Bolivia’s Salt Flats – I’ve been to the salt flats in Utah – but these look so much more impressive. I would want to go where there’s water, but if the access is closed during flooding it’s hard to pick… Do you think there’s always some water even in dry season or do you think guys just got lucky?

    • Hi Paige, from our understanding there is water there most of the time, but how much water will depend when you go. The water we had was only a ā€œsmallā€ patch, but was certainly enough for all those Instagram pics. I think if you went September- January, you would have less chance of seeing water.

  • Cori Carl

    Very cool! I haven’t been to the salt flats in Bolivia, but salt flats are always fascinating to see and a great spot for photos.

    • They are super cool and I promise you will fill up your camera full of awesome shots!