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 beautiful 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. These flats used to be the Lago Minchin, a prehistoric lake that covered the majority of the region. Eventually it all dried up to leave the gem that we see today.
For our trip in South America, this locate was not to be missed. The salt flat here in Bolivia is the largest in the world and quite high at an altitude of 3,656 meters (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.
The best time to go to Uyuni Salt Flats
First things first: when to go? The flats 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, a perfect mirror is created. 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!
Transportation from La Paz to 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! 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 PM 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 gets full several days in advance 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: Around 550 Bolivianos for 2 which is approx. 60-70$US
Comfortable option: You can fly to Uyuni as well, as it has a small airport. Costs around 80-150 $US.
How to book a tour for the Uyuni Salt Flats
Well, easy, research (or if you really don’t like it, we can’t help you, just send us a message)! Which we didn’t do due to crazy non-stop travels. Tudo Turismo office in Uyuni has wi-fi so we were able to identify the top companies. First to appear was Kanoo Tours, but they don’t have an office in Uyuni, hence it works with them only if you have booked at the La Paz office or if you booked online (their tour has Spanish-speaking only drivers anyway…) Other top ones are Red Planet Expeditions (known to be expensive from reviews) , Andes Salt Expeditions (the one we went for by accident while looking for Red Planet), Salty Desert Aventours.
So we were lucky Andes Salt Expeditions appeared to have been one of the best tour operators anyways. Although our negative comment would be that because we were only 2, they had to threw us with another tour operator that had 2 seats left in their 4×4. I’d say this tour company would’ve probably been good if it was their car and guide. The other negative thing is that they had no boots for men that are size 44. Mitch took anyways a pair of 42 and had to tough it out if he wanted this awesome shots in the water!
Just be sure the tour company you go for explains the itinerary to you and gives you a copy of what is included and expected as additional costs. Pick your tour carefully, a lot of people has experienced reckless driving or have had a drunk driver.
Cost: Around 150 Bs/person (25$US)
Things included in a 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
What is NOT included in a Uyuni Salt Flats tour
Depending of the tour you book. There might or might not have a few things missing, sometimes white important such as… water! Here is a list of things that were not included in the tour we booked.
- 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
- 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
A Day tour schedule at the Uyuni Salt Flats
- Leave Uyuni in the morning around 10h30 AM
- 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!
- Train cemetery
- Then the driver will get you around the 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, home to giant cactuses.
- You will be back in Uyuni at around 5h30 PM, perfectly on time to catch the overnight bus we had or a late flight back to La Paz
Things you don’t want to forget for the Uyuni Salt Flats
- 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! 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
Now go enjoy the Uyuni Slat Flats, make sure to take tons of pictures!