How To Get To Uyuni Salt Flats
Salar de Uyuni is accessible from Bolivia (for those going south) from La Paz, and from Chile (for those going north) via San Pedro de Atacama Desert.
From La Paz, it is usually 8 hours on a bed (cama) bus overnight, allowing you to arrive early morning, which is the best time to arrive to Uyuni.
From San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, buses take around 11 hours, factoring in the border crossing from Chile to Bolivia and involve a combination of buses. Tours are usually more recommended for when going from San Pedro to Uyuni or vice/versa.
Buses from La Paz to Uyuni
Bolivia Hop has been officially voted Bolivia’s best bus company in 2016, 2017 and 2018 but as of January 2019, they still do not operate from La Paz to Uyuni. Bolivia Hop is the best way to get to and from La Paz, and then Todo Turismo is probably the best way to get from La Paz to Uyuni or from Uyuni back to La Paz. When booking with Todo Turismo, always try to get the Cama (bed) option. Do NOT go with other companies such as Transporte Omar or anybody else…safety records are suspect so we strongly recommend to travel with Todo Turismo to/from Uyuni, and Bolivia Hop to/from La Paz. Once in Uyuni, you can start your Salt Flats tour (1 day or a 3 day tour that ends in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile).
Buses from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni
There are NO direct buses from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni and it is strongly recommended to take a 3 day tour from San Pedro to Uyuni (or from Uyuni to San Pedro if you are traveling South) instead of trying to do this route via bus. This is because you will need to change buses, cross borders, and quite often this is a logistical nightmare.
If you insist on trying to travel from San Pedro to Uyuni by bus, or from Uyuni to San Pedro by bus. Cruz del Norte are usually the best bus company to go with.
Salt Flats Tour and Tips
The Bolivian Salt Flats in Uyuni are a MUST see for any trip to South America. It is STRONGLY recommended to book your tour in advance where possible and to NOT book your tour in Uyuni (book in La Paz or online) as many companies scam tourists, so be very careful with your choice of tour operator.
There are 2 types of tours of Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats:
1 Day Tour
Full Day Tour of the Salt Flats, start and finish in Uyuni on same day
A one-day tour of Salar de Uyuni in 4×4 jeeps are common and the shortest tours possible. The one day tour is also the cheapest way to visit the Salt Flats. Tours start in Uyuni around 10am (allowing you to have breakfast after your overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni) and finish around 5pm (allowing you to take an overnight bus back to La Paz on the SAME day or to another destination.
A visit to the train cemetery is followed by a stop in Colchani before arriving to the Salt Flats and getting the first glimpse of this vast environment. Salt hotels, salt mounds, isolated ‘islands’ covered in cacti, lunch, and plenty of time for taking photos before returning to Uyuni at 5 pm. This is approximately how most of these tours run but for a more detailed itinerary check FindLocalTrips here.
Prices are from $70 USD to $90 USD
3 Day Tour
Start and finish in Uyuni, or finish in San Pedro de Atacama. If coming from San Pedro de Atacama, this 3 day tour will finish in Uyuni
3 Day Tours of Salar de Uyuni in 4×4 jeeps are the most popular tour type. The first day is the same as the one day tour – usually spending the first night in one of the basic Salt Hotels on the Salar itself. These hotels are almost completely constructed out of bricks made from dried salt!
The second and third days are spent seeing the colored lakes, hot springs, flamingo flocks, hot geysers, crazy rock formations – such as Arbol de Piedra (Rock Tree), and painted volcanoes. You will be sleeping in tents and truly immersing yourself in this rugged part of the world. The stars alone in this unpolluted place can take your breath away.
3 day tours ending in San Pedro de Atacama – It’s also possible to hop over the border at the end of the tour, connecting to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
No attractions are missed by leaving the tour at the Chilean border before it heads back to Uyuni.
3 days tours STARTING From San Pedro de Atacama – There is also the opportunity to do this Salt Flat tour starting in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile and ending in Uyuni on the last day or returning to San Pedro the following day. Tours from San Pedro can be somewhat more expensive than those from Uyuni. This is the best way to get to Bolivia from Chile and the itineraries are the same as above just in reverse order with the final day being the Salt Flats themselves.
The best and most popular way to visit the Salar de Uyuni is by taking a 4×4 tour across the salt flats.
Most Salt Flats tours are safe and reliable; however, the conditions are basic in this area and you should be aware of this. The Salar de Uyuni is one of the harshest environments for vehicles on the planet and occasional vehicle issues can happen, this to a certain extent is unavoidable. The drivers are used to breakdowns and are pretty adept at fixing their vehicles. They are always willing to help each other out and you are usually not stuck for long – so a bit of patience is often all you need. Food will be basic.
As with all tours, pick your tour operator carefully. There have been occasional issues with tour drivers drinking alcohol while driving 4×4 jeeps laden with travelers and causing some nasty crashes. It is why we strongly recommend to go with one of the best tour operators available. FindLocalTrips is probably the best place to compare operators and from our experience, they only work with the safest and most reliable operators. More information can be found here
The Perfect Salt Flats Plan – Itinerary Information
Some basic information:
- If you are traveling South, you will usually take the La Paz to Uyuni trip
- If traveling North, you will either come from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile or from Salta in Argentina
- 3 day tours of the Salt Flats are the most popular and most complete options. 1 day tours are ideal for those short on time
- On 3 day tours, you do NOT have to return to Uyuni if you do not wish…you can finish the 3day your in San Pedro (if going to Chile after Bolivia)
- It IS possible to do the following if short on time:
- Night bus from La Paz to Uyuni (9hrs)
- Arrive Uyuni AM and take full day (1day) tour
- On same day, take a night bus back to La Paz (9hrs)
- For buses to/from La Paz, we strongly recommend using the Bolivia Hop bus
- For buses to/from Uyuni, we strongly recommend using Todo Turismo
If you want detailed information on a full day (1 day) tour or the 3day tour, click on any of the tabs below to get a full and detailed itinerary and tips on what to bring etc.
How To Take Amazing Photos At The Salt Flats Bolivia
The unique setting of endless salt flat at Salar de Uyuni make all kinds of crazy perspective photography possible. Here we have our top tips for great Salt Flats photos to add to your collection.
- Bring as much small and interesting items as possible: toy animals and action figures, toy vehicles and regular props such as sunglasses, hiking boots, and water bottles can all be turned into something funny and useful
- To set up for the shot the photographer needs to lie on their stomach and rest the camera on the ground to make positioning much easier; holding the camera in your hand makes it next to impossible
- Advice from an old photographer: “Shoot, shoot, shoot!!” Take lots and lots of shots since it’s not so easy to see your camera screen in the glare and you might never be back here again
- Making everyone jump in the air is a last resort shot that can always come out well!!!
Salar de Uyuni - FAQs - Your Questions Answered!
Will I get problems with altitude sickness at the Salar de Uyuni?
IMPORTANT: IF TRAVELING FROM LA PAZ (also at high altitude) you should be fine in Uyuni, once you have spent 1 or 2 days in La Paz, or even Cusco (Machu Picchu) in Peru.
Altitude sickness can catch many travellers a little bit off guard. Not everyone gets sick at high altitudes and it is difficult to predict who is likely to be badly affected by it. For most people it is nothing more than a headache and some dizzy sensations that diminish over a short period of time, 1 to 2 days for most people.
If you want to limit your chances of getting sick though, there are a few things you can do.
Drink lots of water and slow down!! This sounds simple but both of these things are very important. Your body is struggling because you don’t have enough oxygen so avoiding any extraneous activity is a good idea. Chew Some Coca Leaves. The native people of South America have been chewing coca for centuries thanks to its ability to alleviate mild altitude sickness symptoms. Coca leaves can be bought in any supermarket and even souvenir shops or street stalls.
Take (Soroche) Altitude Sickness pills, these are sold over the counter all over Peru and Bolivia and are just a few dollars. If you are flying straight into altitude over 2500meter, without spending any time at a intermediate elevation and you’re worried about getting sick, you can ask your doctor for more specific and stronger altitude sickness medication in advance.
From where do the tours of the Salt Flats start? Can I start from La Paz?
All of the tours of Salar de Uyuni start in Uyuni. The tours will not include your transfer from La Paz, you will need to organise and pay for this separately. The buses to Uyuni are overnight and depart La Paz every night and arrive into Uyuni the next day at approx. 7am. All the tours start at 10am-11am. It is strongly recommended to book your Uyuni tour online or in La Paz, NOT in Uyuni itself.
Do I need to stay one night in Uyuni before and after my tour?
You will arrive into Uyuni early in the morning and it is possible to start a tour the day you arrive. Most of the tours will start 10am-11am in the morning. You will return to Uyuni by 5:30 – 6:00 pm and will have time to eat and head back on the overnight bus to La Paz or take a bus onto Potosi / Sucre. It is advised that you book these buses in advance of taking your trip of the Salt Flats so no it is not necessary to stay in Uyuni.
Are there ATMs?
Bring money with you. Sometimes the ATMs do not work in Uyuni so it is best to take out any money you need in advance.
Will I have internet connection on a tour?
No, there is no internet connection on the tours. It is a very remote location.
Bolivia Salt Flats Guide - Summary
We all agree that the Salt Flats in Uyuni, Bolivia are a MUST for any trip to South America. Uyuni is accessible mainly via La Paz, although other entrances are via San Pedro de Atacama and Patosi or Salta in Argentina. It is strongly recommend to book Salt Flat Tours in advance and only book with reputable companies (those with good reviews online or who allow you to book and pay online). Use Bolivia Hop to get to/from La Paz, use Todo Turismo to get to/from Uyuni, and use FindLocalTrips to compare tour operators and book directly with them. Any further questions or comments, please contact us here.