uyuni salt flats banner
The most up-to-date guide to the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, the incredible mirror-like lake taking South America by storm, from how to get there, salt flat tours and much more!

Bolivian Salt Flats of Uyuni – Quick Facts

  • Uyuni is around 8 hours South of La Paz
  • Access via overnight bus or small plane – options below
  • Salt Flat tours – 1 day and 3 day options – tips below
  • Known as the “world’s largest mirror”

Complete Guide to Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

(click any link to go direct to that section or scroll down to read the whole guide)

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 but as of March 2018, 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
  • 3 Day/2 Night 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

1 Day Tour

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

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.

carro 4

Tips for Salar de Uyuni Tours

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.

Miroir

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.

FULL DAY TOUR UYUNI

Detailed itinerary Full Day Tour:

10:00am
The tour starts from Uyuni. We will depart to the Salt Flats.

11:00am – 12:00pm
The first stop is going to be the Train Cementery where you’ll see the first locomotives in Bolivia. From there we go to Colchani, a small village next to the Salt Flats known as the “salt miners workshop”. You”ll be able to witness the factories and rustic way of table salt production.After this comes the great Salt Flats of Uyuni (Salar de Uyuni) where they will show you how the salt is mined aswell as see the piles of salts (pyramids of salt). Following that you’ll see the “Eyes of the Salt Flat” (Ojos de Sal), which are big holes located in the salt flat where the water from underneath of this dead lake still comes out by high pressure.

13:00pm – 14:00pm
Visit a hotel made entirely out of salt (also a museum), you’ll be able to take pictures of the rooms, lobby and sculptures inside. When all that is done, lunch will be given in the same hotel!

14:00pm – 15:00pm
Once you all finish your meals, you will go forward to the central point of the salt flat which is Incahuasi Island (Fish Island), where you will see the giant cactus and the rock formations of petrified Coral. There will be always time to stop in the middle of the salt flat to see the unusual formations in the salt flat that look like hexagons and pentagons on the surface. And a must-do here is to take pictures with the vast perspective (you can google some picture ideas!).

15:00pm – 16:00pm
After some fun you will head north and get close to the big Volcano Thunupa (5434 m.a.s.l.) to get some more pictures from the distance. Later you will return back to Uyuni arriving to town at 18:30 pm after having enjoyed the most fantastic sunset in the big Salar of Uyuni.

18:30pm
Arrive back to Uyuni

Included:

  • Round trip
  • Lunch
  • Guide in English

Not included:

  • Entrance fee for Fish Island: 30 Bs.
  • Entrance fee for the National Park: 150 Bs.

What to bring:

  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Warm clothes for the night
  • Torch and batteries
  • Towel
  • Bathing suit
  • Toilet paper
  • Some snacks
  • Extra water
  • Money for the park entrances fee and toilets on the way

BOOK A FULL DAY TOUR NOW

SALT FLATS – 3 DAY TOUR

Detailed itinerary 3 Day Tour

Day 1:

  • 11:00am
    Departure from Uyuni
  • 11:30am – 13:00pm
    The first stop is going to be the Train Cementery where you’ll see the first locomotives in Bolivia. Followed by a stop in Colchani, a small village next to the Salt Flats known as the “salt miners workshop”. You”ll be able to witness the factories and rustic way of table salt production.After this comes the great Salt Flats of Uyuni (Salar de Uyuni) where they will show you how the salt is mined aswell as see the piles of salts (pyramids of salt). Following that you’ll see the “Eyes of the Salt Flat” (Ojos de Sal), which are big holes located in the salt flat where the water from underneath of this dead lake still comes out by high pressure.
  • 13:00pm – 14:00pm
    Visit the hotel made out of salt (the only hotel allowed inside of the salt flats), where you can take your time for pictures, take a look at the rooms, salt sculptures and the lobby of the hotel (Playa Blanca) and have lunch at the same place.
  • 14:00pm – 15:00pm
    Once you all finish your meals, you will go forward to the central point of the salt flat which is Incahuasi Island (Fish Island), where you will see the giant cactus and the rock formations of petrified Coral. There will be always time to stop in the middle of the salt flat to see the unusual formations in the salt flat that look like hexagons and pentagons on the surface. And a must-do here is to take pictures with the vast perspective (you can google some picture ideas!).
  • 16:00pm
    After some fun you will go west to the small village of Atulcha to spend the first night.
  • 19:00pm
    Delicious supper for dinner.

Day 2:

  • 07:00am – 08:00am
    Breakfast
  • 08:00am – 12:00pm
    A visit to the small desert of Chiguana on the south side of the Uyuni Salt Flat. This desert is surrounded by many volcanoes, which you will see from the lookout and enjoy the steam that still comes out from the top of it. Afterwards, making your way south you will get to the Andean lagoons where flamingos are hanging around in hundreds.
  • 12:00pm – 13:00pm
    Lunch
  • 13:00pm – 16:00pm
    Going further south you will get to the big desert of Siloli at 4550 high (highest and driest in the world). Once you cross this desert, you will see the Rock Tree a lava cooled- rock formation. Later that day, the last stop will be at the amazing Red Lagoon to see some pink flamingos and the redness of the water from the view point. Afterwards the car will take you to the top of a big volcano called Sol de Mañana where you get in to the crater and will see the fumaroles and boiling mud pots.
  • 16:00pm
    After the volcano you will go down the hill to our shelter point “Efames” to spend the second night.
  • 19:00pm
    Dinner

Day 3:

  • 07:00
    Breakfast
  • 08:00 – 11:00
    We head to Dali Desert. Here, you will visit the Green Lagoon and the White Lagoon.
  • 11:00
    We will start to make our way back to Uyuni. There will be stops along the way for lunch, bathroom breaks and leg stretching.
  • 18:00
    You will be arriving back to Uyuni

Included:

  • All transportation
  • All meals along the tour – first day (lunch and dinner), second day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and third day (breakfast and lunch)
  • Two nights accommodation (Salt Hostel “Nuevo Amanecer” the first night – basic dorms in a shelter “Efames” the second night)
  • Guide in English
  • Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile (optional)

Not included:

  • Entrance fee for Fish Island: 30 Bs.
  • Entrance fee for the National Park: 150 Bs.
  • 10 Bs. for hot shower
  • Sleeping bag (rent for 50Bs.)

What to bring:

  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Torch and batteries
  • Toilet paper
  • Sleeping bag
  • Warm clothes for the night, bathing suit, light layers for the morning
  • Towel and flip flops
  • Some snacks
  • A hat/beanie
  • Extra water
  • Money for the park entrances fee and toilets on the way

BOOK A 3 DAY TOUR NOW

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.

Share this page with your friends...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page