8 things to know before your Bolivian salt flats visit to Uyuni

Tours salar de uyuni :

Even if you don’t know anything about the famous salt pans in Bolivian salt flats visit to Uyuni, I’m sure you’ve seen some remarkable reflections in the pictures of the salt pans, haven’t you?

This is because the Salar de Uyuni is one of the most famous tourist spots in Bolivia!

I recently took a 3 day tour of the Bolivian salt marshes in South America (Salar de Uyuni excursion). Here are some helpful tips on how to choose the best tour and its exact price.

If you’re not going there soon, read this article to motivate yourself – this place is incredibly amazing, it’s unique, and worth it!

First, here’s a map that shows where Bolivia is located and where the salt marshes are:

1. What is the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia?

Salar de uyuni tours

The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt plain in the world, we will eliminate that from the start. “The place where heaven meets earth,” they say.

Yeah guys, these people weren’t exaggerating, it’s otherworldly beauty!

8 things to know before taking a Bolivian salt tour in Uyuni Mirror Bolivia Salar de Uyuni
What is a saline solution? Millions of years ago there was a huge salt lake in Bolivia, but it dried up and is now the largest salt lake in the world, which also becomes the largest reflective surface during the rainy season. The surface of the Salar de Uyuni is 10.5 km long (over 4,000 miles) and its elevation is over 3,500 m (12,000 feet) above sea level.

The best (if not the only) way to look at this is to take a ride in a four-wheel drive vehicle with 5-6 other people in a car.

There are different tour options: 1 day, 3 days or 4 days, which we will talk about below.

Bolivian salt flats visit to Uyuni
Uyuni

2. When is the Best Time to Visit Salt Flats Bolivia?

I just assumed the reflection in the mirror was still there. But it’s not. He is only there after the rain, of course.

When it’s not raining you will be able to see the wide terrain with beautiful and intricate forms of dry salt so this place is beautiful all year round!

The best time to go really depends on your preference for what you want to see. Most people say it’s best to go from May to November when the weather is mild, but remember that Bolivia’s salt plains will be dry.

The rainy season runs from January to April. The rain will create this beautiful mirror effect, an incredible image of infinity.

I went in January and although most of the Uyuni salt flats are dry, we found a spot that allowed us to see the reflections. So I had a 2 in 1 experience!

But honestly, any time of the year is truly spectacular. Whichever month you choose, you won’t regret it!

3. How Many Days in the Salt Flats Bolivia are Enough?

While a day trip is possible, the 3-4 day trips that go deeper into the Altiplano are more popular (and recommended!).

What I don’t particularly like about the day tour is that you don’t see this surreal place at sunset and you can’t explore its other beautiful parts besides the salt marshes, like flamingos, volcanoes, hot springs and more!

I took a 3 day tour of the Bolivian salt marshes, which is basically a 2 day tour, since you end at 8:30 am the day before (but you will wake up at 5 am).

As Uyuni is at a higher altitude, I recommend staying in the city at least one day before the visit; This way you will get used to the change in altitude and the lower amount of oxygen.

4. Where do the Bolivia Salt Flat Tours Start?

Day trips usually start in Uyuni, a small town located very close to the salt fields in Bolivia; It is the most popular and cheapest departure and arrival point for the Bolivian Salt Plain excursion.

The 3-4 day tours vary slightly from where they start and end:

Start and end in Uyuni;
It starts in Uyuni and ends the tour in San Pedro di Atacama, Chile. This is the job of many people including me;
If you are coming from Chile, you can start the tour in San Pedro di Atacama and end in Uyuni (vice versa). In this case, expect to pay more (Chile price, you know;).
Start in Tupiza – This is the most popular option, and these tours usually last 4 days. You will start in the southern part of the salt flats and continue in the opposite direction. Ultimately, you can return from Salar de Uyuni to Tupiza.
You can even start in La Paz or Sucre if you want a little private day trip.

5. How to Get to the Salar de Uyuni

From La Paz to Uyuni

The most popular starting point for the salt flats tour is Uyuni and that was also my choice. Uyuni is a small town that lives mainly on tourism.

There are two options for getting from La Paz to the salt flats:

Budget option: The night bus from La Paz to Uyuni takes about 8 hours and will get you there from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. They said it was going to be very rowdy, but I would say it wasn’t that bad. The price is around US $ 23. You can check the updated calendar and prices on TicketsBolivia.

The bus will drop you off at the train station early in the morning, so you’ll have LOTS of time to drink coca tea and find a suitable travel agent before 10am, the approximate departure time of the jeeps.

If you want, you can stay another night, just to relax and acclimatize to the altitude. I felt great after the bus ride so didn’t want to wait.

Comfortable option: you can fly to Uyuni, because it has a small airport. The approximate price is $ 70 to $ 100 USD.

You can even book a private day trip from La Paz if you’re short on time and prefer this option.

From Sucre to Uyuni

You can take a direct bus from Sucre (capital of Bolivia) to Salar de Uyuni and start your tour there. The journey takes between 8 and 9 hours and the approximate price is 10 USD. Buses run every day and you can check timetables and prices on TicketsBolivia.

If you wish, you can book an organized day trip from Sucre to Salar de Uyuni. At the end of the tour you will return to Sucre.

Salar de Uyuni

6. How to Choose the Uyuni Salt Flats Tour

Note that a tour from Uyuni is a very standardized tour. Everyone will be offering the exact same itinerary. They will try to increase the value of the tour (and therefore the price), saying their food is better or the driver is faster, but trust me, in the end everything is the same.

The things you should ask before choosing the tour are:

How many people are there in the car? – the less, the better, of course, but there are usually 6 people + driver.
Does the driver speak English? – Ours can’t speak English, but my Spanish is good enough to understand its meaning :).

Where does the tour end? Are you back in Uyuni or are you still in the Atacama Desert in Chile? – most of the time, this choice is yours.
Is entry to the national park included? – Not usually. Entrance costs an additional 150 Bobs (USD 22). You also have to pay more to visit the “fish island” in the salt lake of Uyuni.
It is usually not a problem to just show up for a tour, as they are trained on a first come, first served basis.

Your guide will likely be a 3 in 1 guide: a driver, a cook (the food was good, by the way) and an organizer.

If you don’t speak Spanish, here’s what I recommend: make sure someone in your group understands at least a little bit so they can translate the main things for you. Otherwise, you’ll be using body language, and the tour is primarily about seeing things, not a guided tour. Everything my guide told me (not so much to be honest) I could easily read on Wikipedia here.

PROFESSIONAL TIP: Ask your driver to stay for the sunset over the salt plains and insist if he wants to leave. Our best photos were taken at this time of day. Remember to mention this when booking the tour.

7. How much does it cost to visit the Salt Flats in Bolivia?

The circuits offer ABSOLUTELY the same itinerary. The only difference is the price that the company and you are negotiating (see prices below).

My friend, be ready to haggle a bit!

The normal price is 700-750 Bob for a 3 day visit ($ 100 – $ 110 USD).

Uyuni vendors will try to convince you that they offer better food or more experienced drivers. The truth is, the routes are exactly the same and I see no reason to pay more than 750 Bobs for the same service.

The price includes everything: transport, food and accommodation. Don’t forget the additional ~ $ 20 charge for the entrance fee to the national park. And, if you go to San Pedro de Atacama afterwards, there is an additional payment for the transfer to the border post (50 Bob). You can usually pay this in advance when booking the tour.

Please note that this is the price for Spanish-speaking drivers. If you want a tour in English you will need to pay double: 1300 – 1500 Bob (about $ 220 USD) per person.

If you do the same tour in Chile, it will be more expensive.

8. What will you see during your trip to the salt Flats in Bolivia?

Although the salar is certainly the highlight of the tour, it will only be visible on the first day of your trip.

What will you see in the other two days?

Endless rocky desert, colorful lagoons, flamingos, white and black flamingos, sulfur-spitting geysers, dormant volcanoes (sometimes with smoke), hot springs, cactus-covered islands, a train cemetery … and much more !

Bolivian flamingos
I am not posting the script here on purpose, as I wish you were amazed at the incredible scenery you will see!

Believe me, Salvador Dalí would feel at home in this surreal place and, anyway, when would he have the opportunity to walk on Mars?

What are the accommodation options in Bolivia Salar de Uyuni?

We stayed in a salt hotel on the first day (the hot bath was an additional 10 Bob’s pay) and in a beautiful shelter (over 4000m above sea level!) On the second evening, where the 6 passengers in our jeep shared one (large bedroom.

The salt hotel in Bolivia was very good – the tables, the chairs, the beds – everything was made entirely of salt.

Even the building itself was made of salt bricks! How cool is that?

The cottage didn’t have much to offer in terms of amenities (but hey, you’re in the desert in the middle of nowhere), but it’s clean and nice. What a great experience!

Recommended hotels in Uyuni

If you decide to spend the night in Uyuni before or after your trip to Salar de Uyuni, the best place would be Uyuni Town, as this is where the tours start and end.

Here are my recommendations for all budgets:

Luxury ($ 150 or more): Cristales Joyas De Sal is an incredible 4 star hotel with excellent decor and facilities. My second suggestion is the Casa de Sal – Salt Hotel, made of salt and with beautiful decoration details! All rooms are equipped with a private bathroom, a seating area, a dining table and much more.

Medium ($ 50 – $ 100): For people traveling to Bolivia and looking for mid-priced accommodation, I can recommend the Hostal Quinua Dorada, very clean and the staff are super friendly! A second option could be Las Tholas Hotel, a super friendly 3 star hotel with tidy rooms and private bathrooms with everything you need for your stay.

Budget (up to $ 50): KW Hotel is a great budget option that awaits you with a nice breakfast buffet, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom. Another amazing option is the Onkel Inn Wagon Sleepbox Uyuni – it offers excellent accommodation options, a lovely terrace and a shared lounge where you can relax.

Recommended hotels in La Paz

La Paz is not the capital of Bolivia (Sucre is), but La Paz is larger than the capital and is an international hub where you will likely stop before visiting the Salar de Uyuni.

It makes sense to stay in La Paz for a day or two to adapt to high altitudes, as the city is 4000 meters above sea level.

Almudena Apart Hotel La Paz
When I travel, I like to stay in apartments, but I also like the hotel service. So when I looked for options I found Almudena Apart Hotel and decided to stay there.

You will enjoy the best that a hotel in Almudena has to offer: a delicious breakfast buffet every morning, a 24-hour reception and a cleaning service. But at the same time, you have that feeling of home that I wanted so much after so many trips. There are apartments with living room and kitchen. The kitchen had everything I needed and a bonus: a kettle (love tea!). I found there the comfort I needed after my long trips to South America. I stayed 3 days just to relax!

The hotel is located on a hill and the view from my room was excellent. Ah yes:

View from Aparthotel Almudena 2
I would recommend to stay in Almudena. They have fast internet, unlimited coke tea and the privacy of your own apartment, you couldn’t ask for more!

La Paz

OTHER GREAT HOTELS IN LA PAZ:
Luxury ($ 140 and up): Atix Hotel has a unique design and is home to the best of La Paz cuisine. Customers rated the staff as professional and courteous. Casa Grande Hotel has rooms with balconies offering spectacular views of the city. Guests can also enjoy spa services.

Medium (US $ 40-100): Hotel Rosario La Paz is the perfect place for those who want to experience real Bolivian cuisine and design. Casa Fusion Hotel Boutique has the name that represents it. It is a fusion of modern and classic Bolivian architecture and a wonderful place to stay.

Budget (up to US $ 40): Bolivian Rooms & Suites is a quiet, elegantly designed hotel in an excellent location for shopping and tasting local cuisine. Tinka Hotel is perfect for those who want to go out and experience the true Bolivian lifestyle.

WHAT TO DO IN LA PAZ

If you have decided to stay there, here are some things to visit in La Paz:

  • The Witches” market
  • Parque Mirador Laikakota
  • Cycle Death Road
  • Take a food tour and visit a Bolivian chocolate factory

Your Uyuni Trip Packaging List

Here’s what I recommend you take with you:

  • Warm clothes: wear warm clothes as it is a desert and you will wake up early when it is cold;
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen – (it’s hot during the day);
  • Camera – Of all the places you travel, this is NOT the place to forget;
  • Camera charger: if you plan to take a lot of photos;
  • Waterproof shoes (you will be walking on this layer of water) or even slippers are fine;
  • Towel – The hotels you will stay in are very basic and don’t offer.
  • Wet towels: for cooling;
  • Pajamas: I’ve heard it gets very cold at night sometimes. In addition, the second night, you will stay with 5 other people in the room;
  • A little money: there is an entrance fee to the national park (150 Bob), which is probably not included in your visit + more to buy souvenirs;
  • Water and snacks: even if they are provided by the circuit, it is always good to have more if you are hungry;
  • A flashlight (flashlight or headlamp) – useful, but not required.
  • In case you are going to the Atacama Desert later (like me) you will need to put your main luggage on top of the jeep and carry a backpack in the car with what you need for those 3-4 days.

Forget about going online during those days. There will be no phone signal or internet connection (reminder: you will literally be in the middle of nowhere). However, on day 3 (just before crossing the border with Chile) there was an opportunity to use expensive Wi-Fi (20 shillings for 15 minutes).

Packing List of SALAR DE UYUNI

Here’s what I recommend you take with you:

  • Warm clothes: take layers, because it is a desert and you will wake up early when it is cold;
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen (it will be hot during the day);
  • Camera – Wherever you travel, this is NOT the place to forget you;
  • Camera charger – if you plan to take a lot of pictures;
  • Waterproof shoes (you will be walking on this layer of water) or even Flip Flops are good;
  • A towel – the hotels you will stay in are very basic and do not offer
  • Wet napkins – to cool off;
  • Pajamas – Heard it gets very cold sometimes at night. In addition, for the second night you will stay with 5 other people in the room.
  • A little money: there is an entrance fee to the national park (150 Bob), which is probably not included in your visit + more to buy souvenirs;
  • Water and snacks: even if provided by the tour, it is always better to have more in case you get hungry;
  • A torch (flashlight or headlamp) – useful, but not necessary

If you are going to the Atacama Desert next (like me) you will need to put your main luggage on top of the jeep and carry a backpack in the a car with what you need for those 3-4 days.

Forget about logging in online during those days. There will be no phone signal or internet connection (reminder: you are literally in the middle of nowhere). However, on day 3 (just before crossing the Chilean border) it was possible to use expensive Wi-Fi (20 shillings for 15 minutes).

Travel Insurance

The most important advice I can offer is to buy good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations. This is full protection in the event of a problem. I never travel without it, as I have had to use it several times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy that’s right for you:

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