Even if you know nothing about the famous Bolivia salt flats, I’m sure you have seen some remarkable reflection pictures from the salt plains, haven’t you?
That is because Salar de Uyuni is one of the most famous tourist sites in Bolivia!
I recently did a 3-day tour of the salt flats in Bolivia in South America, (Salar de Uyuni tour). Here are some useful tips on how to choose the best tour and exactly how much it will cost you.
If you are not going there soon, read this post for motivation – this place is freaking amazing, it’s unique, and it’s totally worth it! 😉
First of all, here is a map that will show you where Bolivia is located and where the salt flats are:
Here is everything you need to know about El Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia:
1. What Is Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia?
10 BILLION tons of salt! Can you imagine?
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, let’s get that out of the way from the beginning. “The place where Heaven meets Earth” they call it.
Yes, guys, those people did not exaggerate, it is out-of-this-world beautiful!
What is a salt flat? Millions of years ago there was a huge Bolivia salt lake there but it dried up, and now it is the biggest salt flat in the world, which also becomes the largest reflecting surface during the rainy season. Salar de Uyuni’s surface is 10.5 km long (more than 4,000 miles) and its altitude is more than 3,500m (12,000 feet) above sea level!
The best (if not only) way to see it is to take a 4WD tour with 5-6 other people in a car.
There are different tour options – for 1 day, 3 days or 4 days, which we will be talking about below.
2. When is the best time to visit Bolivia salt flats?
You know what, when I went in January, I didn’t even double check if that was the best time to go.
I just assumed the mirror reflection was always there. But it’s not. It’s there only after it rains, obviously. 🙂
When it is not raining you will get to see the wide terrain with beautiful, intricate dry salt shapes, so this place is beautiful all year round!
The best time to go really depends on your preference of what you want to see. Most people say it is best to go from May to November when the weather is mild, but keep in mind that the Bolivian salt flat plains will be dry.
The wet season is from January to April. The rain will make that beautiful mirror effect, an unbelievable image of infinity.
I went in January and even if most of the salt flats in Uyuni were dry, we found a place 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. Any month you choose, you will not regret your choice![
3. How Many Days In the Bolivia Salt Flats Are Enough?
While it is possible to do a 1-day tour, 3-4 day tours that head deeper into the Altiplano are more popular (and recommended!).
What I particularly don’t like about the 1-day tour is that you don’t see this surreal place at sunset and you also don’t get to explore its other magnificent parts other than the salt plains– such as the flamingos, volcanos, hot springs and more!
I took a 3-day Bolivia salt flats tour, which is basically a 2-day tour as you finish at 8:30 AM on the last day (but you will wake up at 5:00 AM).
Because Uyuni is located at a higher altitude, I would recommend staying in the city for at least one day before the tour – this way you will get used to the altitude change and the lower amount of oxygen.
4. Where Do Bolivia Salt Flat Tours Start?
1-day tours usually start in Uyuni, a little town located very close to the salt fields in Bolivia – this is the most popular and the cheapest starting and finishing spot for the salt flat Bolivia tour.
3-4 day tours vary a bit from where they start and finish:
- Start and finish in Uyuni;
- Start in Uyuni and finish the tour in San Pedro di Atacama, Chile. That is what many people do, me included;
- If you are coming from Chile, you can start the tour in San Pedro di Atacama and finish in Uyuni (the other way around). Expect to pay more in this case (Chilean prices, you know ;)).
- Start in Tupiza – this is the least popular option and these tours usually last 4 days. You will start from the Southern part of the salt flats and do the itinerary in reverse. At the end, you can return from Salar de Uyuni to Tupiza.
You can even start in La Paz or Sucre if you want a short private one-day tour.
5. How To Get To Salar de Uyuni
From La Paz to Uyuni
The most popular starting point for the salt flats tour is Uyuni and this was my choice too. Uyuni is a little town living off of tourism, basically.
There are two options to get from La Paz to salt flats:
Budget option: The night bus from La Paz to Uyuni is around 8 hours long and it will get you there at 5:00-6:00 A.M. They said it was going to be bumpy, but I would say it was really not that bad. The price is about$ 25 USD. You can check the schedule and the up-to-date prices on TicketsBolivia.
The bus will leave you at the station in the early morning so you will have PLENTY of time to drink coca tea and find a suitable tour company for yourself before 10:00 am, the approximate time when the jeeps leave.
If you wish, you can stay for one more night, just to relax and get yourself acclimated to the altitude. I was feeling fine after the bus ride, so I did not want to wait.
Comfortable option: You can fly to Uyuni, as it has a small airport. The approximate price is $80-$100 USD.
You can even book a private day tour from La Paz if you are short on time and prefer this option.
From Sucre to Uyuni
You can get a direct bus from Sucre (Bolivia’s capital) to Uyuni salt flats and start your tour there. The ride will take about 8-9 hours and the approximate price is $11 USD. Buses run daily and you can check the schedule and prices on TicketsBolivia.
If you want, you can book an organized 1-day tour from Sucre to Uyuni salt flat. At the end of the tour, you will return to Sucre.
6. How To Choose Your Uyuni Salt Flats Tour
Please keep in mind that a tour leaving from Uyuni is a very standardized tour. Everyone there will offer you exactly the same route. They will try to increase the value of the tour (and, hence, the price), saying that their food is better or their driver is faster, but believe me, it is all the same in the end.
The things you should ask before you choose the tour are:
- How many people are there in the car? – the less, the better, of course, but it is usually 6 people + a driver.
- Does the driver speak English? – ours didn’t speak a word of English, but my Spanish was good enough to understand the meaning :).
- Where does the tour end? Do you come back to Uyuni or do you continue in the Atacama Desert in Chile? – most of the times this is your choice to make.
- Is the entrance to the National park included? – Usually, no. The entrance is an extra of 150 Bob ($22 USD). You also need to pay extra to visit the “Fish Island” within Uyuni salt lake.
It’s not usually a problem to just show up for a tour, as they are formed on a first come, first serve basis.
Most likely your guide will 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 any Spanish, this is what I recommend – make sure someone in your group understands at least a bit so they can translate the main things for you. If not, well, you will use body language, and the tour is mostly about seeing things, not a guided excursion. Everything that my guide told me (not that much to be honest), I could have easily read in Wikipedia here.
PRO TIP: Ask your driver to stay for the sunset in the salt plains and insist on it if he wants to leave. Our best pictures were taken during that time of the day. Make sure to talk about this when you book the tour.
7. How Much Does It Cost To Visit Bolivia Salt Flats?
The tours offer ABSOLUTELY the same itinerary. The only difference is the company and the price you will negotiate (see prices below).
My friend, prepare to bargain a bit!
The usual price is 700-750 Bob for a 3-day tour ($100 – $110 USD).
The sellers in Uyuni will try to convince you that they offer better food or more experienced drivers. The truth is, the tours are exactly the same and I see no reason to pay more than 750 Bob for the exact same service.
The price includes everything – transportation, food, and accommodation. Don’t forget about the extra ~$20 for the National Park entrance fee. And, in case you are going to San Pedro de Atacama after, there is an extra transfer payment for the border crossing (50 Bob). You can usually pay this in advance when you book the tour.
Please note that this is the price for a Spanish speaking driver. If you want a tour in English, you will have to pay double – 1300 – 1500 Bob (or about $220 USD) per person.
If you take the same tour from Chile, it will be more expensive.
8. What Will You See In A Bolivian Salt Flats Tour?
Even if the salt flat will surely be the highlight of the tour, it is only seen on the first day of your trip.
What will you see on the other two days?
Endless rocky desert, colored lagoons, pink, white and black flamingos, geysers belching sulfur, sleeping volcanoes (smoking sometimes), hot springs, cactus-covered islands, a train cemetery… and many more things!
I am not posting the itinerary here on purpose, as I would like you to be surprised and astonished by the amazing scenery you will see!
Trust me, Salvador Dali would feel at home in this surreal place, and anyway, when else will you have a chance to walk on Mars? 🙂
What Are The Accommodation Options In Bolivia, Salar De Uyuni?
We stayed in a salt hotel on the first day (hot shower was an extra payment of 10 Bob) and in a nice refuge (at over 4,000m altitude!) on the second night, where all 6 passengers from our jeep shared a (big) room.
The salt hotel in Bolivia was pretty cool – the tables, chairs, beds – everything was made completely out of salt.
Even the building itself was made out of salt bricks! How cool is that?
The accommodation did not have much to offer in terms of amenities (but hey, you are in the desert in the middle of nowhere), but it is clean and nice. So, great experience!
Hotel Recommendations for Uyuni
If you decided to stay in Uyuni overnight before or after your Salar de Uyuni trip, the best place would be the town of Uyuni, as that is where the tours start and finish.
Here are my recommendations for all budgets:
Luxury (US$ 150 and up): Cristales Joyas De Sal is an amazing 4-star hotel with great decor and facilities. My second suggestion is Casa Andina Salt Hotel, made of salt and with very nice decor details! Each room is fitted with a private bathroom, a seating area, a dining table and more!
Middle (US$ 50 – 100): For people who travel to Bolivia searching for middle-priced accommodation, I can recommend Hostal Quinua Dorada – very clean and the staff is super friendly! A second option could be Las Tholas Hotel which is a super nice 3-star hotel with tidy rooms and private bathrooms that have everything you may need for your stay there!
Budget (up to US$50): KW Hotel is a great budget option that will await you with a good buffet breakfast, flat-screen TV and private bathrooms. Another amazing option is Onkel Inn Wagon Sleepbox Uyuni – it has very good accommodation options, a nice terrace and a shared lounge where you can relax and unwind.
Hotel Recommendations for La Paz
La Paz is not the capital of Bolivia (Sucre is), but La Paz is bigger than the capital and it is an international hub where you will most likely stop before the Salar de Uyuni tour.
It makes sense to stay in La Paz for a day or two to get used to the high altitudes, as the city is 4,000 meters above sea level.
When I travel, I love staying in apartments, but I also like the service of a hotel. So, when I browsed the options, I found Almudena Apart Hotel and decided to stay there.
You will have the best of what a hotel can offer in Almudena – delicious buffet breakfast every morning, 24-hour front desk service, and cleaning service. But at the same time, you have that feeling of home which I was craving for a long time after so much traveling. You have your own apartment with a living room and even a kitchen. The kitchen had all that I needed plus a bonus- a kettle (I love tea!). I found the comfort there which I needed after my long trips around South America. I stayed for 3 days just to simply relax!
The hotel is located on a hill and the views from my room were fantastic! Just like that:
I would recommend staying at Almudena. They have a fast Internet connection, unlimited coca tea, and the privacy of your own apartment – I could not ask for more!
Other great hotels in La Paz:
Luxury (US$ 150 and up): Atix Hotel has a unique design and is home to the finest cuisine in all of La Paz. Guests have rated the staff as professional and courteous. Casa Grande Hotel has rooms with balconies that offer spectacular city views. Guests can also benefit from the Spa services.
Middle (US$ 50 – 100): Hotel Rosario La Paz is the to go place for anyone who wants to experience true Bolivian food and design. Casa Fusion Hotel Boutique has its name speaking for it. It is a fusion between modern and classic Bolivian architecture and an overall wonderful place to stay.
Budget (up to US$50): Hotel Bolivian Rooms & Suites is a quiet hotel with a chic design situated in a great location for shopping and local cuisine. Hotel B&B Tinka is perfect for those who want to go down the streets and experience true Bolivian lifestyle
What to do in La Paz
If you 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 Salar de Uyuni Packing List
Here is what I recommend taking with you:
- Warm clothes – take layers, as it is a desert and you will wake up early when it is cool;
- Sunglasses and sun block – (it WILL be hot during the day);
- Camera – of everywhere you travel, this is NOT the place to forget it;
- Camera charger – if you are planning to take many pictures;
- Waterproof shoes – you will walk on that water layer – or even flip-flops are okay;
- A towel – the hotels you will be staying in are very simple and won’t provide one
- Wet napkins – to refresh yourself;
- A pyjama – I’ve heard it’s damn cold during the night sometimes. Plus, on the second night you are going to stay with 5 other people in the room;
- Some cash – there is an entrance fee to the National Park (150 Bob), that is probably not included in your tour + more for souvenirs;
- Water and snacks – even if it is provided by the tour, it is always better to have more in case you get hungry;
- A torch (flashlight or headlamp) – useful, but not obligatory.
In case you are going to the Atacama desert afterward (like me) – you will have to put your main luggage on top of the jeep and take a backpack with you in the car with what you will need for these 3-4 days.
Forget about staying online for those days. There will be no phone signal and no Internet connection (reminder – you will be literally in the middle of nowhere). On day 3, though (right before we crossed the border into Chile), there was an opportunity to use an overpriced Wi-Fi (20 bob for 15 mins).
|🎤 Private guided tour:|
|📅 How many days:||3-4|
|☀️ Best time to go:||May – November|
|💵 Avg hotel price:||$100|
Frequently Asked Questions
There were many questions that you asked about the salt flats in Bolivia and I wanted to answer all of them! I updated this post with extra information regarding the weather, altitude sickness, money, food and many other tips. You can read everything below:
What is the Salar de Uyuni altitude?
The altitude at Bolivia, Uyuni is more than 3,500m (12,000 feet) above sea level and, believe it or not, during your trip you will climb even higher! For example, at Laguna Colorada, in the Eduardo Avaroa National Park, the altitude is 4,800m (15,700 feet). This is why I recommend spending at least a day in Bolivia before your trip; this will help you get used to the altitude and the lower levels of oxygen in the air. Make sure to drink coca tea, eat light meals and get some rest.
How can I make sure I get the best seat in the 4WD tour?
Given the fact that this is a collective experience in a beautiful salt desert in Bolivia, my honest advice would be to swap places with the other people in the car after a while – maybe 3 times a day, every 3 hours – this is your choice as a group. That’s what we did and no one seemed to mind. This way everybody will be able to see the amazing scenery from the car window and nobody will get upset.
Will my driver speak English?
No, most of the drivers will only speak Spanish. If you would like an English speaking driver you can book a private tour, such as this 1-day tour from La Paz.
Will it be cold?
Even though the weather is nice during the day, at night it will get cold. Don’t forget to bring some warm clothes. If you are still concerned, you can take your own sleeping bag with you or rent one from your tour operator (ask about that in advance).
Will I have electricity or special places to charge my phone?
Considering that you will be in a group of people in a very remote place, you must keep in mind that the electricity at the accommodation during your trip might not be enough for all of you to use. I suggest, in order to not miss any photo opportunities (trust me, you will be taking TONS of beautiful pictures of salt plains!), bring an external battery during your trip so you can recharge your phone and/or camera. You won’t regret it!
I remember we could use an extended plug in one of the hotels to charge our phones though.
Will I have phone signal and/or internet connection during the tour?
No, you will have very little to no signal and/or internet connection during your Salar de Uyuni trip. Make the best out of this tour and take the opportunity to relax, unwind and forget about staying online for a while! 🙂
If you REALLY need internet, there will be a place where you will stop for lunch on the 2nd day with paid Wi-Fi.
Are there any restaurants or shops nearby?
You will be in a very, VERY remote place with no restaurants, pharmacies or shops nearby. The tours are all-inclusive and they provide all the food you need (and the food is good, I must say), but you have to make sure to bring everything you may need with you (such as painkillers or other medicine you have to take etc).
Tip: If you have any dietary requirements or food intolerances (you are gluten-intolerant, vegetarian etc.) please tell the tour organizers beforehand and discuss all these details with them in order to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Do I need cash or can I use my credit card?
You will mostly need cash during your trip. Please note that the entrance to Eduardo Avaroa National Park (150 Bob/$22 USD), the hot springs (6 Bob/$1USD) and the Fish Island (30 Bob/$4.40 USD) are not included in the price of the tour, so you will need to have cash in local currency for these. Although there are some ATMs in Uyuni, I wouldn’t rely on these. I would make sure I have the cash beforehand. Better safe than sorry, right?
Tips and tricks for taking the best photos at Bolivia salt flats?
If you planning on going on a Salar de Uyuni photography tour, you will be taking many pictures whether you plan on it or not. The only advice I can give you is to be creative and take as many pictures as you can – that way you will have plenty of good pictures. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries for your camera!
If you are searching for some inspiration, take a look at these Bolivia images and check out 20 creative ideas for your Salar de Uyuni pictures!
If you are staying for longer than just a couple of days, I recommend visiting Sucre (don’t miss the dinosaur prints over there!), Potosi, and the Titicaca Lake (you can read my article about the tour I did from the Peruvian side of the lake.)
Salar de Uyuni is one of the most surreal places I have ever been to in my life! If you are visiting South America, try to plan your itinerary so that you visit the Uyuni salt flats Bolivia, as it is one of those unique places you have to see at least once in your lifetime!
We spoke about the essentials of the Salar de Uyuni tour, how much exactly it will cost you, how to choose the best tour and how to get to the place, as well as when to go, how long to stay, and a lot of other useful information for your trip. I also tried to answer some of the most common FAQs about Salar de Uyuni tours at the end of the article.
If you still have additional questions about the amazing Bolivia mirror lake, please leave a comment below and I will be happy to answer and update the article with further information!
I hope you will have lots of fun during your Bolivia holidays!
Going to Chile next? You should try some of the best wine tours there!
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Hello, which airport did you fly into and from what city? I’m from Orlando and I tried doing a search to Uyuni and it keeps coming up with nothing. Recommendations?
I have a section on transportation in this blog post, please check it out. The best option for your would be to get to La Paz and then fly to Joya Andina Airport (Uyuni).
Such a great informative post. Love every bit of it. I only have time to visit during mid May. Any recommendations? Do I have any luck to see the wet salt field?
as usual, noone can promise to you that if you go in a particular month you will have great weather/sunsets/reflections. But I think May has a very good probability you will have all of the above. Enjoy your trip, you will have a lot of fun in anyway, that is for sure!
Great post, well written, and top-shelf photos! Bravo!
Hello, I’m planning solo trip there and I’m very interested at night sky over the salt lake but the night tours are too expensive do to as solo traveler. Do you know if there are taxis around I could take for 2 hours or so to go somewhere outside of the city ? Thank you
I think you will be able to ask around and get yourself a driver right at the place. The driver will most probably not speak english though so it will not be a proper tour. I do not not about the prices, but definitely negotiate hard! 🙂
I am traveling to Uyuni soon in March, however I haven’t been able to find 2-3 days tour from la Paz for a solo female traveler.. recommendation?
I found a tour that looks like it would be right for you and seems to be available in March on GetYourGuide, check it out!
So enjoyed reading your post along with the many questions from other travelers and your answers. I’m planning a trip which will include both a visit to the Uyuni salt flats and the Atacama desert sometime later this month or early Feb. Thanks for sharing so much helpful information.
Just found your blog and now I’m dreaming of going here I just don’t understand why the english tour is more expensive?
Love, Maria ☺️
It is an extra service they provide, so that’s why the price goes up. But the tour is more of a sightseeing tour, not with so many explanations so you could be all right with a Spanish tour too, especially if somebody in your group speaks Spanish! Just make sure you find out the answer to the questions I mention in the article before booking the tour: – How many people are there in the car?
– Does the driver speak English?
– Where does the tour end? Do you come back to Uyuni or do you continue in the Atacama Desert in Chile?
– Is the entrance to the National park included?
Enjoy your trip!
Could we take the salt from the salt lake? Or there are no dry salts because the water covers them?
As far as I know, there are no signs at the place to indicate that taking salt is forbidden. So I’d say you can take a little bit if you want to keep it as a souvenir from your trip, you’ll have salt all over your shoes and the car anyway! 🙂
Hey Great Post was wondering if you can just pick up a driver from the airport without booking. we were thinking about flying in at 2pm and staying for the arvo and watching the sunset and then flying out at 8pm. we are very tight on time but thought this would be enough time.
Hi, Tom! Thank you!
Unfortunately, I do not think this is possible at the airport and with such a short timeframe! 🙁
This article is quite helpful to me!!
I and my 7 pals will go for 3D2N Salt Flat Tours in mid-January next year. We start doing some research online to look for a private tour with English speaker for 2 cars (Refer to your article, it seems that there is no private tour for 8 passengers with a mini-bus.).
We shall take your advice to stay at Uyuni for a day. Any budget/middle apartment/hotel in Uyuni you would recommend?
On the other hand, any advice on tipping to the diver, guide etc.?
Hello! Thank you for your comment, I’m so happy that you found the article useful for your travels! 🙂
Regarding the tour for you and your friends, I can recommend this one (so you will get two cars of maximum 4 people each) or this one. Both of them offer the pick-up and drop-off in Uyuni and an English-speaking guide.
Great decision about staying in Uyuni! As for the budget/middle-priced accommodation, I can recommend Casa de Sal (this is a salt hotel and you can book 2 quadruple rooms for your group), Hotel Jumari (two triple rooms and one double room maybe?) or Hotel Jardines de Uyuni.
Last but not least – tipping culture. It is nice to leave tips if you are satisfied with the service! An expected sum would be around 10-20 US$ per day (in total, from the entire group) for the guide and about half of that for a driver, cook, assistant guide etc.
That’s it, have fun during your vacation! 🙂
Once again thanks for your prompt reply!
Thanks for this. I do not speak Spanish at all, I wont be missing a lot of stuffs being explained right? Double the price for english is just too much.
Also, it is best we just book there? No advance booking. Will arrive early morning, and tour is mostly 9-10am. Just afraid we will ran out of decent options.
There is no problem if you do not speak Spanish, maybe someone in your group will understand it so he/she can translate for you? Otherwise, you won’t be missing on much if you do not understand, the tour is more about seeing things, not a guided excursion so there won’t be many explanations.
There is no problem with booking the tour there either, because everyone will offer you exactly the same route, it is a standardized tour. Just make sure to ask the 4 important questions I mentioned in the article before choosing your tour:
– How many people are there in the car?
– Does the driver speak English?
– Where does the tour end? Do you come back to Uyuni or do you continue in the Atacama Desert in Chile?
– Is the entrance to the National park included?
What a fantastic read! Thank you so much.
I have just started looking into the salt flats as I am considering a holiday to visit Machu Picchu before, la Paz, the salt flats and then to fly back from Calama in chile. Can you tell me a bit more about the end of your journey? Arriving into the Atacama Desert in chile etc. And how you found it in chile?
How long was the border crossing? Where did you go from there? Was it worth the visit? Etc.
We will only have a day or two there so it may be better for us to return to Uyuni? But I wanted to try and tick another country off the list, even if it was for the briefest time!
After the tour, when we arrived in Atacama we just booked the accommodation on our own and did a stargazing tour. The border crossing took around 1h – 1h30′ because we had to wait and also change buses.
I think it is worth a visit, at least for a couple of days but I cannot say too much about it because I only stayed for one night and did the stargazing tour and then we left. 🙁
I hope you’ll have a great vacation, the itinerary sounds great! 🙂
your blog post on Uyuni is very helpful but I have a couple of questions:
1. Does the tour to Uyuni salt flats take you to the Desert of Atacama also? if not, how did you get to the DoA and how to get back to La Paz.
2. Getting a 3-day tour to the Salt flats in Uyuni is actually only around U$S100.00 for the whole three days or for each day?
3. Would it be OK for a single older woman to be traveling around that area by herself?
Thank you in advance for your reply!
1. The tour I took started in Uyuni and ended in San Pedro di Atacama, Chile. There are different options of starting and ending points, depending on your chosen tour:
• Start and finish in Uyuni;
• Start in Uyuni and finish the tour in San Pedro di Atacama, Chile.
• If you are coming from Chile, you can start the tour in San Pedro di Atacama and finish in Uyuni (the other way around). Expect to pay more in this case (Chilean prices, you know ).
• Start in Tupiza – this is the least popular option and these tours usually last 4 days. You will start from the Southern part of the salt flats and do the itinerary in reverse. At the end, you can return from Salar de Uyuni to Tupiza.
• You can even start in La Paz or Sucre if you want a short private one-day tour.
2. Usually the prices for tours you can find online indicate the total price, so for the whole 3 days. You need to pay extra only if you want extra facilities or an English-speaking driver, for example.
3. Yes, I think it is okay to travel alone, as you will be accompanied anyway by the other travelers, which can be a very nice experience and many people do it!
Hope this helps. Have a nice day!
I am planning to travel around Peru for 12 days but would also like to go to the salt flats, Atacama and maybe wineries in Chile before flying out. Where did the tour drop you off and how did you get around Chile?
My tour ended in San Pedro di Atacama, Chile but you can choose your ending point depending on the type of tour you choose – Uyuni, Tupiza etc.
Regarding getting around in Chile – there are buses that you can take but I can also recommend renting a car in case you have an international driving license!
I am thinking of a self drive starting in Sucre.I can drive to Uyuni,in the first part of the trip ,and to Potosi,I the second part.
If you believe that orientation is a big problem,can I ask(and of course pay)a driver of an organized tour to let me follow him?
If that’s not feasible,is it easy to find guides in those cities?
Thank you for your time!
Not sure if you are asking about the orientation in Uyuni Salt flats?
while the tour is pretty standartized and I think a driver would not refuse for you to follow the road, you still will need to book those hotels beforehand (they do not have websites) and organize your food and water yourself.
If you can manage the accommodation and will follow the driver, I think this could work, but I honestly would prefer to go with the tour so I do not have to stress over it
I am planing travel Central and South America after a short trip in US in May. I will go through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other countries in between before heading Bolivia (around August or Sept) then end up in Chile for 4 – 5 months. My questions are 1) how easy to book 3-4 days salt flat tour as for single person (I do not know any Spanish). 2) is safe to join any tour on my own without knowing anyone in the tour?
Thank you in advance!
Love your blog. Cheers, Hannah from Australia
If you will take a 3-4 days 4WD tour, you will usually be with 5-6 other people in the car and it is safe to be just by yourself there – maybe some of the other travelers can understand Spanish!
In case you would prefer an English-speaking driver, you will have to pay more the tour; for example you can take this private one-day tour from La Paz. But I think you will be okay with the classic 3-4 days tour! 🙂
I love your blog and especially this write up which is so so useful. I’m thinking of doing the 3D2N salt flat tour and getting dropped off in San Pedro. Just wondering, is the landscape of the salt flat tour similar to that you will see on tours in SP to Valle de la Luna, geysers, lagoons etc? If that’s the case I’m thinking of just doing a day trip to salt flats as it is much cheaper. Thank you so much for your help in advance.
It was a great article to help
But i want to Know is it necessary to take yellow fever vaccination before visiting the salt flats and laguna colorado.
Thanks in advance
Hello! No, I dont remember it being necessary over there
Such an informative posting, just wanted to say thanks!
happy to help!
we are planning a holiday covering Chile from North to South in next January. Do you think both Uyuni salt flats + Atacama desert flats are both worth it? Or just the Atacama flats are equally stunning?
I think it is quite different, we are talking a desert and salt flats. I have been to Atacama for only a day so it is hard to compare for me between the 2
Uyuni is definitely a must imo!
I am going in late June. If I am coming from Lima, and want to go to Santiago after seeing the salt flats, would you recommend I fly to uyuni and have the 3 day tour end in Chile? Can I pick up the train there or is there another mode of transportation to continue onward? thanks!
I started in Uyuni and finished in Chile, so that is exactly the option i can recommend yes. Not sure about the trains, sorry
Have a great trip!
How much was the overall tour for you? looks like you had an English tour guide and a car to yourself. I
want to photograph a lot so I think a privet car would be better!
I mention all the prices in the post and info you asked for is in the post, please take a look above (though the prices could have insignificantly changed meanwhile, it has been a couple of years since I was there)
Fantastic article and very comprehensive and useful guide.
You really inspired me to go there.
Welcome! Updated the post and wanted to go again 🙂
My friend showed me a pic of the salt flats a day ago, i found this site today and now I’m going in February ;). Yah …u did inspire me .. great work u.
Welcome and thanks so much!
I went through the post again and now I want to come back! 🙂
We are planning to fly to Uyuni back and forth in mid of November 2018, do you think the tour reservation is a must? Did you see tor guides pretty much available? We are a party of 5 and half of us are fluent in Spanish
Thanks a lot
As I said in the post, we just got it there at the place, there was no need to book anything in advance, there are plenty of tour operators that leave in the morning every day.
If you feel safer this way, you could also book in advance, but it is not necessary
Im attempting to do Salt Flats as a private tour, was going to fly to Calama, get the bus from Calama to Atacama, do either a tour just of the salt flats area, or from atacama to sucre then fly to Santa Cruz for a few days.
However, i have suffered altitude sickness before so am really nervous about stopping at Potosi due to altitude height. My passion was always just to see the salt flats. If i did maybe 1-2 day tours to the salt flats (maybe a day and an evening tour), what would be “to see” stuff. I have got train cemetery, salt factory and maybe a visit to the Salt Hotel but would like to see flamingos and the geysers. Since it will be a private tour/s, i can ask to add in bits, is there anything else i have missed?
I have had altitude sickness before (although brought on by a chest infection) so this time plan to hire a portable oxygen machine from here in NZ to hopefully keep altitude at bay this time.
This was so helpful, thank you. I’m looking into the 3 day salt flat tour. I don’t need to book that in advance, right? They are about 190 USD to book in advance and I feel like I am getting ripped off that way. What do most people do?
I dont know what most people do, but i belive i described in details what i have done – i booked it there.
Hi Yulia, i just read your post and and saw your experienced about your travel to The world most beautiful SALT flats in Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. I am planning with my bestfriend to visit the place, what excite me most is the mirror reflection of the salt.It’s liked most very Interesting to EXPERIENCE ,,what is the best month to visit so that we can see the mirror reflection.Thank you and more adventure to you.
Wow, thanks for all your insights and tips! I was planning on booking the $200USD itinary until I read your blog! Did you remember what time you got back to Uyuni after the 3 days? I think i might be riding back to La Paz on the same day right after the tour so I can catch a plane the next day. THus, it’s cruicial I can make it back in time. I believe the bus leaves around 8pm. Thanks!
Hi May, no problem!
I did not come back to Uyuni the last day as I continued my trip to Atacama desert, but the last day started pretty early, so I am sure you would make it back by maximum 3 pm. Make sure to mention that to your driver though so that he delivers you on time, but normally you should be fine!
Yulia,just a few more questions…
We ,that is my family have planned a trip to uyuni.
We have already booked a hotel at uyuni
1) is it possible to do day trips from the hotel and repeat them ?
2)are there direct flights from Lima to uyuni?
It would not be possible to do the same itinerary that I have done staying in Uyuni, some of the places are quite remote and require a lot of driving
Yes, there are definitely direct flights from Lima
Hope this helps,
have a great trip!
Thanks for posting this.
How many days would you recommend if you want to do both the Atacama Desert and the Salt Flats in Bolivia?
I have also seen some pretty epic pictures for stargazing on the salts flats in Bolivia… would you recommend doing a stargazing tour one night?
Any benefit to starting with the Salt Flats over the Atacama desert first or vice versa?
I did stargazing in Chilean side, it was pretty cool!
Idk, it is complely up to you on how many days you want to spend in Atacama, i spent only one (i had a really weird allergy and i had to leave), but usually people stay for 3 days i believe.
Thank you so much for this!
I’m studying abroad in Cusco and have a week Spring Break during which I would like to go to La Paz and Uyuni. Did you fly to Uyuni and purchase the tour there or did you purchase in advance? Which would you suggest? I would like to end in Chile like you did and make my way back up to Cusco. I’d be traveling with a few girls from my school
You can take a tour that includes a flight from La Paz, but I think you can also book a flight yourself (or take a bus, but this is longer) and book just the tour. For example, this is a good one.
Most of them can drop you off at the boarder, I advise you to check with the tour.
Hope this helps, have a great trip! 🙂
Thank you so much for this blog! I will def be visiting here. Your advice and tips are a tremendous help.
I do have a question…What’s the best way to get back to La Paz? Say for example, we fly in round trip to La Paz, just to visit the salt flats…Thanks in advance!
Flying is definitely the best way. Getting there by bus is usually the cheapest option (although not the most comfaortable)
Yulia, thank you for this great post. It has helped A LOT with planning my salt flat tour!!
I was hoping you could answer a couple questions for me! We want to end in San Pedo Di Atacama and continue right away by bus back to Arequipa in Peru. (long travel day, I know).
Did your tour company take you right to the town of San Pedo Di Atacama? Did they help with the border crossing? And lastly, do you remember approximately what time you arrived to Atacama? Thank you in advance!!!
Yes, they took us right in town and it was midday, maybe about 12, but i cant remember for sure.
Have fun! 🙂
are there any tours from Lap paz to that area or you have to get there ?
Yes! This tour is probably what you need.
Let me know how it was! 🙂
Do you have the name of the bus company and the tour company did you use for this trip? Thank you.
I understand November is when Flamingos arrive for mating. Are their any specific tours for taking pictures of the Flamingo in Nov.?
not that i know of. Maybe some private tours organized especially for you
Excellent post. I am looking at flights now. I have a very limited amount of time, but I have wanted to do the 3 day tour for several years now. So, I was thinking overnight bus from La Paz, 3 day tour and then fly back. Wondering if the 8:05am flight back will be OK or if I should book the 19:10 flight, just to make sure I have enough time. Thank you so much!
No, 8 am flight is definitely too early.
If I remember correct, you will be back to Uyuni by 12 (we were at the Chilean boarder at about 9 30 – 10 am), plus the time needed for the driver to get back to Uyuni. I think 7 pm flight is just fine! 🙂
Our travel group includes one person who cannot eat anything containing gluten. Can you tell me what type of food was served on your tour?
The food was simple – soups, pasta, salads, some meat (chicken), nothing fancy, our driver was cooking. In case you want to make sure they can serve gluten-free food, i strongly advice you write them in advance and double check that directly with the company.
Any advice for which airline better for la paz ti uyuni flight? Also the 3rd day drop off to cross border to atacama what time do most tours get to the border and can you do a tour from the border of the atacama desert?
I took a bus, but i think any airline would do the job, right, just search on skyscanner or such.
I think we were at the boarder at about midday, maybe even earlier (the day started veeery early that day i remember)
yes, you can also do the tour the other way around – from Chile to Salar de uyuni. But I have heard those tours are significantly more expensive though.
Hello! Which tour did you go with?
Hi! I was wondering if you know a few specific tour companies that are reputable in terms of service and safety. I have heard some pretty bad stuff about uyuni tour drivers drinking on the job etc.
First, this post is amazing!
I am inspired to start creating similar posts to help people plan their own trips.
Second, my girlfriend and I just arrive in Bolivia.
We will probably only have 3 days and nights in the La Paz area if we do a 3 day salt flat tour.
My girlfriend and I are going to La Paz this week (after Uyumi, we still need to book our tour but we fly in tomorrow and land at 1030am unfortunately so i think we won’t be able to leave tomorrow).
So for 6 days would you recommend:
3 day Salt flats tour
1 day cycling death road
2 days lake Titicaca (specifally overnight at isle of sun)
2 days salt flat tour (assuming can’t leave on the day we land)
1 day cycling death road
2 day lake Titicaca (isle of sun, copacabana) – this would just be a long day trip
1 day La Paz
3 days salt flat tour (assuming can’t leave on the day we land in Uyumi)
1 day cycling death road
1 day lake Titicaca (isle of sun)
1 day la Paz
Hi guys! sorry, sometimes i am unable to reply right away to your questions.
If this is still applicable, I would probably go for an option A. There are so many things to see on lake Titicaca and the Salt flats and I would recommend to do it with no rush.
I did not do the death road, but I have heard it is amazing!
Hope you are having lots of fun there!
Thank you! And obviously that last one should be option C ☺
We only have time for a 2 day tour maximum. Do you think this is possible? Thanks
i know for sure that there are 1 day tours, but there might be 2 days tours as well. If not, you can always go for a private one, they are very flexible and will organize it for you, but it will be more expensive of course.
I am planning a trip to Bolivia in June and Uyuni is my list. As I am travelling solo I would like to know if I should arrange the trip before going to Bolivia, if I should arrange it from La Paz or if it is also possible to go to Uyuni and organise it there directly joining a group.
I am considering the option of doing a day of trekking to a volcano or something similar, I’ve seen online that a few companies offer it, do you know of any agency who offered something like that or if it could be easily added to the tour?
As I said, I did not book anything in advance, we got it on the day of the tour. it is very easy, most of the people do it that way too!
I did the most standard tour of 3 days, not sure if there is a volcano hike, sorry!
Planning on visiting the Salt Flats this year and have a couple questions: I’m planning on coming to Uyuni from La Paz and continuing through Bolivia to Santa Cruz. Taking the 3 day tour back to Uyuni, does it affect the price? I can just tell the driver I want to come back to Uyuni and he will do it just like that?
Yes, all the drivers go back to Uyni in any way and the tour was originally planned this way that it starts and finishes in Uyuni. But because many traveler (me included) prefer to continue to Atacama in Chile, there is a choice of not returning.
If you wantt to come back you do not have to pay anything
Hi Yulia. I’m planning on doing Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina in a months time and I just stumbled onto your website. Very very useful information! Thank you for posting the article as it’s already helped me decide my route from La Paz to San Pedo di Atacama. Cheers! Dylan
You are very welcome!
Wow. Just wow. Thanks for all that info. Can you tell me if the flamingoes are there in late January or early February? And can you get close enough for decent photos of them? Thank you lots
hey Amanda, thanks so much!
I have been in late January and there were many flamingos! And yes, you get really close so you can take an amazing picture especially if you have decent zoom!
have fun and safe travels!
Thank you for your throughout information. You said “even if most of the salt flat was dry, we found a place that allowed us to see the reflections.” Which tour did you hire? They search the water for the passengers? I am afraid that I may have similar situation because I will go there in April, while the rain season is mostly in Feb and March.
The drivers usually know where the water is because they did the same route a couple of days ago. There is no difference which tour you will choose (unless you take an exclusive private tour but I know nothing about those) because they all go the same way. You will see caravans of jeeps taking the same route. They also communicate by the phone which particular place to go to if there is not enough water.
No worries, if there is water, they will find it! Just don’t be shy to insist a bit. For example our driver wanted to get us to the hotel before the sunset, but I insisted we stay for the pictures and he agreed 🙂
Hope that helps, have a great trip! 🙂
Hey, great post, thanks so much for all the information! In the article I didn’t find the name of the tour agency you chose and if you can recommend it? Would be great if you could give me further information about this 🙂
the tours offered in Uyuni are completely identical as I said in the post, you will get the same service and the itinerary.
The only difference is the price (depending on how you negotiate) and the amount of people in the car.