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Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni

Travel Coach Chile > Chile > Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni

Have you thought about taking advantage of your tour in Chile to organize a multi country trip and include Bolivia to your bucketlist? Specifically, you could add to your trip to Atacama Desert a tour to Uyuni Salt flats in Bolivia, one of the most popular highlights of South America. If you have not heard about this amazing place yet, our travel guide will be of great interest for you.

The ultimate guide to visit Bolivia’s Salt Flats.

How to visit Uyuni Salt flats?
Where is Uyuni salt flatds located?
When to visit ?
Our tips to help acclimatization
What to expect when booking a tour with a travel agency?

What is Uyuni salt flats (Salar de Uyuni in spanish) ?

Ideally located not too far from the Chilean border, Uyuni salt flat is a natural wonder: a perfect flat expanse of white. It is the largest continuous salt desert in the world, with an area of 12,000 km2 (or 4633 sq mi). It is located 12.000 feet above sea level, in the southwest of Bolivia, in Potosi department. Uyuni salt is one of the largest lithium reserves in the world and it also contains significant amounts of potassium, boron and magnesium.

We have written a detailed post including all you need to know for visiting Bolivian salt flats on our blog.

Salar Uyuni

What to see in Salar de Uyuni ?

  • Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve

This national reserve is located on the high plains of Bolivia and aims at protecting fauna, wildlife and indigenous people. It hosts striking landscapes such as Salvador Dali’s desert and White Green Lagoon. This is one of the most popular national reserve of the country. The reserve is located near to the Chilean border (called Hito Cajon) and at the base of Licancabur volcano.

Laguna Azul reserve Eduardo Alvaroa Hito cajon chile Bolivia

  • Desierto de Chalviri

The sector is part of the national reserve,and includes Laguna Polques and Polques hot springs where you can swim in warm waters, in the middle of an impressive scenery! In addition to an amazing view of Chalviri desert, you will also have the chance to watch hundreds of flamingos. The Geysers Sol de la mañana must also be seen.
Geysers sol de la mañana Bolivia Chile Uyuni national reserve Eduardo Alvaroa
  • Siloli Desert

This desert is made of spectacular colors, is very famous for stone trees (arbol de piedra). These are rock formations shaped by wind and minerals erosion. You’ll also enjoy in the areathe splendid Colorada Lagoon,nesting center for more than 30,000 pink flamingos
Laguna Colorada pink flamingos
  • Uyuni salt falts (Salar of Uyuni )

This large flat expanse of white salt is the highlight of the tour. But there are other spots that you should absolutely visit. Incahuasi Island, known as cactus island, or as Isla de los Pescadodores, is located in the middle of the salt flats and is characterized by its huge cactus trees. It is the perfect spot to enjoy anamazing sunrise and to get the perfect overview on the immensity of Salar de Uyuni. Nearby, you’ll also findOjos de Sal (Eyes of the desert), a monument dedicated to the Dakar Tour (that used to pass by Uyuni salt flats), a museum and salt mines. There is also a train cemetery near the city.
  • Salar of Chiguana

This white desert is much smaller than Salar de Uyuni, and is located at the base of Ollague volcano.
  • Valle de las Rocas

Ideal spot for climbing, it’s also a beautiful panorama! These rock formations are the result of volcanic eruptions. They have original shapes, and by using your imagination, you can observe a camel and a World Cup.

Valle anaconda Uyuni

  • Laguna Misteriosa

The Black Lagoon (also known as Misteriosa) is one of our favorites, because it comes as a surprise. After passing by many spectacular lagoons, located in huge landscapes, this one is rather a secret place. After a short walk, you will arrive in this mysterious place, a bit hidden from the massive touristic spot but very charming. Besides, it is one of the best place to take pictures of lamas! Nearby, Anaconda Canyon is also worth a visit.

Laguna Misteriosa Uyuni

From Chile, it is very easy to add a tour to Uyuni salt flats to your trip. That is the perfect opportunity to go visiting the world’s biggest and most popular salt flats and to visit Bolivia. Specifically, we advise you to add this tour (about 4 days) after spending a few days in Atacama Desert. Indeed, it is easy to connect Salar de Uyuni from San Pedro de Atacama.

To all those who wonder what is the best between Uyuni salt flats or San Pedro de Atacama, we suggest visiting both! And yes, tours in Salar de Uyuni often exceeds 13.000 ft high elevation. Therefore, we recommend to go through an acclimatization process in Chile, while visiting San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings.

Now let’s move on to Salar de Uyuni. In fact, this 4-day tour not only includes a visit to the impressive salt desert, but also includes many visits in South Lipez and the fabulous Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve.

Let’s have a look at these touristic spots on our map

What is the best time to visit Uyuni salt flats ?

Salar de Uyuni has the advantage of being accessible all year round. However, you have to take into account temperatures, and seasonality to choose the best period for your trip to Bolivia. Indeed, there are two seasons: the dry season (which runs from April to November) and the rainy season which can start in December and last until March (the greatest rainfall is usually observed in February). During the rainy season,the salar turns into a real mirror.

Sunrise on the salar of Uyuni ocher colors

What is the weather like in Bolivian salt flats?

Maximum temperatures fluctuate year-round between 14 and 18°C. At night they can go down to -25 °C in winter (from June to August). The sunshine is more or less constant all year round, and the most pleasant temperatures are between September and April. Keep in mind that the weather can change quickly.

When to go to Uyuni to have the mirror effect?

Once a year occurs a phenomenon conducive to the most unlikely optical effects. When rains flood the salar, it is covered with a thin film of water. In general, it happens in February, that is the month when you will have the best chance of observing the mirror effect in Uyuni salt flat. However, it must be taken into account that during this period, several parts of the salar are not accessible, resulting in a change in visits .

Salar Uyuni rain mirror

Altitude

We can’t say it enough, you can not head to this tour without being acclimatized! Most of the stay will take place above 12.000 ft, and some nights are spent above 15.000 ft. Therefore it is important to get acclimatized beforehand (in San Pedro de Atacama).

In general, thanks to an acclimatization process, altitude is not a problem. However, it is not recommended to climb a high level for some people at risk,such as pregnant women and people with heart problems, high blood pressure or severe asthma. If in doubt, you must to consult your GP.

How to avoid altitude sickness?

We recommend you avoiding drinking alcohol the day before departure, as well as during the tour. Infusions with coca leaves will be offered, which is a natural way to help the body withstand the effects of altitude. During excursions, we advise you to walk slowly,and drink plenty of water. Comfortable accommodations (hotel) have oxygen available at the reception. Beware, rudimentary accommodations are devoid of such infrastructure.

And apart from the altitude, are there any risks related to a tour to Uyuni salt flats?

Keep in mind that the tour takes place in an extreme environment. The tracks are in poor conditions and very stony. The villages are very isolated and poorly urbanized.

Prepare your stay at the Uyuni salar with a travel agency

You are convinced Uyuni salt flats are worth a visit, but you do not know how to make it happen? Visiting with or without an agency? Where to stay ? Are you looking for an agency to take care of the organization of your expedition to Uyuni? So the following is going to interest you.

Salt flats, how long should I stay?

In general to visit Uyuni salt flats from San Pedro de Atacama, a 4 days and 3 nights tour is recommended. So that you have enough time to discover all the jewels of the region at an intense but reasonable pace. This tour is a loop and allows you to return to Chile. There is also an option in 3 days and 2 nights, but we do not recommend it because the time spent in the car is too important and does not give you enough time to enjoy the scenery. It is also possible to go around in 3 days and 2 nights with a drop off in Uyuni, Bolivia, at the end of the tour.

Should you organize your tour to Uyuni salt flats with or without an agency?

In both cases, get ready for long days. The beautiful landscapes, and the grandiose nature, are not easy to access! Unfortunately ! You will have the chance to discover isolated and preserved landscapes,but this means that you will have to do drive hundred miles on rocky tracks! Your back will probably not thank you for that.
We do not recommend trying to discover Salar de Uyuni independently, except if you have a proper preparation and experience with this kind of expedition.
As a travel agency, we offer2 options for traveling to Uyuni salt flats: private or shared tour. They are organized by Bolivian tour operators that we carefully selected. If you take the private tour,we recommend 4 adults per vehicle in order to have enough space for each passenger. On shared tours, there are 6 passengers per vehicle and the space for your legs is more than limited. Fortunately there will be many breaks, in a dream setting, which will quickly make you forget these little annoyances.
The two tours are substantially similar regarding the visits, and are distinguished by the accommodations and the pace imposed by the driver. In both cases, these are travel packages with Full Board, that means all inclusive packages with accommodation, transport and food. An additional fee is charged for the entrance to the national park and Incahuasi island, as well as for public toilets. For the shared tour, hot showers are also charged apart.
As far as drivers are concerned, those with whom we work possess an excellent knowledge of the area, and they are the only authorized person to decide which road to take considering weather conditions, or timing constraint. Also be aware that, their vehicle have to deal with harsh conditions related to salt flats and desert weather. They take great care of it but the salt attacks all parts of the vehicle, and the pebbles fly on the runways. This sometimes (rarely) causes damages to the car such as flat tire or broken glass. Their kindness and goodwill will leave you with an excellent memory, and they contribute greatly to the success of your stay.

Where to stay?

Before we start talking about hotels, we would like to remind you that for this tour, we should expect adventure! By that we mean that you will travel to Bolivia, a country with a different culture than the country in which you live. Its people are very welcoming, and will always do their best for satisfying your needs. But you have to take into account the reality of the country, with much more limited infrastructure than in Chile.
There are two types of accommodation: basic accommodation,i.e. accommodation with locals in the communities, and hotels.
The first category is offered in shared tours, withmixed dormitories usually of 6 people, without heating. The toilets are extremely rudimentary (hot water is charged apart), and the bathrooms are shared.
The second category are considered as good standard accommodation, given their isolation, but can not be compared with hotels in Chile. They offer heated rooms,with private bathrooms. Common areas are comfortable, and some have spectacular views of surrounding nature.

How much does it cost?

A private tour is almost 2 to 3 times more expensive than a shared tour for backpacker. We detail all our prices in a dedicated post regarding Uyuni salt flats our travel blog. We suggest you contact us to request a custom quote that takes into account your expectations. We will call you back and this call will also be an opportunity to ask all your questions.

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Travel Coach Chile > Chile > Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni