Have you thought about taking full advantage of your tour in Chile by adding one of its neighbors, Bolivia, to your list? Specifically, your trip to the Atacama Desert could be expanded to include a tour to the Uyuni Salt Flat (known as Salar de Uyuni in Spanish) in Bolivia, one of the most popular highlights of South America. If you have not heard about this amazing place yet, keep reading!
Conveniently located close to the Chilean border, the Uyuni Salt Flat is a natural wonder: a pristine, flat expanse of white. It is the largest continuous salt desert in the world, with an area of 4633 square miles. It is located 12,000 feet above sea level, in the southwest corner of Bolivia, in the Potosi province. 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 everything you need to know to visit the Bolivian Salt Flat on our blog.
This national reserve is located on the high plains of Bolivia and aims to protect fauna, wildlife, and indigenous people. It boasts striking landscapes such as Salvador Dali‘s desert and White Green Lagoon. This is one of the most popular national reserves in the country. The reserve is located near to the Chilean border (called Hito Cajon) and at the base of the Licancabur volcano.
An ideal spot for climbing, it is also a gorgeous panorama! These rock formations are the result of volcanic eruptions. They have unique shapes, and with a little imagination, you can spot a camel and a World Cup trophy.
The Black Lagoon (also known as Misteriosa) is one of our favorites because it comes as a surprise. After passing by many spectacular lagoons, part of huge landscapes, this one is a bit of a secret. After a short walk, you will arrive at this mysterious place, a little hidden from the masses of tourists, but very charming. It is also one of the best places to snap pictures of llamas! Close by, Anaconda Canyon is also worth a visit.
From Chile, it is very easy to add a tour of the Uyuni Salt Flat to your schedule. It is a special opportunity to witness the world’s largest and most popular salt flats and visit Bolivia. Specifically, we suggest you add this tour (about 4 days) after spending a few days in the Atacama Desert. Connecting to the Uyuni Salt Flat from San Pedro de Atacama is simple.
For those wondering which is best–the Uyuni Salt Flat or San Pedro de Atacama–why not visit both? And yes, tours in the Uyuni Salt Flat often exceed 13,000 feet of elevation. Therefore, we recommend going through an acclimatization process in Chile while visiting San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings.
Now, let’s move on to the Uyuni Salt Flat. In fact, this 4-day tour not only includes a visit to the impressive salt desert, but also incorporates many visits in South Lipez and the fabulous Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve.
The Uyuni Salt Flat has the advantage of being accessible all year round. However, you have to take into account the temperatures and seasons to choose the best period for your trip to Bolivia. There are essentially 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 usually occurs in February). During the rainy season, the salt flat virtually turns into a mirror.
Maximum temperatures fluctuate year-round between 57 and 64°F. Winter nights can drop down to -13 °F (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.
Once a year, a phenomenon conducive to the most unlikely optical effects occurs. When rains flood the salt flat, it is covered with a thin film of water. In general, this happens in February. That is the month when you will have the best chance of observing the mirror effect in the Uyuni Salt Flat. However, it must be taken into account that during this period, several parts of the salt flat are not accessible, resulting in tour modifications.
In general, thanks to an acclimatization process, altitude is not a problem. However, climbing that high is not recommended for some people at risk, such as pregnant women and people with heart problems, high blood pressure, or severe asthma. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
We recommend you avoid 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 at a hotel have oxygen available at the front desk. Keep in mind that cruder accommodations don’t have such an infrastructure.
Be aware that the tour takes place in an extreme environment. The paths are in poor condition and very stony. The villages are isolated and not urbanized.