Salar de Uyuni is the world’ largest salt flat measuring over 4,000 square miles. It’s located in southwest Bolivia, in the Daniel Campos Province, Potosi at an altitude of almost 12,000 feet, near the top of the Andes. The Salar de Uyuni salt flats were formed after a prehistoric salt lake, Lago Minchin, dried up.
The landscape of the Salar de Uyuni, although desolate, has a certain beauty to it, which is greatly enhanced when the desert becomes Bolivia’s famous sky mirror. The best time to visit, if you want to have a higher chance of seeing the mirror, is during the rainy season, between December and mid-March. The rain covers the salt plains with a reflective water surface and the desert becomes one of the most unique places in the world.
Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats Trip Guide
The Salar de Uyuni salt flats of Bolivia, are not just a one-hit wonder destination for travelers. The region features a lot of attractions, from the incredible mountain setting of the Andes and its volcanoes to the unique coloring of the water in Laguna Verde and Laguna Colorada. Other major points of interest are the local wildlife, the strange islands amid the salt flats and the unique salt hotels.
Our trip guide will feature a presentation of the main attractions you will be able to see while undertaking a standard three-day tour of South West Bolivia.
There are multiple ways to reach the Salar de Uyuni salt flats, depending on the town from which you want to start the tour of the region.
- Uyuni: you can reach this town by taking the train or bus from other cities like Avaroa or Oruro; or you can fly to La Paz, where you can take a bus or a taxi to Uyuni.
- Tupiza: you can also start your tour from this small town in the South of Bolivia; this route includes more sightseeing opportunities of various lakes and rock formations.
- San Pedro de Atacama: this start point of the tour will feature the same attractions as Uyuni, you just visit them in the opposite order.
The majority of the tours of the region start in Uyuni, but before undertaking this adventure remember to properly review tour companies and bring proper equipment. The price of most three-day tours start from $200. However, Salar de Uyuni has a harsh environment and it’s better to get a more prepared tour guide with higher-quality vehicles.
1. Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats
Before setting out on the first day of your tour, remember to have enough funds for entrance fees to various attractions, around 206 Bs ($30 USD) in total. You should bring or buy miscellaneous things, the tour won’t provide, such as sunglasses, sun cream, additional food and water.
- Salt hotels: in which you can actually stay for the duration of your travels.
- Train graveyard: a cemetery of old steam locomotives that used to transport minerals.
- Colchani; a small village that uses salt to build animals, furniture, and houses.
- Isla Incahuasi: a fish-shaped island covered with fossilized coral, in the Uyuni salt desert.
- Arbol de Piedra: a stone tree carved by sandy winds.
- Sky Mirror: is the main attraction of the tour if you’re lucky enough to see it during the rainy season. If not, the salt flats alone are an amazing sight to behold.
This ends the first day of your tour. Accommodations for the night can be found in the small town of San Juan.
2. Lagunas and hot springs
The second day of your tour will mainly feature visits to the nearby lakes and lagunas with different colored water.
- Laguna Hedionda: is a popular spot for having lunch and observing flamingos in their natural habitat.
- Viscacha area: is a small region inhabited by small rodents similar to rabbits, to which you can feed carrots.
- Laguna Colorada: has red-coloured water from algae that once was believed to be the spilled blood of gods.
- Solar de Manana geyser basin: is formed by a number of bubbling sulfur pools and a geyser.
- Termas de Polques hot springs: is a collection of hot springs that you can swim in.
For the second night of the tour you will have to tolerate a more basic accommodation in adobe shacks with no heating, though beds and blankets are provided.
3. Lagunas, volcanoes and towns
The third and last day of your Salar de Uyuni salt flats regional tour will include a few more lagunas and distant sights of dormant volcanoes. You can choose to end your tour either in San Pedro de Atacama or going to Tupiza, another regional town.
- Laguna Verde: a green colored body of water which can perfectly reflect the Lincacabur volcano.
- Laguna Blanca: contains sodium borate, also known as Borax.
- Uturunku: a dormant volcano that can be seen in the distance when you travel in the region.
- Laguna Celeste: a lake with blue waters thanks to its magnesium and manganese.
- San Antonio: a small abandoned 16th-century mining town where slaves used to work.
- San Cristobal: a town with a 350-year-old church which has a silver altar.
Who should visit
- Adventures: the three-day tour of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats isn’t a destination for casual tourists to undertake, because of the harsh conditions of the environment, of transportation and accommodation. These aspects will only appeal to seasoned adventurers.
- Tourist: people interested in seeing the sky mirror should limit themselves to a one-day tour.
- Families: the three-day tour can be an amazing family-bonding experience but you should avoid bringing small children.
- Researchers: the variety of environments, from salt flats to old cities, and the strange nature of the lagunas make for an interesting research subject.
Overall, the Salar de Uyuni salt flats is an amazing travel destination for those who don’t particularly mind where they stay and how they travel. Not all travelers decide to undertake the whole three-day tour. Instead, most prefer just to have a chance of seeing the famous Uyuni salt flats sky mirror. This attraction is alone worth the trip as it is an unique phenomenon in the world.