The Uyuni Salt Flats, located in southwest Bolivia, are easily one of the most stunning spots on Earth. They cover an incredible 4,086 miles. These salt flats are among the largest in the world and worth the effort.
South America is great for backpacking but the Uyuni Salt Flats require a tour company. You’ll need someone who can drive a 4×4 truck to navigate this vast area. It’s important to be prepared in order to maximize your time in Bolivia.
Here’s everything you need about the Uyuni Salt Flats.
How to Get There
You can start your trip in Uyuni, Tupiza, or San Pedro de Atacama. The best route is dependent on where you’re staying and how long you have to spend on it.
Most international flights arrive in Santa Cruz or La Paz. You can either fly to Uyuni from either of these cities or take the bus. To begin my tour, I took the bus from Sucre to Tupiza. You can also reverse the tour and start in Uyuni.
You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of my 4-day 4×4 trip to Uyuni.
Bolivia is much larger than what it appears on the map. You’ll need to map the country to see how big it is.
Selecting a Tour Operator
There are many tour companies that offer tours to the Uyuni Salt Flats. Some of them can be quite scary. Horror stories have been told about travelers who were stranded in flats with drunk drivers. You get what you pay. I would not recommend booking at rock bottom prices and I highly recommend reading reviews before making a booking.
Tupiza Tours was a wonderful company. They were very friendly and knowledgeable. You can choose to go on a four-day trip from Uyuni or to Uyuni, and it will take you to all the top spots.
What to Expect
This is not a 5-star experience. The tours are not luxurious or comfortable, nor is the trip to the salt flats. Seeing the stunning view will make you forget all about your troubles.
You will have an amazing time at the Uyuni Salt Flats.
You want to reach the Uyuni salt flats before sunrise. Most tours leave the area well before the sun rises. As the sun rises above the land, you’ll be able take some stunning photos. Photographs without shadows are best taken at the first light of the day.
Tour operators are often set up so far apart that you can only see a blanket of white in every direction.
When it rains, the sky reflects the water in the puddles creating an amazing display.
So that we could take a break from the hustle and bustle of town, our tour guides provided coffee, tea, and breakfast in our cars.
What to bring
Uyuni’s wet season runs from November to March and its dry season runs from May to October. You can expect cold weather if you travel in the winter (May to August). On the coldest nights, it is not uncommon to see temperatures below zero. Layers are a must at all times of the year.
- Many layers!
- You can find hot springs along the Salt Flats Tours, so make sure to bring a towel and a bikini.
- Many tour companies provide meals. However, you might prefer to bring your own snacks or drinks. To stay hydrated, it’s a good idea to bring a two-liter water bottle per person.
- The majority of bathrooms are paid, so bring lots of change and extra TP.
- It can get dark at night and some accommodations have no lights at night. Bring a flashlight or a headlamp.
- All of your gear for photography is required! This is one of the most amazing photo opportunities on Earth, so don’t settle for taking phone photos. Get your tripod, lenses, camera, and a memory card to capture photos you will treasure for a lifetime.
The Uyuni Train Cemetery
Uyuni also has a cool train cemetery. You should be careful not to scratch the metal! You can swing, slide, and seesaw your way through an abandoned train.
Another helpful tip
Bolivians can get altitude sickness. You should allow yourself to adjust if you’re coming from the coast.
It might require some planning but it is worth it to gradually increase your elevation. You can feel miserable and have flu-like symptoms if you jump up too fast.