Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni Salt Flats is located in the South West of Bolivia. Uyuni Salt Flats is the largest salt flat in the world at 10,582 km2.
How to get to Uyuni Salt Flats
There are 2 popular modes of transportation to get to Uyuni Salt Flats from Bolivia’s capital city, LA Paz:
Flight: Several flights departing daily from La Paz to Uyuni. The flight time is only 45 minutes and it costs around $200-300 for a round trip.
Overnight bus: This seems to be the most popular mode among backpackers as the bus costs between $15-25 depending on the company and the seat type you choose. The bus departs at 8pm. and arrives in Uyuni early morning the next day at around 6AM.
There are several bus companies operating this route. Although, some are in very poor state of repair with frequent breakdowns, so try to choose companies with better standards like Trans Omar, Panasur and Todo Turismo to avoid possible delay and headache.
Uyuni Salt Flats Price
You need to order a tour visit Uyuni Salt Flats and there are a number of tour companies that offer that. The tour prices vary and so does the level of service.
The price for 1 day tour, shared service can be anywhere between $25-70.
The price for 3 day tour, shared service is around $200-400. The 3 day tour is usually combined with the red lagoon, the green lagoon, the hot springs and other attractions around the salt flats. I think choosing a tour company is important. Even though, a lot of people say that most companies provide the same itinerary and offerings, there are still a lot of complaints about vehicles in poor conditions, no emergency supplies in the vehicle, intoxicated or inexperienced driver, and limited food and water.
So do your research and book in advance, especially for most popular and reliable ones like Red Planet, Banjo Tours and Kanoo Tours.
I used the tour company called “Climbing South America” which was awesome! We did a private 3 day tour but from La Paz with a stop at Sajama National Park. The price was $800 per person (which was a bit high but it was just us 2 and the service was superb, so it was worth it).
Where to stay
Since we’re in the salt flats, we decided to stay at Tayka Salt Hotel, which is one of the hotels made of salt! There are other salt hotels like Hotel De Sal Luna Salada, but the prices for these are a little more upscale. However, they have warm showers and good heating system (unlike most of the hostels there)!
Please bare in mind that the weather at night can be very very cold due to its high elevation and its landscape. So if you choose to stay in a hostel, make sure to bring enough warm clothes and a good sleeping bag.
How much time do you need there
If you just want to visit the Uyuni salt flats, one full day is enough. The standard itinerary is Uyuni Salt Flats, Isla Inkahuasi, the first salt hotel and the train cemetery.
However, I would recommend doing a 3 day tour because the landscapes around the salt flats are also amazing, for example, the colored lakes, volcanos, hot springs, and geysers.
When is the best time to visit Uyuni Salt Flats
A lot of people say that the best time to go to Salar de Uyuni is the wet season or in February and March in order to get the famous reflecting photos of water on the salt so that’s why the high season for Salt Flats is strangely, in the rainy season.
However, if you visit the Salt Flats in wet season, you wouldn’t be able to drive across the salt flats because the salt would be too soft and so, too dangerous. Also, it wouldn’t be nice to visit other places like Sajama National Park in the rainy season.
A lot of people don’t know is that even though, you go in the dry season, there are some areas around the edges of the Salt Flats where there is covered with water! Just like in the wet season! Because there’s water underneath the salt flats so where the crust is thin, the underground water comes up to the surface.
We went in the winter (early June) and we got these reflecting shots just like those who went in the wet season! (And we paid “low season” price and it was much less crowded) So personally, I would say the best time to go is in the dry season or from May to October so you’ll have the opportunity to explore other stunning areas Bolivia has to offer too.
What to do there
Isla Inkahuasi is the smallest island in the middle of the Salt Flats. With a short hike (about 30 minutes), you can see the 360 view of Salar de Uyuni from the top of this island. There are also these huge cacti all over the island which makes the landscape more interesting.
If you have time, visit those places I recommended earlier on a 3 day tour. You’ll see amazing landscapes, wildlife in their natural habitats.
And if you have more time, I would recommend you visit Sajama National Park too. Sajama is Bolivia’s oldest national park, presenting with a magnificent landscape of snowcapped volcano and other geological national wonders.
Altitude sickness is a real possibility here so make sure you take some time to acclimate and bring some altitude sickness pills with you just in case. Choose your tour operator carefully, book in advance and bring extra food and water with you on the tour.
Some areas are very muddy and there is a possibility of your vehicle being stuck in mud due to inexperienced driver.
Why should Uyuni Salt Flats be on my bucket list?
The Uyuni Salt Flats is no doubt one of the highlights in South America and all over the world. The Salt Flats itself is amazing, but if you get to see the sunset reflection on Salt Flats when it’s covered with water, that’s GOLD!