UYUNI SALT FLATS TOUR (STANDARD PLUS) - 1 DAY
Our standard plus 1 day salt flats tour is with maximum 7 people to a vehicle and a Spanish-speaking guide. Classic 1 day salt flats tour for the budget backpacker - extremely popular tour leaving daily from Uyuni. A unique place in the world and a must on any trip to Bolivia. This is the best option if you are travelling on a budget but don't want to miss out on this amazing experience.
Trips to the Salar de Uyuni are an unforgettable experience but unfortunately the general standard of facilities and services are not very high in this remote area. We would like to make it clear that things are not as reliable, comfortable and professional as we would like on these tours so for this reason we do not promise more than what you will receive for your money. The food will be basic, the driver acts as a basic guide but he is unlikely to speak any English, or if he does it won't be a good level. Due to the harshness of the terrain, vehicle breakdowns are not uncommon. Still interested? Good, you should be because if you can put up with a bit of hardship you should have a great time. It is not essential to have an English-speaking guide for this tour as most of it is looking at landscapes and these are pretty self explanatory. Take some extra snacks, plenty of warm clothes and a well charged camera and you should have a great day. The drivers are used to breakdowns and are pretty adept at fixing their vehicles, they are always willing to help each other out and you are usually not stuck for long - so a bit of patience is often all you need. We believe if you are informed truthfully about the possible negative aspects of the tours you can prepare yourself better and will have a more positive experience.
The following is a typical tour but sometimes some things are omitted from a tour, sometimes additional things are included (such as train cemetery visits at the start or end of the trip) so this shouldn’t be seen as a rigid itinerary, although the most popular main sites are always included if safe to do so. If there is something you really want included your group should stress this to your driver at the start of the tour so he can plan accordingly.
This is our standard plus 1 day salt flats tour option including Spanish-speaking guide. Classic 1 day salt flats tour for the budget backpacker. Extremely popular tour leaving daily from Uyuni.
You will leave Uyuni in the morning around 10.30 am and travel to Colchani to see how the salt is processed. You will be driving over the incredible and surreal Salar de Uyuni – the largest salt desert in the world and witness surreal and awe inspiring scenery. Next the group will visit the “Ojos de Sal” to witness cold water bubbling up from holes in the salt before seeing a hotel made purely from salt. Then you head to Isla Incahuasi (often called Isla Pescado) which is home to giant cacti, provides incredible photographic opportunities and is a great place to stop for lunch (please note that you will be able to reach the island only if the salt flats are not flooded). After lunch there is more driving on the Salar and you can take surreal photos before we head back toward Uyuni for a stop at the train cemetery (sometimes you visit the train cemetery at the beginning of the tour and not at the end). You will be back in Uyuni at around 19.00, perfectly on time if having an overnight bus or a late flight back to La Paz.
INCLUDED / NOT INCLUDEDINCLUDED / NOT INCLUDED
- Transportation in 4x4 vehicle (usually max 6 persons)
- Driver acts as basic guide (Spanish-speaking only)
- Lunch (take extra snacks as food can be quite plain)
- Transport to Uyuni
- Entrance fees – 30 Bs for Incahuasi Island (not reachable if the salt flats are flooded)
- Water - you recommend you purchase 2 liters per person for the day
- Breakfast and dinner are not included
- Sunglasses and sun cream
- Additional snacks and beverages
- Transportation in 4x4 vehicle (usually max 6 persons)
IMPORTANT INFORMATIONIMPORTANT INFORMATION
- This tour starts in Uyuni and DOES NOT include the cost of transport for getting there. We can arrange flights, buses and trains for getting to Uyuni - see them all in our Transport section.
- Low season / high season - This price is the low season price and some years around July / August prices can rise for "high season". We only know when this will happen and by how much when it actually happens and usually it is with just a couple of days notice. This is because it is the decision of the drivers union in Uyuni and not our or the operators. The price rise is usually around 20$ more but we cannot know for sure until the time. For bookings around this time you should book with the low season price and we always try to get the operators to honour advanced bookings at low season price. If they do not we will need to ask for the price difference or, if you don't wish to pay, you can cancel also.
- Rainy season - Please note that during the rainy season the Incahuasi Island might not be reachable if the salt flats are covered in water. The guide will decide on day.
- Private tours - In order to do this tour as a private tour you would have to pay for 7 people regardless of how many of you there are (this way you are paying for the 7 seats of the car and will have a car just for you). In addition to this, when booking please also write down in the Further Details section that you want a private tour.
- Pickups and dropoffs - Pickups from the accommodations are not included. If staying overnight in Uyuni, then it will be easy for you to walk to the operator's office in the morning - Uyuni is small and you will have to walk only a few blocks. If arriving by plane, it will be also easy to find a taxi from the airport to the office (15-20 minutes drive). If you arrive by bus, and provide detailed information about the bus you will be on, we will then inform the tour operator about it and someone should meet you at the terminal upon arrival - should you not see anyone (this can happen if the bus gets there much earlier than expected etc. and the guide might be not there yet), please you will have to make your way to the office, which is going to be at walking distance anyway. We will provide detailed information about the office location when we confirm your booking. You will be dropped off back at the office at the end of the tour.
- Groups are maximum 7 persons in a vehicle.
- These tours visit remote areas that have very limited facilities. If you are ill or there is an accident there are no medical facilities other than Uyuni town and even these are basic. If things go wrong you are faced with the reality of travel in a remote area of a developing country.
- Luggage - You can leave your bags at the office in Uyuni as it is not necessary to take them on the tour.
- Important - For safety reasons, we won't be accepting bookings for tours starting between December 23rd and January 6th. You can read a more detailed explanation of why we don't do salt flats tours over Christmas/New Year period HERE.
Frequently Asked Questions
Please read through these common questions & answers - if you cant find what you want to know send us your questions using the Ask a Question button
- Why don't you do salt flats tours over Christmas/New Year period?
We do not sell any salt flats tours from Dec 23rd through to Jan 6th because of safety concerns.
Specifically this is due to the high number of incidences of drunk driving that occur on salt flats tours during this time. Some of the companies we work with, for example Red Planet, also completely stop tours during this time for the same reason. We still don't sell tours with any company that we work with that does not stop completely during this period as whilst they are likely to be safer options the fact is there could be drunk drivers from other companies making the area less safe. From experience we think it is best to avoid the dangers and problems that occur this time of year.
Please do not ask us to recommend any companies for tours during this time as we do not recommend anyone for the reasons stated. If you must do a tour (and we understand this is a highlight and it would be bad to miss) we would suggest you do a one day tour only as the 3 day tours are more problematic for the drunk drivers (drivers tend to celebrate in the evening with friends in the local villages near the accommodations). Also keep a close eye on the condition of your driver if you do end up on a tour.
- What time do salt flats tours start?
Salt flats tours in Uyuni usually start "approximately" 10.00 am to 11 am but this can vary. The reasons it can vary, apart from punctuality not being very common in Bolivia, can be for a number of different things. For example there is only one fuel station in Uyuni and it can be hard to get fuel quickly so drivers might have to queue for long periods to get fuel and this can affect preparations.
We usually request you to be at the local office at 9 AM to do your check-in, but if for example if your flight lands at 9 AM then no problem simply take a taxi to the office and be there as soon as you can - we will let the office now about your flight time and this will be taken into consideration. Also buses or flights arriving to Uyuni late (more common in Rainy season) can affect departure times - if someone in your assigned group is on transport that is late then the operator will try to wait as long as is possible to accomodate that so they can get on the tour that day - obviously there are limits to this and they dont want to wait too much as it effects the rest of the groups tour time. Tours starting in San Pedro usually start earlier around 8-8.30 am.
- Where do the Salt Flats Tours start from?
This salt flats tour starts in Uyuni and it does not included the price of getting to Uyuni. We can arrange transport (buses, trains, flights) from La Paz to Uyuni also – please visit out transport section HERE to see some popular options.
- How does rainy season affect the Salt Flats Tours?
The Salt Flats (salar de Uyuni) tours leave year round including during the rainy season and in fact many people try to visit during the rainy season in order to see the "mirror effect" of the water sitting atop of the salt flats and reflecting the sky which is an incredible sight. This is caused when the water table below the salt flats has risen enough to cause the water to sit on top of the salt. It is fine to visit the area when there is a certain amount of water but when it becomes too deep (after long sustained periods of rainfall in consectutive days) some places can become inaccesible such as Isla Incahuasi and these must then be omitted from the tours but they can usually continue visiting other parts of the salt flats and the area to the south (the colored lakes, geysers, hot springs etc) are usually not affected so tours are not cancelled completely.
The road between La Paz and Uyuni usually becomes a bit problematic with potholes and other damage caused but the constant rain and is worst in Mar/Apr time. The buses are sometimes cancelled due to this and other forms of transport such as train or flights are recommended or alternatively you can travel via Sucre / Potosi to Uyuni which is a better conditioned road that is less affected.
- What altitudes do the salt flats tours visit?
The town of Uyuni and the Salt Flats themselves are around 3700 meters (12139 feet) so 1 and 2 day tours are usually around this altitude only.
For 3 day tours you will visit much higher altitudes with the second nights’ accommodation near the Laguna Colorado area being at around 4300 meters and the Sol de Mañana geothermal field that is visited at around 4900 meters (16076 feet). You may also drive over a pass at 5000 meters (16404 feet), depending on the exact route taken, which will be the highest point.
- How many people will be in the vehicle?
On 2,3 and 4 day salt flat tours there will be a maximum of 6 travellers in the vehicle (1 in the front passenger seats, 3 in the center seat row and 2 in the rear seat row) plus the driver/guide.
On 1 day tours there can be up to 7 people in the vehicle (although usually 6) as the group gets out of the vehicle much more often and comfort is not an issue like it is for the long driving distances of the multi day tours.
- I want to take perspective photos – will there be lots of time & items for me to use?
People enjoy taking the interesting perspective style photos on the salt flats and of course there will be some time to stop and do this. The exact amount of time is impossible to say as it will depend on a variety of factors such as how long you have taken at previous stops, weather conditions, the group dynamic etc and you also need to bear in mind there is a schedule to keep to so the driver will only allow the amount of time he can in order to keep to the schedule safely.
As for items to use in your photos, some drivers do have some fun items but some wont have anything especially for photo props. The best advice is to take something interesting things yourself so you can get unique shots – let your creative side go crazy!
- Can you pick me up from a Colchani salt hotel?
Yes this is possible by prior arrangement, but if you wish to be dropped off back at Colchani after the tour , there will be an extra charge (please ask) as it is not on the standard route as tours return to Uyuni some 30 minutes drive away.
Also, as the train cemetery is near Uyuni town then you would miss this visit out as it takes place before arriving to Colchani