SALT FLATS - SALAR DE UYUNI

CLICK TO BROWSE ALL TOUR OPTIONS

The city of Uyuni in southern Bolivia is usually visited by tourists for just one reason and that is to do a Salt Flats Tour. This incredible place is rightly on many a bucket list and is a must do on a trip to Bolivia.

Whilst Uyuni is the most popular starting place for the tours you can also start from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, Tupiza or even from La Paz.

It is a highlight of a visit to Bolivia and one of the natural wonders of the world. It is possible to visit year round and in the wet season it becomes the worlds biggest mirror when a layer of water sits on top of the salt deserts crust.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Types of Salt Flats Tours

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni - Bolivia Salt Flats Uyuni

The most popular Salt Flats Tours are 4x4 vehicle tours that of 3 Days or 1 Day that start and finish in Uyuni but there are also some different options.

Here are are the most common types of tour:

  • 3 Day Tour from Uyuni - this is the most popular option and visits all the best attractions of the area starting with the Salt Flats themselves on the first day which is for most people the highlight of the tour.Additionaly on this day you see the Train Cementary, Colchani village and salt processing, Isla Incahuasi (Fish Island) and have lots of time for amazing photos. On the second day the schedule includes travel through desert scenery, vistas of volcanos (dormant or extinct), seeing the 'Arbol de Piedra' (Tree of Rock) and visits to a number of high altitude lakes including the impressively red Laguna Colarada next to which many tours stay the night in basic dorm accomodation. The third day is usually an early start for a visit to the geysers and hot bubbling mud pools before stopping by the natural hot springs for a relaxing soak. After warming up in the thermal waters the next stop is the emerald green lake of Laguna Verde (only green when the waters arent calm) located near the border. It is from here where those who have chosen the optional transfer to San Pedro de Atacama are taken to the border post to meetup with the bus - this option is possible on all 3 day tours only - and the remaining passengers then start the journey back to Uyuni. Go straight to the 3 Day Salt Flats Tour options (includes the options with transfer to Chile.
  • 1 Day Tour from Uyuni - Also very popular a 1 day salt flats tour is perfect for those with less time or that simply dont want to spend 3 days traveling by car. On a one day tour you get to see the train cementrary, the salt processing town of Colchani, Isla Incahausi (Fish Island), the original first salt hotel and of course plenty of time on the salt flats themselves.
  • 2 Day Tour from Uyuni - The tours of two days are far less popular and therefore are usually only available as private tour options. With the 3 and 1 day tour there are always enough people to make up groups but for 2 days it is less common. Part of the reason is because many tours dont visit much more than the 1 day tours and just have in addition one night in a salt hotel and the next day a visit to a viewpoint up Tunupa mountain before returning back across the salar to Uyuni. We actually have a 2 day tour option (private tours only) that does get you all the way to Laguna Colorado but involves long days and lots of travel, so we recommended 3 day tours if you have the time.
  • 3 Day Tour from San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) - Basically the reverse of the popular 3 Day tours from Uyuni for those traveling from Chile the San Pedro to Uyuni tour is ideal. One bonus is that you arrive at the sights at different times than the groups from Uyuni so you can often have them all to yourselves plus you leave the salt flats as a finale on the last day. On the other hand you need to be aware of the sharp increase on altitude on day one from San Pedro (2408m) to Laguna Colorada (4600m) - some people can feel quite bad with such an increase. 
  • 4 Day Tour from Tupiza -  Ideal for those traveling up through Argentina into Bolivia, tours from Tupiza take 4 days and you get to see some 'wild west' style scenery on day 1 and the days 2,3, and 4 are pretty much revers of the 3 day uyuni tours.. They cost a bit more due to the extra day and it can be harder to find confirmed groups. Tupiza Tours and La Torre Tour are the most popular operators for this route.
  • 5 Day Tour from La Paz to Uyuni (via Sajama) -  Starting directly in La Paz and traveling through the lesser visited area of Sajama, home to Bolivias highest mountain Nevado Sajama, is a wonderful adventure  and the perfect way to avoid the overnight bus travel to Uyuni. This option is also harder to find groups to join and costs alot more if you are just a 2 or 3 people. See full  details of the La Paz - Sajama - Uyuni Salt Flats Tour 
  • Sunset / Sunrise Tours - These are specialist tour either leaving very early in the morning to see the sunset on the Salar or late afternoon to watch the Sunset. They usually have to be booked a private tours although sometimes you can get lucky and join a group in Uyuni.
  • Star Gazing Tours - Leaving late at night especially to witness the incredible array of stars that can be visable from the salar these tours are not suitable all year as they require clear skies. July / August are traditionally the best months as they are meant to have clear skies but unpredictabel weather patterns in recent years maks it hard to be sure. Also usually private tours but with luck a group might be available in Uyuni.
  • Motorcycle Tours  - Riding a motorcycle across the salar is an exhilerating experience. Tours range from 1 day to multiple day options but the mult day options are for more experienced riders only. Check out the Uyuni Motorcycle Tour Options on the salt flats

Many of the tours stay in a 'Salt Hotel' where nearly everything is made from salt - walls, beds, furniture all constructed from bricks of local salt (toilets for obvious reasons are not!)

There are of course other tour options you might see advertised but these are likely more of a custom tour option or are just one of the common tours with transport added on (such as the tours from Sucre or Potosi)

Video of Bolivia Salt Flats Uyuni

 

 

Comparing Best Salt Flats Tour Companies

Water On The Uyuni Salt Flats

Water on the Uyuni Salt Flats

 

We are official agents for Red Planet, Perla de Bolivia &  Quechua Connection who are the best Salt Flats tour companies. We also offer our 'Standard Plus' tour options which are exclusive to us via a partner in Uyuni.

The reason we choose to work with only these companies is that they have the best safety & reliability records. We have over a decade of experience working with companies in Uyuni and we are confident these are the best options we can offer.

A common question we get is asking us what are the differences between each of these companies and "which is best?". The answer of course depends on your preferences but the operators we work with are the best companies.

Whilst the overall itineraries and standard of services with each of our options is about the same there are some minor differences.

So for your convenience we have created comparison tables to see those at a glance to help you decide which is best for you:


Best Salt Flats Companies Compared

  • Red Planet
  • 1 Day Tour $90
  • 3 Day Tour $210
  • Guide in English    
  • Sleeping Bag - 50BS
  • Chile Transfer - No Extra Cost
  • Sunset On Salar    
  • Hot Springs- 2nd Night
  • Stay in Salt Hotel    
  • Hot Water Bottles    
  • Oxygen Tank    
  • Biking on Salar *    
  • Llama Caravan Option    
  • Perla de Bolivia
  • 1 Day Tour $70
  • 3 Day Tour $190
  • Guide in English    
  • Sleeping Bag - Included
  • Chile Transfer - $10
  • Sunset On Salar    
  • Hot Springs- 2nd Night
  • Stay in Salt Hotel    
  • Hot Water Bottles    
  • Oxygen Tank    
  • Biking on Salar *    
  • Llama Caravan Option    
  • Quechua Connection
  • 1 Day Tour $70
  • 3 Day Tour $190
  • Guide in English    
  • Sleeping Bag - Included
  • Chile Transfer - $10
  • Sunset On Salar    
  • Hot Springs- 3rd Morning
  • Stay in Salt Hotel    
  • Hot Water Bottles    
  • Oxygen Tank    
  • Biking on Salar *    
  • Llama Caravan Option    
  • Standard Plus
  • 1 Day Tour $38
  • 3 Day Tour $135
  • Guide in English **    
  • Sleeping Bag - 50BS
  • Chile Transfer - $10
  • Sunset On Salar    
  • Hot Springs- 3rd Morning
  • Stay in Salt Hotel    
  • Hot Water Bottles    
  • Oxygen Tank    
  • Biking on Salar *    
  • Llama Caravan Option    

* Biking on the Salar with Quechua only available when conditions are suitable which is usually in the dry season

** Spanish speaking guide only and it is not possible to request English speaking guide instead.


Common Questions & Answers

The Red Waters of Laguna Colorado

Laguna Colorada Red Lake Uyuni


With the Salt Flats being our most popular tour option we have answered just about every questions possible over the years!

Here are some of the most common questions and answers:


Are There Cash Machines / ATMs in Uyuni?

Yes , but you should not rely on them as they are often without money or sometimes do not work with travelers cards. You are best to bring money from La Paz or elsewhere in Bolivia to be sure.

Is There WiFi Or Internet On The Tours Or In The Accommodations?

No, facilities are basic and you are traveling in remote areas with limited telecommunications. You should not expect Wifi during the salt flats tours. You might get cel phone signal in some areas but it is very limited.

What Time Do The Salt Flat Tours Start?

It can vary , but most start at approximately 10 to 10.30am - be aware though that start times in Bolivia are generally quite "flexible" so these are just approximations. From San Pedro de Atacama they usually starting earlier around 8-9am

Can I Pay To Upgrade The Hotels on Salar de Uyuni Tours?

You can only upgrade to better hotels (Tayka Hotels for example) if on a private tour option. You cannot upgrade during standard shared tours because this would mean taking you to one area and the rest of the group to another area and the distances are too large. Plus spliting the guide away from one group in an area with limited communication can be problematic.

Can I Leave My Bags In The Office Whilst On A Tour?

Yes and in fact you are requested to only take what you need with you during a tour. You keep a day pack with you inside the vehicle during the day and your main bag goes on the roof rack and is brought down each evening. So it is better to limit the weight on the roof as much as possible to help reduce petrol consumption and for safe weight distribution. Those travelling to San Pedro must of course take everything with them.

When Is The Best Time to See The Mirror Effect?

The short answer is the best time is probably late January through to early March but as it relies on weather (which is becoming more unpredictable each year) it is impossible to say for sure. The Salar itself is a vast dried up lake and therefore has a water table that sits not too far below the surface.During the rainy season this water table rises as more and more rain falls. When there has been enough rain to raise the level the water starts to sit on the surface. So you can see it entirely depends on how much rain there has been for a consistent period

Can I Do Salt Flats Tours Over Christmas Or New Year?

We don't offer the tours from Dec 23rd through to Jan 6th due to safety concerns. There are increased incidents of drunk driving on the salt flats during this period so we prefer to not put customers in danger. Many of the operators don't operate during this period either for the same reason although some will operate regardless. Of course not all the companies working during this time are unsafe ones, but the drunk drivers in the area make it less safe for everyone. If you must do a tour (we understand you don't want to miss out if your here) then we suggest you do a 1 day tour instead as the 3 day tours tend to experience more problems as the driver tend to celebrate with friends in local villages near the hotels on the first or second night.

Do We Stay In A Salt Hotel During The Tour?

With all our 3 day tours yes you will usually stay in a salt hotel on the first night of the tour. We say usually because if the salt flats is covered in water creating the famous mirror effect, this effects which routes can be driven over the salar and it can mean that alternative routes need to be taken under these conditions and the usually salt hotels are not accessible and a normal hotel must be used instead. You will visit the original salt hotel on the salar itself anyway (if accessible of course) so should see one regardless.


 

We cannot cover everything here of course so if you have any questions please contact us and we will try to get back to you with the answer as soon as possible.

 

Useful Tips

  • Try to plan your trip to take into account the altitude Many people under estimate how much of an effect the altitude can have on them.
  • Lots of blogs advise just turning up and booking in Uyuni but be aware that the quality operators do fill up in advance. You can easy get a cheap tour on the day in Uyuni but your far more likely to have problems that ruin your trip.
  • During Christmas and New Year drink driving becomes a serious problem in the Uyuni area so it is advisable to avoid this period. For this reason we do not offer tours from Dec 23rd through to Jan 6th and most responsible operators stop during the same period for this reason.

Last Updated 15th February 2019

Uyuni Salt Flats Tours

3 Item(s)

  • Uyuni Salt Flats 1-Day Motorcycle Tour

    A 1 day Motorcycle tour of the salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia. This is suitable for all levels of riders with a motorcycle licence and an incredible way to see one of the highlights of South America. This tour is available only during the dry season, when the salt flats are not covered in water. 

    $250.00
  • Uyuni Salt Flats 2-Day Motorcycle Tour

    A 2-day motorcycle tour of the salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia. This is suitable for medium experience licensed riders and an incredible way to see one of the highlights of South America. This tour also includes a visit to small villages and provides a cultural insight of the area. This tour is available only during the dry season, when the salt flats are not covered in water.

    $500.00
  • Uyuni Salt Flats 3-Day Motorcycle Tour

    A 3 day motorcycle tour of the salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia. This is suitable for medium experience licensed riders and an incredible way to see one of the highlights of South America. This tour also includes a visit to small villages and provides a cultural insight of the area. This tour is available only during the dry season, when the salt flats are not covered in water. 

    $750.00