Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Tours
This is the not to be missed adventure in Bolivia, even if you only take a daytrip from the town of Uyuni. Many folks travel to Bolivia for the sole purpose of visiting the salar.
Along with mountains, volcanos, lagoons and fresh and saltwater lakes, the 10,580 km (4,080 miles) expanse of salt flat – largest in the world – make up the Bolivian Altiplano.
The only land promitory on the salar is Isla del Pescado (Fish Island), near Uyuni. YouTube Video of Fish Island:
You can start and end tours to the Salar de Uyuni in many locations, but the two primary ones (in addition to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile) are Tupiza and the town of Uyuni in Bolivia. You can also take tours from Potosi - Travel Guide to Potosi
Tours from Tupiza are four days at minimum and most commonly end at Uyuni. They have become very popular as a way to travel from Tupiza to Uyuni and are thought to be safer in general with a route that is less touristy. See below for itineraries.
- One Day Tour – Leave Uyuni around 10 a.m. Visit the town of Colchani and see how salt is made. Drive onto the Salar de Uyuni at Tunupa Salt Flat. Visit a salt hotel that houses a small museum with sculptures made out of – you guessed it… salt!
Then you drive across the Salar to Isla del Pescado for a three hour stop-over (when most folks take a ton of photos!) and lunch. Return to Uyuni around 6 p.m.
- Two Day Tour – Same as One Day Tour above, spending the night in the town of Jirira or Tahua. Visit Jirira Momias and see flamingos. Return to Uyuni.
- Three Day Tour - Same as One Day Tour above, spending the night in San Juan. San Juan to the “4 Pequenas Lagunas” (4 little lagoons), to Arbol de Piedra (rock formation shapped like a tree) and to Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon). From Laguna Colorada to Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) and either you get dropped-off to continue on to San Pedro de Atacama or return to Uyuni.
A typical itinerary to the Salar de Uyuni from Tupiza
- Four Day Tour - Leave Tupiza around 10 a.m., visit Palala, Sillar, Awanapampa, Cerillos and San Pablo, spending the night at the town of San Antonio. Wake-up, visit Sol de mañana, Quetena, Laguna Kollpa, Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), Desierto Dali, Geyser and Licancabur Volcano spending the night at Huayllajara. On the third day visit Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon), Arbol, Lagunas Siloli, Cañapa, Honda, San Juan, Chaiviri and Chuvica (a salt hotel). Final day you drive across the salar visiting Incahuasi, Hotel de Sal, Ojos de sal – ending the tour in the town of Uyuni.
Note: For more options from Tupiza, including five day itineraries plus pricing information for each, view this excellent page by tour company La Torre Tours in Tupiza: Information on tours from Tupiza.
Typical itinerary to the Salar de Uyuni from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
- Three Day Tour - Leave San Pedro de Atacama around 10 a.m., drive to Eduardo Avaroa National Park. Drive through the park seeing flamingos, enjoying lakes and hot springs. Second day arrive at the edge of the Salar de Uyuni, sleeping in a salt hotel at night. Wake up to view sunrise on the salar, take amazing photos, continue travel through the salar to Uyuni.
Warm clothing, warm clothing, warm clothing. Pretend you will be camping in the snow as many of the overnight locations are as cold, if not colder, with no heating or hot water. One gal measured the temperature in her room at Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) and it was minus 20 degrees C (-4 F)! That is degrees BELOW zero. Brrr! You can buy cheap knit gloves, scaves and hats all over Bolivia… do it and tuck into your pack. How about some wool socks? At nighttime you will be thanking me.
Tour agencies have sleeping bags to rent (a must have, do not cut costs with this one). Also bring sunglasses, plenty of sunscreen and enough cash (in Bolivianos) to cover park entrance fees. Don’t forget camera batteries and memory cards!
Warning about Batteries: Don’t buy your batteries in Bolivia! Duracells are all seconds, they will last for 4-6 photos then stop working. Everyone knows it, yet everyone sells them. Sony is a better option, but hard to find. Buy batteries before you enter the country.
This is a bit of a tough one… as there are advantages – and disadvantages – to various times of the year. Many recommend visiting the salar during the dry winter months June to September yet there are times when travel becomes impossible due to snow and trips are cancelled. July and August have the greatest risk of potential snowfall - you may not be able to do more than a two day trip from Uyuni during these times.
During the rainy season the mirror-effect of water on the salar is intensified and can make for some spectacular photos. But heavy rainfall during these months can also make trips difficult due to flooding and muddy roads.
The shoulder months of April to May and September to November may be the best – and safest – months to plan your visit. Enjoy!