The Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia are one of the most iconic places in South America. The world’s largest salt flats, they extend for almost 11,000 square km, and are the legacy of a prehistoric lake that went completely dry, leaving behind this landscape that looks like a white desert, full of white salt, unique rock formations and cacti.
At 3,650m above sea level, the unique landscape, the flatness, colours and lighting create amazing optical illusions, which make this place a photographer paradise and it’is also the reason why this spot is on every backpacker’s list.
There are a few things to know before you visit the Salt Flats, and for this reason I decided to divide all the information I have into two sections. In this post, you will find information regarding a tour to the salt flats. In particular, you will find out more about:
If you want to know more about other aspects of the tour, including what to expect in terms of guides and accommodation, what to pack, when is the best time to go, etc…click on the button below, to read my next post where I try to answer some commonly asked questions.
We left not too early and the first stop of our tour was the Train Cemetery. This place is beautiful and fascinating – full of over 100 old broken trains dating back to thee early 20th century. These trains are particularly worn down because of the salt mixture and hard wind that. hits them everyday. You can explore this place on your own and you can go inside or climb. some of the trains.
After the cemetery, we had a quick stop in a small village called Colchani to have lunch, but also to visit a salt workshop, where they show us how they make table salt. If you are here, you can even. buy a bag of table salt from the Salar.
After lunch, we finally made our way to the beautiful Salt Flats, where we had a couple of hours to walk around and take pictures.
We had dinner and spent the first night in a hostel made of salt called Villa Candelaria. This hostel is in Atulcha, a small village near the Salt Flats, and it’s made of salt. Rooms have private bathrooms, but you will need to pay an extra 10 BOB to have a warm shower – very worth it, as the accommodation on the second night has no showers!
The second day started early, at 7 am. After breakfast, we visited the small desert of Chiguana, which is surrounded by many volcanoes, including a a semi-active volcano called Ollague that you will be able to look at from a mirador.
Then we started heading South, towards the lagoons area, where hundreds of flamingos live, until we reached the Siloli Desert, the driest and highest desert in the world at 4550m. This desert is famous for its Rock Tree that you might have seen before in some pictures.
The last stop of the second day is in the Eduardo Avaroa National Park, for the Laguna Colorada, an incredible and unique place. The water of this lagoon has so many colours, from green, to white, to blue, but it’s for the most part of a very intense red, due to the minerals in the water.
In the Eduardo Avaroa National Park, we also visited the crater of a volcano where there are some geysers.
We spent the second night in a shelter – a very basic accommodation with dorms and only 2 toilets, but no showers. After dinner, you can have a dip into. the natural hot springs, while watching the stars and have some wine.
On the third and last day, we left at around 8 am to. visit the Dali desert, which has this name because its unique landscape resembles surrealist paints by Salvador Dali.
After this, we went on to visit the LagunaVerde and Laguna Bianca, before crossing the border into Chile.
How to choose your tour
Along the way, we met a lot of people who had done the Salt Flats Tour and one thing we learnt from all of them when we asked them about their experience is that, for this one, you don’t really want to pick the cheapest tour available, as you really do get what you pay for.
Backpackers who chose cheaper options had problems, which seem to be common, like jeep breaking down, agencies trying to fit an unreasonable number of people in the car, not enough food and very drunk drivers. Given the nature of the tour, some of these things might still happen, but it’s worth spending the extra Bolivianos to have some peace of mind.
If you have time and are not on a very strict schedule, do not book your tour online, but wait until you are in Uyuni (or San Pedro de Atacama, if you start your tour from there), as it will always be cheaper in person.
When you choosing your tour, here are some questions worth asking the agencies you are considering:
- What costs are included and what aren’t? Usually entrances to National Parks are excluded, but it’s still worth asking to make sure, particularly as you will have. no places to withdraw money from once on the tour.
- How many people are there in the jeep? Of course the less people in the jeep, the more comfortable your tour will be, given that you will spend 4 days in the car. However, it is understandable that from a business point of view, they will try to fit in as many people as possible. The norm should be no more than 6 people plus a driver/guide, so do not accept any other arrangement, not only because of comfort, but also for safety reasons.
- Where does the tour start and end? Whether you want to cross all the way into Chile, or go back to Bolivia is your choice to make so make sure you let the agency know.
- Is there food for my dietary requirements? Being in a remote place, it isn’t surprising that they won’t have any particular food with a short notice, so if you have any particular dietary requirements (intolerances, vegetarian, vegan, etc…) make sure you ask the agency they will be able to accommodate them.
For our tour we chose Red Planet Expedition after some people recommended them to us and after we spent a while talking to them. The price for a 3 days and 2 night tour was 1,450 BOB each (approximately €190), but I will talk more about costs below.
When we asked why their tour was so much more expensive than any other tour, they told us it is because they offer the best service. And was it good? Yes, but I think it really depends on the guide you get! Our guide wasn’t great, but the guy with the other group was excellent and he decided to help us too.
Costs and entrance fees
Like I said above, the tour costed us 1,450 BOB each (approximately €190). This included transport, visit to the train cemetery, accommodation and food.
Our friends used Andes Salt Expeditions for their tour and paid only 800 BOB (approximately €105). They were very happy with this company and got the exact same things as us, so worth taking a look at.
Agencies usually do not include entrance fees in the cost of the tour and you will have to pay them separately. These are:
- Entrance fee to the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, which is 150 BOB per person
- Entrance fee to the Polques hot springs, which is 6 BOB per person
- Entrance fee to Isla Incahuasi, which is 30 per person
- Fee for using bathrooms during the trip is between 6 and 10 BOB each time, except when you are in your hostel.
It’s important to keep in mind that you will have to pay this in Bolivian currency, as no other currency will be accepted.
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