After seeing hundreds of surreal pictures of people kissing mini people and other out-of-this-world scenarios, the Uyuni Salt Flats tour in Bolivia was pretty high on my list.
I had never seen a flat desert that looks like an immense snow field before. Therefore, I believe this weird and surreal place should be on everybody’s South America bucket list.
The Uyuni Salt flats can be done without a tour or you could visit them in one day. Both of these options are not recommendable.
Visiting the salt flats on your own is somewhat dangerous, because of the size of this place and the lack of clean water. The mountains that edge the Uyuni Salt Flats don’t look far away, but they really are. Besides, the size of Uyuni Salt Flats is impressive.
A one day tour is not recommendable. That’s because of all the impressive views you get on the second and third day of the Uyuni Salt Flats 3 day tour.
Keep reading to see how we did it and why we liked it so much.
Our tour: Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama tour
We had traveled from Peru and Lake Titicaca to the Bolivian border and straight to La Paz in one day. So we took a few days to explore La Paz and to stroll around this interesting city.
While in La Paz, we booked our Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama tour with a tour operator in La Paz.
It gets you from La Paz to Uyuni, where the actual tour starts.
From Uyuni, a sturdy Jeep takes you into the vast nothingness for 3 days. Finally, it drops you off in the Chilean desert town of San Pedro de Atacama, border crossing included.
I believe the Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama tour is the way to go. Even though you can also do this tour in the other direction, from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni and then on to La Paz.
Uyuni Salt Flats 3 day tour
Our Uyuni Salt Flats tour actually started from Uyuni. But since we were still in La Paz I added a day 0 to explain how we got from La Paz to Uyuni by train.
The La Paz to Uyuni train ride was pretty impressive and I would recommend it to everyone. So that’s why I included a day zero, while the actual tour of the Bolivian Salt Flats starts on day 1.
This post is very long and extended since the Uyuni 3 day salt flats tour is packed with interesting stops and viewpoints and I mention them all in this post!
Day 0 – La Paz to Uyuni – Salt Flat tours from La Paz
Before the actual start of our Uyuni Salt flats 3-day tour, we have to get from La Paz to the small town of Uyuni. In order to get there, we first need to take a 3-hour bus from the La Paz bus terminal to the town of Oruro, where we catch a taxi to take us to the train station.
The bus trip wasn’t very memorable, but the train trip… splendid!
The Oruro to Uyuni train takes about 7 hours. Even though we had a book to read, most of the time we were just gazing out of the window. The changing landscape and the millions of pink flamingos sitting in the lakes next to the train tracks.
This train trip is definitely one you don’t want to skip! Even with an early start of the day, it’s already dark when we arrive at the Uyuni train station.
One of the tour guides is waiting for us at the station and he takes us to our hotel, which is included in the tour.
Nothing special there and we’re just happy to have a bed for the night because the Uyuni Salt flats 3-day tour will start early the next morning.
Day 1 – Uyuni Salt Flats 3-day tour
The first day of the Uyuni 3 day tour is actually the only day you spend on the Salt Flats. I must admit that I first thought we would spend 3 days in this magical place. So I was very disappointed to discover this was not the case.
Day 2 and 3 are used to explore the surrounding area which is pretty cool as well. It’s just good to know that if you want to take Salt Flats pictures, you should use the first day wisely.
Starting our Uyuni Salt Flats 3 day tour
Day one of our Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama tour starts off straight away with meeting our Jeep driver and the other passengers who will travel with us for the next few days. We leave our backpacks at the tour agency. Hopefully, we’ll see them again when we reach the border to Chile on day 3.
Uyuni train Graveyard
The first stop on our Uyuni Salt Flats tour is the Uyuni train cemetery.
Yes, that’s a memorable stop! Even if, at first, we thought they just tried to visit every heap of trash and call it a viewpoint. We actually enjoyed the train graveyard a lot.
Dozens of rusty old trains are dropped in the desert and you get to climb and explore them.
It’s an awesome activity and it’s also great for photography.
Colchani village is the last village before entering the actual Salt Flats. It’s actually more of an obligatory stop than anything else. There’s a small market where you can help the local community by buying souvenirs and learn about salt.
In this place, you can already catch a first view of the Uyuni Salt Flats. So it only gets you more eager to finally start the actual 3 days of touring.
The Uyuni Salt Flats
Day 1 of the tour is entirely spent on the Bolivian Salt Flats. Take your time to shoot the pictures you had in mind because the other days will be spent in the surrounding area. By the end of day 1, you find yourself on the edge of the Salt Flats wondering how they will fill up the other 2 days.
Salt museum on the Uyuni Salt Flats
A visit to the Salt Museum is a stop on the tour and there’s some stuff to see. It wasn’t as much of a highlight as I would have expected, but it was still an interesting visit. You can choose whether you want to go inside or not.
Inside the museum, you get to walk around and watch sculptures made out of salt. It’s nice but not spectacular.
Isla Incahuasi or Isla del Pescado
Two small islands bulk out of the earth in the middle of the Salt Flats. Each Uyuni tour includes a stop at one of these islands. Our tour had a lunch break at the Isla del Pescado and we had over an hour of time to explore the island. Some people chose to climb the island, while others were busy taking the Salt Flats shots they wanted.
Uyuni Salt Hotel
As the brochure mentioned, we would spend the night in a Salt Hotel on the Uyuni Salt Flats. This wasn’t entirely true as the hotel was actually located in the desert next to the Salt Flats.
If you want to sleep on the Salt Flats, make sure to double check this fact with the agency you use to book your Uyuni Salt Flats tour. The hotel we slept at was a salt hotel indeed and it was a special treat to sleep in a hotel that was built out of salt.
Uyuni Salt Flats photography
We had seen pictures where a toy dragon was the center of a cool salt flats picture and decided to take our shot with a little pony.
Well, the pony ended up to be too small and most of the pictures we wanted to take required an extra person to serve as a photographer. If we ever decide to visit salt flats again, we will have to take action and be prepared in order to get the cool pictures we wanted.
At the end of the day, you get one last opportunity to take photos at the Salt Flats and we decided to ask the driver of the Uyuni tour to get us a few pictures of the two of us. I would have expected that someone who spends all of his working days driving tourists around the salt flats, would know what we were looking for. But he obviously didn’t know!
Day 2 – 3-day tour of the Bolivian Salt Flats
As I already mentioned, I was very disappointed to find out that only the first day of our 3 day Uyuni tour would be spent on the actual Salt Flats. But we still got to see a lot of interesting and cool stuff on the second and third day. The surrounding landscape was just too cool and it felt as if we were driving on another planet at times.
Parts of the second day, the Jeep will drive you through a desert landscape, called the Chiguana desert. This area is located south of the Uyuni Salt Flats and viewpoints include volcano views and rock formations.
Some tours include caves, but during our tour, we didn’t see any caves.
During the second day, we made countless stops at all kinds of viewpoints.
At some point during the second day, many jeeps gathered at a lagoon where pink flamingos reside.
The only downside of this stop was the fact that there were so many jeeps at the same time as we were. Some of the other travelers were very persuasive in trying to chase the flamingos away.
They started chasing the birds in order to get a close-up shot and while doing this, the flamingos decided to call it a day.
Situated in the middle of the desert, the Jeeps make a stop at a bunch of rock formations. One of these formations actually resembles a tree: el piedra árbol. It does indeed look a lot like a tree and it has become a true tourist highlight.
We took a picture of it and enjoyed some time in the shade of the other formations.
Sleep at the Laguna Colorada
The second night of the tour is spent in a homestay at the Laguna Colorada. The lagoon is impressive and you get a lot of opportunities to capture stunning pictures of the surrounding area and the birds. Even the sunset views at this place are stunning. But you can feel the temperature drop when the sun slides away behind the mountains.
Nights are very cold in this place and it’s a good idea to get as many blankets as possible. We got a sleeping bag and threw a dozen blankets on top of that. I woke up in the middle of the night because apparently I kicked off my blankets and ended up freezing my ass off. In this homestay, we shared our room with the other travelers of our jeep.
Day 3 – Uyuni Salt Flats tour
The third and last day of the Uyuni Salt Flats tour was the shortest of all. Eventually, it was more of a closing off day than an actual sightseeing day.
We did visit a few sights before heading to the border and traveling to San Pedro de Atacama.
Sol de Manana Geiser and hot springs
The geysers itself were very cool to see and it was the first time I ever visited a geyser. Multiple holes in the surface were steaming smoke and the view was surreal.
I didn’t dare to come too close to the steam holes after reading about tourists falling to their deaths into these things. So I kept to the ‘better safe than sorry’ principle and decided to take my pictures from a small but safe distance.
After watching the geysers, we visited the hot springs where we had the option to swim in the hot water. Unfortunately, the part of the pool that was meant for swimming was pretty crowded. After a night of insomnia, we weren’t too eager on getting in there with all these other travelers.
We just took some time to soak up the sun and relax a bit away from the crowds.
The Chilean border
The actual Jeep tour of the Bolivian salt flats ends here and we get our backpacks back. Nobody will ever carry your backpack across any border, so it’s kind of logical that you get reunited with your gear right before the border. All Jeeps that have done the Uyuni Salt Flats 3 day tour gather in the same place at the border where you get your passport stamped. A new, bigger bus awaits you to take you to San Pedro de Atacama. The bus is included in the ticket and maybe it’s not very glamorous, it will still get you to your destination. San Pedro de Atacama and the surrounding Atacama desert are a great destination with loads of interesting things to do.
Salar de Uyuni Facts
Uyuni Salt Flats weather
The Uyuni Salt Flats weather is an important factor when visiting this place. So you might want to consider this when booking your Uyuni Salt Flats tour. We were lucky to have 3 days filled with sun, but you could have less luck than we did.
Days on the salt flats are usually sunny with a temperature of up to 15 degrees Celcius. Usually, nights are below freezing point, like minus 6 degrees Celsius.
This is normal Uyuni Salt Flats weather and it’s one of the reasons it’s dangerous to spend a night alone on the Salt Flats.
Wet Salt Flats
Visiting the Uyuni salt flats during rainy season guarantees your pictures to be dreamy and surreal. The flats are wet and appear to be a sea of reflection. The water surface reflects the clouds and it looks like everything is upside down. I do like the pictures of the salt flats where it looks like people are walking on water.
Rainy season in Uyuni is from December until May.
Dry Salt Flats
During the dry season, the Salt Flats look more like a desert of ice and you could be thinking you’re in a science fiction movie, walking on a different planet. We visited during the dry season. So I guess if we ever visit again, it would be during the wet season.
The dry season in Uyuni is from June to November.
The Uyuni Salt Flats are located on a high altitude Altiplano and the actual Uyuni altitude is 3656 meters above sea level.
This is reasonably high and altitude sickness could arise.
We suggest taking the tour from La Paz, which is a great place to take your time and adapt to the altitude. If you take your time to adapt to the altitude in La Paz Bolivia, you will have an awesome time on the Salt Flats.
When taking the Uyuni Salt Flats 3 day tour from La Paz to San Pedro de Atacama, you will descend towards the end of your tour.
The altitude of the Bolivian capital La Paz is 3640 meter above sea level.
San Pedro de Atacama is located at an altitude of 2408 meters above sea level.
Uyuni Salt Flats Size
The Uyuni Salt Flats National Park in Bolivia has the largest salt flats in the world and measure 10582 square kilometers. They’re located in the south west of Bolivia, near the Andes and border the Chilean desert.
Uyuni Bolivian Salt Flats best time to go
As we already discussed in the part about Uyuni Salt Flats weather, it’s really up to you to decide the type of landscape you would like to travel through.
Both options have their charm and both are a guarantee on a set of surreal pictures. Of course in the rainy season, you would have a higher chance on rainy days during your visit. But you might want to take that risk if you’re after the wet salt flats pictures.
Depending on which way you want it, you can decide when is the best time to go to the Uyuni Bolivian Salt Flats.
Uyuni Salt Flats Tour
Uyuni is an overwhelming and impressive place that makes you feel like you’re in a different world and not in South America.
In conclusion, the Uyuni Salt Flats 3 days tour is definitely worthy of your time and I must say that we felt a lot richer after taking this tour. The feelings of stepping into this immense and desolate landscape are just so powerful I can hardly describe it.
We had an awesome time doing so. Another advantage of this trip is that we actually traveled to a new destination meanwhile. Our Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama tour actually took us from one place to another without making a loop back to the starting point.
We’re seriously considering taking this tour again in rainy season some day.