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 flats on your own can be somewhat dangerous, because of the size of this place and the lack of clean water. The mountains that edge the flats don’t look far away, but they really are. Besides, the size of the Bolivian 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 tour.
Keep reading to see how our tour went and which amazing sights you can expect if you go on this Uyuni Salt Flats tour!
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 the capital, we booked our Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama tour with a tour operator.
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
Good to know
Our 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 full of extensive information since the Uyuni Salt Flats tour is packed with interesting stops and viewpoints.
Let’s go and see what you can expect from this awesome tour!
Day 0 – La Paz to Uyuni
Before the actual start of our 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 to the changing landscape. Not to mention the hundreds of pink flamingos bathing in the lakes next to the train tracks! It just made the views spectacular.
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 Bolivian salt flats tour will start early the next morning.
Where to stay in La Paz
Day 1 – Uyuni Salt Flats 3-day tour
The first day of the Bolivian Salt Flats 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.
It turned out to be that day 2 and 3 are awesome as well! These days are used to explore the surrounding area which is pretty cool! It’s just good to know that if you want to take Salt Flats pictures, you should use the first day wisely.
Start of our 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 Cemetery
The first stop 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 Uyuni 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 Bolivian Salt Flats. It’s 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.
But you will see that those worries turn out to be unnecessary!
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 at the Salt Hotel on the 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 during your excursion, make sure to double check this fact with the agency you use to book your Uyuni to Atacama 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 the salt flats again, we will have to take action and be prepared in order to get the cool pictures we want.
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!
We managed to get a few shots on our own 🙂
Day 2 – Bolivia Salt Flats Tour
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 I was wrong and we actually 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 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 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 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 Salt Flats Bolivia 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.
Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama
The best place to stay in San Pedro de Atacama is Hostal Pablito since it has a swimming pool and you’re in the middle of the desert! This cute guest house is a travelers favorite!
If you’d rather stay in a magnificent place that’s not in town, check out Casita La Brea. This place is just stunning and it has the most beautiful views ever!
Conclusion 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.
You can also join a tour group to visit the Bolivian Salt Flats!
We’re seriously considering taking this tour again in the rainy season some day.