How to plan a magical trip to Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats

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At 12,000 square kilometers, Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world. Driving across it when the bright blue skies contrast with the blinding-white salt crust is one of the weirdest and most fantastic experiences I’ve ever had. I have to say – Uyuni exceeded my expectations both in regards to scenery and the tour company itself. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life, and I still get goose bumps every time I look at the pictures from this place.

In this post, I’ll share all the info you need for planning a trip to Bolivia’s salt flats, including a packing list, which tour company to go with and inspiration for funny salt flats pictures.

Let’s dig in.

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PLANNING YOUR UYUNI TRIP

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia offers a variety of tours ranging from one to four days. In one day, you will see the salt flats and be able to snap those famous funny pictures. In two days, you can visit the salt flats, see flamingos and nearby lagunas. I did the 3-day tour, which took us across 12,000 square kilometres packed with volcanos, red, green and white lakes, strange rock formations and a landscape similar to Mars. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend the three-day tour.

Read about it here: Road trip in Uyuni. This place is unbelievable.

We booked it 1,5 month in advance, but that’s just because I’m an obsessive planner. I know a lot of travelers book the tour on the day they arrive, but chances are that your numbero uno tour operator doesn’t have any space left. If you book the tour 2-4 weeks in advance, you should be fine.

Planning a trip to Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni? Here are some amazing travel tips to select the best tour, take beautiful pictures and enjoy the magical salt flats to the fullest!

WHAT DOES IT COST?

  • The three-day tour: 995 bolivianos
  • Fee to the National park: 150 bolivianos
  • Coins for the toilets and shower (it usually costs 1-2 bolivianos)

In total: 1,155 Bolivianos ($168)

CHOOSE THE RIGHT UYUNI TOUR COMPANY

During my research of Uyuni tour companies, I read many horrifying stories about drunk drivers and people going hungry for days, so I was kinda on edge to find a decent company. As I discovered, some of the most popular companies are: Cordillera Tours, Red Planet and Quechua Connections.

We chose Quechua Connectionspartly because of the good reviews on Tripadvisor and also because it’s a family-run company. I had a good feeling about them, and my intuition was right. I have nothing but praises to give this tour operator. They cost the same as everyone else, and José (the owner) makes the tour so much more fun. He speaks excellent English, knows all the good places, has great ideas for photos, and he’s a good cook! He even took us to his favorite place to see llamas, which was not on the itinerary.

You can contact José at this email address: [email protected]

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CACTUS VALLEY

We got to Uyuni at 7.15 in the morning after a one hour flight from La Paz. As we arrived at the Quechua Connections office, I was instantly greeted by José; the owner of this family-run business, and his lovely family. He had been doing these tours for 14 years.

The Salar de Uyuni tour started at 11, which gave us a few hours to have breakfast and buy supplies. After picking up the rest of the group – three Bolivian cousins and an American – we headed for the cactus valley. This place was only a few kilometres from the town and it consisted of a large plantation of cactus plants bearing delicious fruits.

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TRAIN GRAVEYARD

Next on the program was the train graveyard; a semi large collection of trains and carriages just outside of Uyuni town. These trains were used by mining companies to transport minerals all the way to the shores of the Pacific Ocean up until the 1940s. When the industry collapsed, it left behind the trains that can be seen today.

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SALAR DE UYUNI

We then drove 30 minutes to the salt flat – Salar de Uyuni. This magnificent place, standing at 3,600 meter above sea level, was formed thousands of years ago when a large prehistoric lake dried out and left behind this major salt desert. In the middle of the flats, there is an island of giant cacti that measure up to 12 meters high and are over a thousand years old.

Apart from being an interesting place, this is also popular for snapping funny perspective pictures. Like doing yoga on a box of Toblerone, having your friend stand on your hand or cooking the team for dinner.

After spending a few hours snapping salt pictures and having lunch, we drove further out in the flats. The further we got, the more water was on the surface and this made for a perfect picture setting.

Below, you’ll find some of the best Uyuni funny pictures I took, including tips for taking your own.

HOW TO TAKE THE BEST PHOTOS OF SALAR DE UYUNI

Taking the funny pictures was the thing we’d been looking most forward to that day. While José had some pretty creative ideas, we had done our research from home and brought some props.

Photo tips:

  • Bring some accessories, like m&m’s, Toblerone, toy animals, a fork or something similar to take create photos.
  • Make sure the composition is perfect.
  • Have one object close to the camera, and the other one further away (like on the photo below).
  • You get the best photos lying down on the ground. Just check out Jose below. That’s dedication, guys.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
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UYUNI IN THE RAINY SEASON

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is pretty spectacular no matter when you visit. However – if you want those hypnotic mirror views that merits a reward, you need to go in the rainy season (December – March).

I went in January and think this is the best time to visit the Bolivia salt flats. The mirror effect is so striking and it looks like the largest mirror on earth – so beautiful.

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SUNSET IN SALAR DE UYUNI

We spent six hours in Salar de Uyuni and also watched the sunset, which is the most beautiful time of the day. I spoke to someone in La Paz when we got back, and he told me that his tour company had only set off one hour for the salt flats. Another reason why it’s important to choose the right tour operator.

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Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

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UYUNI SALT HOTEL

After viewing the sunset, we drove back to the city and spent the night at a salt hotel. How about that! Everything in this hotel was made of salt blocks. The walls were of salt, the chairs were of salt and the bed was of salt. Even though the hotel itself was rather basic, it was super fun to stay there.

I mean, how often can you say that you’ve spent the night in a salt hotel?

WHEN TO VISIT SALAR DE UYUNI, BOLIVIA

There are two peak seasons for visiting the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

One is between July and October where the sky is super blue and the weather is on your side. The other is the rainy season between January and April, which by far is the most beautiful if you ask me. During the rainy season, a thin sheet of water covers the flats, reflecting a perfect representation of the sky above so that it is impossible to tell where sky ends and the land begins. Absolutely breathtaking!

WHAT TO BRING

  • Sunglasses. The sun is quite powerful in the Salar and you will be blinded without sunglasses.
  • Sunscreen. This is a must, as the UV radiation here is exceptionally strong.
  • Water. Four litres should be enough for three days. You can buy it in Uyuni town.
  • Swimsuit. If you join the 3-day tour, you’ll visit hot springs, so bring your swimsuit.
  • Towel
  • Softshell jacket. Uyuni is high altitude, and it gets quite cold and windy. I brought my softshell and it was perfect. It’s lined with fleece and it’s wind and water resistant. A parka would be too warm.
  • Toiletries. Bring your daily essentials and don’t forget the toilet paper (this is a rare commodity in the desert.)
  • Snacks. There are no shops out there, so bring a snack or two for the road.
  • CameraYou’ll want to get this scenery on camera!
  • Flashlight. Power outages are common, and most places turn off power on purpose in the evening. I always bring my mini Maclite – it’s so tiny and convenient.
  • Photo props. Like candy, a dinosaur, a water bottle or something else to make your photos stand out.

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Miriam,
    Nice blog, and thanks for the information. We are going to Chile in a week, and thinking about doing a round trip tour from San Pedro to Uyuni. Can you answer two of our questions? 1. How long of a round trip is it? 2. Does Jose have a round trip itinerary?
    Thanks,
    Sudip
    Vancouver, BC

  2. Hi Sudip,
    Thanks, and great hearing from you. I’m not sure if José does trips from San Pedro, but you can always ask him: [email protected]. We stopped at the border of Chile, but that was at the end of the trip. I know that it is possible to do the Uyuni trip from San Pedro, though. Just not sure if Quechua Connections offer it.

    I wrote another post about the itinerary here: https://adventurousmiriam.com/tips-for-the-uyuni-trip/ But if you have the time, I would definitely encourage you to take the three day tour!
    Have a great trip!
    //Miriam

  3. Hello,

    I’m trying to book with Quechua Connections, did you book when you arrived in Uyuni or before?
    How quickly does Jose reply to emails, do you have a phone number for the company?
    Do you think there would be space if I just turned up in the day?
    Sorry for the list of questions.
    Thank you

  4. Hi Nicola,

    Thanks for your comment. I booked the tour 1,5 month in advance, but that wasn’t really nessesary. However, on the day we were leaving for the tour, I met several people looking for free spots at Quechua Connections, and José had to turn them down as there were no room left. You’ll be taking a chance by not booking it in advance, especially if you’re going on the tour the same day as you arrive.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a phone number for him, but you can write him at this email address: [email protected]. He was quite fast at replying (like, on the same day), but if you don’t hear back from him, it’s probably because he’s on a tour and won’t return until a few days. Try to write him again, he’ll answer eventually 🙂
    //Miriam

  5. Great photos! I always love looking at other people’s photos of the Uyuni Salt Flats because there’s so much to see. I like the one you have with the people in the cooking pot, haha!

    I just finished a post about my trip with some cool pictures – take a look if you get a chance!

    Safe travels!

  6. Hi! Miriam such a great pics you’ve taken I like you blog, cheers from Salt flats, this is the raining season we still doing trips see you next time.
    best regards
    Jose

    1. Hi Jose, great to hear from you! I’ll let you know when I return to Uyuni – we had so much fun! 🙂 All the best from Denmark

    1. Hi Hira,
      I went to Uyuni in January, which is the rainy season. It’s the most beautiful time to visit because you get the water reflections, but it’s also a risky time because sometimes the flats get flooded and you can’t enter. If you’re willing to take the risk, I recommend visiting from January to April.

  7. Hi,
    Your tour was 3 days. You describe the first one. What about the other 2? Wherr do you stay and what do you do? I’d go for 3 days akdo, but need detaild. I believe US citizens need visa for Bolivia. Care to educate ne?

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