Click on tour name to see full details & go to online booking*2 Day Tour Options only available as private tours for up to 6 people. Full group price must be paid (x6) regardless of number of people in booking.
Click on route name to see full details & go to online bookingYou can see the complete list of train options on our Bolivia Trains page
UYUNI SALT FLATS - LATEST NEWS
We have received reports from the border area near San Pedro de Atacama that there has been considerable snow and there is a possibility it could have effects with border crossings in the coming days.
Temperatures in the Laguna Colorada area are at present falling to an average of around -13C (10.4F) at night time. We expect this to fall lower in the coming weeks as is normal for this time of year.
There are no issues with road transport but the train line between Uyuni and Tupiza/Villazon is currently not operating and latest information is it will reopen in December.
*We update this section as and when we get news from Uyuni area - last update 18th July 2018
This guide was last updated 18th July 2018
Planning a Bolivia Salt Flats tour?
We think you will agree with us when we say : that there is lots of confusing and inaccurate information out there!
There are lots of nice looking, well written travel blogs online nowadays offering "ultimate guides" etc but we so often see they have incorrect & misleading information in them.
It is no surprise of course as most of these are written by well meaning travelers that are passing through the country for just a couple of weeks but of course what they can learn in that time is very limited. Also, they are unlikely to update their articles so the information can quickly become out of date.
We created this guide to visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats so you can find all the latest info & resources you need to research, plan and book your trip to the Salar de Uyuni right here.
Our guide is based on over 12 years experience of arranging Salar de Uyuni Tours and we have been on the tours multiple times with many different operators and spoke with tens of thousands of people about their experiences
Mp>The information is updated with the latest information as & when things change - we live here in Bolivia so can provide the latest updates.
Click on the section heading to go straight to the info your looking for:
We provide a full online booking service for you to book the best Salt Flats Tours with most popular, safest and reliable Salar de Uyuni operators.
Apart from tours starting in Uyuni (returning to Uyuni or with transfer to San Pedro de Atacama , Chile) we offer tours starting in San Pedro de Atacama and finishing in Uyuni or with a transfer back to San Pedro on the 4th day.
Additionally we offer a variety of transport options to get you to and from Uyuni including:
The Salt Flats of Uyuni in Bolivia are the worlds largest at over 10000 square kilometers in size.
Salt flats (sometimes called salt pans, or salt plains) are large areas of terrain whose surface is covered with salt. Usually bright white and located in very dry areas.
Salt flats are formed when salt water evaporates leaving behind the salt residue. In the case of the Bolivia salt flats this was when a number of different prehistoric lakes evaporated over a period over 40000 years, starting with the largest called Lake Minchin.
The salt crust varies in depth being around 10 to 12 meters in parts but just a couple of meters in some parts. Below the surface lies a water table containing mineral rich brine.
It is the Salar de Uyuni , as it is known in Spanish, which is the world’s largest source of lithium deposits. Estimate to be anything up to 70% of the worlds supply.
It is hoped that the recent increase in demand due to the increase in lithium ion batteries needed by mobile devices and electronic cars will bring huge economic benefits to Bolivia.
Uyuni Salt Flats Quick Facts:
At 10582 sq km (4086 sq mi) is the world largest salt flat
The Salar de Uyuni is located at 3656m (11995ft) altitude in Potosi Department, South West Bolivia
The salt flat is used by NASA & other space agencies to calibrate satellites from space
Estimated to contain over 9 million tonnes of salt & somewhere in the range of 40% to 70% of the worlds lithium reserves
Is home to 3 species of flamingo - Andean, Chilean & the rarest kind James
The Bolivian salt desert was once a prehistoric Lake called Minchin (about 40000 years ago)
The salt crust ranges from a few cms to around 10 meters in depth
Has been included a few times in the Dakar Rally racing route in recent years
Hotels are no longer allowed to be located directly on the Salar due to enviromental pollution issues (allowed near the salt flat edges though)
The most popular Salt Flats Tours are 3 Day or 1 Day options that start and finish in Uyuni but there are also a few other popular routes such as:
3 day tours starting in Uyuni with a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile on the 3rd day
Tours starting in Tupiza and finishing in Uyuni - usually 4 day tours.
3 day tours starting in San Pedro de Atacama and finishing in Uyuni (also possible to return to San Pedro on day 4 with a transfer)
Tours starting from La Paz via Sajama to the Salt Flats (either ending in Uyuni, San Pedro or returning to La Paz). These are usually 4 or 5 days and cost more than other options
4 Day Tours from Uyuni finishing in Tupiza - available usually just as a private option as not many departures.
Motorbike salt flat tours from 1 to 3 days
2 day tours are usually available only as private tour options as they are less popular so its harder to fill up groups
Any other type of salt flats tour you might see advertised is likely more of a custom option or just has transport to Uyuni as part of the tour.
For example tours from Sucre or Potosi usually just drive to Uyuni then do a standard tour and will cost more than public transport to Uyuni plus tour combination.
Standard tours are in 4x4 vehicles (apart from motorbike tours) , usually Landcruisers, Nissan Patrols, Lexus type vehicles.
The transfers on the third day to San Pedro de Atacama are with Chilean buses that come to the border to meet with the 4x4s and must be arranged in advance with your tour from Uyuni (there are no public bus services from the border near San Pedro).
For single day salt flats tours you will just take a day pack of personal items with you and the operators let you leave the rest of your belongings in the office in Uyuni.
For multi day salt flats tours you will need to take more things of course but you should only take what you need with you and leave things you don't need during the tour in the office. The reason is that the driver needs to manage the weight carried on the roof of the vehicle for both safety reasons and also it increases fuel consumption.
Of course those people that will be not be returning to Uyuni (e.g. with a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama) must take with them all their belongings.
What you take with you on your tour is of course personal preference and will also depend on which tour option you take (i.e. much less needed for a 1 day salt flat tour) but there are a number of things that we consider important to take on a salt flats tour :
Sunglasses - absolutely essential due to the harsh high altitude sun.
Sun Cream - - sun burns much faster at altitude and the reflection of UV rays off the salt plains will amplify this.
Suitable Clothes - a range of clothing to cover a variety of temperatures. T-shirts in the day but the moment the sun goes behind a cloud it can feel chilly. In the evenings tempertures will drop and depending on the time of year and the weather, plus the altitude you are currently at, you might need some VERY warm clothing. By Laguna Colorado in July/August it can drop as low as minus 30C (-22F) A good jacket, gloves, hat and layers are the way to go.
Day Pack / Bag - your big bag will be securely packed away on the roof and only accesible at the end of the day. Keep what you need with you in your small bag.
Personal Medicines- headache tablets, anti-diarrhea tablets such as immodium (altitude can cause bad stomachs also) and of course any medications you need to take.
Bathing / Swimming Clothes & travel towel - needed for the hot springs - its the best chance of a nice hot bath so you dont want to miss out!
Bolivianos in cash - take enough small notes with you to cover entrance fees and also for extra charges for showers, charging electronics in accommodations. Depending on the tour you take you will often be charged around 10bs for shower use and maybe 5 to 10bs for charging things.
Water & Extra Snacks - Many tours dont include water and whilst its usually available to buy in hotels they can run out and it is over priced so its best to take plenty with you - 1.5 to 2 liters per person per day is a good amount. Extra snacks are always welcome as the food can be quite plain and it is best to have snacks as additional backup
Toilet Paper - often not provided in the accomodations
Optional / Suggested
Sun Hat- extra protection from the harsh sunlight
Torch- In generator powered hotels it can be lights out quite early so a torch is handy for those late night bathroom visits or to read.
Fleece Hat - Keep your ears warm at night when the temperatures drop
Flipflops / Sandals- if you visit during rainy season and there is the mirror effect with water on the salar parts of it can be quite deep so these would be useful to allow you to walk in the water and not soak your normal foot wear through.
Headphones and Music- most people have this but but worth mentioning as it offer a welcome break on the long travel days especially if you don't find the music of your driver agreeable!
Hand Sanitizer Gel - for on the go cleansing when no water available. You will be eating meals "al fresco" from the back of the vehicle some days so this can be nice to have.
A Bottle of Wine or other favorite drink- completely optional of course but can be a nice treat to have at the end of a long day driving across the salt desert
The mirror effect on the salt flats is one of the most famous attractions of the Salar de Uyuni and many people will try to visit when it is possible to see the water on the salar in this way.
The short answer is the best time is probably late January through to early March but as it relies on weather (which is becoming more unpredictable each year) it is impossible to say for sure.
The Salar itself is a vast dried up lake and therefore has a water table that sits not too far below the surface of the salt plains crust.During the Bolivian rainy season this water table rises as more and more rain falls. When there has been enough rain to raise the level the water starts to sit on the surface.
Being shallow there are no currents and the waters surface remains mostly calm producing the "mirror effect" wereby the clouds are reflected in the water and it can seem like you are driving through the sky.
Dry season (Winter) in Bolivia is approximately April to October and rainy season (Summer) from November to May - but it can be unpredictable , even more so with global warming.
It is not uncommon for example for it to be quite dry until Jan (when the heavier rains usually start) and continue to rain right through April - the best months for the mirror effect on the salt flats are usually Feb & Mar but there are no guarantees! All you can do is inquire as to the conditions closer to the time.
Also note that even though the mirror effect on the salt flats is incredible , if the water is too deep then it is not safe to drive across so if this is the case then Isla Incahuasi (the one with the large cacti on it often called Fish Island or Fishermans Island) will not be possible to visit. Also routes might be change meaning less chance of staying in a salt hotel on the first night of a multiday tour
Im sure you have all seem the crazy perspective trick photos that people post after their Uyuni Salt Flats tours.
You might be wondering how they are done and if they are difficult?
Good news is that they are actually pretty easy and you are pretty much guaranteed to get some amazing photos on the Bolivian salt flats.
The special effects are due to the vast flatness of the salt desert not having any point of reference to show depth of field in the images so things can appear to be right next to each other that are in fact many meters apart.
In general most of these kinds of photos are taken from a very low viewpoint , right down on the ground, with the small item you want to appear large close to the camera (often just a few feet / meters away) and with the items you want to seem small/ shrunk (usually people) located in the distance some 30 , 40 or more meters away.
The photographer will direct the people to change their poses until it matchs the effect they are looking for. A bit of practice and it becomes quite easy but also most salt flats tours guides/drivers are pretty good at getting some very effective shots for you and are always willing to help.
A good tip is to try to plan ahead a bit and take some interesting props with you so you can get really inventive - your imagination is the only limit - and sometimes the leg muscles of your photo subjects if your making them pose at funny angles for too long!
Possible ideas of props to buy or use are action figures, toy animals, various food and drink items, keyrings - basically anything small any interesting will work.
It is best to buy things before travelling to Uyuni though because once you are on the salt flats tour there is very few places to buy anything apart from a few souvenirs made from salt like ashtrays and candlestick holders.
The town of Uyuni itself is at an altitude of about 3700 meters (12139 feet) and the 3 day Salar de Uyuni tours can go up to altitudes of over 5000 meters (16404 feet) when they drive over certain high passes.
If your tour spends the night by Laguna Colorado, as most 3 day salt flats tours do, then you will be sleepng at 4300 meters (14107 feet).
Tours starting in San Pedro de Atacama which is at an altitude of 2400 meters (7874 feet) will be exposed to a faster increase in altitude and because of this it is more common for people to feel stronger effects when they stay by Laguna Colorada than those coming from Uyuni who have ascended more gradually.Often those starting in Uyuni have spent some time in La Paz and other high altitude places in Bolivia or Peru first so are more acclimitised also.
Regardless of how well acclimitised you might be prior to your tour you should expect to feel the effects of altitude to some degree during the higher parts of the tours.
For more people this is just light headaches or dizzyness, almost always shortness of breath and sometimes it effects peoples stomach at bit. Loss of appitite and difficulty in sleeping are also very common.
To help with the effects you should drink plenty of water, dont overdo anything that can dehydrate you like alcohol or too much sugary snacks.
Drinking coca tea can help with the symptoms of both headaches and upset stomach and usually the accommodations will have this available for you to try.
Standard headache medication like Ibuprofen can help and most pharmacies in Bolivia will be able to sell you tablets for "soroche" which is the local word for altitude sickness. Note though that these tablets usually contain caffiene so you should avoid taking them during the evening as they will inhibit your ability to sleep even further.
For more serious effects (dont worry - its not common for people to get serious altitude sickness on salt flats tours, just the uncomfortable kind) the only really remedy is going to lower altitudes.
The Bottom line? - The vast majority of people go on salt flats tours and have no safety issues at all.
Some though , return to tell scary tales of their driver being so drunk that they had to take over the driving themselves or that he fell sleep at the wheel. It not huge amounts of people that experience this kind of safety problem but it is common enough to be a concern for people planning to take a tour..
Unfortunately there have been a number of fatal accidents over the years that are mostly down unsafe practices such as drunk driving, unsafe driving or bad vehicle maintenance (or a combination of these).
The fact is there are a handful of irresponsible drivers that work in Uyuni , that will get drunk and drive. They are a minority though and they unfortunately cast a bad image over the tourism industry in Uyuni when actually there are good , safe, hard working drivers working for responsible, professional companies doing their best to offer as good a service as they can.
How Can You Avoid Them? - Well the simple answer is to not use the cheapest companies.
Of course you can find blogs saying that "all tours are all the same" and "I went with super cheap company X and it was all fine" but that is because it is perfectly possible to go with a cheap company and everything go fine on that tour (also because people naturally want to think they got the best deal and brag about it in their blog).
From over 12 years of experience (not just a single visit passing through like your average travel blogger - no offence bloggers but it is true) we KNOW that not all companies and tours are the same in safety, quality and standards. If they were we would work with all the companies and offer their tours as many offer higher commissions but we choose not to compromise on safety over profit.
Its a simple equation really - the best companies wont work with the drivers that are known to drink and drive. The very cheapest companies have to pay drivers less to lower costs so the better drivers wont work with them, meaning the drivers that drink will end up working for the cheapest companies.
It doesnt mean that only the most expensive are the only safe ones of course, but that it is likely that the cheaper you go the more risk there is of problems.
Also, booking your tour in advance is a safer option for the simple reason that you then know which company you are going with.
Turning up in Uyuni and booking on the day is a bit like entering a lottery as what usually happens is the tour companies just send each other the customers they have booked in order to fill up a group and you will often end up with a completely different company than the one you booked with.
You might book with a company that you researched or had recommended to you and they simply send you with a different company that had a half filled group already and often you are unaware (and its not uncommon for some staff in Uyuni to give guarantees about something that is simply not true)
Booking in advance means the groups are filled up and run by the operator you are booking with (we dont allow the operators to pass you to other companies)
Here is a list of the most commonly asked questions we received about the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats Tours.
Of course if the answer you are looking for isnt here simply ask us. If we are online you can chat direct using the live chat feature or you can leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Others ways to contact are email, the "Ask a Question" button on each product page or through facebook messenger.
Q - Are there ATMs / Cash Machines in Uyuni?
A - Yes , but you should not rely on them as they are regular without money or do not work with travelers cards. Bring money from La Paz or elsewhere in Bolivia
Q - Is there WiFi or internet available on the tours or in the hotels on the Salar de Uyuni tours?
A - No, facilities are basic and you are traveling in remote areas with limited telecomunications. You should not expect Wifi during the salt flats tours. You might get cel phone signal in some areas bit it is very limited.
Q - Where to the Salt Flats Tours start?
A - Most start in Uyuni and will leave from the central area ( the office of your chosen operator) , but there are salt flats tours starting in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile , Tupiza in South Bolivia and also from La Paz.
Q - What time do the Salt Flat Tours start?
A - It can vary , but most start at approximately 10 to 10.30am - be aware though that start times in Bolivia are generally quite "flexible" so these are just approximations. From San Pedro de Atacama they usually starting earlier around 8-9am
Q - Can I pay to upgrade the hotels on salar de uyuni tours?
A - You can only upgrade to better hotels (Tayka Hotels for example) if on a private tour option. You cannot upgrade during standard shared tours because this woule mean taking you to one area and the rest of the group to another area and the distances are too large. Plus spliting the guide away from one group in an area with limited communication can be problematic.
Q - Can I do Salt Flats Tours over Christmas or New Year?
A - We dont offer the tours from Dec 23rd through to Jan 6th due to safety concerns. There are increased incidents of drunk driving on the salt flats during this period so we prefer to not put customers in danger. Many of the operators dont operate during this period either for the same reason although some will operate regardless. Of course not all the companies working during this time are unsafe ones, but the drunk drivers in the area make it less safe for everyone. If you must do a tour (we understand you dont want to miss out if your here) then we suggest you do a 1 day tour instead as the 3 day tours tend to experience more problems as the driver tend to celebrate with friends in local villages near the hotels on the first or second night.
Q - Do we stay in a Salt Hotel during the tour?
A - With all our 3 day tours yes you will usually stay in a salt hotel on the first night of the tour. We say usually because if the salt flats is covered in water creating the famous mirror effect, this effects which routes can be driven over the salar and it can mean that alternative routes need to be taken under these conditions and the usually salt hotels are not accesible and a normal hotel must be used instead. You will visit the original salt hotel on the salar itself anyway (if accesible of course) so should see one regardless.
We have arranged Salar de Uyun Salt Flats tours for tens of thousands of satisifed customers.
You will see our name all over the internet , talked about in blogs and travel forums because we have been the number one for Salt Flats for many years for good reason.
We live here, we are in daily contact direct with the best operators and know what is happening on the ground in Bolivia.
Yes, we offer the convenience of online booking (we were the first in Bolivia to do so some 9 years ago) but we are not just an online faceless web page.
You can come and visit us in our La Paz office for any further questions or just to get some tips and advice.
We have staff answering emergency cel phone in country should you require any assistence whilst you are in Bolivia.
Most importantly though - the tours we offer are the best options. We KNOW this from experience. We could easily just offer any companies tours just to make a quick profit but instead we choose to offer the best experiences for our customers.Of course we aren't saying all the other companies are bad , there are some other options that are ok but we are confident there are none that are as good or better in the same price ranges
We have been helping people visit the salt flats for over a decade and are well known as the experts for these tours due to the reliability and safety of the tours we offer.
We only work with the best companies that we trust and have been working with for many years. We do not offer cheap bottom range salt flat tours with risks of drunk drivers (yes , the rumours are true and this does happen!).
Our prices are the same as buying direct with the operators but in addition to offer online booking we provide extra value with our quality information & instructions, fluent english to answer any questions & emergency contacts in country.
Full service in one place - it makes sense to book your transport and salt flat tour all together with us so you have just one place to contact should you need to make changes.
We are Bolivia based so all profits stay in Bolivia. Make sure you book your Salt Flat Tour with a Bolivia based company as there is a problem with profits leaving the country due to all the online travel sites and large foreign travel portals - support local businesses either directly in country or with Bolivian company web sites.
Apart from the many 1000s of satisfied travelers we have been trusted by companies such as the BBC, The New York Times (interesting recent article here) and many of the international embassies in Bolivia to arrange their salt flat tours.
We have been recommended in many guidebooks and blogs around the world.
If you can’t find what you need then please contact us for help.
Visit world-famous Salar de Uyuni with top operator Perla de Bolivia starting with a tourist bus from La Paz and including return bus after the tour. We are the number one official agency for Todo Turismo and Perla de Bolivia and decided to offer this bus & tour combo option to allow you to book both services all at once. You cannot find this combination for a cheaper price anywhere!. Book now to secure your places!
Visit world-famous salar Uyuni with the most popular operator Red Planet starting with a tourist bus from La Paz and including return bus after the tour. We are the number one official agency for Todo Turismo and Red Planet and decided to offer this bus & tour combo option to allow you to book both services all at once.You cannot find this combination for a cheaper price anywhere!. Don't miss out!
Red Planet Expeditions are the most popular choice for travellers visiting the salt flats of Uyuni. This is our best selling, mid-range salt flats tour option and includes an English-speaking guide. Red Planet are one of the most experienced, safe and reliable companies for the Uyuni Salt Flats and have been for a number of years and for this reason they do fill up in advance. First night in double or triple room accommodation. We are the number one booking agency for Red Planet Salt Flats Tours and can highly recommend this option.
Red Planet Expeditions are the most popular choice for travellers visiting the salt flats of Uyuni. This is our best selling, mid-range salt flats tour option and includes an English-speaking guide and a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama. Red Planet are one of the most experienced, safe and reliable companies for the Uyuni Salt Flats and have been for a number of years and for this reason they do fill up in advance. First night in double or triple room accommodation. We are the number one booking agency for Red Planet Salt Flats Tours and can highly recommend this option.
This is our 3 day "sunset" salt flats tour option including English-speaking guide operated by Perla de Bolivia. This operator is one of the most popular offering quality services , english speaking guides and increasing in popularity all the time - book in advance to ensure you get a place.
This is our 3-day salt flats tour option including English-speaking guide and transfer to San Pedro de Atacama operated by Perla de Bolivia. While this is a new operator, the staff and the guides have been in the tourism business in Uyuni for a long time and they have decided to open up this new one in order to offer a fresh and safe service to tourists.
This is our 4-day salt flats tour option including English-speaking guide operated by Perla de Bolivia, starting from Uyuni and ending in Tupiza. First night in a salt hotel. This tour is only available as a private tour. A great option if you are planning to head south/to Argentina after your salt flats tour.
This is our 3-day sunset salt flats tour option including English-speaking guide operated by Quechua Connection. Quechua Connection are a very popular choice for travelers visiting the salt flats of Uyuni and they get consistently good reviews. During dry season a bonus biking on the salar is also included. Daily departures from Uyuni. We are an official agent for selling Quechua Connection salt flats tours.
This is our 3-day salt flats "sunset" tour option including English-speaking guide and transfer to Chile operated by Quechua Connection, a very popular choice for travelers visiting the Salt Flats Tours of Uyuni. Daily departures from Uyuni. We are an official agent for selling Quechua Connection salt flats tours.
This 4-day salt flats tour starts in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and after a 3-day tour includes a transfer back to San Pedro de Atacama on Day 4. With up to 6 passengers per vehicle and a Spanish-speaking guide. A popular way to get to see this amazing area from Chile taking in the amazing Uyuni Salt Flats, colored lakes (Laguna Verde and Laguna Colorada), natural thermal hot springs, high altitude geysers and much more - all the while passing through the amazing and unique desert scenery all around. A memorable and other-worldly experience that will be a highlight of your South America trip.
Our standard plus 3 day salt flats tour is with maximum 6 people to a vehicle and a Spanish-speaking guide. First night in double or triple room accommodation. Classic and safe salt flats tour! Daily departures. This is the best option if you are travelling on a budget but don't want to miss out on this amazing experience.
Our standard plus 3 day salt flats tour with transfer to Chile is with maximum 6 people to a vehicle and a Spanish-speaking guide. First night in double or triple room accommodation. Classic and safe salt flats tour! Daily departures. This is the best option if you are travelling on a budget but don't want to miss out on this amazing experience.
This is our standard plus 2 day salt flats tour option includingSpanish-speaking guide. Overnight in double or triple room accommodation. This is currently the only 2-day option that we offer and it can only be done as a private tour. The itinerary can be adjusted according to your bus/flight connections. This is the ideal option if you are short on time but don't want to miss out on the main highlights of the area.
Our mid-range 1 day salt flats tour option including English-speaking guide/driver operated by Red Planet. This is a classic and safe salt flats tour that will also take you to the foot of the stunning Tunupa volcano located on the northern side of the salt flats.
Our standard plus 1 day salt flats tour is with maximum 7 people to a vehicle and a Spanish-speaking guide. Classic 1 day salt flats tour for the budget backpacker - extremely popular tour leaving daily from Uyuni. A unique place in the world and a must on any trip to Bolivia. This is the best option if you are travelling on a budget but don't want to miss out on this amazing experience.