Salt Flats Tour from San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) to Uyuni - 3 Days

Price:
$205.00
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3-day salt flats tour leaving from San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) and finishing in Uyuni. The best way to get to Bolivia from Chile taking in the amazing Salt Flats, colored lakes, geysers and more.

Overview

Trips to the Salar de Uyuni are an unforgettable experience but unfortunately the general standard of facilities and services are not very high in this remote area. We would like to make it clear that things are not as reliable, comfortable and professional as we would like on these tours so for this reason we do not promise more than what you will receive for your money. The accommodations and food will be basic, the driver acts as a basic guide but he is unlikely to speak any English, or if he does it wont be a good level. Due to the harshness of the terrain vehicle breakdowns are common. Still interested? Good, you should be because if you can put up with a bit of hardship you should have a great time.  It is not essential to have an English speaking guide for this tour as most of it is looking at landscapes and these are pretty self explanatory. Take some extra snacks, plenty of warm clothes and a sleeping bag (can be rented) and the accommodations won’t feel so bad. The drivers are used to breakdowns and are pretty adept at fixing their vehicles, they are always willing to help each other out and you are usually not stuck for long - so a bit of patience is often all you need. We believe if you are informed truthfully about the possible negative aspects of the tours you can prepare yourself better and will have a more positive experience.

The following is a typical tour but sometimes some things are omitted from a tour, sometimes additional things are included, so this shouldn’t be seen as a rigid itinerary, although the most popular main sites are always included. If there is something you really want included your group should stress this to your driver at the start of the tour so he can plan accordingly.

This 3 -day salt flats tour starts in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and finishes in Uyuni, Bolivia. With up to 6 passengers per vehicle and a Spanish-speaking guide. A popular way to get to Bolivia 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 otherworldly experience that will be a highlight of your South America trip.

This tour arrives in Uyuni in time to catch evening flights and buses to La Paz - advisable to book in advance as usually full. See our transport section for options to book your tickets online.

Itinerary

DAY 1 – San Pedro de Atacama  Hito Cajon – Laguna Verde – Geysers

You will be picked up from your central hotel in San Pedro de Atacama around 8 am to be taken to the border at Hito Cajon (border of Chile / Bolivia). After passing through the border formalities it is a short journey to reach Laguna Verde where we will see the emerald green waters of this mineral rich lake (n.b. only green if there is some wind churning up the mineral - if calm there is a beautiful reflection of the volcanoes). We then head towards the geysers "Sol de Mañana" to witness the bubbling hot mud pools and shooting of steam many meters into the air. Next stop will be Laguna Colorada - a fascinating lake with red water and we can see many flamingos feeding along its shores. Here we will stay in a basic hotel for the night (shared accommodation and no shower).

DAY 2 – Laguna Colorada – Desert of Siloli – Laguna Honda – San Juan

We depart on this second day after breakfast around 8 am and we have a chance to see Laguna Colorada again as we pass by a different side of the lake. We will travel through the Siloli desert area and see surreal rock formations. Further along today we pass by Laguna Honda to witness its sulphury smell and pass by some other high altiplano lakes. In the evening we arrive in the town of San Juan where we will stay the night.

DAY 3 – Full day on salt flats – Salar de Uyuni – Uyuni

Today we will visit the amazing salt flats. Here we will see the "ojos del sal" were water is bubbling up through holes in the Salar, we will see where local workers gather salt into mounds and visit Isla Incahausi where we will find giant cacti and have great panoramic views of the surrounding salt flats. After leaving the salt flats we will visit the town of Colchani to see how the salt is processed and you can also ask your driver if he can take you to the Train Cemetery for the final stop on the tour before arriving in Uyuni. There will be plenty of time to stop and take photographs of the incredible salt flats throughout the day before we head to Uyuni arriving in the afternoon around 15.00.

Included / Not Included

INCLUDED

  • Transportation in 4x4 vehicle (usually max 6 persons) - transfer to border from San Pedro is by bus where you change to 4x4.
  • Drivers acts as basic guide (Spanish-speaking)
  • Meals during the tour (take extra snacks as food can be quite plain)
  • Accommodation in basic lodgings (often no showers or if available there is a extra charge)
  • Pre-tour briefing the day before of the tour
  • Hotel pick up in the morning of the tour

 

NOT INCLUDED

  • Transport to San Pedro de Atacama
  • Entrance fees – 30Bs + 150 Bs = 180BS total for the 2 days minimum (some itineraries visit some small attractions with small entrance fees)
  • Water - you recommend you purchase 2 liters per person per day to take with you.
  • Sleeping bag - highly recomended as the high altitude means cold nights!
  • Breakfast on first day, dinner on last day
  • Sunglasses and sun cream 
  • Additional snacks and beverages
  • Torch - recommended

Important Information

  • This tour starts in San Pedro de Atacama and DOES NOT include the cost of transport for getting there. We can arrange buses and flights for getting from Uyuni to La Paz after your tour - see them all in our Transport section.
  • Optional day 4 returning to San Pedro de Atacama - We can arrange for you to take an early transfer back to return to San Pedro de Atacama if you wish arriving around midday approximately in San Pedro. If you wish to have this option you should use this product page.
  • Please note that weather and conditions during rainy season may mean that some items on this tour are inaccessible - you will be advised of this at time of booking if this is the case.
  • Low season / high season - This price is the low season price and some years around July / August prices can rise for "high season". We only know when this will happen and by how much when it actually happens and usually it is with just a couple of days notice. This is because it is the decision of the drivers union in Uyuni and not our or the operators. The price rise is usually around 20$ more but we cannot know for sure until the time. For bookings around this time you should book with the low season price and we always try to get the operators to honour advanced bookings at low season price. If they do not we will need to ask for the price difference or, if you don't wish to pay, you can cancel also.
  • Luggage - There will be enough space on top of the car to store your bags.
  • Can I fly to La Paz on the last flight on the last day of my tour? - Yes it is possible as long as there is an evening flight scheduled. Usually there is a flight at 19.50 pm (or 20.30) and tours finish around 16.30 / 17.00 pm so there is time to get this flight. On weekends though sometimes there is not a 19.50 pm flight scheduled.
  • Can you drop us off at the airport after the tour? - For this you would need to speak to your driver direct - you might be able to arrange for him to take you, he might charge you for doing so, he might not - depends on the individual driver. He might not want to provide the service. Either way, the operator can arrange a taxi for you though and it costs about 20/30bs and takes about 20 minutes - this is the easiest way.
  • Important - For safety reasons, we won't be accepting bookings for tours starting between December 23rd and January 6th. You can read a more detailed explanation of why we don't do salt flats tours over Christmas/New Year period HERE.
  • Groups are max 6 persons in a vehicle.
  • These tours visit very remote areas that have very limited facilities. If you are ill or there is an accident there are no medical facilities other than Uyuni town and even these are basic. If things go wrong you are faced with the reality of travel in a remote area of a developing country. 
  • Altitude sickness - The salt flats tours travel to altitude of around 5000 meters so the majority of people will feel some effects. we recommend that you should be acclimitized to above 3000 meters before going on these tours and that you take headache tablets, altitude sickness :'soroche" tablets and any other medications that you may require.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please read through these common questions & answers - if you cant find what you want to know send us your questions using the Ask a Question button

Can we have this tour with an English speaking guide?

Unfortunately we do not offer the tours from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni  with an English speaking guide option and it is available with spanish speaking guide only currently. We have several options starting in Uyuni that offer English speaking guides. 

Why don't you do salt flats tours over Christmas/New Year period?

We do not sell any salt flats tours from Dec 23rd through to Jan 6th because of safety concerns. 

Specifically this is due to the high number of incidences of drunk driving that occur on salt flats tours during this time. Some of the companies we work with, for example Red Planet, also completely stop tours during this time for the same reason. We still don't sell tours with any company that we work with that does not stop completely during this period as whilst they are likely to be safer options the fact is there could be drunk drivers from other companies making the area less safe. From experience we think it is best to avoid the dangers and problems that occur this time of year.

Please do not ask us to recommend any companies for tours during this time as we do not recommend anyone for the reasons stated. If you must do a tour (and we understand this is a highlight and it would be bad to miss) we would suggest you do a one day tour only as the 3 day tours are more problematic for the drunk drivers (drivers tend to celebrate in the evening with friends in the local villages near the accommodations). Also keep a close eye on the condition of your driver if you do end up on a tour.

Can I pay to upgrade hotels on the salt flats tours?

In our standard tour offerings we do not offer people the option to be able to upgrade hotels because this would involve taking one part of the group to the standard hotels and others to the upgraded hotel in a different area and therefore two different routes and too much additional driving. We can only offer hotel upgrade options if you are doing a private tour for this reason - please contact us for pricing if you are interested.

What time do salt flats tours start?

Salt flats tours in Uyuni usually start "approximately" 10.00 am to 11 am but this can vary. The reasons it can vary, apart from punctuality not being very common in Bolivia, can be for a number of different things. For example there is only one fuel station in Uyuni and it can be hard to get fuel quickly so drivers might have to queue for long periods to get fuel and this can affect preparations.

We usually request you to be at the local office at 9 AM to do your check-in, but if for example if your flight lands at 9 AM then no problem simply take a taxi to the office and be there as soon as you can - we will let the office now about your flight time and this will be taken into consideration. Also buses or flights arriving to Uyuni late (more common in Rainy season) can affect departure times - if someone in your assigned group is on transport that is late then the operator will try to wait as long as is possible to accomodate that so they can get on the tour that day - obviously there are limits to this and they dont want to wait too much as it effects the rest of the groups tour time. Tours starting in San Pedro usually start earlier around 8-8.30 am.

How does rainy season affect the Salt Flats Tours?

The Salt Flats (salar de Uyuni) tours leave year round including during the rainy season and in fact many people try to visit during the rainy season in order to see the "mirror effect" of the water sitting atop of the salt flats and reflecting the sky which is an incredible sight. This is caused when the water table below the salt flats has risen enough to cause the water to sit on top of the salt. It is fine to visit the area when there is a certain amount of water but when it becomes too deep (after long sustained periods of rainfall in consectutive days) some places can become inaccesible such as Isla Incahuasi and these must then be omitted from the tours but they can usually continue visiting other parts of the salt flats and the area to the south (the colored lakes, geysers, hot springs etc) are usually not affected so tours are not cancelled completely.

The road between La Paz and Uyuni usually becomes a bit problematic with potholes and other damage caused but the constant rain and is worst in Mar/Apr time. The buses are sometimes cancelled due to this and other forms of transport such as train or flights are recommended or alternatively you can travel via Sucre / Potosi to Uyuni which is a better conditioned road that is less affected.

How many people will be in the vehicle?

On 2,3 and 4 day salt flat tours there will be a maximum of 6 travellers in the vehicle (1 in the front passenger seats, 3 in the  center seat row and 2 in the rear seat row) plus the driver/guide.

On 1 day tours there can be up to 7 people in the vehicle (although usually 6) as the group gets out of the vehicle much more often and comfort is not an issue like it is for the long driving distances of the multi day tours.

I want to take perspective photos – will there be lots of time & items for me to use?

People enjoy taking the interesting perspective style photos on the salt flats and of course there will be some time to stop and do this.  The exact amount of time is impossible to say as it will depend on a variety of factors such as how long you have taken at previous stops, weather conditions, the group dynamic etc and you also need to bear in mind there is a schedule to keep to so the driver will only allow the amount of time he can in order to keep to the schedule safely.

As for items to use in your photos, some drivers do have some fun items but some wont have anything especially for photo props. The best advice is to take something interesting things yourself so you can get unique shots – let your creative side go crazy!

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
  • 1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

    Good way to get into to Bolivia from Chile

    Coming from Chile to Bolivia taking this tour made perfect sense for us and it is definitely a great way of seeing the salt flats. Apart from feeling the altitude quite strongly the first night we had a amazing time. The scenery is just incredible and it doing it this way round means you save the best til last as the salt flats are beyond description. Brilliant tour , great company and will recommend to anyone wanting a tour from san pedro de atacma to bolivia.

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