ACTIVITY & ADVENTURE BOLIVIA Planning Guides

A Guide To Discovering Another World | The Bolivian Salt Flats

Salar de Uyuni, Inca to Inuit

There are only a few places in the World where you can experience a landscape so surreal and unfamiliar that you are left feeling as if you have ventured to another planet. Visiting the Bolivian Salt Flats, The World’s largest salt flat: The Salar de Uyuni will transport you to another dimension, a place so magical and spectacular you will struggle to compare it to anywhere else you have seen before.

Algea and Salt, The Bolivian Salt Flats, Inca to Inuit

If like us you are travelling through Bolivia, we can not recommend highly enough that you invest the time (a tour of the salt flats takes 2 nights/3 days, although shorter tours are available) and the money ( Expect to pay about 800 B. per person inc. transfers to Chile)  in this once in a lifetime experience as we guarantee it will not disappoint.

We had always planned to pass through Bolivia, using a tour of the Bolivian Salt Flats as a connection and gateway through to the Chilean border. There are a number of different starting points for the Bolivian Salt Flats depending upon which direction you’re travelling in. You can start the tour in Uyuni, Tupiza or San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Railtrack, The Bolivian Slat Flats, Salar de Uyuni

Following one of the worst bus journeys we had ever experienced (in fact anyone had ever experienced) we arrived at 8 pm in the sleepy and slightly odd town of Uyuni.  Uyuni is teaming with tour operators who wheel jeep-loads of tourists through the Bolivian Salt Flats every day. As such it’s recommended, if your travel schedule permits, that you put off booking your tour until you arrive in Uyuni as it allows you the chance to negotiate in person and see the types of vehicles you’ll be travelling in. If however you are working to a fixed travel schedule it may be worth pre-booking your tour ahead of time online with one of the larger tour operators who have booking functionality online.

Inca to inuit

Tours tend to be cheaper if you start in Uyuni due to the number of operators and competition driving the price down. Most buses from La Paz arrive around 6:30 am in the centre of Uyuni giving you up to 4 hours to have breakfast and scope out a tour operator before you embark on your tour around 11 am.

Choosing a Tour Company

Unlike other more economically developed countries in South America, there is a general lack of regulation and as such quality control particularly within the tourism industry. As is often the case, you get what you pay for when booking a tour so it isn’t always advised to book the cheapest option. The cheaper the tour the worse the transport, food and guide will be, so it’s worth paying an extra 200 Boliviano’s or so for a better quality tour. Trip Advisor is your best bet for honest and recent reviews, it’s recommended to do some reading beforehand and create a short list of providers ahead of arriving in Uyuni. The town is tiny so it’s easy enough to wander from operator to operator without it taking much time.

Sand Mountains, The Bolivian Salt Flats

Cost

Based on 2015 prices a 3 day / 2 night shared tour ( 6 people plus a driver in a jeep) with a mid-range tour company costs roughly Bs 800-1200 per person (£80-£120).

What’s included

A standard tour will include the following:

  • Transportation in a jeep for the 3-4 days (sharing with 6 other passengers). If you have met fellow travellers who are looking to do the Bolivian salt flats it’s worth booking as a group as it may mean you get a jeep to yourselves and even a group booking discount.
  • A guide/driver (The more money you spend the more informed and multi-lingual you can expect your guide/driver to be)
  • Meals during the tour – first day (lunch and dinner), second day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and third day (breakfast).
  • Accommodation for both nights (expect a lower quality of accommodation particularly on day 2 if you pay less for a tour)
  • Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile (if you’re travelling from Uyuni to Chile

Jake and Jeep Salar de Uyuni

What you’ll need to pay extra for

  • Entrance fee’s to the National park (150B), Entrance to Fish Island (30B) around £18 in total if you’re on the 3 day tour
  • Snacks – We would recommend taking a bag of treats with you to eat across the 3 days. You will be spending a lot of time in the car and it’s nice to have something to snack and drink on.
  • Water – We would recommend purchasing a couple of litres of water per person ahead of the trip to keep you hydrated as you can’t drink the tap water in Bolivia.
  • Breakfast on the first day, lunch and dinner on last day

What your tour has in store for you

Day One: Uyuni – Colchani – Inca Huasi – Agua Quisa

  • Train Graveyard
  • Small village of Colchani to visit the salt miners’ workshop
  • Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni salt flats)
  • The original Salt Hotel where you can have a look and take pictures. You also have lunch here
  • Inca Huasi Island (Fish Island / Cactus Island)
  • Night in a Salt hotel.

Jake swing, Railway graveyard Inca to Inuit

Cactus Island, Bolivian Salt Flats, Inca to Inuit

Jake on Dino, Bolivian Salt Flats

Day Two: Chiguana – Lagunas – Siloli – Laguna Colorada 

  • Wake up at 6 am, have breakfast and leave at 7 am
  • Small desert of Chiguana on the south side of Salar de Uyuni where you stop at a lookout to view steamy volcanoes
  • Stop at Andean lagoons to hang out with hundreds of flamingos
  • Desert of Siloli
  • Red Lagoon and flamingos

Bolivian Salt Flats, Inca to Inuit

Alpaca on Water, Bolivian Salt Flats

Lynds Train tracks, Bolivian Salt Flats

Day Three – Sol de Manana – hot springs – connection to Chile

  • Wake up at 5am, have breakfast and leave at 5:30 am
  • See the sun rise by the “Sol de Mañana” geysers
  • Enjoy a relaxing dip in the hot springs
  • Catch your connection at the Chilean Border which will drop you off in San Pedro de Atacama or be driven back by Jeep to Uyuni, arriving around 6 pm

Jake jumping through smoke

What to pack

Whilst you are about to venture in the middle of the desert you will find the nights and mornings are bitterly cold, especially on day three as you venture up to 5,0oo meters to see the gazers. As such it’s worth packing a mixture of clothing.

  • Your iPod or phone – most cars let you plug your iPod into the car, so make sure you have some offline Spotify playlists downloaded ahead of your tour, so you can enjoy your own music.
  • Your camera, make sure it’s fully charged as you won’t want to be missing any shots!
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Clothes suitable for layering
  • Waterproof jacket, just in case.
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes. The salt covers them in a white chalk like film and the lakes on day two and three can be fairly muddy so best to bring shoes that you’re happy to get dirty.
  • Swim Suit and Towel – for the hot springs
  • Head Torch – as electricity in the hostels is usually turned off during the night
  • Coins and Toilet Paper – you have to pay to use the public toilets and you may want to buy some additional snacks along the way.
  • Passport – you’ll need this to enter the National Park.

lynds Jake and flamingos, inca to Inuit

Planning a trip to the Bolivian Salt Flats? Or just been? How was your experience? We’d love to hear from you, please drop us a comment in the box below…

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Hosting
    11th May 2016 at 6:08 pm

    During the tour make sure you drink plenty of water and take it nice and easy. Another thing to note is that due to its remote location, facilities on the Salt Flats are very limited.

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