The Salt Flats in Bolivia
The biggest attraction in Bolivia is the Salt Flats. There are two tour options, the 1 day tour and the 3 day tour. I’m not a fan of tours… in my two months in South America I think I did 3 tours in total. This was one of them since you literally cannot do this without a tour. So here is the breakdown for the different tour options:
1 Day Tour – Uyuni to Uyuni
The one day tour starts very early in the morning, you go to the train graveyard, and then out to the Salar de Uyuni (also known as the salt flats). You get to see the salt hotel, have lunch out on the salt flats, and visit the country flags. You then drive out to a secluded area of the salt flats (which isn’t hard to find since it’s the world’s largest salt flat at 10, 580 square kilometers) and you spend an hour taking photos and videos.
Note: you can have two completely different experiences at the salt flats depending what time of year you go from November to March is the wet season, meaning you get the world’s biggest mirror. Be careful going during the rainy season though because if it has rained too much the tours may get cancelled since the jeeps can’t drive on the flooded Salar. Months Maybe to October is the dry season. You don’t get the mirror effect but it is still crazy beautiful and takes your breath away just the same. This is when you can play around and get some fun perspective shots. Make sure you get some props ahead of time for some fun photos. (your tour guide will stop you somewhere before you enter the Salar where you can buy all sorts of props)
3 Day Tour – Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama
There are two options for the 3 day tour you can either start and finish in Uyuni (which is in Bolivia) or you can start in Uyuni and finish in San Pedro de Atacama (Which is an incredible desert in the north of Chile, check out my other post, Top Things to do in San Pedro De Atacama) I did the 3 day tour that went from Uyuni to San Pedro because I was then making my way to Chile. I’ve also heard of people doing the tour Uyuni to San Pedro, staying in San Pedro for a few days and then flying back to Bolivia or somewhere else. Aka, even if you’re not planning on doing Chile, I still recommend visiting San Pedro, it is one of my favourite places I’ve travelled (more info on that to come)
Note: You can also do it from the other direction – Starting in San Pedro and going to Uyuni if you’re traveling from south to north.
So, this is what the tour looks like
It is the exact same as the one day tour, except after all your photos you go to this incredibly unique island in the middle of the salt flats (aka the middle of nowhere) and walk around through all these giant cactuses .. cacti? I don’t know.. you get the point. Sounds pretty mediocre but it’s actually super cool especially because you get to get relatively high up and you get a real glimpse at how insanely vast and amazing the Salar de Uyuni is. Now the BEST part of day 1, which you don’t get if you only do the 1 day tour is the sunset on the salt flats…. I’ve attached photo’s below but they really don’t do it any justice… it is by far the most amazing thing you will ever experience.
The first night is spent at a salt hostel which is really cool. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING is made of salt… the floors, the walls, the tables and even the beds (don’t worry they still put a mattress down, so its super cozy). It gets pretty cold, but they have wine to purchase at every hotel so make sure you buy some wine to keep yourself nice and warm.
Wake up early, have breakfast and continue to head south. On the second day you will travel through some amazing landscapes and have the chance to see many extinct volcanoes as well as one semi active volcano- Ollague. You will also get the chance to go to Laguna Colorada, an amazing red coloured lake full of FLAMINGOS! It’s super cool. You see a couple other things along the way such as the Sol de Mañana which are bubbling mud pools with steam jets. You then continue to Polques where you will spend the night and have the chance to visit some hot springs. Despite the frigidly cold temperatures… make sure you take the time to go for a short walk away from the hostel and enjoy the breathtaking starry sky.
Day three you wake up at roughly 5am and continue to some hot springs. You get the chance to relax in the warm water pools, where you will have breakfast. From there, you will head to Laguna Verde where if sun is out, and conditions are good, you will get the chance to see the green mineral waters of this lake at the foot of Volcan Licancabur. And from there you will get transferred to the Chilean border where you will be driven across and driven to San Pedro de Atacama!
Overall, it’s an amazing tour and a must do! If you are short on time then the 1 day tour is more than enough. However, depending on your travel time line, I highly recommend the 3 day tour to San Pedro de Atacama.
- Make sure you get an English Speaking Guide
- Make sure you bring tons of snacks! Cliff bars and some treats will seriously come in handy! Stock up at a local grocery store beforehand
- DRESS WARM. It is freggin cold. Merino wool base layers, a packable down jacket and a Gortex rain coat will make all the difference.
- Bring cash! The tour is completely off the grid, so any chance to purchase anything will have to be done through cash and don’t forget to tip your guide and driver.
- Bring a battery pack! Your phone (even on airplane mode), and GoPro will not last 3 days in the cold! Make sure your battery pack is fully charged before you go.
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