The Uyuni Salt Flat (Salar de Uyuni) is the largest salt flat in the world at over 10000 square kilometres. By comparison, the second biggest one is the Salar de Atacama in Chile, weighing in at 3000 square kilometres. Located in southwest Bolivia, the Salar de Uyuni attracts tourists from all over the world. In fact, there are so many tourists visiting that an airport was recently built just outside of town to save people the 15 hour bus ride from La Paz.
Most people do a 3-4 day tour starting and ending in Uyuni. Every tour company in town offers near identical tours, so it’s worth shopping around before you sign up. It’s worth keeping in mind that since there are so many companies offering the same tour that there’ll probably be loads of other tourists at each stop on your tour. Sometimes over a hundred other people angling for that perfect shot in the same exact location as you. Not to mention I’ve heard several reports of drink driving and other less than ideal situations with various tour companies operating out of Uyuni. That being said, most people do have smooth and enjoyable tours originating in Uyuni. And if you can swing it, try to spend as little time as possible in the town of Uyuni, it’s not exactly a picture perfect place. Most people would probably describe with less than favourable words.
Located near the border with Argentina, Tupiza is surrounded by beautiful crimson mountains and is a great place to go horseback riding.
Several travelers recommended going to Tupiza to do the tour, so that’s what I did 🙂 Located near the border with Argentina, Tupiza is surrounded by beautiful crimson mountains and is a great place to go horseback riding. There are only about 8 tour operators in Tupiza, all of whom offer a 4 day tour which ends with the salt flat in Uyuni. The itineraries are all identical and they are all more closely regulated than the operators in Uyuni so you can be more certain that you’ll get a safe and enjoyable experience.
Depending on how many people are in your jeep, you’ll end up paying anywhere from Bs1050 to Bs1800 (appx US$153 to $260). Included are transport, guide, cook, accommodation, and all meals. Breakfasts are quite simple: tea, coffee, jam, butter and bread. Lunches and dinners range from lasagna to steak with pasta. Accommodation the first 2 nights are very basic and the final night is a noticeable upgrade in a hostel built with concrete and bricks made out of salt. If you don’t have a warm sleeping bag (which you will definitely need!) you can hire one for about Bs50 for the entire trip.
Other than the salt flat itself, I didn’t know what to expect. But after the first hour or so driving out of Tupiza on a 4×4 road it became clear to me that southwest Bolivia is one of the most unique and beautiful places on the planet. Rather than write about all the absolutely stunning things that you’ll see, here are some photos to give you a taste of what to expect: