Bucket List: Bolivia's Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni)
Welcome back to our Bucket List blog posts. This week we have an EPIC bucket list item to share from Bolivia called: Salar de Uyuni or Salar de Tunupa. It is the world's largest salt flat, at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi) and is located in southwest Bolivia at an elevation of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above sea level.
Yeah, it’s gonna be hard to breathe a little bit….
From Wikipedia: The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average elevation variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50% to 70% of the world's known lithium reserves. The large area, clear skies, and exceptional flatness of the surface make the Salar an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of Earth observation satellites. Following rain, a thin layer of dead calm water transforms the flat into the world's largest mirror, 129 kilometres (80 miles) across.
Get some more info about it here
Now, you might be asking….how do you get there? When should you go? And that’s precisely what I’m aiming to do here with these Bucket List blog posts.
Here’s what you need to know.
The best time to go to Bolivia’s Salt Flats is to go from May to November when the weather is mild, but keep in mind that the Bolivian salt flat plains will be dry. The wet season is from January to April. The rain will make that beautiful mirror effect, an unbelievable image of infinity. But, you could get caught in the rain, and well….there’s not much to keep you safe out there.
Now, how do you get there?
The most popular starting point for the salt flats tour is Uyuni and this was my choice too. Uyuni is a little town living out of tourism, basically.
There are two options to get from La Paz to salt flats:
Budget option: The night bus from La Paz to Uyuni is around 8 hours long and it will take you there at 5-6 A.M. They said it’s going to be bumpy, but I would say it was really not that bad. The price is about 25 US$. You can check the schedule and the up-to-date prices on TicketsBolivia.
The bus will leave you at the station in the early morning, so you will have PLENTY of time to drink coca tea and find a suitable tour company for yourself before 10 am (that’s approximately when the jeeps leave)
If you wish, you can stay for one more night, just to relax and make yourself comfortable with the altitude. I was feeling fine after the bus ride, so I did not want to wait.
Comfortable option: You can fly to Uyuni, as it has a small airport. The approximate price is 80-100 US$.
You can even book a private day tour from La Paz if you are short on time and prefer this option.
FROM SUCRE TO UYUNI
You can get a direct bus from Sucre (Bolivia’s capital) to Uyuni salt flats and start your tour there. The ride will take about 8-9 hours and the approximate price is 11 US$. Buses run daily and you can check the schedule and prices on TicketsBolivia.
If you want, you can book an organized 1-day tour from Sucre to Uyuni salt flat. At the end of the tour, you will return to Sucre.
Should I book a tour?
1-day tours usually start in Uyuni, a little town located very close to the salt fields in Bolivia – this is the most popular and cheap starting and finishing spot for the salt flat Bolivia tour.
3-4 day tours vary a bit from where they start and finish:
Start and finish in Uyuni;
Start in Uyuni and finish the tour in San Pedro di Atacama, Chile. That is what many people do.
If you are coming from Chile, you can start the tour in San Pedro di Atacama and finish in Uyuni (the other way around). Expect to pay more in this case (Chilean prices, you know 😉 ).
Start in Tupiza – this is the least popular option and these tours usually last 4 days. You will start from the Southern part of the salt flats and do the itinerary in reverse. At the end, you can return from Salar de Uyuni to Tupiza.
You can even start in La Paz or Sucre if you want a short private one-day tour.
Is Bolivia safe to travel to right now?
Bolivia is a country where traveling after dark is particularly dangerous so caution should be exercised to avoid potential safety issues. ... Travel to and within Copacabana is advised to be done during daylight hours. Bus travel from Copacabana to La Paz overnight is especially dangerous and should be avoided.
How much is it to go?
3-Day tours are about 100 USD - 150 USD and are super affordable. If you are looking for options on various tours, I would suggest looking here, and spending at least 1-day ahead of time getting acclimated to the high elevation. After that, you can see all those awesome Flamingos and walk through the epic salt flats of Bolivia on your own two feet.
Just be sure to bring a lot of food and A TON of water. At higher elevations, human beings can require almost double the amount of regular water we are used to consuming at sea level.
Have you been to these salt flats? Comment down below and let us know what they are like!
Got something else on your bucket list? Email it to us at: email@example.com
Interested in creating your own custom private tour? See here for more info.