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From Sunrise to Sunset: Exploring the Uyuni Salt Flat in 72 Hours

Imagine a world where the sky and the ground blend into a seamless, majestic canvas. A place where perspective is challenged, and the horizon seems to go on forever.


Welcome to Uyuni Salt Flat, where Mother Nature performs at its best.


In this blog post, I report about the 72-hour experience I had while traveling through Bolivia’s most beautiful places, including the Salt Flat. Writing a report where I can share my personal experience, rather than providing a guide listing all the things to do and see in Bolivia, seemed more appropriate due to my limited experience with only one tour operator.


Additionally, this blog post covers some background information and preparation tips.


Table of Contents:


About Uyuni Salt Flat

If you searched for the top activities in Bolivia, exploring the salt flats in Uyuni was likely featured on every list. Not only is the salt flat of Uyuni astonishingly beautiful, but it is also the biggest salt flat in the world. Located in the stunning Altiplano region the salt flat is only a smart part and doing a multi-day Uyuni tour includes more than just visiting the salt flat.


What's Included in a Uyuni Salt Flat Tour?

There are several options to choose from, beginning with the length of the tour. For a good overview, I list the tours and their sights in the table below.

Duration

Included Sights

Full-Day Uyuni Tour

  • Train Cemetery

  • Visit Colchani

  • Isla Incahuasi (only during the dry season!)

  • Uyuni Salt Flat

2-Day Uyuni Tour

  • Train Cemetery

  • Visit Colchani

  • Uyuni Salt Flat

  • Isla Uncahuasi

  • Lagoon

3-Day Uyuni Tour

  • Train Cemetery

  • Visit Colchani (not with every tour operator)

  • Uyuni Salt Flat

  • Isla Uncahuasi (only during the dry season!)

  • Lagoons

  • Desert of Siloli and Dali

  • Geyser

  • Hot Springs

  • Volcano

  • Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama (optional)

When to Visit the Salt Flat in Uyuni

The salt flat is an attractive destination throughout the year, with a notable distinction between the two seasons. The rainy season (December to April) offers a chance to witness the unique mirror effect. On the other hand, the dry season (May to November) showcases a hardened ground, allowing travelers to access areas that may be inaccessible during the rainy season.


💡 I visited the Uyuni Salt Flat at the end of November and had the luck to witness the hardened ground and drove through the salt flat and also experienced rain during my visit and was able to witness the mirror effect.


How to Get to Uyuni Salt Flat

Depending on where you're coming from you must target different destinations. The most popular starting point is the small town of Uyuni in Bolivia. If you're staying in La Paz the best way to reach Uyuni is by an overnight bus with Todo Turismo or by airplane.


I recommend traveling by an overnight bus. It's the more sustainable way to travel and cheaper. Todo Turismo is a high-rated bus operator that offers excellent on-board services as well. A one-way ticket costs around $36.


If you were in Chile, a visit to the Atacama desert and transfer to the border is your way to reach the salt flat. In town, many tour operators offer the service. Once arrive in Bolivia you be handed over to a Bolivian tour operator.


What You Need During a 3-Day Tour

If you're planning to do a 3-day Tour (like I did) then I think this list is quite handy for you. It's a packing list of the essential items you need during the 3-day trip.

Things to Bring and Wear for Uyuni

💡 If you have a transfer from Bolivia to Chile included in this trip, you don't have to store your luggage in Uyuni, but this list might still help to have your stuff tangible quickly.


The Uyuni Salt Flat Tour - a Day-by-Day Breakdown

As I mentioned above, this blog post does not contain places to visit and things to do while in Uyuni and its surroundings, rather I report here in detail about my personal experience of my trip in November 2023.


Day 0: Getting from La Paz to Uyuni

My journey started one night before the actual tour by traveling from La Paz to Uyuni. I spent around 10 hours on a comfortable night bus.


There are some horror stories and most bus operators lack good reviews on Google. I did my research as well and decided to spend a few dollars more and hop on a more convenient bus that not only included comfortable seating but also adjustable meals (vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, etc.) on board!


I don’t have any experience with the other bus companies (I only read the reviews on Google), but I can recommend Todo Turismo without any doubts.


Day 1: The Beauty of Uyuni Salt Flat

Early in the morning, somewhat before 8 am, the bus arrived in the small town of Uyuni. Here I had to wait a couple of minutes before I got picked up by a driver that shuttled me to a café, where I waited until my tour operator showed up.


I waited until approximately 10 am until I was navigated to the tour operator's office, where someone explained the detailed itinerary of the journey. In total, we were 11 participants, but due to the jeep's limited capacity of six, we were divided into two groups. We had a brief moment to get to know each other and our lovely tour guide, Harry.


Around 10.45 am, our adventure officially started. Luggage was securely fastened to the roof, and essential items found their place within the car.


👉🏽 Don't forget to pack a bag with clothes, snacks, and water for the journey!


Our first stop was a short ride away - the Train Cemetery - a graveyard of old, rusting locomotives. A fantastic spot for capturing photographs, but very busy since all the tours start here.


After the photo session, we hopped back into the car and headed towards one of the tour's highlights - the Uyuni Salt Flats. The starting point was Plaza de las Banderas, a spot where you can see flags from all over the world and a popular lunch spot. Due to unpleasant weather, we took a few quick photos and got inside where a delightful lunch was awaiting us.


Plaza de las Banderas, Uyuni Salt Flats

Fortunately, the weather changed for the better after lunch. We had time to explore the salt flats and take photos. After that, we got back into the car to drive deeper into the salt flats. We stopped in the middle of nowhere to capture fun and illusional pictures. As a couple, it was time to take cheesy photos of us and do some playful illusions and group shots.



After everyone got their snapshots and a full photo library, it was time for the next stop - Isla Incahuasi. From afar it looked like a floating island amid the salt flats but when we got there it turned out to be a cactus oasis and not floating. The entrance cost 30 Bolivianos and was a great opportunity to stroll around the island and enjoy panoramic views from its highest point.



Luck was on our side on this day. Thanks to a brief rain shower during lunch, we encountered both dry and wet conditions on the salt flat. For sunset, our tour guide was looking for the perfect spot where the water level created a mirror-like reflection of the sky. The scene was surreal, where you could not differentiate between where the sky begins and the ground ends. Combined with the sunset it was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever witnessed.


Uyuni Salt Flats

Once again, we had plenty of time to capture breathtaking photos of this phenomenon before driving out of the salt flat. We stopped at the end of the flat to have some snacks and a bottle of wine. After that, we head to our first accommodation - a simple hotel with cozy beds and a (🙏🏽) hot shower. Dinner was not the finest but was expected, since Bolivia isn't known for having the best cuisine.


Day 2: Hunting for Lagoons

I was delighted that the second day didn't kick off too early (not an early bird though). We began the day with a hearty breakfast, packed our belongings, and made a brief stop at a store to stock up on snacks and beverages.


The long drive began for our first destination - a lagoon with flamingos. Here we had time for a leisurely walk around the lagoon, observe the elegant birds, and then reach our lunch spot.



We had a delicious lunch with quinoa, pasta, scrambled eggs, and veggies. After the meal, we reentered the car and were on our way where two deserts confronted each other. Along the way, we saw desert rabbits and marveled at the Mars-like landscape.


The last stop of this day was the Red Lagoon, also known as Laguna Colorada. The lagoon only shows its red color when the sun is shining otherwise the water turns into a blueish color.


Around 4 pm, we arrived at our second accommodation. Finally, we had some much-needed personal time to unwind. Constantly being on the road can be exhausting. The accommodation was as simple as the first one, also offering comfortable beds and hot showers. Very simple but did not expect too much in the middle of nowhere.


For dinner, we had veggie lasagne featuring soya, veggies, and cheese accompanied by a bottle of wine that made us tired enough to fall asleep early. We all needed the hours of sleep considering the early wake-up call at 4 am.


Day 3: From Icy Cold to Cozy Warmth

The last day started way too early, but was necessary to witness the geysers. The geysers are, for whatever reason, the most active in the early hours. After a quick breakfast (I wasn't hungry at all), we got into the car and were on our way to the geyser called Sol de Mañana.



The temperature was icy this morning and I wore five layers of clothing to keep myself warm. Once arrived at the geysers, we observed the natural spectacle unfolding before us.


Transitioning from geysers to a hot spring. I needed some courage to get changed into my bikini in those temperatures, but the dip into the warm waters of the hot spring was rewarding. We relaxed here for approximately 45 minutes before it was time to embark on our journey toward the Bolivia-Chile border. The ending of this amazing and packed tour.


🎉 A special acknowledgment is due to our tour guide Harry, whose efforts transformed this trip into an amazing and laid-back experience. Also to the wonderful individuals with whom I spent these three days, being surrounded by like-minded people in group tours is indeed a rare and cherished occurrence.


Conclusion

Visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats was a South American highlight of mine and would recommend adding this to your must-do list whenever in South America. It's a landscape never seen like this before and can't be compared with anything else.


Seeing the beauty of nature in its diversity is one of the main reasons why I keep educating myself further on the topic of sustainability and want to spread more awareness through my blog.

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