The Great Salt Flats of Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni

We know you’ve heard of this place, or at least saw a picture on your favorite influencer’s IG feed. Whatever the case may be, we give you a guide along with tips for Salar de Uyuni. Trust us that this place is quite unreal!

What Is Salar de Uyuni?

Salar de Uyuni – or salt flats of Uyuni – is exactly what you’d imagine it to be. It’s a salt plain stretching on for miles. It’s so vast that it looks like it’s stretching into eternity. So, why would anyone want to go and see some salt? Good question!

This is a place where “Heaven meets the Earth,” as people describe it. In the rainy season, a thin sheet of water covers the plain, making the sky reflect so well that it plays tricks on your mind. One quick look at any photo of this phenomenon will tell you precisely what we mean.

The sky’s reflection isn’t the only thing you can see at Salar de Uyuni, though. There are abundant flora and fauna, salt hotels, a train cemetery, and Incahuasi island with tall cacti you can find in the middle of the plains. Fossilized coral is how this island came to exist, so it’s definitely a sight to see.

Getting There

So, how to get to Salar de Uyuni? You have several options. Most people pick Uyuni as their starting point. It’s a nearby city that serves as a gateway to the salt flats for tourists. You can get to Uyuni even by plane. 

Getting to the salt flats, however, is a bit different. You can hop onto a local bus and ask the driver to drop you off at your destination. Finding a salt hotel shouldn’t be too difficult, though it might take a bit of walking. Still, getting to Salar de Uyuni is pretty straightforward. 

The Best Way to See It

Seeing the “world’s largest mirror” isn’t all about simply getting there, taking a picture, and going back. There are numerous ways in which you can experience this magical place. It’s best to make the most out of it.

Therefore, let’s talk about Salar de Uyuni tours. Agencies offer either 1-day or 3-day long tours. You can choose depending on how much time you want to spend here, but also how much money you have. Consider the fact that 1-day tours can be around $80 while the 3-day ones go up to around $200 and ensure you find a reputable agency first. 

On a 1-day tour, you’ll start from Uyuni at around 10 pm. After that, you’ll visit the train cemetery, Colchani, and then the salt flats. The 3-day tours are quite similar, except you’ll have more time to go around the Salar and see all that it has to offer.

When’s the Best Time to Go?

When going to Salar, you’ll have two options depending on what you want to see — going in the wet or dry season. 

During the wet season, the salt flats flood, which means they’re covered with a thin layer of water. That causes the mirror effect we all know and love so much. However, this might make it difficult to properly visit other places within the Salar. 

Going during the dry season, however, allows you to see polygonal patterns made of salt, which go on for miles.

If you’re choosing the dry season, go from April to September. In case you prefer the wet season, visit Salar from December to April.

Essentials

Since this isn’t really a regular tour, you have to know what are some of the things you need to bring with you. Your agency or the hotel won’t have everything readily available. Plus, Salar is the highest salt flat in the world — it’s 12,000 ft above sea level, so watch out for altitude sickness and loss of telephone signal! 

Still, don’t worry. We have a list of essentials that will make your trip a smooth sail. Here they are:

  • Flashlights — electricity won’t last forever, so when the generator reaches its limit, you might need another source of light. 
  • Cash — especially coins and small bills. You won’t find plenty of ATMs there, and you’ll need something to pay for a bathroom with. 
  • Sunglasses, sunblock, and a hat — The flats can be quite blinding during the day, so these items are a must. Plus, the sun here can be unforgiving.
  • Extra water bottles — Your agency might not provide you with enough.
  • Towels and flip flops — You share bathrooms with other people. 
  • Snacks and warm clothes — Dress in layers.

Tips

There are still plenty of things you need to keep in mind. These aren’t just tips on how to take the best possible photo while you’re there. So, let’s get going. 

One of the main things you need to do is do thorough research on the agency of your choice. Speak to other visitors and ask about their experiences. However, just because their experience was decent, it doesn’t mean yours will be too. Plus, speaking of tours, we suggest you try a 4-wheel drive one. They’re plenty of fun. 

When it comes to taking photos, it all comes down to your imagination. You can plan them ahead of time and bring some small props along with you. 

The last thing we’ll mention is that you should be careful about what you decide to splurge on. If you’re on a budget, it’s best to save your money for that one special thing you want to see/do.

Conclusion

Visiting this magical place should be on everyone’s bucket list. You can take a fancy private tour or even visit on a budget. It’s definitely one of those places that will stay in your memory forever. 

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