Uyuni Salt Flats

Uyuni Salt Flats

The beautiful Uyuni salt flats (or Salar de Uyuni) is with its 10.582 square km (4.085 square miles) the world’s largest salt flat. It is located in the Department of Potosi in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, at 3.650 meters above sea level.

Some 40.000 years ago, the area was part of Lake Minchin, a giant prehistoric lake. When the lake dried, it left behind two modern lakes, Poopó and Uru Uru, and two major salt deserts, Salar de Coipasa and the larger Salar de Uyuni.  The Uyuni Salt Flats are roughly 25 times the size of Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States and is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt of which less than 25.000 tons is extracted annually.

Every November, the Uyuni salt flats is also the breeding grounds for three species of South American flamingos – Chilean, James’s and Andean. La Isla del Pescado (Fish Island) located on the salt flat and full of giant cactuses is named this way as the ´island´ has the shape of a fish. It is the only sign of life for miles.

Laguna Verde, Laguna Colorada and the hot springs can also be visited during the Uyuni Salt Flats tour when entering the National Reserve Eduardo Avaroa. Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) is a beautiful green colored salt lake close to the Chilean border at the foot of the Licancabur volcano. Its color is caused by sediments, containing copper minerals. It is located approx. 4.300 meters (14.000 ft) above sea level. Laguna Colorada is a red colored salt lake, also because of the presence of minerals. In these lagoons live flamingo’s creating a very unique scene of spectacular beauty!

Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt of which less than 25.000 tons is extracted annually.

REFERENCE PROGRAM

This reference program is based on a private tour with ´Tayka´hotels. These hotels are considered as one of the best in the region, but are by no means luxury. One of them is the Tayka salt hotel, another Tayka hotel is made out of stones and there is the Tayka Desert Hotel located 40 min. from the red colored Lake.

Salar Tour 3D/2N Uyuni – Uyuni

Day 1 (L, D)
You will be picked up from the hotel around 10.00 AM. During the 3 days / 2 nights trip will have an unforgettable trip across 12 000 km2 of beautiful salt landscape. Do you have your camera ready? The amazing white coat of the Uyuni Salt Flats or Salar de Uyuni looks like a huge glacier.

We will enter the Salt Flats at ´Colchani´, where we will stop to visit the salt factory. Afterwards we will stop for a while at the salt mounts and visit the Salt Museum.

We will enjoy the impressive landscape from the top of the Incahuasi island located in the middle of the salt flats. Overnight stay in the Tayka Salt Hotel (3.696 meters above sea level) with a private bathroom, hot water and heating.

Day 2 (B, L, D)
Today we will cross the Uyuni salt flats from north to south and we will visit the Pescado (Fish) Island (isla Pescado). We will follow the path to get to the top of the Incahuasi island. From this point we can enjoy of an amazing 360 º view of the Salar.

Afterwards we will visit the Necropolis in San Juan del Rosario.

In the afternoon, we will continue towards the lagoons of Cañapa, Hedionda, Chiarkota, Honda and Ramaditas, where we will be able to spot the three different species of flamingos and other kinds of birds such as Andean seagulls and wild ducks. These birds live on the lagoons surrounded by volcanoes with their eternal snowtops mixed with landscapes full of green and other magic colors due the the presence of borax and sulphur.
On the shore of one of these lagoons we will enjoy a open-air lunch.
After we pass the last lagoon, we enter a huge desert area with no roads. These fantastic deserts gather many different colors from brown, red, orange, brass and beige which are successively shown at every curve of the trip. You will spend the night in the Tayka Desert Hotel (4.523 meters above sea level), with private bathroom, hot water and heating.

Day 3 (B, L)
Early this morning we will get ready to enter the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve. We will visit the Stone Tree and with some luck we will be able to spot vizcachas (wild desert rabbits).
We will arrive to the Geysers of Sol de Mañana during the most active moment of the day and with the first ray of lights. We are here tat the highest point of the tour (5000 meters above the sea level). The cold is intense. We will be able to walk among the smoky and noisy geysers, boiling mud stewpot where red and grey mud is boiling like water.

The desert and Salar of Chalviri offer a landscape which combine the white of the snow with the red brown of the desert and the blue of the water. Here we will have the opportunity to swim in the Hot Springs of Polques and right after that to enjoy a delicious open air breakfast.

Afterwards we will get to one of the gems of the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve: the Red Colored Lagoon. This lagoon is the main nesting centre of the three kinds of flamingos. The color of the water is produced by the presence of algae and plankton activated by the sunlight and the wind.

On the way back to Uyuni, we will stop at San Cristóbal village which has been moved from its original location to the actual one (even the church!) for the needs of one the biggest mines in the world.

We will say goodbye to the llamas and vicuñas before arriving to Uyuni.

IMPORTANT! Due to the weather and road conditions the routes and hotel reservations can sometimes be changed without notice, reason why the itinerary is only for reference, and is not to be taken as an exact itinerary of what this tour implies. Rain, snow, ice and strong winds for example can cause that some parts of the route are temporarily impassable and may oblige us to make changes in the itinerary. But notice that if we have to make changes it is for your own safety. The surroundings of Uyuni are one of most isolated areas in the world.

Rainy season: the rainy / wet season is roughly from January to April (subject to change). During this period parts of the Uyuni Salt Flats may be covered with water. It’s still possible to do the trip, to visit the Uyuni Salt Flats and the beautiful lagoons, the highlights of the trip for most people. However with water on the Salar you cannot cross it for hours like in the dry season and you generally cannot get to Isla Incahuasi / Fish Island. Also the Tayka Salt Hotel in Tahua can often not be reached during the rainy season therefore we will either use another salt hotel such as Cristal Samana, Luna Salada, Palacio de Sal or the Tayka Stone Hotel instead. Other places that cannot be visited during the rainy season are Cueva de las Galaxias, Momias de Coquesa and Chantani, but notice that those places are not considered to be real attractions in the area. Some photographers specifically want to visit the Uyuni Salt Flats during the rainy season as when the Salar is covered with a little bit of water it becomes one big mirror which makes for beautiful pictures. With too much water however the mirror-effect is gone. Except for January, even in the rainy season the number of rainy days is below 5 per month. Needless to say we cannot predict whether or not it will rain before or during your trip, it’s up to Mother Nature.

Notice that during the past year –probably due to seismic activity- the Laguna Verde has lost much of its green color and is more towards brown nowadays, especially in the morning.

Tour includes:

  • Overnight stay as described in program, in comfortable Tayka hotels like the salt (entirely made of pure salt), stone (made of rocks) and desert (located in a beautiful desert only 40 minutes away from the Red Lagoon) hotels. The Tayka Hotels have heating and warm water, although not 24 hours a day. At night the gas heating is switched off.
  • Meals
  • Transport 4X4 equiped with radio communication or a satellite telephone.
  • Spanish speaking driver.
  • Also included: natural herbs and medication against altitude sickness and high pressure, oxygen and extinguisher.

Tour does not include:

  • entrance fees
  • alcoholic drinks, personal snacks and tips.

Optional:

  • Bus tickets to Sucre, Potosi or La Paz
  • Hotel reservations in Uyuni
  • Bilingual guides
  • Private transport in a 4WD from Uyuni to either Potosí, Sucre or La Paz

Do not forget to bring the following items:

The route to the Uyuni salt flats is cold, windy and with high solar radiation. During the day it is generally sunny and the weather is pleasant but at night it can get very cold. Our recommendations on what to bring with you are:

  • Warm clothes.
  • Gloves.
  • Wool socks.
  • Hat covering your ears and to protect you from the sun.
  • Boots.
  • Towel.
  • Swimming suit.
  • Lips moisturizer.
  • Sun block 30+.
  • Sun glasses.
  • Lantern.
  • Raincoat (From December to March)
  • Extra drinking water

Note: Don’t forget to bring a copy of your passport.

Please in advance so we have time to check availability. Read what our clients say about their trip to theUyuni Salt Flats!

We also offer tours from San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) to Uyuni and vice versa. And a trip that starts and ends in San Pedro, while you visit the Salar and the Lagoons. Check out our programs for:
Uyuni – San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama – Uyuni
San Pedro de Atacama – San Pedro de Atacama

Apart from the private -more upmarket- tour as described above, we also offer a cheaper basic tour on the Salar de Uyuni, with basic hostels and private transport only.

Check our page about how to travel to Uyuni.

More info about the Uyuni salt flats tour? Check the following travel blogs:

REVIEWS

  • ´Nos han gustado mucho los dos tours. Los chóferes y guías muy bien en ambos casos. Los hoteles nos gustaron mucho y todo ha salido muy bien. El Salar y Lagunas espectacular. En general muy bien todo. Muchas gracias!'
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    Estefania Roig y Jordi Garcia Spain
  • ´Gijs, the trip to Uyuni was very good thanks. We were impressed with the overall package and would not hesitate to use your services again. Many Thanks.´
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    Simon Rodd UK
  • ´The tour was great...amazing scenery, great hotels and Cecilio and Beatrix were really good guides! Thanks again for organising it at such short notice.´
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    Shevanthi & Beth UK
  • ´Bolivia vonden we super! Het was heel afwisselend, van het koude zuidwesten naar de warme Rio Mamore. Uyuni was erg mooi. Ik hou er van om een beetje actief bezig te zijn, dus het was veel zitten en kijken. Maar dit wist ik natuurlijk van te voren en het prachtige uitzicht maakte alles goed.´
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    Diana Proost The Netherlands
  • ´Hi Gijs, The trip was really great, first class. Thanks for all.´
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    David Ensor Ireland
  • ´Nos han gustado mucho los dos tours. Los chóferes y guías muy bien en ambos casos. Los hoteles nos gustaron mucho y todo ha salido muy bien. El Salar y Lagunas espectacular. En general muy bien todo. Muchas gracias!´
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    Estefania Roig y Jordi Garcia Spain
  • ´It was absolutely fabolous! Excellent driver and guide! And transport to Chile! Loved all we saw! Thanks for organising the trip and for answering all my questions!´
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    Marianne Sundin Hestnes Norway
  • ´We had a wonderful trip for 3 days and the weather was nice apart from some snow and hail on the last day which made it kind of special. ´
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    Dr. David Lewis Canada
  • ´Hi Gijs, I just wanted to say that we had a wonderful trip. The organisation was perfect - thank you for sorting it all for us. Best regards, Mike´
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    Mike Adamson UK
  • ´Dear Gijs, I just wanted to thank you for an incredible experience in the Salar of Uyuni earlier this year. The nature and the people were unforgettable. Ottavio was a great enthusiastic guide. It could not have been better. All the best from Germany, Chris´
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    Christian Kell Germany
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