Salar de Uyuni in southwest Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flats (12,106 sq km). 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 altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar.
You Must See to Believe
When the surface is dry, the salar is a pure white expanse of the greatest nothing imaginable – just blue sky, white ground and you. When there’s a little water, the surface perfectly reflects the clouds and the blue altiplano sky, and the horizon disappears. If you’re driving across the surface at such times, the effect is positively surreal, and it’s hard to believe that you’re not actually flying through the clouds.
Much of the area is protected by the 7150-sq km Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa wildlife reserve. Most visitors will see plenty of wild vicuña and their domesticated llama brethren during the trip. If you are really lucky, you may even sight a rhea, a wild cat or any number of avian species.
The Best Time to Go to Uyuni
In the dry season, Salar de Uyuni is a special sight not to be missed. However, rain during February to April make it a totally different experience. As a thin sheet of water (a couple of inches) covers the flats, it reflects a perfect representation of the sky above so that it is impossible to tell where sky ends and the land begins. This mirror effect has given rise to spectacular photo opportunities.
How to Get There
Located at the crux of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, the logistics and length of your trip to Salar de Uyuni will depend where you’re coming from. Tours originate from three main places:
Uyuni, Bolivia: The most popular jumping-off point for salt flats tours, Uyuni is a small, dusty town packed with tourism agencies in Plaza Arce, its main square. Travelers can book tours in advance online, through tour offices in La Paz, or they can simply arrive in Uyuni and peruse the options in town. Since Uyuni is so close to the salt flats, tourists can easily book day trips. Flights from La Paz to Uyuni can be booked through Amaszonas and BoA (one hour, about $130 round-trip). Overnight buses from La Paz are available with Trans Omar and Todo Turismo (10-12 hours, $30 to $40 each way).
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile: Agencies drive travelers to the border before handing the tour over to a Bolivian operator. Due to the distance, this is a three-day tour.
Tupiza, Bolivia: This is the best starting point for travelers coming from Argentina. Tour operators recommend four-day tours from Tupiza, visiting Salar de Uyuni on the final day.
Tours to the Salt Flats
If you are looking for information about tours of the Uyuni Salt Flats, visit FindLocalTrips where you can compare itineraries, operators and prices.