Duration: FULL DAY or TWO NIGHT/ THREE DAY
Difficulty: EASY – MODERATE
- Marvel at the vast, white expanse of the Salar de Uyuni , Bolivia’s most popular destination
- Climb over the rusting hulks of dozens of antique trains at the train cemetery on the outskirts of Uyuni
- Explore the “mummy caves”, a network of caves with 1000-year old remains
- Admire the colored lagoons scattered across the Bolivian salt flats, home to thousands of pink flamingos
Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is one of the most extreme landscapes in the world. A trip to Bolivia is just not complete without a visit to the salar , the largest salt flats in the world. We arrange full day or multi-day Salar de Uyuni tours for unique, immersive experiences on the salt flats. The opportunity for incredible pictures is endless during the tour, so we make frequent stops for visitors to enjoy the landscape.
The Salar de Uyuni tour begins in the town of Uyuni, a mining outpost in southern Bolivia. Your guide will meet you for your tour at either your hotel or the train station and set off as soon as you’re ready.
We begin with a visit to the antique train cemetery just outside of town. When European mining interests abandoned the region in the early 20 th century, they left their trains to slowly rust away on the altiplano . Today, all that is left is a cemetery of rusted, forgotten trains, a surreal sight on the flat expanse outside of Uyuni.
The Salar de Uyuni tour continues from the train cemetery toward the Uyuni salt flats, passing through the village of Colchani. Salt souvenirs and handicrafts are available at the open market in the one street town.
We take a break at the Palacio de Sal and Spa , at the edge of the vast Bolivian salt flats. One of the most unique hotels in the world, it is built entirely of salt and features a spa, bar and the world’s only salt golf course.
Finally, the tour will arrive at the incredible Salar de Uyuni . With the Andes Mountains on the horizon and the arid, white expanse laid out in front of you, entering the salt flats is like approaching the edge of the world. At times the Salar can be glazed with a few centimeters of water, creating a nearly perfect mirror for the deep blue sky. The horizon seems to disappear as the line between the sky and the Salar becomes imperceptible. A truly incredible sight.
As the Salar de Uyuni tour continues across the salt flats, the Isla del Pescado or Fish Island , rises from the middle of the enormous white expanse like a mirage. Here visitors can climb up the steep island where gigantic cacti, some over 9 meters tall, cover the landscape of this strange oasis. On the shores of the “island”, lunch is served as guests take in the incredible panoramic views of the Salar.
At the foot of the Thunupa Volcano near the edge of the Salar , we stop to explore the so-called “mummy caves”. A sacred spot for local communities, the network of caves contains the remains of 1,000-year old mummies, preserved from decay by the region’s arid climate. The mummy caves are one of the best-kept secrets of the Salar de Uyuni tours, and a highlight for many of our travelers.
As the sun starts to set across the reflective surface, the day ends in the small town of Tahua. Dinner and sleeping accommodations are provided at the Tayka de Sal Hotel, constructed entirely of salt bricks. For travelers on a single-day tour of the Salar, your guide will take you back to Uyuni instead of proceeding on to Tahua.
After breakfast at the hotel, the tour of the Salar de Uyuni continues on to a series of colorful, mineral-rich lagoons where the landscape begins to evolve from the extreme flats to a volcanic surface dotted with lagoons and geysers.
One of the few opportunities for wildlife viewing during the tour is at Laguna Cañapa, a salty lake where pink flamingos often migrate. You’ll find more flocks of pink flamingos further along the road at Laguna Honda, a shallow body of water rich in minerals.
Other scenes worth stopping to see along the Salar de Uyuni tour are the vibrant green colors of Laguna Chiarkhota and the shallow Laguna Colorada, where the bright red water is the result of high levels of algae and plankton.
Surrounded by mountains, the vast, high-altitude Siloli Desert is a favorite of travelers on the second day. The sands of the Siloli Desert are home to many bizarre rock formations, such as the famous Tree Rock. Carved by the winds blowing across the desert, the tree-shape rock is known as the inspiration for a Salvador Dali painting.
The small Tayka del Desierto Hotel will provide a comfortable retreat for guests that night. Owned by a few local families, a warm dinner is provided at the hotel, a welcome respite in the harsh landscape at the remote edge of the Bolivian salt flats.
Many of our guests enjoy waking up early to enjoy the incredible sunrise across the vast geothermal field of the Sol de Mañana , or morning sun. A volcanically actively region, the landscape is marked by sinkholes of bubbling mud and geysers spewing steam 50 meters into the air.
After a chilly Salar morning, relax in a hot spring, Termas de Polques . Locals believe the mineral-rich water relieves arthritis and other ailments. The refreshing waters are exactly what guests need after a few hard days of travel across el Salar de Uyuni.
Highlights on the final day include the emerald waters of Laguna Verde or Blue Lagoon. The blue-green color of the lagoon comes from the high levels of copper in the soil and provides incredible photo opportunities with pink flamingos wading in the waters. Just southwest of the lagoon is the dominating Licancabur Volcano, which provides a superb background for photographs of the Laguna Verde.
In the evening, we make our way back to Uyuni, a long but beautiful drive across one of the most otherworldly, stunning landscapes in Bolivia.
- Transfer in/out of the Salar de Uyuni
- 4x4 transportation
- A driver and an English/ Spanish speaking guide
- All meals
- Hotel accommodations on multi-day trips
With little protection from the wind, the dry expanse of the Salar can be bitter cold at times, especially when temperatures drop at night, so please pack appropriate clothing.