The Salar de Uyuni – or, the Uyuni Bolivia Salt Flats – in southern Bolivia is a place unlike any other you’ll ever experience as a traveler. Best known for perfectly reflecting the sky during the rainy season, (creating the world’s largest mirror), the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats is a bucket list favorite.
While visiting the Salar de Uyuni is one of Bolivia’s most popular attractions, visiting this remote and desolate is challenging. It’s important to know what to expect before planning your visit, and making sure you find the best Salar de Uyuni tour for you – with a reputable tour provider.
In this ultimate guide to the best Salar de Uyuni tours, we share the best Bolivian Salt Flats tours, plus Salt Flats tours from surrounding cities, like tours from Tupiza, Bolivia and San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
Keep reading for our top recommendations – plus, the best Salar de Uyuni tour companies and why you should consider visiting Salar de Uyuni at NIGHT.
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What is the Salar de Uyuni?
Salar de Uyuni – or, Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats – is the world’s largest salt flat, and Bolivia’s most popular destination with travelers. Located in southwestern Bolivia, this massive salt flat is nearly 3,900 square miles (10,000 square kilometers) in size.
The Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats were formed by prehistoric lakes leaving salt behind. Now, the entire area is covered meters deep in salt. The entire salt flat is both extremely flat, and at an extremely high elevation.
Salar de Uyuni is well known for being “the world’s largest mirror” for the visual effect of water on the salt flats during the rainy season. During the rainy season (from mid December to April) rainwater pools on top of the salt flats to create a near-total mirror effect with the sky. Whether you catch it with or without water, it is well worth a visit.
While Salar de Uyuni tours of the Salt Flats draw visitors here first, the Salt Flats are not the only things to see in this area. The entire surrounding area of southwest Bolivia is home to some of the most beautiful, remote scenery you’ll find anywhere.
You’ll find stunning mountains, technicolor lakes and lagoons, desert landscape, roaming alpacas, and jagged red mountains. It is absolutely worth a trip – there is no place like it!
A small town located just on the edge of the salt flats, all visitors to the salt flats will make their way through Uyuni, either as the starting or ending point of a Salar de Uyuni tour. While there isn’t much to this town, it offers a range of hotel and hostel options, restaurants, and of course, tour companies for trips to the salt flats and beyond.
Accommodation in Uyuni
One of the most popular forms of accommodation in Uyuni is the famed “salt hotel” – these are hotels built entirely out of giant salt blocks cut from the salt flats! If you’re looking for an affordable yet comfortable salt hotel stay, make sure to check out Casa de Sal Salt Hotel for your overnight stay in town. The building’s walls and furniture like bed frames are made from salt bricks.
Casa de Sal Salt Hotel is one of the nicer hotels in town, though it still remains quite affordably priced. The rooms are quite spacious and the bathrooms are very modern.
For a more luxurious option, consider the Hotel Palacio de Sal. This stunning hotel was the first salt hotel on the Salt Flats, and is one of the nicest. It’s complete with a lovely restaurant and luxurious spa, which has plenty of salt-centric spa treatments, of course.
How to Get to Salar de Uyuni
Despite having more transportation options than ever, Uyuni is a challenging place to get to due to its remote location. Uyuni is connected to other cities in Bolivia by bus and train, as well as having bus connections to Chilean cities like Calama and San Pedro de Atacama.
Buses to Uyuni
There are frequent buses to Uyuni from cities across Bolivia and nearby Chile. Buses from more distant destinations like La Paz and San Pedro de Atacama, Chile are usually overnight buses.
This is the bus travel time you can expect to arrive to Uyuni:
- La Paz – Uyuni: 11-12 hours;
- Potosí – Uyuni: 4 hours;
- Tupiza – Uyuni: 4 hours;
- San Pedro de Atacama, Chile – Uyuni: 11-12 hours.
There are connections by bus to northern Argentina and northern Chile through Uyuni as well. To head to Argentina, travel via Tupiza Bolivia and then on to the overland border crossing of Villazón, Bolivia — La Quiaca, Argentina. To head to Chile you’ll travel through Calama or directly to San Pedro de Atacama.
Salar de Uyuni Bolivia Airport
Uyuni has a small airport, the Joya Andina Airport, with flights to and from the Bolivian cities of La Paz, Sucre, and Rurrenabaque. For those with just a short amount of time, flying to and from Uyuni is the best option.
Salar de Uyuni Map
I created a Salar de Uyuni map with the destinations mentioned throughout this article – and more! – for you to get a better idea of the area, including tour companies, accommodations, restaurants, and popular sites along tour routes. Feel free to download this Salar de Uyuni map for your trip, or click around and zoom in to see more.
Salar de Uyuni Tours
There are nearly infinite options for touring the salt flats of Bolivia, everywhere from short day trips across the salt flats to longer, multi-day trips. The most popular Salar de Uyuni tour choice is a multi-day 4X4 jeep tour that explores the salt flats and surrounding natural wonders of the area!
Multi-day jeep tours take you further beyond as well, into the nearby high plains, which have some of South America’s most incredible natural sights – I can’t recommend this option enough if your schedule allows for it! Truly some of the most incredible scenery I’ve ever witnessed.
Keep reading below or jump ahead to read more about the type of Salar de Uyuni tour you’re looking for – plus our recommendations for the best tour companies!
What to Pack for Salar de Uyuni
Check out our Ultimate Salar de Uyuni Packing List for our tried and tested packing list. Don’t repeat our mistakes on your Laguna Colorada and Salar de Uyuni adventure!
Salar de Uyuni Tour Companies
Because tourism is such an economic engine for the area, there is no lack of tour offerings for Salar de Uyuni and surrounding areas. Hotels and hostels in Uyuni, Tupiza, and surrounding cities all offer their own Bolivian Salt Flats tours or have connections with tour companies.
Unfortunately, not all of them are great – so it’s best to plan on booking ahead with a reputable tour company for whatever Salar de Uyuni tours you choose.
Best Salar de Uyuni Tour Companies:
All of these tour companies are extremely reputable and offer a variety of tours, including different tour durations and destinations, sizes of tour groups, and more!
Whatever you book, make sure you ask for a Salar de Uyuni tour with an English-speaking guide if you can’t speak at least some Spanish. Almost all tour companies in the area can provide or arrange for this when booking online ahead of time.
Uyuni Salt Flats Tour
The majority of tours of the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats depart from the town of Uyuni, as most travelers visiting the Salt Flats stay here. Many companies offer full-day or half-day tours to the Salar de Uyuni, which offer travelers the opportunity to see the best of the best of the salt flats.
Most full-day or half-day Uyuni Salt Flats tours also including visiting beautiful landmarks like Incahuasi and spending plenty of time for photos and with the most beautiful vantage points of the flats.
Uyuni is also the starting point for the most popular tours to visit the Salt Flats – the multi-day jeep 4×4 tours that visit the Salt Flats and the surrounding region.
Most multi-day tours are 3-days and 2-nights or 4-days and 3-nights, though longer and shorter options are available as well!
These multi-day tours will let you spend time on the Salt Flats, plus take you to incredible, jaw-dropping destinations in the area like the Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde.
The Best One-Day Uyuni Tours
One-day Salar de Uyuni tours depart from Uyuni and allow you to spend the day exploring the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and the surrounding area. These are some of the most popular Salar de Uyuni tours, and the most affordable, perfect if you just have a day or two in the area.
Day tours of the Salt Flats include all the highlights on the Salt Flats, including the train cemetery, Dakar monument, Incahuasi Island, and sunset over the Salt Flats.
Andes Salt Expeditions has the most comprehensive and well-done one-day tour in Uyuni.This is definitely my recommendation for budget travelers looking for a great Uyuni tour experience!
Uyuni Private Tour
If you’re looking for a Uyuni private tour experience, look no further than Joker Expeditions, one of the most well-respected tour companies in Uyuni. They offer customizable day tours of the Salt Flats at a good rate that include drinks on the Salt Flats at sunset!
Another popular day tour option is a motorcycle tour of the Salt Flats! If you have prior experience on a motorcycle, this tour of the Salt Flats will be an incredible and unforgettable experience.
One-Day Uyuni Tours from La Paz
If you’re working on a short itinerary, you can also visit Uyuni from La Paz in just one day. These tours include overnight buses both ways, or flights organized through the tour companies with service in and out of the Uyuni Airport. Joker Expeditions does the best job of coordinating these one-day excursions from La Paz:
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The Best Multi-Day Uyuni Tours
Multi-day Salar de Uyuni tours include ample time visiting the Salt Flats, and travel in the surrounding area. Most visitors try to schedule one of the popular multi-day jeep 4×4 tours, and if you can find time in your itinerary you won’t regret it!
I might sound like a broken record here, but I can’t say it enough – spend at least two full days on a tour of the Salt Flats and if you can, with the full three or four days if possible. You will not regret an incredible trip across the Salar de Uyuni and this incredible, breathtaking region!
Two-Day Salar de Uyuni Tours
2-day, 1-night tours from Uyuni tend to stick to the Uyuni area and Salt Flats – while you’ll see much, much more of the area including surrounding volcanos, you won’t get to see those colorful lakes (Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde, and more!) you’ll see on a three-day tour.
Joker Expeditions – one of Uyuni’s most well-respected tour companies – offers two-day tours of Salar de Uyuni and Laguna Colorada. These are popular, though a bit more expensive than a standard two-day tour. However, seeing Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde, and all the incredible surrounding scenery is well worth it!
Two-day tours of the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and Tunupa Volcano are the most popular two-day tour options you’ll find. They’re less expensive than two-day tours that include a visit to Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde, but include the chance to see Tunupa Volcano (one of South America’s most impressive volcanoes) up close.
Three-Day Salar de Uyuni Tours
Most multi-day tours from Uyuni are the 3-day and 2-night tours that are considered a full tour of the region. Once you select a 3-day tour over a 2-day tour, you’re itinerary is almost guaranteed to include some of the most beautiful attractions further from Uyuni, including Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde, and incredible sights to the south.
Again, I highly recommend carving out space in your itinerary for a three-day Salar de Uyuni tour. This was one of my favorite travel experiences EVER – the scenery is gorgeous and unforgettable, and it’s absolutely worth finding the time for the full Salar de Uyuni tour, done right.
Three-day small group excursions around Salar de Uyuni, Laguna Verde, Laguna Colorada, and the rest of the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve are the most popular multi-day Salar de Uyuni tours.
No matter what tour company you consider, they generally cost around $300 per person, but are all inclusive of meals and accommodations – are are the most INCREDIBLE travel experience.
If you’re looking for a private excursion around Salar de Uyuni, the colorful lagoons, and the rest of the unmissable Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, the well-respected Joker Expeditions is the way to go for a customizable tour.
You can also book a three-day private luxury tour, which includes a similar itinerary but in nicer accommodations during your two nights exploring the area – the standard accommodations are quite basic, so this is a great way to see the area more comfortably.
Multi-Day Uyuni Tours from La Paz
One-day Uyuni tours from La Paz by bus and even one-day Uyuni tours from La Paz by plane are great for travelers on a short itinerary. You’ll make it to this unmissable destination with the time you have.
However, if you can carve out more time in your itinerary, I highly recommend spending more time in Uyuni if you’re traveling here from La Paz – no matter how you plan to travel.
These the best multi-day Salar de Uyuni tours departing from La Paz. You’ll see there are a variety of itineraries offered, as well as options to complete the tour in cities other than La Paz, if you want to continue traveling onward after your tour.
Three-day tours of Salar de Uyuni that depart from La Paz are the best of both worlds: you’ll have your transportation easily and conveniently organized for you, while still enjoying the very best of the full tour of the Salt Flats. This is a great option, just marginally more expensive than a standard tour departing from the town of Uyuni. Joker Expeditions does these best.
Four-Day Salar de Uyuni Tour from La Paz (ending in San Pedro de Atacama)
A four-day tour of Salar de Uyuni and the surrounding areas is a perfect option to get to know this stunning region well. If you’re looking to travel onward after your tour, ending your Salar de Uyuni visit in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile is a fantastic option. This area of Chile is beautiful, and well-connected to other travel destinations in Chile and Argentina.
The five-day Salar de Uyuni tour from La Paz is the best way to see the Salt Flats from La Paz without being rushed. You’ll see the best of the best of the area, including the colorful lagoons Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde, you’ll get to swim in the hot springs, and have the most memorable trip you can imagine. Highly recommended!
Salar de Uyuni at Night
Even if you’re planning a standard Salar de Uyuni tour, consider adding a visit to the Salar de Uyuni at night to your list of things you can’t miss! These night sky “tours” of the Salt Flats are also VERY popular and highly recommended as additional Bolivian Salt Flats tours.
You’ll get to see an incredible number of stars on the Salar de Uyuni at night – there is nearly no light pollution in this desolate, high-elevation area. Some of the world’s most powerful telescopes are in this region for just this reason!
These popular tours generally start with pick-up at your hotel in Uyuni at around 3:00 am, but it is well worth it for a glimpse of the Milky Way over the Salt Flats. Many include sunrise and breakfast at the Salt Flats as well.
My top recommendations for a great stargazing tour on the Salt Flats include the popular private tour offered by Joker Expedition! They do a great job with this tour!
One of the nearby towns to Uyuni – just a few hours south – many travelers also start their journey to the Salt Flats from Tupiza Bolivia. Starting an Uyuni tour from Tupiza is particularly popular with travelers heading through Bolivia from northern Argentina.
While Tupiza may not seem like a logical first starting point, starting a Bolivian Salt Flats tour from Tupiza Bolivia is like doing the 4-day and 3-night loop from Uyuni in reverse, meaning you’ll be visiting the sites when they’re a lot less crowded.
MAJOR BONUS: you save a visit to the Salt Flats for the last day of the tour, which makes the tour end with a major bang!
The most common Tupiza tours include visits to all the most beautiful sites in the area, including colonial mining ghost towns, Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde, countless additional colored lakes and endless volcanos, plus the hot springs.
I did my 4-day, 3-night tour of the Salt Flats with a starting point in Tupiza, and I couldn’t recommend this circuit more! Tupiza Tours is an excellent choice, and so convenient if you’re traveling north from Chile or Argentina.
Multi-Day Salar de Uyuni Tours from Tupiza
The most popular multi-day tours from Tupiza to Uyuni are four days and three nights, include visits to the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, Laguna Colorada, and more, including these awesome spots:
Colonial mining ghost towns;
Ollagüe Volcano and Tomasamil Volcano;
Uyuni’s train graveyard;
A popular add-on is the mind-blowing evening “star tour” taking you to see the stars on the Salar de Uyuni at night. This is a very popular tour in Uyuni and across the region, and well worth it!
When ending a tour in Uyuni, you can choose to return with the guides to Tupiza if you’ll continue traveling from there, or remain in Uyuni and travel onward. This means that no matter where you’re headed next, you’ve got an easy way to get there.
San Pedro de Atacama Tours
San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile is a very popular destination for travelers as a hub within the Atacama desert, and it is another hub for travelers looking to visit the Salt Flats.
There are plenty of San Pedro de Atacama tours, especially multi-day Atacama to Bolivia Salt Flats tours that start and end in San Pedro de Atacama.
If you’re looking for a tour that starts from and ends in San Pedro de Atacama, check out Howlanders! Howlanders tour company offers an extremely popular 4-day and 3-night tour from San Pedro de Atacama that I’ve heard rave reviews of from a fellow travel blogger.
Bolivia Salt Flats Tours
Popular Tour Destinations
Of course, the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats are rightfully the biggest and best attraction here! Spend time taking in the incredible, other-worldly scenery here. Guides of tours will also help you recreate “fotos locos” – crazy photos that play with the lack of perspective caused by the extreme flatness and empty horizon. In addition, you’ll want to visit these awesome locations, too!
Formerly an island within the middle of the prehistoric lake that formed the salt flats, this rocky outcropping in the middle of the salt flats is a popular stop on tours. It is home to towering cacti, some nearly 30 feet (10 meters) tall. Not only a beautiful spot itself, this island also makes for a beautiful panoramic view over the salt flats – included in nearly all Salar de Uyuni tours!
Plaza of Flags & Dakar Monument
A rare break from the empty salt flats, the Plaza of Flags is a beautiful circle of flags left behind by visitors – bring your own and contribute if your flag isn’t there yet! The colors of the flags are beautiful against the white salt and blue sky backdrop. The nearby monument to celebrate the famed Dakar Rally race that passed through Bolivia and neighboring countries.
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Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina – Eduardo Avaroa
The Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve of Andean Fauna is a protected area bordering Chile and Argentina, and is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the area, including the Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde, and other colorful lakes and soaring mountains.
You’ll get to spend plenty of time here on multi-day Bolivian Salt Flats tours exploring this beautiful national park and reserve.
By far one of the most stunning features in the area, the Laguna Colorada is a bright red lake surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains. Red due to the colors of algae and sediments. This lagoon is home to flocks of Andean flamingos.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Visiting Laguna Colorada, Bolivia for more information about this incredible destination, and how to plan for a perfect visit!
Relatively close to the stunning Laguna Colorada, you’ll find the less well-known, but equally stunning Laguna Verde. This aquamarine lagoon is a beautiful sight against blue skies and dark volcanoes behind it.
Polques Hot Springs
These hot springs are the result of the nearby Polques volcano and make a perfect escape from the usually cold climate in Bolivia’s high plains. Bring a travel towel and swimsuit despite how cold it is, the springs are so warm you won’t regret it!