Practical Guide Of Uyuni Salt Flat 3 Day Tour, Bolivia

Thinking about doing the 3 day tour of Uyuni Salt Flat? Wondering how to survive the Salt Flat? Curious on what you will see on the Salt Flat Tour? This guide tells you everything about the tour!

Uyuni Salt Flat (Salar de Uyuni) in Bolivia has always been on my list of things to visit in South America ever since I saw a pictures of it on the internet. The landscape especially the mirror effect looked almost unreal and I just had to see it with my own eyes. During our 2 week trip to Peru and Bolivia, we got the chance to take a 3 day tour of Uyuni Salt Flat to explore this amazing landscape and surrounding areas in Bolivia

When I was planning the trip to Bolivia, I tried to find as much information on it as possible as I didn’t know which salt flat tour was the “best” and what to expect during the salt flat tour. There are 2 options to tour the salar:

  1. Β One day sunrise and sunset Salt flat tour. This tour takes you to some places on the Salar the 3 day tour doesn’t, and you may find areas with water to take the cool reflection shot even during dry season. It’s also extremely beautiful to see the sunrise.
  2. 3 day 2 night Salt flat tour that takes you to the salar with a sunset view as well as other cool landscapes (lagoons, geysers, hot springs, desert). You only spend 1 day on the Salar.

Best Bolivia Salt Flat Tour Operators

While searching for reviews on tripadvisor, three reputable Bolivia salt flat tour companies came up: Red Planet, Quechua Connection and Salty Desert Aventours. I personally ended up choosing Quechua Connection because my friends went with them before and they have really good reviews on tripadvisor (this is NOT a sponsored post so all opinions are mine). I enjoyed my tour with them and have absolutely no complaints. After comparing to my other friend who used Red Planet, a few noticeable differences (and similarities):

  • Quechua Connection is the only company that offers you bikes to ride across the salt flat on the first day.
  • Different tours stop at different spots for the night; Quechua Connection & Red Planet both stop at hostels right next to the hot spring on the 2nd night. This means you can visit the hot spring at sunset or under the Milky Way at night while other tours have to get up at 5am to drive to the hotspring the next morning. Definitely a plus to have the hotspring to yourself under the stars!
  • Quechua Connection provides you with table and chairs for lunch. Red Planet doesn’t and you have to find rocks to sit on while eating your lunch
  • Our salt flat tour company tried its best to accommodate tourists with dietary restrictions and the guides have altitude sickness pills as well as oxygen tanks for emergency situation
  • Not sure about other companies but I heard horror stories of drivers drink and drive on the salt flat; didn’t see any of that on our tour

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Things To Know Before You Go To Uyuni Salt Flat:

  • Rainy Season in Uyuni is November to April and dry season runs from April to October. If you want the cool mirror effect, you need to go during rainy season or by June before water evaporates
  • July is extremely windy on the salt flat
  • Prepare for high altitude (3500m – 5000m) on the 3 day salt flat tour.
  • If you are flying out of Uyuni to La Paz after the tour, have 11 Bolivianos (~1.5 USD) to pay airport departure tax. You don’t have to worry about this when you take a flight from La Paz airport. This departure fee only applies to Uyuni Airport departure
  • You need to bring your own water on the salt flat tour; drinks are only provided during meals
  • The Bolivia airlines let you bring water on board (I didn’t feel safe upon learning about it)
  • The 2nd night on the 3 day salt flat tour is a dorm, be prepared to freeze and share with 5-6 other people
  • NO SHOWERS

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What To Pack For Uyuni Salt Flat Tour:

Similar to the Incha Trail, you need to pack a lot of things as if you are going on a camping trip as there is no luxury accommodation during the 3 day Salt Flat tour

Travel Document & Money

  • Passport
  • Cash: bring cash to pay for the salt flat tour, water, and snacks, small changes for bathroom, entrance fees to sights and tips for the driver and guide. I would recommend to bring at least 400 Bolivianos (~60 USD).
  • 11 Boliviano for Uyuni airport departure fee

Medication

  • Altitude sickness pill: If you are not acclimated, you should have the altitude sickness pill with you. The salar in Bolivia is at around 3700m and during the 2nd day you will be at around 5000m
  • Food related sickness pills: Bring it just in case you get upset stomach. There is no pharmacy on the tour

Attires & Accessories

  • Winter clothes & layers: It gets extremely cold at night even during the summer months on the salt flat in Bolivia due to high altitude
  • Hat, scarf, and gloves are extremely important
  • Sunglasses: the sun can be very strong at such high altitude. Reflection from the salt flat can seriously burn your retina.
  • Swimsuit: EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!! If you want to be able to enjoy the outdoor hotspring during the Salt Flat tour on Day 2 (or 3)
  • Towel & Hanger: Accommodations do not offer towels. If you plan to go into the hot spring, make sure to bring a towel and a hanger

Toiletry & Others

  • Body wipes: there is no hot shower during the 1st night and no shower at all during the 2nd night of the 3 day salt flat tour
  • Toilet paper: there is none during the 2nd night; if you pay for the bathrooms during the tour, there is generally toilet paper except a couple of places
  • Sunscreen: it’s easy to get sunburned at this high altitude. I highly recommend this lightweight Japanese sunscreen
  • Lotion: I didn’t realize how dry it is on the Salar and my eczema was acting up. Bring body location to properly hydrate your skin
  • Dry Shampoo: No shower
  • Extra batteries: there is no electricity to charge your phone/camera on the 2nd night
  • Tripod: if you are into photography then don’t miss the opportunities to take amazing shots of the Milky Way from the salt flat. It’s higher and less polluted so the stars are brighter and easier to see
  • Headlamp: there was no lights in our bathroom during the 2nd night
  • Sleeping bag liner: you are provided with a sleeping bag but it gets mixed up the following day, so if you want to be clean, bring your own sleeping bag liner
  • Ear Plugs: necessary since you will be in a 6 person dorm room on Night 2

What To Expect During the 3 day Salt flat Tour in Bolivia

Booking the Salt Flat Tour

After reading reviews online and getting recommendations from my friends, we emailed Quechua Connection to make the booking a few months in advance (you probably don’t need to do it that far in advance like we did). They can communicate with you via Email or Whatsapp and to make the bookings we had to provide the company with our names and passport number. There was no deposits and we paid everything in full in cash (Bolivianos or USD) in person the night before the tour.

Price of 3 day Salt Flat Tour

Our 3 day tour was 180 USD excluding some park entrance fee and tips. We had to pay about 200 Bolivianos extra for entrance fee costs.

Food during Salt flat Tour

Drinks are provided at meal time but you need to bring extra water for yourself for 3 days. There are shops on the day (especially day 1) so buy some snacks with you.

The company accommodates people with dietary restrictions as much as they can. We had 2 people in our group with severe food allergies to gluten and certain fruits and they were given food they could eat so thumbs up to the company.

Breakfast: usually pancakes or bread, jam, fruits, coffee/tea

Lunch & dinner: rice or pasta, vegetable, protein (llama steak or chicken or canned tuna) & dessert (mango pudding or fruits or cake), coffee/tea/soda/waterIMG_2722

3 Day Uyuni Salt Flat tour Itnerary

Day 0 – Arrival to Uyuni & Where to Stay in Uyuni

We took the last flight out of La Paz to Uyuni. It was a short flight (~1 hour) and our tour operator picked us up from the Uyuni airport. The best airline to fly from La Paz to Uyuni was Amaszonas because of all the reviews I read. You can also take BoA to Uyuni but I heard there are more delays.

After we landed in Uyuni, our tour company picked us up from the airport and we were driven to the Quechua Connection’s office to make our payment. We were told that drinks is only provided during meals so we bought our own. The company dropped us off at our hotel (Hotel de Sal Casa Andina) which was amazing and super spacious. It was actually the best hotel we stayed at during our 2 week trip. They even had free coffee and fruit juice in the cafeteria at night. There was also free breakfast with our stay. They also offer 3 person room which was what we needed.IMG_2539
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Day 1 – Train Graveyard, Salt Flat, Islands, Sunset

We were picked up from our hotel by 10:30am and taken to the main tour office. There we waited for other travelers before we were assigned to one of the 4 jeeps they had. The drivers tied up gas tank, our luggage and water and sleeping bags on the top of the jeep and we started off towards our first stop: Train graveyard.

We got to the train graveyard outside of Uyuni about 20 minutes after leaving the tour office and were given about 20 minutes there to climb up the abandoned trains and take photos. There was a portable bathroom there but unfortunately it was locked.Β IMG_2543
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We continued onward to a town where we visited Colchani Salt processing “factory”. I walked around a bit and found this really cute pair of alpaca leg warmers for 25 Bolivianos (~4 USD).

After another short drive, we finally arrived at the Uyuni salt flat. It was quite amazing to be surrounded by nothing but salt (and whiteness). It looked like it came straight out of a science fiction. Unfortunately since we were there during the dry season, there was not enough water on the surface to reflect the sky. Hopefully someday I will be back during wet season.IMG_2564

Our guide gave us each a bike to bike across the salt flat to the lunch spot, which was 3km away. I heard our tour is the only tour that offers bikes, so that was pretty cool πŸ˜€ Although I have to say it was not easy to ride bikes across the salt flat because the ground is not 100% flat.
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One thing I did not know was that our guide was REALLY good at taking photos and helping us pose on the salt flat. He did a lot of funny videos and photos for us (and for the group) due to the lack of depth perception on the salar. Also, apparently the trick is to lie flat on the salt flat (or as low as possible) to get the coolest perspective.Β IMG_2574

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What it takes for a good shot

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Did you know the Dakar rally is in Bolivia?

We spent over an hour here just taking photos and walking around in crazy windy conditions but it was totally worth it! I wish we had stayed longer but we had to move onto the next cool spot: Incawasi Island.

Little did I know that there is an island full of huge cactus in the middle of the salt flat where nothing grows. We had to pay an entrance (and bathroom) fee of 30B (~4.5 USD) to get in. Once you are in, you are free to roam around and climb to the top for a better view of the Salt Flat if you don’t mind walking up with the high altitude.IMG_2599
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We spent about 40 minutes here before we set off for another island on the salt flat, this time a cave. I never thought I cared about caves until this particular cave. It helped that our guide was an amazing photographer. I heard that in the past, people stayed in the cave to watch sunset. But we didn’t do it this time.

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Pia Pia Island

We continued on driving until we found a random spot to watch the magnificent sunset on the salt flat. It was one of the most colorful sunset I’ve ever seen but oh boy it was freezing cold!! Our guide was really excited for this sunset, apparently because usually there is clouds n the horizon but this time it was completely clear.IMG_2622
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Sunset on the Uyuni Salt Flat

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Our first night hotel on the Salt Flat was called Manica Hostel, which wasn’t too bad. We had a 3 person private room with our own bathroom and electricity so we could charge our phone and camera (yes electricity is luxury item here). Unfortunately there was no hot water in the bathroom so no shower night no.1!

Day 2 – Coral Valley, Lagoons, Stone Tree, Geysers, Hot Spring

Little did I know that the 3 day Uyuni Salar tour is actually only 1 day on the salt flat. We officially left the salt flat the night before. Day 2 started bright and early at 6am in the morning. We left by 7am to visit the first stop: coral valley.

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Getting up before the sun

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Coral Valley

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The second day of the 3 day tour of salt flat was a lot of driving in a desert landscape. It’s actually quite amazing how the landscape changes every 30 minute to an hour on this day. We drove by deserts, coral valleys; we saw volcanoes followed by lush green and random villages. We also entered the national park today and had to pay 150Bs for entrance fee so make sure you bring enough cash and your passport with you.

One of the cool things we saw along the way were 2 lagoons with flamingos. Did you know that flamingos are not born pink? They get the pink color from eating algae. Most people also wouldn’t expect to find volcano flamingos hidden away and thriving in the Andes. They have adapted the harsh weather as well as the high altitude.

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Altiplanic Lagoons

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A few other cool things we saw during Day 2:

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Arbol de Piedra (Stone Tree)

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Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) with flamingos in it

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Sol de manana geyser

 

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The sulfur smell was not pleasant

One word about the accommodation on the Salt Flat, since it’s in such a remote location, all the accommodations were hostels with no showers and electricity. Each car stays in the same dorm with a private bathroom, but there is no heating in the hostel so make sure to wear layers to bed.

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Rocky floors + bed made of stones

The highlight of the day was the hot spring. Since we stayed about 6 minute walking distance to the hot spring, we could go anytime we wanted. Our group ended up going around sunset after we checked into our hostel. Since only our group and Red Planet are staying near the hot spring, we ended up having the place all to ourselves for sunset. The entrance fee for the hot spring is 5Bs. If you just want to dip your feet in, then it’s free. There is a changing room at the hot spring, but there is no lights in the changing room so bring flashlight or head lamp and towel. This is also where having a hanger was extremely helpful to dry the wet swimsuit and towel.

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I think this sunset in Bolivia was even more stunning than the one the day before. Similarly, the Milky Way was more clear today since we were at an even higher altitude on the salt flat. It was well worth the sub freezing temperature to capture this.IMG_2805

Day 3 – Dali Desert, Chilean Border, Green Lagoon

We actually spent most of Day 3 of the salt flat tour driving back to Uyuni. If you are not short on time, it’s actually a better option to get dropped off at the Chilean border and cross into Chile. It’s a lot more efficient and you are not wasting the whole day driving back. Meanwhile for the rest of us, we saw more deserts and lagoons.

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Laguna Verde (not green in the morning because there was no wind, but it was really green later on during the day)

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The highlight (and a surprise) came in the afternoon about 2 hours from Uyuni. Our guide took us into this secret valley that had an incredible landscape.IMG_2831
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After this last stop, we drove about an hour to a tourist stop for bathroom and snacks then headed back to Uyuni to catch our flight to La Paz.

Q&A on Salt Flat Tour

Is there Vegan or Vegetarian Food On the Salt Flat Tour?

Yes! The tour companies are very good at accommodating food preferences on the Salt Flat.

How Much Cash Should I Bring To the 3 Day Salt Flat Tour?

Bring at least 400 Bolivianos besides the money to pay for your tour.Β  You need the cash to pay for water, bathroom, snacks, entrance fee, airport departure fee in Uyuni, etc.

Is there shower on the 3 day Salt Flat Tour?

For our tour there was a cold shower the first evening but no shower the second evening.

Can I see the reflection on the Salt Flat?Β 

This is a tricky one. If you visit the Salt Flat during rainy season, then it’s more than likely you will be able to take the reflective photos on the salt flat. However during the dry season, some day tours can take you to a spot that “always” has water so you can take the reflection shots on the salt flat. Our 3 day tour was not able to take us.

Is altitude an issue on the salt flat in Bolivia?

Altitude could definitely be an issue on the Salt Flat because it’s above 4000m and some part of the tour on Day 2 is above 5000m. I would recommend acclimate in La Paz or somewhere else first before joining the Salt Flat Tour.

Is the Salt Flat Tour safe for Female solo travelers?

YES! There were many solo travelers on our Salt Flat Tour and the guides are very professional. You will feel safe and comfortable traveling by yourself to the Salt Flat.

Is there bathroom on the Salt Flat?

There are many rest stops on your Salt Flat tour but you have to pay at least 5 Bolivianos every time you use the bathroom unless it’s at your hostel.

For more questions, please comment below!

Bolivia Uyuni Salt Flat Tour

 

23 thoughts on “Practical Guide Of Uyuni Salt Flat 3 Day Tour, Bolivia

  1. Lan says:

    Serena, thank you so much for sharing your experience!!! This is so helpful. We are a group of 4 visiting at the end of this month, and I am in a similar situation of debating between 3D2N tour vs. Sunrise/Sunset tour. I really want to do the tour with Quechua, but I also read that only those agencies targeting Asian groups (Hodaka, Brisa) can take you to places where you can see the “mirror effect”. Do you think Quechua’s drivers would know these locations where we can see the “mirror effect” if we do a private tour and customize it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great question. I asked the Quechua people that and they said that if i were on their day tour they would be able to take me but the spot is too far away so we wouldn’t be able to make it back on the 3D tour. I think if you go soon it’s rainy season so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a spot. I honestly don’t know if anything can be guaranteed. Maybe you can do the 3D tour then book a separate one with Hodaka for one day!

      Like

      • Lan says:

        Ah I wish I planned more time! Unfortunately, we already booked our flights and only have 3 days 😦 I will ask Quechua if it’s possible to skip the 3rd day’s activity and spend some extra time on the salt flats, but from your post, it looks like the third days is spent on driving back to Uyuni anyways

        Like

      • i do’nt think you are going to be able to do that because you are going to be really far away (you only spend one day on the salt flat). You basically have to go with the tour because there’s no where else for you to stay or get back to the salt flat by yourself.

        Like

  2. Lan says:

    I see 😦 Dilemmas… crossing my fingers for good weather condition! Thank you so so much for your advice! I’m going to go read your other posts about Peru now! We are going there after Bolivia.

    Liked by 1 person

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