Practical Guide Of 3 Day Uyuni Salt Flats Tour, Bolivia
Thinking about doing the 3 day Bolivia Salt Flats Tour? Wondering how to survive the Uyuni Salt Flats? Curious on what you will see on the Salt Flats Tour? This guide tells you everything about the 3 day Uyuni Salt Flats Tour!
Uyuni Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) in Bolivia has always been on my bucket list. The mirror reflection on the Uyuni Salt Flats looks 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 Uyuni Salt Flats tour to explore this amazing landscape and surrounding areas in Bolivia. Unfortunately we went during the dry season so there was no reflection. But even without the reflection, Uyuni salt flats still looked incredible.
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Uyuni Salt Flat Tour Options
There are 2 types of tours that you can take to see the Uyuni Salt Flats.
One day sunrise and sunset Salt flats 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.
3 day 2 night Salt flats tour that takes you to the salar with a sunset view as well as other cool landscapes (lagoons, geysers, hot springs, desert). You only actually spend 1 day on the Salar. The rest of the tour includes visits to Eduardo Avaroa National Park and you practically spend the third day driving back to Uyuni from the Chile/Bolivia border.
Best 3 Day Uyuni Salt Flats Tour Operators
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 Bolivia salt flats on the first day.
Different 3 day Uyuni Salt Flats 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 hot spring the next morning. Definitely a plus to have the hot spring 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 flats 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 flats; didn’t see any of that on our tour with Quechua Connection
What To Pack For the 3 Day Uyuni Salt Flats 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 Uyuni Salt Flats tour
Travel Document & Money
- Cash: bring cash to pay for the salt flats 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 For the Salt Flats
- 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 (~1200ft) and during the 2nd day you will be at around 5000m (~16400ft)
- Food related sickness pills: Bring it just in case you get upset stomach. There is no pharmacy on the Salt Flats tour
Attires & Accessories
- Winter clothes & layers: It gets extremely cold at night even during the summer months on the salt flats 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 flats can seriously burn your retina.
- Swimsuit: EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!! If you want to be able to enjoy the outdoor hot spring during the Salt Flats 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. We didn’t have a hanger but someone on our tour did, it was such a smart idea!
Toiletry & Other Things
- Body wipes: there is no hot shower during the 1st night and no shower at all during the 2nd night of the 3 day Bolivia Salt Flats 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 is available during the 3 day tour of Uyuni Salt Flats
- 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 flats. 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 of the Salt Flats tour
What To Expect During the 3 Day Uyuni Salt Flats Tour in Bolivia
Booking the 3 Day Bolivia Salt Flats 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 Uyuni Salt Flats Tour
Our 3 day tour of Uyuni Salt Flats was 180 USD excluding some park entrance fee and tips. We had to pay about 200 Bolivianos extra for entrance fee costs.
Food during the 3 Day Uyuni Salt Flats 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/water
3 Day Tour of Uyuni Salt Flats Itinerary
Day 0 – Arrival to Uyuni & Where to Stay in Uyuni
We took the last flight out of La Paz to Uyuni the night before our 3 Day Salt Flats tour. 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 (a few liters of water to be exact).
For payment, they accept both USD and Bolivianos. If you plan to do a tour in Uyuni, make sure to check with your tour operator on what currency they accept.
Where to Stay in Uyuni
The salt flats tour 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 of Peru and Bolivia.
The hotel even had free coffee and fruit juice in the cafeteria at night. There was also free breakfast with our stay. They also offer a 3 person room which was what we needed. However the only thing was that the windows all face towards the hallway so if anyone is talking in the hall way you can hear everything.
Day 1 of 3 Day Bolivia Salt Flats Tour – Train Graveyard, Salt Flats, 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.
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 Flats. 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.
Our guide gave us each a bike to bike across the Salt Flats to the lunch spot, which was 3km away. I heard our tour is the only tour that offers bikes, so that was pretty cool 😀 Although I have to say it was not easy to ride bikes across the salt flats because the ground is not 100% flat.
One thing I did not know was that our guide was REALLY good at taking photos and helping us pose on the salt flats. 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 flats (or as low as possible) to get the coolest perspective.
We spent over an hour on the Salt Flats 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 Uyuni salt flats where nothing else 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 Flats if you don’t mind walking up with the high altitude.
We spent about 40 minutes here before we set off for another island on the salt flats, this time a cave called Pia Pia Island. 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.
We continued on driving until we found a random spot to watch the magnificent sunset on the salt flats. 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 in the horizon but this time it was completely clear.
Our first night hotel on the Salt Flats 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 flats. We officially left the Uyuni salt flats the night before. Day 2 of the 3 day Salt Flats tour started bright and early at 6am in the morning. We left the hostel by 7am to visit the first stop: coral valley.
Day 2 of the 3 day tour of Uyuni salt flats 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 Eduardo Avaroa National Park 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.
A few other cool things we saw during Day 2:
One word about the accommodation on the Salt Flats, 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.
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.
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 flats. It was well worth the sub freezing temperature to capture this.
Day 3 – Dali Desert, Chilean Border, Green Lagoon
We actually spent most of Day 3 of the salt flats 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.
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.
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.
Things To Know Before You Go To Uyuni Salt Flats
Salar de Uyuni Best Time to Go
There is a dry season and rainy season on the Bolivia Salt Flats. Rainy Season in Uyuni is November to April and dry season runs from April to October.
If you want the cool mirror effect on the Uyuni Salt Flats, then the best time to go to the salar de Uyuni is during rainy season or by June before water evaporates. You should wear waterproof shoes if you are going during rain season since the Salt Flats is covered with water and your feet will get web. Also keep in mind that July is extremely windy on the Salt Flats.
Can I see the reflection on the Uyuni Salt Flats?
This is a tricky one. If you visit the Salt Flats 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.
What’s the altitude of Salar de Uyuni?
The Uyuni Salt Flats is about 4000m above sea level and during Day 2 of the 3 Day tour of Uyuni Salt Flats, the altitude can reach above 5000m (16400ft). Therefore if you are prone to getting altitude sickness, you should take some altitude sickness pills with you. I would recommend acclimate in La Paz or somewhere lower for a couple of days before doing the Uyuni salt flats tour.
However the guides usually have oxygen tank with them for emergency use. But unless you are on the verge of death, they tend not to use it even if you get altitude sickness.
Is there Vegan or Vegetarian Food On the Salt Flats Tour?
Yes! The tour companies are very good at accommodating food preferences on the Salt Flats.
How Much Cash Should I Bring To the 3 Day Bolivia Salt Flats Tour?
Bring at least 400 Bolivianos besides the money to pay for your salar de Uyuni tour. You need the cash to pay for water, bathroom, snacks, entrance fee, airport departure fee in Uyuni, etc.
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
Is there shower on the 3 day Bolivia Salt Flats Tour?
For our tour there was a cold shower the first evening but no shower the second evening.
Is the Uyuni Salt Flats Tour safe for Female solo travelers?
YES! There were many solo travelers on our Salt Flats Tour and the guides are very professional. You will feel safe and comfortable traveling by yourself to the Salt Flats.
What is the accommodation like on the 3 Day Bolivia Salt Flats Tour?
Accommodation depends on the tour you take. For our tour, the first night we stayed in a private room with bathroom and cold shower. The 2nd night we stayed in a 5-6 person dorm sleeping on stone beds with no shower and no toilet paper. The tour will give you sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner but it can be really cold at night.
Is there bathroom on the Uyuni Salt Flats?
There are many rest stops on your Salts Flat tour but you have to pay at least 5 Bolivianos every time you use the bathroom unless it’s at your hostel.
Final Thoughts on the Bolivia 3 Day Salar de Uyuni Tour
I really thought the 3 day salt flats tour was amazing since you are literally so remote from civilization you really feel disconnected. The landscape changes drastically from place to place and I think it’s definitely an unique experience. However if you are only looking to see the Salt Flats and nothing else then you might want to consider a one day Salt Flats tour instead. Regardless of what tour you choose, you will love the experience as long as you are well prepared.
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