Salar de Uyuni Tours (3 Day 2 Night) San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni

Chances are, if you’re on a trip to South America, you’re probably thinking of heading to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. The Bolivian salt flats have become notorious for images of people flying, getting chased by dinosaurs and even balancing on selfie sticks (credit goes to Backpacking Bouwke for her creativity on this one.)

There are countless companies offering Salar de Uyuni tours both from Uyuni and San Pedro de Atacama. The majority of them are a three day 2 night tour one way journey in the direction of your choice. There are also day tours to Salar de Uyuni from Uyuni itself, as the  salt flats of Uyuni are pretty close to the town.

Getting to Salar de Uyuni

As I just mentioned there are salt flat tours from San Pedro de Atacama and Uyuni. This post will be primarily based on tours from San Pedro to Uyuni, as that is where we took our tour from. We personally found this route better too as you’re saving the salt flat until the last day. Nevertheless, check out this blog post from Two Monkeys Travel which details tours from Uyuni based tours. San Pedro de Atacama is a small cosy town catered for tours not only around the area (best stargazing ever), but the town is also inundated with tour operators for the Salar de Uyuni too. We felt like every other shop was a tour operator, with a few restaurants thrown in in-between.

Choosing a Tour

As San Pedro de Atacama has heaps of tour agencies, there are a variety of choices for you to consider. Nevertheless, the basics of all the tours are the same. Believe me, we shopped around A LOT and agreed if we had to listen to the spiel one more time we would have had a breakdown. When searching on Trip Advisor for tour recommendations, we found it fairly difficult to find particular reputable tour companies because;

A. You don’t know if the people on Trip Advisor are just being plain awkward or not when writing their reviews.

B. Many reviewers didn’t even mention the company they used for their tour. (Helpful)

C. There were some very mixed/average reviews about the whole experience, some people were just not impressed with visiting the largest salt flats in the world! (Oh well, each to their own.)

A couple of companies that were mentioned were Cordillera Travel, Red Planet and World White Travel. The basics of the Bolivian salt flats tour is:

  • A three day two night tour
  • Night 1: Sleep in a basic dormitory bed, the accommodation usually has a toilet and a sink to wash in. There is no shower and it’s cold water.
  • Night 2: Sleep in a salt hotel, yes a hotel made entirely of salt! Hot showers are available here ($10Bs extra). You stay in a private room with a double or twin bed.
  • Food for the tour is included; breakfast, lunch, dinner and an afternoon tea/snack – every company recommends you also bring your own snacks too.

The only things that can differ or change between the tours is the quality and quantity of food, the quality of accommodation and quality of the vehicle and your driver. We did see one tour going from Uyuni to San Pedro on our last day and their wheel had fallen off their land cruiser. They’d been stuck there for hours and it was only their first day.

broken-down

Overall, when deciding on booking a tour, we personally took a few things into account; the vibe of the place, the sales pitch (which is why we put ourselves through listening to it God knows how many times) and the friendliness of the staff.

We personally decided to go with Lithium Aventura, who, overall, we were very happy with and would definitely recommend. Though the person selling the tour isn’t going to be on the tour with you, the lady was friendly and the price was right. It’s surprising how many companies don’t even make an effort to promote their particular company and just wait for the money to come at them.

Salar de Uyuni Tour Prices

The price of the Salar de Uyuni tours may also be a deciding factor, especially when there is such a huge difference between each tour operator. From the multiple tour companies we asked, the Salar de Uyuni tours cost between $90,000CLP and $130,000CLP, with many offering “discounts” straight up. The first price is never the final price with anything you book in South America.

About the Salar de Uyuni Tour

Day One

Day one is an early start, depending on what tour you choose, expect to be picked up at around 6:30-7am as you need to cross the Chile/ Bolivia border. When leaving San Pedro, expect a long wait at the border. Every single tour bus leaving that day will be there and it’s absolutely chocker. Once you have your stamp it is time to head to the Bolivian border, which is literally a hut in the middle of nowhere. The tour usually sets up breakfast here outside the minibus before swapping over to the 4WD.

The first stop on the Bolivian side is the Laguna Blanca, offering beautiful reflections of the volcanoes surrounding the desert landscape.

Laguna Blanca on the Salar de Uyuni tour, Bolivia

Pretty soon after the tour stops off at Laguna Verde which gives pretty impressive views of the Licancabur Volcano

Laguna Verde, Salar de Uyuni, salt flats south america

The Dali Desert hosts a number of rock formations in what would other wise be a barren landscape.

Dali Desert, Uyuni Salt Flats tour.

Next up is the thermal pools ‘Termas de Polques’ which are the thermal pools, they cost a little extra but we decided to skip it as we had just swam in hot springs at the El Tatio Geyser field. Nevertheless, the heat of the pools are welcome in the freezing temperatures, and the view isnt bad either.

View from the Thermal Pools Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Then you visit the Solar de Mañana geyser basin. To be honest I found this better than the El Tatio Geysers near San Pedro, which was underwhelming having visited Yellowstone a couple of times.

Geyser field on the salar de uyuni tours, bolivia

The final hotspot for the day is the Laguna Colorada, which is is super impressive because of its red colour and there are soo many flamingos there. The red is caused by sediments and the pigmentation of some of the algae. All this with a jagged volcanic backdrop and crispy white salt deposits makes it impossible not to take a good picture. Some tours choose to visit this location on the 2nd day so it may differ depending on which tour you choose.

Laguna Colarada on the Salar de Uyuni tour

Laguna Colarada 2 - Tour Salar de Uyuni

That night we thought we would take advantage of being in-the-middle of nowhere and headed out in to the desert to look at the night sky. We highly recommend you do this too, the Salar de Uyuni at night is incredible. The camera I have at the moment is my first ‘proper’ camera and I am still learning about astro-photography. Nevertheless, I have included the images because it was just so beautiful.

Salar de Uyuni at night

Day Two

Day 2 can feel like a lot of driving through the desert. First up is the ‘Valle de las Damas’ which features the ‘Piedra de Arbol’ which hosts some fascinating rock formations.

Valle de las Damas, salt flats south america Piedra del Arbol, Salar de Uyuni tours

Lagunas Chorcata and  Hedionda followed up next. Laguna Chorcata had THE BEST reflections I saw on the whole tour, it was beautiful. Laguna Hedionda is home to hundreds of flamingos who seem to be extra friendly, you can get close enough for a great picture without scaring them.

Laguna Charcota in the salt flats of Bolivia

Flamingo on the Salar de Uyuni Tour

There is then a stop off at one of the viewpoints for Volcan Ollugue. If you are lucky, this is the place where people can spot the Bolivian Viscacha. They are a rodent, part of the Chinchilla family but look more like rabbits. They enjoy the rocky terrain of this area. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see or grab a picture of these, so here’s a selfie instead!

Volcan Ollugue, Salar de Uyuni Tour.

The final stop for day two of the tour will be at Salar de Chiguana, a much smaller salt flat in comparison to the Salar de Uyuni. It was formed from small streams from the nearby mountains and of the nearby Salar de Uyuni.  The most interesting part here is the rail road tracks which actually run from Uyuni in Bolivia, to Calama in Chile. Jay saw this as an opportunity to pretend he was in Stand by Me, and our cover photo on the Lady and the Tramper homepage was born.

Train Tracks at Salar de Chiguana.

On the 2nd night, as I mentioned before you get to sleep in a salt hotel. Everything is made from salt, the walls, the floors, the beds, the only thing that isn’t is the decorations.I didn’t get a picture of our hotel as we didn’t get there until late and we were very hungry, very tired and in desperate need of a hot shower. Here’s an example of what to expect though, as we stopped off at another hotel for a beer.

Salt Hotel in Salar de Uyuni

Day Three

The big day for anyone going on the Salar de Uyuni tour from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni, today is the day you get to see the Salar de Uyuni! It’s a crazy 4am start to get down to the spot where you watch the sunrise but it is totally worth it. Be prepared for some 5am uphill walking in high altitude. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last long!

Sunrise at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

I have only decided to post one picture of the Salar on this post as  I am going to post a separate post with all our Salar de Uyuni pictures together, (keep an eye out for that post in the next couple of weeks, AKA Subscribe here!) Though we did the tour with what was supposed to the rainy season (or end of) our driver said that they had not had rain for a month. So no pretty mirror pictures for us and it did not look like we were flying. Nevertheless, the beauty of the salar was still amazing. Look how high our driver can jump! It’s all those Coco Leaves.

Jumping on the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Do you know how hard it is to get everyone to jump at the same time?!

Final stops for the tour include a quick visit to the Salt Museum and then a trip to the Train cemetary in Uyuni

Outside the Salt Museum, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Train Cemetary in Uyuni

Train Cemetary at Salar de Uyuni

Do you even lift bro?

Conclusion

So there you have it. We based our decision on a number of factors; the nice lady in the shop being one of them (reason why others picked this company too), the price was in the middle (I think that’s always a safe bet, you’re going to get something average). But at the end of the day, it’s not really down to the above. Choosing a tour can he hard because yeah, things like food and accommodation will differ, but if you’re spending 3 days 2 nights with a shit group and a worse driver, you’re probably not going to have the best experience and unfortunately that is something you cannot control. Lucky for us we had a great bunch in our group and a super friendly driver and I am sure most people will do too as everyone is there to have a great time and experience something unique. Make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes and a nice thick sleeping bag. The Salar de Uyuni altitude is over 4000m high and it gets pretty chilly.

We hope you enjoy the Salar de Uyuni salt flats and if you have a recommendation, pop it in the comments section to help future travelers make an informed decision as we can only comment on the tour we took. Also, feel free to ask us any questions about the tour and we will try our best to help you out.

If you’re looking for accommodation in San Pedro de Atacama or in Uyuni, and you found our post helpful, please check out the search tab below from Booking.com. It wont cost you anything extra if you search via this link but we will earn a small commission if you book a stay, which helps towards the running costs of this blog. 🙂 



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Sally

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