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Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni: Your guide to visiting the world’s largest salt flats

Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat, located in southwestern Bolivia. Here's everything you need to know about visiting this iconic natural wonder, from when to visit to what to pack.
Written by Aimee White - SEO Copywriter
Date Published: 14 June 2024
 
Salar de Uyuni (the “salt flats of Uyuni”) is the largest salt flat in the world. Located in southwestern Bolivia, its all-white salt crust covers 10,000 square kilometres (4,000 square miles) of high-altitude land (3,656m above sea level), near the crest of the Andes.

These salt flats were formed over 40,000 years ago, when several prehistoric lakes dried up, leaving behind a lakebed of rich minerals. Today, Bolivia's salt flats welcomes thousands of visitors each year - if you're eager to experience this unique natural landmark for yourself, why not consider our small group tour? You'll explore the dream-like salt flats by 4WD with like-minded travellers and an expert tour leader.

Read on for everything you need to know about Salar de Uyuni, from what to pack to how to take great photographs:

Is Salar de Uyuni worth visiting?

Absolutely! Our Bolivia small group tour brings you to the heart of Salar de Uyuni and beyond, with plenty of time to make the most of this natural spectacle. When rainfall floods the salt flats, it forms beautiful reflections of the heavenly skies above. Bolivia's salt flats are just as stunning in the dry season, with a myriad of mesmerising crystallised shapes taking form across the vast landscape. Whenever you choose to visit, there's no doubt you'll be blown away by the endless views.
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Where should I go on a tour of Salar de Uyuni?

Start your tour in Uyuni to see the blinding-white flats or wade through the ankle-deep water, depending on the season. Our Best of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile tour also takes you to Incahuasi Island (Cactus Island), a remote outcrop in the middle of the salt flats. It’s filled with huge, millennia-old cacti and a unique Stairway to Heaven art installation, which looks exactly as it sounds. You will also venture to nearby Laguna Hedionda and Laguna Colorada, both of which are awesome spots to see flamingos lingering along the shorelines. 

When to visit Salar de Uyuni: Mirror season

One of the most popular times to visit Salar de Uyuni is during the 'mirror' season.  December to March see the most rainfall - particularly January and February - which floods Bolivia's salt flats. This heavy rainfall creates mirror-like reflections of the skies above, giving its nicknames of “the biggest mirror in the world” and “nature’s mirror”. We've answered more booking and pre-departure advice in our frequently asked questions blog post.

When to visit Salar de Uyuni: Dry season

The dry season is another excellent time to visit Salar de Uyuni. There's little rain between April and November, making the salt flats appear like a sheet of pure snow (although not as smooth!). Or, if it's really dry, the salt crust cuts unique shapes, forming a striking honeycomb-like layout. During this season there's also a build-up of conical salt mounds peppered across the flats, too. These are sold and exported both locally and across the world.
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How do I get to Salar de Uyuni?

If you're travelling within Bolivia, the best route is from La Paz, the capital city. From Peru, you can travel from Lima, Puno or Cusco to Uyuni, changing at La Paz. If you're travelling from Chile, it's best to go from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni, and from Argentina you can travel from Salta, changing at the border town of La Quiaca and onto Uyuni or Tupiza.

With long journey times and few direct transport options, joining a tour is the best (and easiest) way to visit Bolivia's salt flats. On our tour of Bolivia's salt flats, you'll travel by 4WD vehicle from the Argentinian border town of La Quiaca and into Tupiza, before continuing onto Uyuni.

What are the temperatures like in Salar de Uyuni?

Salar de Uyuni has a unique climate. Its dry season dominates most of the year, with average temperatures of 5°C between May to September, and peaking to 14°C between October to December. However, night temperatures can drop as low as -15°C. Meanwhile, the wet or 'mirror' season sees milder day temperatures of 17-22°C, although there is heavy rainfall during these months. It's important to book the appropriate travel insurance, too, no matter what time of year you visit.

What hotels are there in Salar de Uyuni?

Hotels in Salar de Uyuni may be simple, but they sure are stunning. On our small group tour, you'll stay in comfortable accommodation in Tupiza, set amid dusty canyonlands and striking landscapes. In Uyuni, you'll stay at the unique Laguna Salada Hotel de Sal, which is made entirely from salt, with a scenic location overlooking Bolivia's salt flats.

Meanwhile, the accommodation at Laguna Hedionda highlights simplicity in perfection; while hot water and electricity are turned off at night, you can sleep easy knowing you're located next to one of the most beautiful lagoons on the altiplano.
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What do you wear to Salar de Uyuni?

What to wear to Bolivia's salt flats depends on when you visit. The mirror season has milder temperatures but also the most rain, so you'll want to pack lighter clothing as well as waterproofs. If you're visiting during the dry season, the colder temperatures mean you should wear warmer layers, including thermals, gloves, a scarf and a winter coat. Whatever time of year you visit, the ultimate packing list to Salar de Uyuni should include sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat - and don't forget your camera.

How to take great photographs of Salar de Uyuni

With its uninterrupted flat terrain, Salar de Uyuni is a photographer's paradise. During the dry season, lots of props are involved; your guide will likely take your photos and play with perspective to create fun, creative photographs, such as groups 'standing' on guitars or 'inside' a pot. During the mirror season, try to position the camera as close to the water surface as you can, or wait for clouds in the sky so you can capture the world's largest mirror in all its reflective glory. Salar de Uyuni is very light and bright, so make sure subjects face towards the sun to avoid shadows.
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