Insider South America Series, Chapter 10: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

person_outline Ryan Turnbull & Ethan Harwood
May 28, 2019
timer 11 min read

Home to one of the most incredible sights in the world - the world's largest salt flat. Measuring at over 10,000 square kilometres, it's easy to see why so many travellers around the world come to visit this beauty every year. 

Where to Stay

First off, you need a spot to rest your head. This is where things can get a little tricky. How many nights do you book in Uyuni? Our first suggestion is to spend one night in the town and book a 2-4 day excursion afterwards. Don’t stress, you can book it with short notice as there are many tour operators. Take our word for it though, the Salar is not the only thing to see in Uyuni.

We stayed at a hostel called Oro Blanco. It’s nothing flash but a comfy bed, free breakfast and a shower every day was good enough. The best thing about it was the location - only a short 5-minute walk from the bus station, and smack-bang in the middle of all the different tour operators.

The reason we recommend only one night is so that you can relax, admire the mirror reflection at night and save your money for if you choose to go on a longer excursion.

explore-salar-de-uyuni-bolivia-3

Who to book with

Now that you have your accomodation sorted, you need to find a tour company. It’s impossible for us to give you a recommendation right now, as their prices are always fluctuating.

What we DO recommend is not booking the first tour your find. Do some shopping around. We ended up booking our tour from the small tour company right next door to our hostel. A lovely older Bolivian lady runs the shop and speaks fluent English, which was super handy! Not to mention, her prices were nearly half of what everyone else was trying to charge us!

Top tip: Don’t be fooled! Just because the sign on the shop fronts say “English tour guide” does not mean they have English tour agents or guides. It pretty much just means you will pay top dollar for the same tour as anyone else.

Choosing your tours

After a lot of researching, we ended up booking two tours. The tours we booked aligned with exactly what we wanted to do on our Salar adventure. We recommend researching exactly what you want to do in this town and making sure the tours you choose cover them all.

Admire the Salar Sunset

This tour was by far one of the best experiences we’ve had so far! Being quite a popular tour (and for good reason), spaces do fill up quite fast so I would recommend either booking in advance, or as soon as you arrive. Once you’ve booked, you’ll have the day to relax and explore the town. Take it easy as there’s not a whole lot to do. Meet your tour group and driver in the late afternoon and head out to the Salt Flats in a massive patrol vehicle.

explore-salar-de-uyuni-bolivia-2

On the first stop, you’ll get a taste of how big Salar truly is. You can’t see the beginning or the end of it, it’s magical. After a few moments taking it all in, you’ll cruise off to the water’s edge to witness the perfect reflection. We recommend experiencing this in the wet season.

Once you stop, you’ll be supplied a pair of gumboots to protect your shoes. Look off into the distance and you’ll see a perfectly still body of water covering the Salar, a.k.a. the world's biggest mirror. Or what the Bolivians call it, the border of heaven and Earth.

You can’t see the horizon from where you stand, it all blends together to make the perfect lanscape. It’s pure bliss. You’ll be given some free time to take photos, enjoy the sunset and marvel at the glory of where you are. At some point, your guide will call you all in, and you can create a time lapse video which makes for an epic keepsake.

Make sure to get a copy, it is incredible! Just when you think you’ve seen the best of it and the sun has set… The real magic happens. Look up and you will see the Milky Way, the planets and the solar system as it reflects upon the Salar that you stand.

Time to Adventure!

This is where it gets really fun! After our sunset tour and experiencing a natural high, we rested up and woke up early for our next big adventure.

We left at around 5:30am and started our venture deep into the Salar. On our journey, we made a few stops along the way to take some happy snaps, create crazy optical illusion videos and purely to soak up stunning Salar!

You’ll catch the volcanic water bubbling in parts, plains of salt as far as you can see and many more amazements on your trip. Lunch is served in a house made completely out of salt bricks, right in front of an island of flags. Photogenic is definitely an understatement. Make sure to find your national flag before you leave!

Next stop? The base of the Tunupa Volcano, which is incredibly picturesque. Once you reach the bottom of what appears to be a floating volcano, you’ll be transferred to your accommodation and set loose to wander the island for a few hours.

Watch the Salar sunset for a second time and see the mass of stars sitting above the volcano. When the opportunity arises to pay for a guide to take you for the 8-10 hour hike up the volcano the following morning - absolutely do it!

It was hands-down one of the most incredible hikes with the greatest views imaginable! You’ll reach a height of almost the same as the base camp of Everest! Some parts of the hike are a bit steep but there’s no denying that it’s worth it.

Following your hike, you’ll visit Cactus island. The name speaks for itself, and finally, back to your hostel. A pretty full-on two days, but certainly the best two days you will have!

Special mention - Tour to Atacama from Uyuni.

For those looking for a fun way to cross from Bolivia to Chile. You can look at doing a 3-night tour from Uyuni, crossing the border of Chile and finishing up in the famous, Atacama desert. I mean, if you have to cross the border, why not have fun doing it?

Follow us on instagram at @rysys_world_tour and @ethanharwood80 for more awesome pics and vids!

See where you can go, get paid to teach English or fill your soul with volunteering in South America, either way you'll have plenty of time to explore Bolivia and make some epic memories for yourself!
Un-Bolivi-able!

Ryan Turnbull & Ethan Harwood

Ryan Turnbull & Ethan Harwood

Ryan & Ethan are guest bloggers currently hopping their way around South America and are the creative minds behind By Travellers For Travellers! For more hidden gems and tons of photographic inspiration from their adventure, follow them on @rysys_world_tour & @ethanharwood80.