Salar de Uyuni is not only the world's largest salt flat, it is also one of the most fascinating landscapes i have ever visited. This my friends is a must see before you die !
Apparently the salt flats used to be connected to Lake Titicaca (see post on Titicaca). It used to be one massive lake, till they got disconnected from each other and the lake dried out to leave a massive salt flat behind. When you are on the salt flats of Uyuni it may look like you standing on solid earth covered with salt, but don’t be fooled. The Salar Uyuni is not without dangers. On various spots there is water running underneath the surface. At some spots the water even comes and peak at the surface. It's like standing on a layer of thick ice, but in this case the ice is salt. Lots of it. Many tour operators offer multiple day 4wheel drive tours to visit the salt flats. Although, if you have a car or motorbike, you could easily do it yourself, as no one will prohibit you from entering the salt flats. But be aware, many people have died on the flats, mainly because people getting their car stuck on weak spots or because they got lost because there is no sense of orientation on the flats. Oh and don't expect any lights during the night, it will get pitch black down there. Which does result in amazing star skies. And as soon as the sun goes down, so goes the temperature. In winter night temperatures can reach below 20°C! So unless you came really well prepared, book a tour!
book a tour
The most common tour is the 3day 4wheel drive experience. You will find plenty of tour operators once you arrive (over a hundred) so don't worry to find one. I would not advice to book in advance, this will only cost more and often doesn’t guarantee anything more than a hassle with the confirmation upon arrival. My advice, just show up and go see a few agencies. If you arrive with the morning bus, big chance there will be some agencies waiting you up so they can fill their 4X4 before setting of. Again, go see tripadvisor for the latest reviews as lots of companies change their drivers and names all the time.
How to make sure to book a good tour ? Here are some tips for you
tips for booking a tour at Salar Uyuni
- -always ask the agency to show you the trip on the map. So you make sure everything you want to do is included.
- -ask to see (at least a photo of) the 4wheel drive you will be taking the trip with. These cars run mostly on salt, what makes that they erode very fast. So don't worry if the car doesn't look at its best from the outside
- -ask how many will be traveling in the 4X4. Don't go with companies that sit more than 7 people. In fact, try 6. We were with 7, the car was packed, but the group was great, so we had good fun!
- -ask if the guide speaks English. Big chance you will pay up to double the price if you have a perfect English speaking guide. My advice, if you manage to help yourself in Spanish, go for a Spanish speaking guide. Their enthusiasm is far more important than their ability to speak English!
- -ask who your fellow travelers will be. You don't want to be the only English speaking guy in a packed 4X4 full of Frenchies for 3 days. I can imagine that on the other hand, you wouldn't mind being the only guy in a group of 5 hot Swedish volleyball players (if you are a guy off course).
- -bargain on the price. Tell them you have a better deal somewhere else. Especially when you or your group would make the 4X4 complete. They don't like to take off with a half full car!
- -take warm clothes, but don't bring your full suitcase or bag. There isn't to much space to put away your luggage (on top of the car). So take only what is really necessary
- -bring extra batteries or chargers for your camera or phone. Don't count on it that you will see an electricity plug in the next 3 days.
- -bring sunglasses ! Those white salt flats are like snow. They'll reflect the sun like a mirror, so protect your beautiful eyes!
- -Lip balm and sunscreen are also welcome.
- -bring a wind jacket. No trees or houses to block the wind here. A good wind jacket will protect you from that cold wind.
- -a scarf could come handy to hide your face in when you drive in the sandy roads towards the lagoons.
- -extra food. We had plenty, but you hear lots of complaints about people not having enough food. Bring some extra snacks, like cookies and nuts.
- -water ! besides during the meals, it is not provided! You ll need it. Count for 1 liter a day, that should do the trick.
- -think of some good ideas for photos. You'll have like one hour to go nuts taking photos at the actuall salt flats. Big change it will be the only time in your life you'll be there. Make sure to get that funny or epic photo you wanted!
here is an idea for those who want to take a photo or video:
5 Things to see at Salar Uyuni
- The salt Dakar Statue:
Since the Dakar rally moved to South America the Salt Flats have been the décor for some epic passages in the world most famous rally. Make sure to check the huge salt statue of the iconic Dakar logo.
- Salt hotel:
If you book a multiple day tour, you’ll probably stay in one, but the salt hotels are defenitly something quite special. These hotels, as most of the houses near the flats, are completely build out of salt! Yep, nothing but salt. The one we stayed at had even powder salt underground. Basicly salt sand. Oh, and don’t forget to give the walls a lick. Just to convince you they are real salt..
- The train graveyard:
as if you walk in the Lions King elephant graveyard. Soooo cool. Old rusty trains in a abounded open place where nothing grows. In a way quite creepy, but soooo cool.
Epic. Just epic. Relax, get to getter and let is all sink in...
- international flag post:
You're in the middle of nowhere. And then you see a post where people from all different nations have planted their flags. Just Fabulous! Brings yours to make sure your country is represented
from La Paz there are plenty of night busses. Ideal to arrive in the morning around 7, and give you the time to search for a 9 am tour. Tour operators always look for extra people to fill there 4X4. SO don't worry too much. You will find a spot! And if not, you’ll have the whole day to wander around and look for a tour for the next day!