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3 Day Guide to the Bolivian Salt Flats


girl looking out on an island on the bolivian salt flats

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I added Bolivia to my travel plans because I really wanted to see the salt flats. I had read blogs, saw pictures, and spoke with other travellers and so I knew it was something I didn’t want to miss. All of Salar de Uyuni and southern Bolivia blew my mind! It was an incredible three days driving in a 4×4 through many different landscapes that would be a photographers dream. I could use words to describe all the places but I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves here.

Uyuni from La Paz

I booked an overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni with Todo Turismo that left La Paz at 9pm and arrived in Uyuni at 7am. You can choose a “semi cama” or a full “cama” seat, so for a few dollars more I booked the full cama to ensure maximum comfort. This was an super easy ride and I actually slept which was a miracle for me!

What to Pack

This area of Bolivia can get cold so be prepared! For three days, you don’t need much but you need what you have to be warm. Here is my recommended packing list:

  • Fleece
  • Windbreaker or light down jacket (I brought and wore both)
  • 3 pairs of thick socks
  • Two heat tec long sleeves
  • Sweatpants
  • Leggings (I wore my leggings and then my sweatpants on top)
  • Alpaca scarf and hat
  • Mittens
  • Sneakers
  • Warm pajamas
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Toiletries – face wipes are best because the water is freezing at the hotels
  • Toys to take photos with

I didn’t have a hat and survived but being warmer is better in my opinion

How I choose Red Planet Adventures as my tour company

When looking into tour companies for the salt flats, I’d recommend looking for ones that have:

  • English speaking guides
  • Less than 7 people per 4×4 van
  • Accommodations with beds and if possible, heating
  • Offer sleeping bags (for extra warmth)
  • Cover all the places from salt flats to Laguna Verde

Red Planet was a great mid priced company that offered all of the above. I felt comfortable with my driver and my guide Carlos was informative and funny. It made for a great experience.

When we arrived in Uyuni, the sun was beginning to rise, painting the town in an orange colour. Uyuni itself can be described as a deserted town that has been taken over by travel agencies and a few brass sculptures.

My tour company, Red Planet Adventures, picked us up right from the bus drop and brought us to the office to check in. I met Kat almost as soon as I checked in and we became fast friends. At 11am, they organized us into a bunch of 4x4s and off we went.

Day 1

This whole day was focused on seeing the train cemetery and the salt flats so I was super stoked to see the places I had come to Bolivia to experience. Carlos was a really informative guide and told us all about the history and geographical makeup of the places we went.

Previously, the train system in Bolivia was used heavily to transport goods across the country. Now it’s a train cemetery because the trains were abandoned due to conflict with the local indigenous peoples.

The salt flats were created from a bunch of prehistoric lakes and now cover over 10,000 square kilometers at an altitude of 3656 meters above sea level. The salt flats are used to make consumable salt and salt bricks for construction. The area also contains large amounts of lithium that they are currently extracting for the world’s battery needs. Because of how vast and white it is, set against the bluest of skies, it makes for great photos.

After spending our afternoon at the flats, we went to the cactus island to really appreciate how big the flats are. Cactus island is a walkable island filled with, you guessed it, cacti. A fun fact is the older the cactus, the whiter their tops are.

We returned to the salt flats for a very windy and cold sunset but I did manage to take a few photos.

At dusk, we drove to our hostel that was partly made out of salt bricks. The walls, tables, and chairs were all made of salt! We had a nice dinner of soup and chicken and then had an early night.

Day 2

We covered a lot of ground on this day and drove up to an altitude of over 5000 meters! The altitude bothered me a little bit but I drank some coco tea and kept hydrated and my headache subsided thankfully. The weather was cold!!! I was very happy to have my alpaca scarf, windbreaker and mittens to keep me kinda warm.

Because we had already visited what I thought would be the highlight, I was excited to see what else this country had. We started in the salt flats and by night, we were close to the southern most point of Bolivia. We saw three different lagunas, volcanos, and ended at our rustic accommodation that was beside a hot spring. These landscapes were so incredibly beautiful that I don’t think the pictures do it justice but I need something to remember the places by!

The most memorable part of this day for me was after dinner, our guide Carlos took us outside and gave us the most comprehensive astrology lesson that I’ve ever had and then went into the hot spring and enjoyed a night under the Milky Way and watching the moon rise over the dark mountains! Pachamama (aka Mother Nature) is incredible!

Day 3

We woke early and headed to Laguna Verde which wasn’t that green because there wasn’t much wind this day so the water wasn’t mixing with the organisms in the bottom that usually give it the green colour. This was where I had to say goodbye to my guide Carlos because he was taking the travelers heading to Chile. I hopped in another car and off we went back to Uyuni. We made a few pit stops to stretch our legs and got to experience even more incredible landscapes.

These three days were an incredible experience for me and I would highly recommend for people to come and experience this beautiful country with their own two eyes. I’m so grateful to have experienced the salty life!



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