At the beginning of each year, the Salar de Uyuni becomes the largest mirror in the world. A gigantic extension, which reflects the light, creating impossible optical effects. The earth and the sky merge, the horizon is diluted and all perspective is lost.
If you want to see the mirror reflection that is caused by the Salar de Uyuni being covered by water, you should visit between December and April which is the wet season.
Despite the fact that these are the summer months in Bolivia, a phenomenon called “invierno del altiplano” (winter of the high plateau) occurs, which generates rain almost every day. If you travel in these months you will be able to see the fragmentations of water in the salt flat that create a kind of giant mirror but you will not be able to travel the salt flat completely, since some parts are closed.
Between May and August is the Bolivian winter and you can not see the mirror effect making it the worst time to go to Salar de Uyuni. June and July are the coldest months in Salar de Uyuni.
From September to November the climate is quite pleasant but there is no rain and therefore no mirror effect.
- How many days do you need to visit the Salar de Uyuni?
- How to get to the Salar de Uyuni
- Tips to travel to the Salt Flats
- What to see in the Salar de Uyuni
How many days do you need to visit the Salar de Uyuni?
Even one day is enough to visit Salar de Uyuni. You can stay in the city of Uyuni and in one day go to the salt flats and return. Most of the tours that are taken in Atacama or Uyuni last from 3 to 4 days.
However, 90% of the tourists who go to Uyuni are not satisfied only with the salt flats but also tour the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, a natural compendium made up of volcanoes, lagoons, geysers, desert and much, much fauna.
How to get to the Salar de Uyuni
There are several ways to get to Uyuni: Plane, bus, train and tours.
Travel to Uyuni by Plane
From the capital of Bolivia (La Paz) there are flights to the city of Uyuni (yes, Uyuni is also a city and near it is the salt flat) from where you can take a taxi (the airport is about 15 minutes from the center) and go to the city to hire a tour or rent a car (which I do not recommend at all, the roads are in very bad condition and there are almost no signs).
Bus to go to Uyuni
If you are in La Paz or Sucre you can take a bus to the city of Uyuni for a reasonable price that you can check on this page. The trip is approximately 10 hours.
Train to Uyuni
This is probably the most complicated way of traveling. From La Paz there are trains to Oruro and from there you have to take another train to Uyuni.
Tips to travel to the Salt Flats
- Try not to do the tour on your own, the roads are quite dangerous even for the same guides who know the route.
- Please take two pairs of shoes, more if you go in the rainy season.
- Hydrate yourself as much as you can, for this you must carry enough water with you. As you can imagine, there are no shops in the middle of the salt flat.
- Wear a coat even if it’s summer. The temperatures can drop dramatically.
- Apply plenty of sunscreen.
- If you get altitude sickness, eat something sweet. I recommend carrying headache pills and some choose to eat coca leaves.
- Always carry cash.
- Don’t forget to carry different toys for perspective photos.
What to see in the Salar de Uyuni
Inside the salt flat there are several important points where the tours stop.
The salt flat is said to have originated from the evaporation over thousands of years of two lakes: the Michín and the Tauka. These lakes dried up because of the heat produced by the volcanic activity in the area and the lack of tributaries.
There are more than 10 thousand kilometers of pure salt and it is estimated that there are at least 100 million tons of lithium under its surface. The feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by pure salt and seeing how the drivers maneuver along the way is also memorable.
It’s a waterless island in the middle of a salt desert. Its greatest attraction is the hundreds of huge cacti that have been there for thousands of years. In addition the island has a path that can be climbed to get a panoramic view of the salt flat. The entrance to this island is paid apart from the tour and in the rainy season it is impossible to access it.
Monument or Flag Island
It is a place full of flags from different countries of the world that have been left by the tourists who visit the salt flat every year. What is exciting is that everyone is looking for their own flag and, of course, it is ideal to take pictures.
Hotel Playa Blanca
Apparently, this is the first salt hotel in the world. It is really beautiful inside and it is impressive to see that almost all the furniture including the walls are made of salt. At the moment, it’s not possible to stay in the hotel because of water problems but it is open to the public to eat and buy handicrafts.
Monument to the Dakar
It’s a monument of salt almost in front of the hotel Playa Blanca with the symbol of the Dakar Rally, was built in 2014.
It’s small artisan town where most of the tours stop for tourists to buy handicrafts. The prices are really cheap and you get beautiful things made of salt and alpaca, an ideal place to support the local economy and take a nice souvenir.
Near the city of Uyuni there are several abandoned trains dating from the end of the 19th century. They were used to transport minerals to Chile but today they are only there to be photographed.
City of Uyuni
Although it is a small city it is considered the most important in the Bolivian southwest. The City of Uyuni is the final stop for those who take the tour from Atacama and the starting point for those who leave from there to tour around the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve up to Chile.