Although most people visit Uyuni town just as a starting point to visit the salt flats, Uyuni town itself has a few interesting things to see and do.
The best things to do in Uyuni town are:
- Visit the Train Cemetery
- Visit the Kawsay Wasy Museum
- Visit the San Cristobal de Lipez Church
- Visit Plaza de Acre
- Stroll along the Avenida Ferroviaria
- Visit Pulacayo
- Visit the Archaeological Museum
- Take a Starlight + Sunrise tour
- Climb Cerro Toco
- Enjoy a gourmet meal at The Hot Spot
- Have a coffee at the Railway Cafe
- Have some craft beers at Llama Cafe
Now that you have a brief overview about the things to do in the town, I’ll tell you a little bit about each item on the list so you can choose which options are best for you and plan your day accordingly.
The Train Cemetery
Uyuni, “place of concentration” in the Aymara language, attracts visitors because of the salt flats, and in recent years because it has been a stopover point for the Dakar Rally.
But, before entering the immense sea of salt, few forget to take a stroll through the train cemetery, on the outskirts of the city of just 21,000 inhabitants.
Tourists are attracted by the unusual rust cemetery turned into a ghost train station at more than 3,000 meters above sea level. Machines that will never reach their destination, wagons that no longer tell stories, locomotive skeletons and wheels twisted by time lie scattered on the icy soils of the altiplano, in the midst of oblivion and indifference. Drilled and starving trains that only whistle when the strong local wind blows through the holes in the scrap metal.
Overall, it’s a different experience, where you have fun walking between the trains and trying to get on them so you can take good pictures. It’s a pretty quiet place, with very nice views.
Kawsay Wasy Museum
If you like archaeological museums, this is a good one. It is interesting to enter, see and learn about the remains discovered. You’ll be pleasantly surprise to see mummies and skeletons that are so well preserved.
About thirty burials were discovered in the 1950s, in hollow blocks in which the kings of Lipez were buried. The natives made an opening in these blocks which is the size of a mummified body in fetal position. There are several little mounds with holes to see skeletons with typical Inca clothing and tools.
This is a place where you can see and understand how the ancient people of the region were buried. Due to the drought these remains are perfectly preserved.
There is also a museum and an old Inca cemetery.
San Cristobal de Lipez Church
This is the main church of Uyuni and is located in the heart of the city. The most important thing is that it has all the traditions of its people in the construction. Built 2000 years ago out of volcanic stone, this church was moved stone by stone to it’s current location.
The church is only open on Sundays for mass. The interior of the church is closed during the rest of the week. However, it’s still a great stop to get some incredible pictures and admire the architecture.
Plaza de Arce
One of the main squares of Uyuni town, starting from the Plaza de Arce you can go for a walk and find restaurants, pizzerias, clothing stores, typical regional articles stores, souvenirs, pharmacies, supermarkets. Whatever you need during your stay, you will find around this square.
This is the square that has the emblematic clock and the monument to the Dakar. Try and visit the clock tower at night. It looks beautiful when it’s illuminated. Also, most of the shops and restaurants close by 9pm so if you’re planning to eat at one of the restaurants near the square, make sure you go early.
The Avenida Ferroviaria is one of the main avenues in Uyuni, where all the offices that offer the different excursions to the salt flat are located. The 4×4 vehicles that take you on excursions also leave from here. This is the best place to start your visit. Most travel agencies and restaurants are on this avenue in addition to the train station, bars and pubs.
On some days, there’s also a local handicrafts market on this avenue. If you’re lucky to be in Uyuni town during one of these days, it’s the best place to buy souvenirs.
Most of the hotels/hostels in Uyuni town are located around this avenue.
Located 25 km from Uyuni and 200 km from Potosi, Pulacayo has the appearance of a city in the American Far West. It is through this gully, located in the Chichas mountain range, that the first Bolivian railway once passed.
In Pulacayo there is another train cemetery. These rusty locomotives and wagons once served to transport the silver extracted from the mines of Potosi to Chile to be later sent to the Spanish Crown. Trains also played an important role during the Pacific War.
Today, the trains are covered with rust from the effect of time, sun, salt and rain and the former mansion of millionaire Aniceto Arce looks like a ghost town.
The Museo Arquecologia y Antropologico de los Andes Meridionales is a small, but interesting museum where you can find mummies, agricultural tools, dried quinoa plants and clothing from past eras.
Starlight + Sunrise tour
This is more of an overnight excursion but it’s a must do if you’re short on time or planning only a day-trip to the salt flats. Uyuni is the best place to see the extremes thanks to the clean sky without pollution.
On this excursion, you get to see the best that the Salar de Uyuni has to offer. The incredible landscapes of the salt dessert, the milky way like you’ve never seen before and a magnificent sunrise that you’ll never ever forget.
The trek up Cerro Toco is a very good experience both for those who are experienced in trekking and for those who want to acclimatize to make higher altitude ascents. From its summit, you can see magnificent views of the Salar de Uyuni and the San Pedro de Atacama valley.
The Hot Spot
The Hot Spot is the only gourmet restaurant in Uyuni. If you like an inventive, original and refined cuisine, this is where you have to eat. The best option is to go for the 7 course tasting menu and experience original, unexpected flavours.
Overall, they have good music, good coffee, good service, good food, good drinks and above all great service!
The Railway Cafe-Bistro stands out for its atmosphere and historical details. In addition, the food is delicious, the service unsurpassed and it’s a cozy place with a great atmosphere.
It’s one of the best places for breakfast in Uyuni with vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. All breakfasts come with fruit, yogurt, honey and delicious orange juice. The sweet breakfast comes with crepes and the savory breakfast comes with what is probably the best egg sandwich you’ll eat in Bolivia.
The Llama Cafe is a great little vegan place in Uyuni town. They have great coffee, sandwiches and craft beers. The owner Bismark is very hands-on and speaks both English and French fluently.
Besides the cozy atmosphere and incredible food, it’s a great place to meet both locals and travelers. If you haven’t already booked your trip to the salt flats, you may even meet some new friends you can share the journey with.
Although Uyuni is a small town, it has an interesting history and is full of culture. Spending a couple of days in Uyuni town is a great way to relax after a trip to the salt flats before moving on to explore the rest of Bolivia.