Salar de Uyuni is a must-see marvel in Bolivia, one that’s endlessly photographed and yet no picture can truly do this mesmerizing location justice.

Uyuni is the world’s largest and best-known salt flat, and covers a glistening expanse of over 4,000 square miles (a third the size of Belgium) in Bolivia’s southwest Altiplano region, near the borders with Chile and Argentina. To make the visual spectacle of Salar de Uyuni even more evocative, the salt beds that rise from the ground to form these hypnotic flats are the result of ancient, prehistoric lakes that dried up over 40,000 year ago.

What’s left, is a seemingly boundless and perfectly flat plain that’s as important for the local economy of salt extraction as it is for wide-eyed tourists keen for that perfect, iconic picture.

The only way to fully admire and understand the beauty and scale of Uyuni however, is to visit. So we’ve taken a look at some of the ultimate Uyuni travel tips and guide to help you experience the very best of Bolivia’s top natural wonder.

Routes around Uyuni

Though Salar de Uyuni is a destination in itself, the flats are actually just one highlight in a wider surrounding ecosystem of natural wonders found throughout the Altiplano region. These include natural hot springs and geysers, arid desert and high-altitude lagoons – not to mention some of the best stargazing in the world and unexpected wildlife encounters, too. As such, taking the time to plan a route around Uyuni is the best way to see all the nearby highlights and attractions at your own pace.

If you’re already in Bolivia than a flight into the small town of Uyuni from La Paz is the quickest and easiest way to get here. The town itself acts more as a functional hub, convenient for access to the salt flat and surrounding unique accommodation options. Popular routes to experience Uyuni as part of a wider tour include combining with Sucre, Potosi, or Lake Titicaca before or after your tour.

Once here, we recommend spending two-to-three days in the Uyuni region, taking in the nearby highlights of Eduardo Avaroa National Park, the Sol de Mañana Geysers, ancient ruins (and mummies) in Pukara de Ayke, Thunupa Volcano, and the giant cacti of Incahuasi Island. All of these stops – and more – can be arranged to suit your travel times and requirements with a personalized tour, before either heading back to La Paz or another destination altogether.

Combining countries with Uyuni

Due to its location near the borders with Chile and Argentina, Salar de Uyuni is easily included within a wider trip to South America and combines well with Chile, Argentina and Peru.

If looking for a scenic land crossing to Chile, head west and into the Atacama Desert. Here, as well as many outdoor activities and some of Chile’s best hotels, there are countless natural wonders to enjoy like the El Tatio Geysers, Altiplano Salt Flats, the Moon Valley, Saciel Volcano or visiting the historic highlights of San Pedro, Cejar Lagoon, and so much more.

The Atacama Desert is an otherworldly landscape that feels an age away from modern civilization. However, if Argentina is on your bucket list then head south, and make your way to Salta in the country’s north. This is a place of the famous Pampas, gaucho country and yet more dramatic rock formations. As well as the cowboy lifestyle in the estancias around Salta, you’ll also find boutique vineyards that cling to the hillsides.

Finally, combining Peru and Bolivia also makes for a fantastic and varied tour. If time is on your side, your family can experience the best of Peru’s Sacred Valley, colonial cities, and ancient past, before making way for mythical Lake Titicaca (which straddles both Bolivia and Peru) and onwards to La Paz. From here, the usual routes and highlights around Salar de Uyuni are yours to enjoy on an epic adventure.

Beautiful lagoons

Though Uyuni is of course best known for its expansive and iconic flats, this region is also home to a series of ethereal-colored salt lagoons in the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve too that will get the kids snapping away on their smart phones, and are well worth including in your tour.

The first is Laguna Verde near the Chilean border, which gives off a vibrant green color and is set against a mountainous backdrop under the watch of Licancabur and Juriques Volcanoes. At the right time of day when the sun bounces off the water, it’s a striking sight to behold. Nearby there are also hot springs to enjoy and birdlife to spot, including condors and flamingos.

Then there’s the red-hued Laguna Colorada also near the Chilean border which gives off its unique cherry color, thanks to a certain type of algae that lives near the surface. This is also a place where flamingos love to feed and breed, and makes for some of the most memorable photographs.

Unique Uyuni hotels

A unique family destination destination like Uyuni deserves a unique place to stay. Thankfully, there’s more than one eye-catching option that will make your time in Bolivia even more special. There are plenty to choose from and the Atelier specialists can help find your perfect Uyuni hotel, though a couple of our favorites include:

Airstream Campers
One of the most extraordinary places to stay in South America, the Airstream Campers make for an unforgettable immersion in the Uyuni Salt Flats. Led by your own private guide, who will drive you from one breathtaking spot to the next in a 4WD, you’ll get to reach hidden corners and unmissable sights in this impeccable landscape.

You might be glamping, but don’t think you’ll be roughing it. Each of the Airstream Campers is elegantly designed and decked out with all the mod-cons, so expect an en suite bathroom with hot water, queen-size or twin beds, air conditioning and a complimentary minibar.

You can unwind in the living and dining area of the camper, with views overlooking the expansive salt flats. And, not only will you have the chance to explore by 4WD, bike and on foot, you’ll also be treated to delicious meals prepared by your driver-guide-chef on the salt flat itself. Think sundowner cocktails looking out over the vast white expanse, and evenings spent gazing up at the twinkling stars above you.

Kachi Lodge
Escape to the vast Salar de Uyuni and hide away in the extraordinary eco-domes of Kachi Lodge, perched above the salt flat itself. Another glamping option, but not as you know it.

The sustainable lodge is a collection of eco-friendly domes scattered over the plains, next to a beguiling island of giant cacti and overlooking the imposing Thunupa Volcano. It’s the perfect retreat to connect with nature: from sunrise hikes to start the day, to nights spent stargazing at an immense, glittering sky.

Within the eco-domes are brightly colored artworks by Gastón Ugalde, the “Andy Warhol of Bolivia”. And outside you’ll find his huge woven sculptures.

Each luxury dome is also spacious at 28 square meters, with a double or twin beds and a bunk bed for all the family. You also have a private bathroom with hot water, dining area, pellet stove, clothes rack, and outdoor deck space.

Palacio de Sal
Resting on the cusp of the Uyuni Salt Plains is Palacio de Sal (literally the “Salt Palace”), one of the most distinctive and special places you can stay in the world. The kids will love it. As its name suggests, this is a hotel made almost entirely of salt, sourced from the flats themselves.

Imagine walls, furnishings, and sculptures hewn from salt, beautifully accented with tasteful touches like wood-clad floors and colorful rugs. You get a real sense of space and place at Palacio de Sal, thanks to tall ceilings and huge windows that bring you closer to the vast sky and salt flats just outside.

Your retreat at Palacio de Sal features a domed ceiling, crafted with salt bricks. Even the bed bases here are made from salt. Gorgeous views of the salt flats, hardwood floors, and Bolivian textiles also make an appearance plus a minibar, heating, private bathroom, electric blankets, and living areas in the suites.

Uyuni travel seasons and altitude

The best time to visit Uyuni depends on exactly what you want to see. There are two seasons that both offer their own appeal – the rainy season which runs from December to April, and the dry season from May to November.

In the rainy season, parts of the flats overflow with water and that’s the time to witness Uyuni’s iconic mirror-like vista’s as the motionless still surface water perfectly reflects the sky above. At the right time of day, it’s impossible to see where the horizon meets the sky, a visual phenomenon. However, depending on the level of water, some areas may be completely inaccessible so limitations may apply.

The dry season is also spectacular, though the mirror-like plains are replaced by hardened salt flats that are great for driving and all areas should be open to tourists. It’s also worth noting that Salar de Uyuni sits at over 3,600m above sea level, so it’s important to get properly acclimatized beforehand to avoid altitude sickness.

No matter what your travel style, level of luxury or adventure, Salar de Uyuni is one of South America’s most recognizable and revered travel destinations.

Speak to the travel specialists at Atelier and they will craft your dream tailormade tour.

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