Experience the incredible Uyuni Salt Flats and some of the area’s other attractions, like high altitude lagoons and hot springs in this 4 day, 3 night roundtrip from San Pedro to Uyuni.
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Private transportation, private hostel double room, customizable itinerary, English-speaking guide: $1,800 USD total (per group, 1-5 people)
Private transportation, private hostel double room, customizable itinerary, Spanish-speaking guide: $1,800 USD total (per group, 1-6 people)
Private transportation, private hotel room, customizable itinerary, English-speaking guide: $2,500 USD total (per 2 people), every additional room is an additional $280.
Please note that the exact itinerary depends heavily on weather and conditions on the salt flats. The following itinerary is subject to change – your final itinerary will be sent to you via email in an attachment.
Day 1: San Pedro to Comunidad Mallku Villa Mar
Transport from your hotel/hostel between 07:00 and 07:30 to the border of Bolivia. You will pass customs on the Chilean side and again on the Bolivian side. Once across the border, you will have some breakfast and board a 4×4 jeep in Hito Cajón (on the border) to begin your salt flats adventure! The sightseeing begins with visits to Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde, which are at the base of Volcán Licancabur. From there, you will see the Dali Desert (Norte del Salvador de Dali). After, you will visit hot springs and the Morning Sun Geysers (Geisers de Sol de Mañana). The final sight of the day is Colorado Lagoon (Laguna Colorado), which is home to hundreds of flamingos!
Places you’ll visit on Day 1:
Tonight’s lodging is in Hostal Villamar (or potentially Uturunku Hostel if you select private accommodation) at 4,000 meters (13,120 feet).
Day 2: Comunidad Mallku Villa Mar to Hostel de Sal Candelaria
After breakfast, you and the group will head to Pinturas Rupestres (Cave Paintings) and the Valley of the Rocks (Valle de las Rocas), where you can see formations such as The Lost City of Italy (Ciudad de Italia Perdida), the World Cup (Copa del Mundo), Camello (Camel), and many others! Next, you’ll visit Laguna Negra (Black Lagoon) that is full of altiplanic fauna, including Tawas (black ducks with yellow faces), Gansos (geese), and native vegetation. In this area, you’ll also visit Laguna Catal (aka Laguna Misteriosa) and Cañon de Catal. After lunch, the group will enjoy the Mirador de la Cascada de Agua Dulce (The Fresh Water Waterfall Lookout Point), from where you can see a valley which is home to many Andean towns that make their livings tending animals such as llamas and alpacas. The day ends with arrival in the community of Villa Candelaria and a night in a hostel made entirely out of salt!
Places you’ll visit on Day 2:
Tonight’s lodging is in Villa Candelaria Salt Hostel.
Day 3: Sunrise on the Uyuni Salt Flats to Comunidad Mallku Villa Mar
Today begins with a 5:00 am visit to the Isla Incahuasi (an island of coral and giant cacti in the salt flat) to watch the sunrise over the Uyuni Salt Flats. The Uyuni Salt flat is the world’s largest at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 square miles) and is 3,656 meters (11,995 feet) above sea level. It was formed from transformations between prehistoric lakes and it extraordinarily flat and expansive. After enjoying this once in a lifetime experience, you will visit a hotel made entirely out of blocks of salt (the Hotel de Playa Blanca), the Salt Eyes (Ojos de Sal), and the Montoneras de Sal (Salt Mounds). In the community of Colchani, you will have a chance to see the Artisanal Salt-Making Process. After lunch, you will head to your last attraction of the day – the Uyuni Train Cementary (Cementerio de Trenes). The group will have a break in Uyuni and then head back to Comunidad Mallku Villa Mar. (From here on, it is basically a transfer back to San Pedro, not a tour).
Places you’ll visit on Day 3:
Tonight’s lodging is in Hostal Villamar (or potentially Uturunku Hostel if you select private accommodation) at 3,500 meters (11, 500 feet).
Day 4: Villa del Mar to San Pedro de Atacama
At 5:00 am, the group will leave Comunidad Mallku Villa Mar around 05:00am, cross back through the border at Hito Cajon (4 hour drive), and arrive back in San Pedro around 12:00 (noon)!
It is recommended that you bring winter clothing and comfortable trekking shoes. Due to the high altitude and desert climate at night, it can get rather cold and you will want to layer up. Accommodations do not have heat and mornings and nights could be brutal without proper clothing. As for trekking shoes, much of the ground is uneven, so it is best to have enclosed, stable footwear with good traction. While sneakers are sufficient, boots or more hiking-oriented shoes will help keep you from skidding on certain surfaces and provide you better protection overall. Terrain is quite varied, so your ankles will be quite thankful for the extra protection.
Under ‘What’s Included’ above, we say “basic lodging” and we mean it. These are hostels and small hotels that are in basically the middle of nowhere in the desert in Bolivia, in towns that are very poor and lack the infrastructure that most travelers will be accustomed to. Please read the descriptions of what each night’s lodging includes, and if you would like a more comfortable/luxurious option, please email us at email@example.com and we will be happy to arrange something for you!
You can see photos of each of the lodging options at this link.
You will be entering Bolivia on this tour and required to comply with their visa requirements on top of any visa requirements you may have to meet for Chile. You can see the latest requirements and cost of the visa for your country at this link. We also have a blog post with more information about visas for Bolivia. Visas can cost upwards of $160 USD and are not included in the price of this tour, so it is important to consider this in budgeting for your trip. The visa process can also vary in length so you may need to plan your trip including this tour further in advance than usual.
Please note that in practice, the Bolivian government has a big gap between what is on the books and what they usually enforce, and most travelers crossing the border near the salt flats simply need a filled-out visa form, a copy of their passport, the visa fee (in crisp, new, undamaged U.S. dollars), and your itinerary.
However, the rules on the books require all of what is listed below, and if they decide to enforce those rules when you reach the border and you did not bring all the required documents, we are not responsible if you are unable to cross. The safest course of action is to apply for the visa ahead of time, following the steps below.
Visa Requirements, according to the Bolivian government:
Please note that parts of this excursion take you well above 4,000 meters (over 13,000 feet) above sea level, so it will be important to remain hydrated, both leading up to the tour and throughout the tour. Water is not very easy to come by once on the tour, so be sure to pack plenty. It is also recommended to avoid alcoholic drinks the night before this trip, as well as the nights during the tour.
Symptoms of altitude sickness can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and drowsiness. None of these symptoms are very ideal when you want to be enjoying an awesome trip to Uyuni, so warnings about hydration and avoiding alcohol should be heeded closely to help mitigate the risk. It is also more difficult to breathe at higher altitudes. This tour is not physically demanding so you should not be affected for the most part, but this is still important to take note of.
If you commonly suffer from altitude sickness, we recommend taking this tour after spending a few days in Atacama in order to acclimate if that can be worked into your personal itinerary. This excursion is not recommended for people who suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease. Pregnant women and children younger than 4 years old should not take this tour.
You can change money into Bolivian bolivianos in San Pedro de Atacama or in Uyuni on the trip. It is highly recommended that you change all the money you will need to use either in San Pedro or before you leave your country of departure. You cannot change money at the airport in Calama, and please note that in Santiago some ‘casas de cambio’ or money exchange places may not stock bolivianos.
In San Pedro, go to the street Toconao, south of Caracoles and you will find numerous casas de cambio which all have competitive exchange rates.
For your trip, here is a breakdown of expenses:
Uyuni is a very small town and is the last stop so do not rely on changing money there because if you run out beforehand you will be very stuck. Additionally, you may need extra money for souvenirs or purchases on the road if you wish. You will be taken to a market just after the salt flats on the last day – it’s much better to buy souvenirs here than in Uyuni, as there is more variety and Uyuni does not have the same type of gifts.
In total, we recommend 350 Bolivianos per person, to allow for all the required fees plus some spending money.
It should be noted that considering you will be traveling in two different countries, safety standards will vary. Bolivia is considered to be less safe than Chile, meaning you should take extra precautions. Being on a tour with others may help to mitigate some potential risks, but overall you should still maintain a higher degree of caution. You are unlikely to be a victim of violent crime in either country, but certainly be aware of your belongings as pickpocketing is common. Being out of major cities also reduces your chances of having any problems. The area isn’t wildly popular for Bolivians to live in, so you will likely be around as many travelers as locals. For more information on safety in Chile and Bolivia, please refer to our safety directory.
Another safety concern for some people traveling to Uyuni is the drivers on these tours, as there have been some horror stories about the drivers for tours to Uyuni that involved lack of safety equipment in cars and even drunk driving. We work closely with a tour operator we trust, and we have had our own staff on their tours with no such issues.
The time of year that you go to Uyuni won’t make necessarily make or break your trip, it’ll just depend on what you would like to see. The Altiplano region of Bolivia where Uyuni is located tends to have more of a wet season and a dry season as opposed to four strict seasons. Most people look for the more ideal traveling conditions overall, which are in the dry season between July and October. However, there are a good number of people who specifically seek out a visit to Uyuni in its wet season in hopes of seeing the stunning mirror effect of the water on the salt flat.
The wet season is also colder, but nights during the dry season aren’t particularly warm. During the dry season, Uyuni’s climate takes after that of the Atacama Desert in the sense that the days can be hot and sunny but the temperature can drop drastically with the sun. In either season, layers will be necessary. And in the case of the wet season, you’ll want those outer layers to be waterproof.
(Note that the tour generally follows the black lines, the blue route that goes through Ollague is only for when the Hito Cajon border is closed. This tour does not include drop-off in Calama.)
After you book your experience, you will receive a confirmation email from us confirming that your payment went through. You will then be connected directly to the tour operator, in case you have any further questions. We are also happy to answer any questions about the tour, or travel in general in your country of destination.