Bolivia: Uyuni and the Great Salt Plains


I spent one night in Uyuni in a freezing cold hostel room, before heading out for my three day tour. There are numerous tour companies doing the Uyuni trip, and prices vary a lot. In the end I went with Red Planet because although they weren’t the cheapest they have a good reputation, particularly with regards to safety.

You could just turn up in Uyuni and see what is available (there are dozens of tour companies lining the main street) but you take your chance what you get (and you may not find anything. Uyuni town is not somewhere you’d want to be stuck for a few days waiting for your tour to begin; there’s not much to do in the town itself).

My three-day tour cost just over $200 and then you have a few entrance fees on top of that, hire of a sleeping bag if you need that, tips (obviously voluntary) and usually a hostel room either before or after the trip (unless you manage to get very lucky with the timings of your flights/buses).

If you are short of time (and/or money) there are also day trips that just go to the salt flats (which are the highlight of the region). However Uyuni is quite remote and travelling all that way just to do a day trip might feel too much like hard work.


Playing with perspective on the salt flats.  Maybe I should have researched how to do this before I got here, but good fun anyway.


I can’t overstate this. I really don’t like the cold and kept myself going by remembering that afterwards I was off to a warmer city and a building with a pool.

Even by local standards, the guide told me,  it is particularly cold this year. They had had a particularly dry wet season (if you’re a quinoa fan beware that this means higher prices are on the way for your cereal of choice) and were now having a particularly cold winter.

Anyway, most tours follow roughly the same route, although there are variations in the wet season because of pure practicalities.

We started at the cemetery of trains, just outside of the town.  The trains mostly date from the early 20th century.  When the mining industry collapsed the trains were simply left to rust.  Lots of great photo opportunities here.

Then we drove on to the salt flats themselves. The salt flats are massive (more than 10,000 square kilometres).

Then there was a stop at this amazing ‘island’ in the middle of the salt flats.  Not technically an island of course; it is the site of an old volcano that was submerged around 40,000 years ago.  Now it is home to an abundance of giant cacti (and a visitor centre).


This was followed by sunset



Followed by an overnight in a hotel made of salt.


The next day we headed past some funky rocks… (the rocks were formed from lava dropping from nearby volcanoes)…

…to the pink lagoon.  The colour of the lake is caused by animal plankton.  It is home to many flamingos, although not too many of them were around for my trip; the lake was too dry.  I met some friendly llamas though…

Then we went to the geysers. This was 5,000 metres above sea level.  It is hoped that one day these geysers can provide the energy needs of the surrounding area.

We ended the day in a hut/hostel. It was quite basic (no running water and electric just for a couple of hours; like a prison we had lights out at nine). It was very cold. There was a hot spring very close (heated by the geysers above), but I didn’t go. I was simply too cold to function by then. (hence no photo).

On the last day we stopped off to see Salvador Dali desert.


Dali never visited Bolivia, although it is widely believed (inside Bolivia at any rate) that this was the inspiration for his surrealist desert paintings.

Then onwards to the green lagoon, which wasn’t green.


Apparently there needs to be wind to blow up all the sediments and produce the green colour.


Then we continued on the long drive back to Uyuni.

I met some fab people on the trip and enjoyed some great conversations (you know travellers, always talking about where they’ve been and where they’re going next, but I did have some conversations that got a bit beyond that kind of smalltalk). However I’m not the most social of animals and after three days I was glad to get back to my own space and my own agenda.



21 replies »

  1. Hello Sarah. Oh I do enjoy your blog, it takes me to places I never even knew existed. How cool are the salt flats and that ‘salt hotel’ lol. The pictures are brilliant but I am like you, I do not do cold. I hope you get some sunshine soon my friend. Amazing photos and you truly are having a great adventure. Much love xx

    • Yes it was like no other place I’ve been, however I really had had enough of being cold by the end of it. I’m in the hot/humid part of Bolivia now (although it’s raining today) and headed to Rio next week.
      That stupid vote has changed so much; I might need to cut the trip short now and so I’m speeding everything up a little. We’ll see.

  2. Very interesting trip although I am not sure I would be able to stand the cold. I wonder when and how it will be when it is a bit warmer.?c

    • I don’t think it does get that much warmer, I mean it’s never t-shirt weather there. They have a wet season when it is slightly less cold, and I’ve seen some amazing photos from rainy season, but then it’s wet as well as cold.

  3. I have never seen anything like Uyuni. How wonderful to do a trip like this that most travelers have never even heard of. Then to stay in a hotel made of salt? Another very unique way to travel. Makes someone like me have a little “travel envy”! 😀

    • People suggested it, but it’s not the edible kind of salt, more the stuff they use for icy roads and such, so probably not such a good idea to eat it.
      It wasn’t uncomfortable exactly, just cold.

    • No I did really, really enjoy it. It was just sooooo cold. It is a unique place. You’ll have an amazing experience there 🙂

  4. This looks like a very interesting trip. I am not familiar with Uyumi so I learned alot. Hope to have my own salt flat photos some day but I didn’t realize how cold it was. The rock formations are cool and seeing the llamas in the wild would be awesome!

  5. What an interesting place! Desert, salt flats, volcanoes, wow! I am especially intrigued by the salt hotel you stayed at – I would totally do that. Too bad it was so cold but glad you shared the experience with us!

  6. This place looks incredible and it certainly doesn’t look cold at all! looks can be deceiving at times I guess!

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