Salar de Uyuni should be at the top of every South American bucket list – check out the amazing, diverse landscape & see why a 4 day from Tupiza delivers so much more than just salt flats .

Plateaus, mountains, ruins, lakes, llamas, flamingos, salt flats, miners, sand storms, deserts, jeeps, hot springs, geysers, volcanoes, algae, rocks, dinosaurs, caves, graveyard trains & obligatory salt flat snaps

At 10,582 sq kms, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat located in the south-west of Bolivia.

But a tour of the region delivers so much more than just salt – don’t just make a day trip, take a 4 day tour from Tupiza to Salar de Uyuni to experience it all!

Best Salar de Uyuni tour

4 Day Tupiza-Uyuni Tour – Let’s Go!

Day 1: Tupiza-Quetana

Here at DIY Travel HQ, our journey to the fabled fields was slightly unconventional, coming in from the “wine country” of Tarija in the south east, as opposed to most travellers who head in directly from La Paz.

Leaving Tupiza, we crossed into a spectacular countryside of rolling hills, eroded rock formations & valleys. Winding roads led towards the large fin formations of the Quebrada de Palala riverbed & El Sillar (The Saddle), stunning against a backdrop of multi-coloured mineral deposits and scattered cacti

Tupiza to Uyuni drive

The drive out of Tupiza was spectacular

We had a roadstop at Awanapampa, observing a plateau of grazing llamas and alpacas.

Awanapampa llama

The first of many llamas spotted at Awanapampa!

Suddenly, snow capped mountains appeared, before we stopped to explore the mysterious ruins of the ancient colonial village of San Antonio.

San Antonio Bolivia mountain

Breathtaking mountain scenery on to way to San Antonio

The first of many lakes over the next 3 days, at a windy & chilly 4855m above sea level.

Lake Salar de Uyuni

Stunning lake views towards the end of Day 1

We arrived at a homestay in Quetena for the night, pretty late & hungry (photo is from the next morning).

A typical 3 course Bolivian dinner was cooked for us: soup, mince & mash, & fruit.

Salar de Uyuni tour accommodation

Our home for the night (taken the next morning)

Day 2: Quetana-Laguna Colorada

The 2nd day started at a llama/alpaca farm, where we literally saw a llama brought to slaughter. One unlucky llama was picked out from the pack, dragged to the road by heartless cholitas.

Llama Alpaca farm

World’s most scenic llama/alpaca farm

Squealing & shrilling, the llama tried helplessly to hold its ground, but it was no match for the mighty women.

The other llamas could only watch in silent despair, sad for their comrade but relieved that they get to live another day.

Cholita Salar de Uyuni

Cholitas choosing a llama to bring to slaughter

The lumpy marshlands of Laguna Kollpa.

Laguna Kollpa Uyuni

Laguna Kollpa

Next, we reached our first salt flat, & to my surprise, it was a fully-functioning work site. Workmen in protective clothing were carting wagons of salt back & forth, laborious & chalky work.

Unprepared in thongs, there were spills & thrills, along with plenty of smiles & laughs all round.

Salt Flat Uyuni

Workman at a working salt mine site

The road trip was well & truly on track as we crossed the desolate valley of Desierto Dali, characterised by the painterly barren landscape reminiscent of the surrealist paintings of Salvador Dali.

Dali desert tour

Facing off the jeep in Desierto Dali

Laguna Verde (Green Lake), a salt lake on the Chilean border at the foot of the Licancabur volcano (5868m high).

Laguna Verde Uyuni

Laguna Verde

Lunch was at the magical land of the Polques hot springs, in an already otherworld terrain, with 2 more days still to come.

Natural or man-made, there cannot be a better pool with a view in the world.

Polques hot springs

Polques hot springs

Polques hot springs

View from Polques hot springs

More hot springs awaited us at Sol de Mañana, this time of the volcanic, sulphuric variety.

Spread across a 10km2 area of bubbling steam pools & boiling mud lakes, the geyser-like shoots are mind blowing.

Sol de Mañana

Sol de Mañana

Another stunning sight was in store for us at Laguna Colorada, a shallow salt lake abound with James’ flamingos.

Colorada Lake Uyuni

Laguna Colorada

The pink stork-dotted landscape is in complete harmony with the reddish colour of the lake, caused by red sediments and pigmentation of algae.

Laguna Colorada

Flamingoes in Laguna Colorada

Day 3: Arbol de Piedra-Chuvica

We rise early on the 3rd morning to drive to Arbol de Piedra, the Stone Tree.

Standing alone amidst the sand dunes of SIloli, the incredible 7m high rock formation is one of the symbols of Salar de Uyuni & Bolivia itself. Strong winds carrying sand & eroding the soft sandstone have given shape to its unique construction.

Arbol de Piedra

The surreal formations & landscape around Arbol de Piedra

More colossal boulders are scattered around the area.

Further aIong the road, in the middle of a dreamy, painterly desert, we practice salt flat photos with our dinosaur props…

Arbol de Piedra

Practicing our Salar de Uyuni perspective shots in the desert!

The road winds down to another magnificent lake, Laguna Siloli.

This time, we are spoiled with flamingos and vicunas in the water, camelids related to llamas and alpacas.

Laguna Siloli

Camelids at Laguna Siloli

Siloli Lake Uyuni

Laguna Siloli

We meet a type of wild fox at the dazzling Canapa mirror lake.

Mirror Lake Uyuni

Unbelievable reflections at Laguna Canapa

Lunch is prepared for us from the boot of the jeep, as we dine & pose in majesty, rocky surroundings.

Uyuni desert landscape

Lunch stop with a view

Refreshment stop at a desert town.

Uyuni ghost town

Desert town on the road to Salar de Uyuni

As we close in on the salt flats, we reach Cueva Galaxia, Cave of the Galaxies – named after the 2 local men who discovered it in 2003.

It is a small cave with several chambers, stalagmites and stalactites.

Cave of the Galaxies

Take a tour through the Cave of the Galaxies

We climb a big hill beside the cave, which is atop with towering cacti.

Cactus Uyuni

The biggest cacti I’ve ever seen!

Our home for the final night is a salt hotel in the village of Chuvica, on the eastern side of the salt flat. In theory, everything is meant to be made from salt – the rooms, floors, furniture & walls, but much appears to be made from built brick blocks.

However, this does not detract from the novelty of the experience.

Salt Flat Hotel Uyuni

Our rooms in the salt flat hotel at Chuvica

Day 4: Chuvica-Salar de Uyuni

We awake in the middle of the night for an early start to the big day, on the road on to & out to the salt flats.

In pitch darkness, the jeep crosses a seemingly endless expanse of flat plains, with the headlights of other tour vehicles as the only guiding lights. Gradually, sunrise emerges, blazing streaks of orange and pink across a purple sky.

Salar de Uyuni sunrise

Heading out to Salar de Uyuni at the crack of dawn

We continue on to Isla Incahuasi, in the heart of the salt flats. It was once an island, now a hilly & rocky outcrop of land covered in Trichoreus cactus.

From the top, there are spectacular 360c views of the surrounding salt flats, glistening in the rising sun.

Uyuni sunrise

Reaching the salt flats at sunrise was surreal

Isla Incahuasi

Look over the salt flats from Isla Incahuasi

We drive away from the crowds and find out own little patch of salty flats.

Finally, we get to experience what we came here for – taking silly perspective photos, with our collection of dinosaurs, chip packet, tyre, wine & beer bottles.

Dinosaur photos Uyuni

Brings props with you for the ultimate Salar de Uyuni photos!

Silly photos Uyuni

You can have fun at Uyuni with anything!

It was nowhere near as easy as it seemed!

Fortunately we had a very patient – and creative – photographer-driver, who no doubt had plenty of experience out here with the camera.

Silly perspective photo Uyuni

All the photos at Salar de Uyuni! Not enough time!

At Palacio de Sal (Palace of Salt), we encounter a group of locals who immediately attacked us with the first of many canned foam & water gun sprays, in the days leading up to Carnival.

Salt Palace Uyuni

Spontaneous pre-Carnival celebrations at Palacio de Sal!

On the outskirts of Uyuni, we stop at an antique train graveyard.

At the end of the 19th century, Bolivia was attempting to establish itself as a major transport hub in the region, to support its growing mining industry. When production ceased, the trains too were abandoned.

Train graveyard Uyuni

Uyuni train graveyardsiloli

Then it was all over. In 4 days, it was a lot to take in. Personally, the salt flats themselves were not a highlight, I much preferred a lot of the other natural landscape & wildlife.

Arriving in Uyuni town in the early afternoon, we killed the day over internet, cards & moving around various dive restaurant, before a race to Oruno to make it for Carnival the next day.

Uyuni salt flats tour

That’s Salar de Uyuni, over & out!

Know Before You Go

Tour Agency: La Torre Tours, Tupiza

Duration: 4 days from Tupiza to Uyuni

Price: from $180.00

 

*** The Final Word: There’s more to see than salt flats at Salar de Uyuni – take a 4 day tour from Tupiza to experience it all *** 

Have you visited Uyuni? What kind of tour did you take? 

Impossible or illegal DIY travel

Visited in February 2014