If you are planning to visit the Uyuni Salt Flats, there are probably some things you are wondering about, like what is the best time to go, what to pack, if you have to book a tour or you can go on your own, etc…
Since there are quite a few things to talk about, I decided to divide this into two part. If you want to have more information about the tour itself, like what we saw in the tour, how we chose a tour agency and how much it costs, you can check out the blog post at the link below.
Below, instead, I will try to answer some common questions and give some facts I wanted to know before I left for this adventure.
1. When is the best time to go?
While you can visit the Uyuni Salt Flats all year around, there are some differences whether you visit them during wet or dry season.
Wet season – December to April
Between December and April it is rainy season in the Uyuni salt flats. During these months, the salt flats flood and it is during this time that you can see the famous mirror effect, due to the lack of wind, with incredible optical illusions.
February is the rainiest most, and some parts of the Salt Flats might be unaccessible because of the excessive amount of water. For example, during the rainy season, it is not possible to access Incahuasi Island – the famous place where there are the giant cacti – because it becomes dangerous as water melts near the island, and this is why we missed this spot in our tour.
Photo: Diego Aguilar
We visited the Salar de Uyuni in March, when it was near the end of the rainy season and we thought it was the perfect time, even though we wished we could have visited the Incahuasi Island. We came across some dry parts of the Salar and some parts that were flooded. Also, in March and April there are way less people visiting and the weather is still warmer than in the following months.
Dry Season – May to November
Generally speaking the dry season goes from May to November, with June to August are the coldest months of the year here at the Slat Flats.
While during these months you can still enjoy an amazing landscape, made of crystallised salt shapes that extend forever, you won’t be able to see the famous. mirror effect. During these months, the horizon and perspective seem to disappear, creating funny optical illusions too.
Photo: Stifan Liu
During the dry season you won’t be able to visit Eduardo Avaroa National Park, which includes the Laguna Colorada, Dali Desert, geysers, Green Lagoon, etc…But you will get access to places unavailable during the wet season.
During these months, you might also get to sleep in a camper van in the Salt Flats at night time and get to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise!
Photo: Jake Irish
2. Can I visit the Salar de Uyuni on my own or do I need to book a tour?
The Salar de Uyuni is an almost 11,000 square km white desert with no visual indicators, so, as you can imagine, it is very easy to get lost. During the rainy season, even experienced drivers and guides can get stuck in the salt.
For this reason, only licensed drivers and tour guides are allowed to drive through the salt flats and tours can only be done with a 4×4 vehicle.
3. What about altitude?
The Salar de Uyuni is located at 3.650 m above sea level, while other places you visit in this tour, such as the Laguna Coloarda and other spots in the Eduardo Avaroa National Park reach up to 4,800 m.
This means two things: you will get altitude sickness and it gets freezing at night time!
To get used to altitude, you might need to spend a couple of nights in Uyuni before leaving and bring with you something that might help you, like coca tea or coca leaves. The last day, when we were at almost 5,000 m, was particularly hard for me, even though I had spent the last couple of weeks in high altitudes.
As for the temperature, while it can be sunny and warm during the day, it will get extremely cold at night time, especially as you will be sleeping in basic accommodation. Our tour agency gave us a sleeping bags, but if your company doesn’t, you might want to rent one before you go.
4. What should I pack?
If, like me, you are there as part of a longer trip, this won’t matter. However, if you are just going to visit the Salt Flats, there are some things you might want to bring with you.
Here is a list of things that could be useful.
- Warm clothes: like I said, it can get extremely cold at night time and so it’s good to have extra layers;
- Sun glasses and cream: because of the salt reflections, you will get sunburnt;
- Portable charger: you will stay in shared and basic accommodation at night time and everybody will want to charge their phones and camera, but there won’t be enough plugs for everybody, so it is a good idea to have spare batteries, or bring a portable charger with you;
- Proper shoes: particularly if you visit during the wet season, it is a good idea to bring. waterproof shoes, or even better, sandals/flip-flops;
- A towel: accommodation is basic and won’t provide you with one;
- Swimming gear: for when you go to when you take a night time dip into the natural hot bath;
- A torch: always useful, especially on the second night, when lights in the shelter go off at 10 pm.
- A sleeping bag: if not provided by your tour company.
5. You will have no Wi-fi for the entire duration of the tour
One of my favourite aspects of this trip is that you will be completely disconnected for 3 to 4 days. Just enjoy nature and its beauty!
Not only you won’t have a signal when you are visiting places during the day (don’t worry, tour guides have radio signal for emergencies), but you won’t have wi-fi in your accommodation either.
While this sounds just amazing to me, you might want to let your family and friends know that you won’t be reachable for a couple of days just so they don’t worry about you.
And…if this sounds great to you, and want to know about other places where you are forced to take a digital detox, check this out.
6. There is nowhere to buy anything or get cash
All the tour will be all inclusive, so they will provide you with food and drinks. However, it’s good to keep in mind that there is nowhere to buy something if you forget anything.
It is always good to bring some energy snacks and drinks, particularly if you chose the vegetarian/vegan option, which usually consists of only the sides of what the other people are eating. Also, you might want to bring with you any medicines, painkillers, tampons, personal hygiene products, etc… you might need.
7. The is nowhere to get cash either
Of course, there is no place to get cash out either. As you can’t buy anything, you might think you don’t need cash, but remember that entrance to the National Park, dip in the hot spring, toilets along the way, hot shower on the first night and small things like this are not included, and you can’t pay by card.
For costs and other things that are not included in the. tour, you can check out Part 1 of the Salar de Uyuni post by clicking on thee button at the top of the page.
8. You can get a special passport stamp
Of course you will need your passport to travel here anyway, but if you like collecting special passport stamps, or simply like seeing your passport full, you can get a special stamp at the entrance of the Eduardo Avaroa National Park after you pay for your entrance fee, so don’t forget to ask for it.
9. Not all tours are the same!
Don’t forget that not all tours (and vehicles and guides) are the same. As for most things, you get what you pay for, and in this case I would spend the extra Bolivianos, not only for comfort but also for safety.
Sadly, drunk drivers seem to be a common problem for this tour – on the second night we came across a drunk driver ourselves, not from our agency, that had just taken another group to the same shelter.
Broken or very old (and dangerous) vehicles also seem to be very common and we heard of a lot of people getting stuck on their tour, as well as 10 people being packed all in the same vehicle, which might get very uncomfortable and frustrating when you have to spend 3 or 4 days in it.
Of course paying more will not give a 100% certainty that you won’t have problems, as these things can always happen, but it will be for sure less likely, so choose your tour carefully!
For more info on the tour and how to choose one, you can check the other post by clicking on the button at thee top of the page.
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