Uyuni is one of the main stops on any traveler’s agenda when exploring Bolivia. This depressing town has little to offer except being the gateway for tours heading to the impressive Bolivian Salt Flats, known as the Salar de Uyuniin Spanish.
Most travelers arrive in the early morning by bus or train and are gone within a few hours. The chilly town of Uyuni has just over 10,600 inhabitants – most work in the hospitality industry at hotels, tour agencies and pizza restaurants. English is widely spoken but friendly service is hard to find.
The town itself is dusty, grey and in constant commotion with tourists coming and leaving. Other than to book Salt Flats tours and grab a pizza, Uyuni doesn’t awe or amaze until you leave the town centre and head for the surrounding Salt Flats and lagoons.
Uyuni Salt Flats Travel has become more popular over the past few years so when you go to book you Salar de Uyuni tours be sure to shop around and find the one that works best for you.
Pictures of Uyuni Salt Flats can be seen on the Photos Tab of this guide.
Uyuni Salt Flats videos can be watched on the Video Tab of this guide.
Things to do in
Salt Flats Tour – The must-do tour when in Bolivia is the one to five day excursion around the Uyuni Salt Flats and surrounding lagoons and volcanoes. Booking Salar de Uyuni tours is a daunting task as there are 64 tour agencies and you are constantly bombarded by tour promoters on the street offering the same tour for about the same price. It is hard to distinguish the good tour operators from the mediocre. Beware of tour companies filling the jeep beyond what is comfortable and safe. Up to seven passengers is acceptable. Also inquire about safety record as drivers have been known to drive intoxicated.
First, decide how many days you want to book then start talking to tour operators around the main plaza.
1 day tours run from $20 USD to $30 USD and visit the train cemetery, Uyuni Salt Flats, Salt Hotel and the Isla Pescado. Lunch is included.
2 day tours are less common but the best value for your money. For $50 USD to $70 USD you visit the same sights as the one day tour and the price includes one night accommodation in a basic salt hotel at the base of Tunupa Volcano. The second day includes a five hour hike up the volcano – an experience exclusive to the two day tour. Breakfast, lunches and dinners included.
3 to 5 day tours are the most popular option ranging from $90 USD to $150 USD. Be prepared for hours of driving and cold nights. This multiday tour follows the same route as the one day tour and later heads south to the flamingo inhabited lagoons and continues to the geysers and thermal baths. Two nights of accommodation and all meals included.
Oasis Tours Uyuni’s most reputable and preferred tour company. The price is comparable to all other tour operators and you are guaranteed a safer and more comfortable journey as max capacity is 6 passengers per jeep. Avenida Arce on the main plaza. Tel. (00591-2) 693-2308
Ripley Tours Offers great routes for two day tours of the Uyuni Salt Flats however compromises the comfort and safety of passengers by overcrowding jeeps to optimize profit. Beware if you choose to book with Ripley as your experience may be tainted by the uncomfortable drive. Avenida Arce on the main plaza. Tel. (00591-2) 693-3551
Pucara Tours Popular among backpackers who do not wish to shop around for the perfect tour. Pucara will take care of all travel arrangements and your bus ticket out of Uyuni for a fee. On the corner of Avenida Potosi and Calle Sucre. Tel. (00591-2) 693-2228
Shopping for alpaca and llama gear – Bolivia’s cold climate requires warm clothing day and night. Shopping for alpaca and llama wool sweaters, gloves, socks and hats in Uyuni is a popular activity. Check out the souvenir shops lining the main plaza or head to the Mercado Antofagasta at Calle Colon and Avenida Arce or the Mercado Municipal at Avenida Potosi and Calle Avaroa.
Uyuni Train Cemetery – Located 3 km from Uyuni, this graveyard of rusted trains is a popular stop on the Salt Flats tour or can be reached independently by taxi.
Pizza and pasta are Bolivia’s most popular dishes. Uyuni is lined with pizza restaurants with tourist prices and if you want something cheaper, head to one of Uyuni’s markets.
Mercado Antofagasta – Open daily from around 7 AM to 9 PM.Calle Colon and Avenida Arce.
Mercado Municipal – Hidden behind food stalls and clothing vendors is a large fruit and vegetable market. Buying all your produce from one vendor gives you bargaining power. Avenida Potosi and Calle Avaroa.
Minuteman Pizza – The only pizza joint worth a visit in Uyuni. Enter through Hotel Toñito and be sure to drop by and make a reservation if you have a group of 4 or more. Avenida Ferroviaria, 60, Downtown, Uyuni.
Travelers arriving by train or bus to Uyuni pull into town at inconvenient hours. Because few hotels have the option to reserve online, both the bus drop off and the train terminal are chaotic between 1 AM to 3 AM as travelers make a mad dash to secure a bed.
There are always hotel promoters rounding up tourist like cattle at the terminal entrance around the main plaza. It is sometimes wise to accept their offer if you notice hoards of backpackers already roaming the town. All accommodation in Uyuni is basic and will cost less than $15 USD a bed. Do not expect much from even the most expensive hotels in Uyuni. Bolivian standards are some of the lowest in quality and service throughout Latin America so prepare yourself for cold showers and pack your own toilet paper as most hotels charge extra.
Budget Hotels Uyuni
Residencial La Cabaña Is a family run operation offering dormitory accommodation with shared bathroom or private rooms with bathroom. Guests can take advantage of the kitchen and karaoke bar below. Calle Bolivar, 84, Downtown, Uyuni. Tel. (00591-2) 693-3613 or 7388-6969 local calls only
Hostelling International Salar de Uyuni The online reservation option means it fills up fast. This hostel is associated with Pucara Tours and can be booked in combination with a tour package. On the corner of Avenida Potosi and Calle Sucre. Tel. (00591-2) 693-2228
HotelPalace One of the cheaper options directly on the main plaza. Avenida Arce, 7, Downtown, Uyuni. Tel. (00591-2) 693-2259
Salar de Uyuni Hotel
Hotel Mosoj Has clean rooms and a great location on the main plaza. On the corner of Avenida Potosi and Avenida Arce, Downtown, Uyuni. Tel. 7387-7455 local calls only
Hotel Avenida A comfortable motel style lodging across from the train station. Avenida Ferroviaria, 11, Downtown, Uyuni. Tel. (00591-2) 693-2078