So you want to get one of those epic perspective photos, or perhaps a crazy clear reflection shot of you doing something cool at the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia? Good, you totally should, because it’s 100% worth taking the time to go there.
Bolivia wasn’t exactly the easiest place to travel to, but I also did it last minute, and actually got to the Uyuni salt flats and back to Peru in time for my flight home, which means it definitely is possible! Forcing yourself to leave though is another story! So here’s my tips for anyone thinking of taking the adventure!
1. Decide on Perspective or Reflection Uyuni Salt Flats Photos
You can get really creative with perspective photos during dry season!
No, that wasn’t some type of inner spiritual, profound quote I found on Facebook, I’m talking about the token Uyuni salt flats photos you’ve probably seen that have convinced you to go to Bolivia. You can only get a cool reflection photo if you go during the rainy season which is January to March or so, because the water flooding the flats is what causes the mirror-like reflection.
BUT, that also means you have to consider that it might rain while you’re there and ruin the shot. You also won’t be able to go to Fish Island or drive very far on the Uyuni salt flats, because the chances of getting stuck are too high.
I got lucky with finding a small lake, but during the wet season the entire thing is flooded
During the dry season around April through December (when I went), the flats are dry, and you can see the cool hexagon shapes that the salt crystals make on the ground. You might still be able to find areas with water for a reflection pic, but the vast, white, salt flats are really stunning to see as it is. Your tour guide will also be able to help you get a cool perspective photo like mine below.
2. Fly Into Somewhere Cheaper
Flights to Bolivia are NOT cheap, so I’d highly suggest flying into somewhere cheaper like Lima and then taking ground transportation. Chile, Argentina, or Brazil are your next cheapest options, but it also depends on where else you’d like to go and what your budget is. If you’re lucky enough to have a bigger budget, you can fly directly into Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, then either take a short (but expensive) flight to Uyuni, or an overnight bus.
3. Take the Overnight Buses to Uyuni Salt Flats
I had a freaking fantastic time on the overnight Bolivia Hop bus!
I was a tad bit concerned about taking the local buses overnight, but I ended up finding a bus company called Bolivia Hop that’s for travelers! They emphasize on “fun and safety”, and I’d definitely back them on both. I got on the Bolivia Hop from Cusco, and went overnight to Puno where I got to take an hour tour of the Floating Islands, then after crossing the border, got to take another tour and hike on Isla Del Sol on Lake Titicaca, before finishing the trip in La Paz. The whole bus trip with the two stops costed $59.
The Bolivia Hop bus guide also helps you cross the Bolivia border, which I wouldn’t have gotten to unless they were there, but I’ll get to that in a second.
The Bolivia Hop doesn’t go all the way to the Uyuni salt flats, but they helped me get another “tourist” bus called Todo Tourismo, which was slightly more expensive (around $37) and less comfortable, but it still got me to Uyuni!
Check out the full bus journey from Cusco to Puno to Lake Titicaca to La Paz here!
4. Be Prepared to Get Your Visa
Everyone needs a visa to get into Bolivia, but it’s especially difficult for U.S. citizens. If you take the Bolivia Hop they’ll help you at the border, I was missing a few things that they helped me get last minute. In a nut shell, you need:
Copies of your passport
Proof of a flight back to your home country
Proof of hotel booking
Yellow Fever vaccine proof (I didn’t need this)
Actual passport photos
and Crisp, un-ripped bills to pay the $160 visa fee (for U.S. citizens, everyone else only pays $80).
Some of these things you can “fake” if you really need to (most of the people on the bus had fake vaccines, flights home and hotel confirmations), others you can scramble to get AT the border if you’re lucky…but it’s probably best to just be prepared since now you know what you need!
For full details on the requirements including which ones I was told I needed but ended up not needing, check out, How to Get a Visa for Bolivia.
5. Pre-Book a Good Tour Company for the Uyuni Salt Flats Tour
Clearly my tour guides were the best
Since the Uyuni Salt Flats are basically the Disney World of Bolivia, that means there’s a ton of tour companies that will be more than eager to take (and over charge) you. There’s also a few different tour options you can take depending on how much time/money you have.
I only had the time and money for a one day tour (around $80), and was referred to a company called Altitude Adventureswhich did an amazing job. I had an awesome tour guide named Deter, and driver named Jimmy, who took me cruising across the endless salt flats, then even set up a fancy little Bolivian lunch in the middle of the desert! They even gave me some delicious Bolivian wine!
6. What to Pack
Well…I started out completely covered anyway.
Depending on when you go, you’re either going to be hot, cold, or wet. That being said, make sure you check the weather! It was hot and sunny when I went, but I was already so sunburned from the Inca Trail that I had to cover up anyway. Bring long-sleeves, pants, a lot of sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from the strong sun. Don’t forget, you’re a lot closer to it due to the elevation!
Also don’t forget you’re going to be on a large, reflective surface, which makes the sun rays very powerful and potentially dangerous for your eyes! Deter literally told me keep my sunglasses on, especially since I have light eyes, because the sun reflection could damage them!
MOST IMPORTANTLY: What You’ll See!
I was actually told that one day was enough time to see the salt flats, and I did a lot, but would have like to see a little more like Laguna Verde, and possibly end in Chile instead of having to go home but we can’t all win.
During my one day trip though I got to see the Train Cemetery (self explanatory), the factories where they convert the salt rocks to table salt, a cute little market, thousands of miles of salt flats, a salt hotel (I opted out of going inside though), Fish Island, and much to my surprise and excitement, even a small lake with flamingos in it!
Alyssa is a self-made, full time travel blogger who loves adventure and typically travels the world solo. She's been to 53 countries and 6 continents so far, and believes she has mastered the art of chasing waterfalls, traveling solo, wine drinking, and making budget-traveling look good. Curious to know how she started this career? Check out the About section above!