Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia is a major destination for any traveler visiting South America and deciding the best way to see it is probably one of the most common struggles (we’ve been there!).
For us, we had already planned to stay in Atacama Desert (Chile) and chose to take a one-way tour from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni Salt Flats. It turned out to be the best way to see the salt flats and also explore the natural beauty that can be found along the route towards Uyuni (there’s so much to see in this part of Bolivia, but more on that later!)
The hardest part was actually choosing the best and safest tour company amongst hundreds available in San Pedro de Atacama. After much research, we settled on Cruz Andina Travel for a 3 day/2 night tour.
On this post, we share our experience and tips when choosing a tour from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. We have no affiliation with Cruz Andina Travel.
How to Choose your Uyuni Tour Operator
Without exaggeration, we spent hours on end reading through a plethora of Uyuni tour reviews on TripAdvisor. Just when we thought we found a reputable company, a “drunk driver” or a “filthy room” review would pop up and invalidate hours of work.
Eventually, we narrowed down the options to Cruz Andina Travel and Ruta Verde Tours. Both had impeccable reviews. The difference was that Ruta Verde only offered private tours, which we weren’t keen on.
Private vs. group tours
For a group tour (6 people) in a 4 wheel drive vehicle, you can expect to pay 150 – 200 USD per person, while a private tour (2 people) will set you back anywhere between 600 – 1000 USD per person. Since we were on a budget, the private option was quickly discounted and we settled on Cruz Andina’s group tour.
During our journey, we traveled alongside Cruz Andina’s private tours since both routes were identical. The private tour’s key advantage was the vehicle itself, a dedicated English-speaking guide and a private/en-suite room on both nights.
What is included in the tour
There is very little that is not included! We were told to bring 200 Bolivianos each ($30 USD) mostly to be spent on park entrance fees. We did not have to pay for anything else.
Safety & Tour Guide
This was an absolute key for us since we had read so many horror stories TripAdvisor. Luckily we felt super safe with our driver & guide Alejandro. He was relatively new to the company but was very professional and an extremely responsible driver. With that, we overlooked the fact that at times his commentary of the landscapes was limited and he was generally quieter than other guides we observed. However, most of the time, the nature spoke for itself!
Our car was a 4WD Toyota Land Cruiser. Although dusty, it coped well offroad and we never experienced any problems. The biggest issue was the crammed row of seats at the back of the car. Unfortunately, there was very little legroom and the constant shaking made for a rather unpleasant experience. We agreed to rotate with the rest of the group, which helped us spread the inconvenience.
By the way of luck, our group consisted of only 5 people instead of the usual 6. An Italian couple and a Chilean, we were an eclectic mix and had a varying degree of Spanish between us and spoke English between ourselves. Everyone was of the same age – early to mid 30s, which made for a very harmonious experience.
Accommodation is a key differentiating factor between most tours. Before booking ours with Cruz Andina, their sales representative clearly outlined where we would stay so our expectations were set accordingly.
Day 1: Guest house in Villamar
On day 1, we were put up into a guest house in Villamar, a small village where we had to share a room with others from the group. The bathroom was also shared. Obviously, we were’t excited about the idea, but decided to bite the bullet. When we arrived, however, it turned out that there would not be anyone as others upgraded to a private room.
We think this was probably due to us being in low season and they were able to accommodate us separately. The shared bathroom was outside and while the water was hot, it was quite unpleasant getting out in the cold.
Tip | If all of this sounds rather unappealing and you’d rather secure a private room with bathroom at all costs, know that it’s possible to pay extra for a private en-suite room (in advanced).
Day 2: Salt Hotel in Colcha ‘K’
On day 2, we had the private en-suite room at one of the so called “salt hotels”. The room was basic but clean and tidy, with hot water. A much better option than day 1!
Besides the landscapes, food was one of the great surprises on the trip. Three times a day we were treated to a feast, that always included fresh vegetables and fruit, meat, carbs, soft drinks, tea, coffee and dessert. Sometimes we would setup a table outside in the nature which added to the taste! Overall, we were very impressed with the meals!
There are really no words to describe the landscapes on the Uyuni tour. You have to experience them for yourselves. We are really glad that we took the 2N/3D tour because there is so much more to this part of Bolivia than just the Uyuni Salt Flats.
Scroll down to the end of this post to see our itinerary in detail!
Salt Flats Photography
Taking fun & memorable photos is an important (if not the most important!) part of any Uyuni tour. For this reason, it’s worth mentioning how enthusiastic and skilled our guide Alejandro was when it came to the infamous perspective photography. He took control of the photoshoot and bossed us around for 2 hours until we got all the pictures we came for!
Full Tour Detailed Itinerary (2 nights/ 3 days)
07:00 – Pickup from our hotel
08:30 – Border crossing
09:00 – Breakfast
09:30 – Entrance to Avaroa Park [150 Bs.]
10:00 – Laguna Blanca
11:00 – Laguna Verde
11:15 – Desierto de Salvador Dalí
11:25 – Polques Hot Springs [6 Bs.]
12:00 – Lunch
13:00 – Geysers Sol de Mañana
13:50 – Laguna Colorada
17:15 – Arrive at Villamar Hotel
08:00 – Breakfast
09:00 – Departure
09:30 – “World Cup” Rock
10:15 – Camel Rock
10:30 – Arches / Windows Park
10:50 – Laguna Taltal
11:30 – Laguna Negra
12:30 – Lunch
14:00 – Anaconda Canyon
15:00 – Old Train Station Julaca (Coca quinoa and cactus beer [18Bs.])
17:00 – Arrive at Salt Hotel
04.30 – Wake up
05.00 – Departure
06.00 – Sunrise in the salt flats
07.00 – Inca Huasi [30Bs.]
08.00 – Breakfast
09.00 – Salt Flat Photoshoot Session
11.00 – Salt Museum
12.00 – Lunch
13.00 – Train Cemetery
15.00 – Drop-off Uyuni town
Cost of the tour per person
– 2N/3D Tour: 180 USD per person (as of 2018)
– Entrance Ticket to Avaroa National Park: 150 Bs.
– Entrance Polque Hot Springs: 6 Bs.
– Beer at Old Station (optional): 18 Bs.
– Entrance Inca Huasi Island: 30 Bs.
- Total per person: 180 USD / 204 Bs.
Overall we felt that Cruz Andina is running a very efficient operation and we were happy with our choice. We would definitely recommend it to anyone planning to visit Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats from San Pedro de Atacama.
Map of our Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats Tour from San Pedro de Atacama
Bonus: Uyuni Tour Packing Essentials
Here is what we recommend you pack for the Uyuni tour.
– Strong sunscreen
– Layers (weather changes dramatically between the day and night!)
– Hiking Boots
– Lip balm
– Swimming suit/shorts for the hotsprings
– Water (1L per day)
– Toilet roll
– Altitude sickness pills
– Rubber boots (especially if your traveling during the wet season)
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