Travelling to Bolivia is one of the best experiences which one can enjoy. Despite being a relatively small country, there are many breathtaking attractions to see in Bolivia, including some of the most spectacular natural wonders such as Salar de Uyuni. Also known as “Salt Flats”, Salar de Uyuni is located about 3,600 meters above sea level. This is by far one of the most visited and beautiful attractions of the country. Every year, the Bolivia Salt Flats welcomes thousands of visitors from across the world.
The Salt Flats are best known for the magical mirror effect that you might have seen on the internet many times. But, you cannot really view this effect all year round due to the changing climate. The weather of Bolivia varies from region to region. In one city, you may experience warm weather while in the highlands, you may be crunching around in the snow. Weather in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni or, Salt Flats, can be divided into two seasons; dry season and rainy season.
What is the Best Time to Go to the Bolivia Salt Flats?
The perfect time to visit the Bolivia Salt Flats is undoubtedly at the end of April when you can see both the dry salt desert and the famous mirror effect. The weather is not too cold like in winter season neither is it rainy. April sees low number of tourists which gives you a great opportunity to enjoy the Salt Flats and take amazing photography there.
If April is not a suitable month for you to visit the Salt Flats, here are some of the tips to help you decide on other best times to visit the region:
- If you are after the best weather, visit between September and November.
- If you want to see the misty salt flats, you should visit between December and April.
Apart from that, any time is good to visit Salar de Uyuni. Each season offers a unique experience that you should not miss.
December – January – February: The Mirror Effect
At the beginning of each year, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia becomes the largest natural mirror in the world. Since this giant salt desert is covered in water during the rainy season, it reflects light creating magical optical illusions. This time of the year is very busy with tourists, therefore, you can expect an increase in tour prices and accommodation.
In February, the Salt Flats receive plenty of rainfall. Therefore, you should be aware that too much rain will melt the salt and make large parts of the salt flat inaccessible for visitors. During and after New Year’s Eve, some excursions cannot be maximized due to excessive rainfall. Be sure to check in advance if you plan to travel during February.
March – April – May: Warmer Months
There are far fewer tourists during these months, so you can get better deals from tour operators to visit the Salt Flats. The weather is even warmer and if you are accompanied by a tour guide, there is a high chance of witnessing the mirror effect at some location throughout the salt flats. Make sure to ask your tour company before booking your trip.
June – July – August: Cold and Dry
These months are colder in Uyuni, Bolivia. If you are planning to visit during these months, you must dress up in warm clothing. Bring extra blankets if you wish to stay overnight. The Salt Flats are almost like a white sand beach during these months but the weather can be so cold at this time of the year especially after sunset.
September – October – November: Sunny Days and Freezing Nights
These months are not too cold with rainfall on some days. However, it can drop well below freezing at night. Visit the Salt Flats during these months if seeing the mirror effect is not on your bucket list but, really, to go at this time of year would like going to The Louvre and not seeing the Mona Lisa!
How to get to the Bolivia Salt Flats?
From La Paz
Night buses from La Paz usually take around 8 hours and arrive in Uyuni early in the morning. As a result, it allows bus riders to make the trip to the salt flat the same day and come back. You can book a bus tour with Todo Turismo which may cost you a little more than usual but the buses are comfortable and allow visitors to travel long hours comfortably.
Another way to get to the Salt Flats is from Peru via Peru Hop bus. The bus tour is available from 7 locations across the country to La Paz. Once you arrive in La Paz, you’ll have to take another bus to reach the Salt Flats. There are many other options to travel from Peru but the route services are not too reliable and, unfortunately, have a long history of leaving passengers stranded in unknown locations.
From San Pedro De Atacama
This route us not usually recommended especially for those who are not fond of crossing borders and changing buses. If you are coming to the Bolivia Salt Flats from San Pedro de Atacama, it is suggested to book a 3 to 4 day tour that starts from San Pedro and ends up in Uyuni. Alternatively, you can start and finish your tour in San Pedro De Atacama.
The shortest way to reach Uyuni from La Paz is by plane. The flight takes around one hour and costs about $130 for a return ticket.
What to Bring?
Salar de Uyuni or Bolivia Salt Flats are located in a remote location, which means you have to be well-prepared before your visit. Knowing what to pack for your trip, no matter how long or short is a must. Below are few of the things that you should bring with you when you visit Salar de Uyuni:
- A Good Camera
Bring your best photography equipment because if you don’t do so, you are going to regret it. The surreal views of the Bolivia Salt Flats are going to leave you awe-struck and make you capture every view with your camera. Make sure to bring extra batteries and a spare memory card in case if you run out of any of these.
There aren’t many ATMs (and the ones you find may not have cash), so bring some Bolivian currency to pay for local food, drinks, tips or payment for drivers.
- Water and Snacks
Avoid spending too much for bottles of water in the Uyuni Salt Flats. Instead, bring your own water bottles. You’ll also need some snacks to eat in between.
- Comfortable Sandals
Many of the ground surfaces in Uyuni are neither clean nor comfortable to walk on barefoot. Keep a soft and comfortable pair of sandals to wear around the city and at the Salt Flats. Keep an extra pair just in case of an emergency.
You’ll witness the wildlife in their natural habitat in Uyuni, such as flamingos, llamas, and vicuñas. Having binoculars will allow you to see them from a distance. Even if you don’t have binoculars, a camera macro lens will let you view them from up-close. You can now buy a lens for your smart phone too.
This is an item that is often overlooked by the visitors but believe us, it is essential to keep a towel when you are visiting in warmer months and sweat a lot.
- Sunscreen and Sunglasses
Don’t even think of leaving any of this behind. The sun here can be really bright and cause extreme sunburn. Visitors are advised to wear sunscreen and sunglasses during the day.
- A Flashlight
There is no electricity in many places in the Uyuni Salt Flats, so a flashlight can be very useful. Going to the bathroom at night without light is not a pleasant thing that you’d want to experience.
Further Reading: Read more about The Annual Bali Spirit Festival
Where to Stay in Uyuni?
The city of Uyuni is very small, with not many accommodation options to choose from in reality. There is not much to do here besides a tour to the flats. We recommend you plan your journey in such a way that you visit the salt flats in one day, so you don’t have to stay here overnight. If you are expecting more than a day tour, below are some of the best hotels you can book:
Casa de Sal – Salt Hotel
It is one of the best hotels to stay in Uyuni. If you are coming here for two days, it’s our recommendation to stay here on your overnighter. Located in the city center, the hotel is made of salt blocks, and each room features a private bathroom, a dining table, a seating area, and other amenities. Price per night at this hotel starts from $57.
Hotel Sal Andina
This hotel is best for solo travelers. Hotel Sal Andina is located 1.7 km from the airport. All the rooms here feature all your necessary amenities. Price for one room per night starts from $57 here. Rates can go higher in the peak tourist season.
This hotel is pretty good as compared to others. Nativa hotel offers many facilities to its guests, such as private bathrooms, desk, flat-screen TV, and more. You can enjoy a buffet or continental breakfast at this hotel. Bike hire is also offered at the hotel. Price for staying here for one night is around $70.