Salar de Uyuni, or the Uyuni Salt Flats, is the Bolivia’s top tourist destination. Once a vast prehistoric sea, the salt – as thick as 170m is some areas – is all that remains. With its immense, white landscape, visitors are frequently awe-struck by its natural beauty. Getting to the Salar de Uyuni can be a haul, but visit the salt flats is well worth the hours behind the wheel to get there.
Getting to the Uyuni Salt Flats By Plane
In 2011, Bolivia recently open an airport in Uyuni – Joya Andina Airport – to cater to the needs of visitors seeking a quicker route to the Salt Flats. Planes do not arrive frequently, so planning a flight ahead of schedule is ideal in making sure your travel plans are carried out as planned. The planes are more often than not smaller, less commercial-sized. Domestic and international (South American) flights arrive and depart from Uyuni. The airport is located just outside of the city, so a taxi is needed to make the short trip to a hotel or hostel.
Getting to Uyuni Salt Flats by Road
The quickest and easiest way to reach Uyuni by road is through Potosí. Departing from La Paz, visitors travel through El Alto and the Bolivian countryside headed for the mining city of Oruro. The road then forks: Heading right will bring you on a bumpy, unpaved and hardly –maintained road straight to Uyuni. However, the more comfortable and less jarring trip is to take a left, headed for Potosí. Once past Potosí, the newly-paved road will take drivers about three hours to arrive in Uyuni; passing multiple mines through the colossal Cordillera range, many small herding villages and the beautiful rolling hills of cactus valley. The mountainous landscape slowly begins to level off, revealing the vast geography of Salar as drivers make their way out of the foothills and in to the flat terrain of Uyuni.
If you’re driving to Uyuni from La Paz, then the travel time can be tedious, but by any measure, the drive is worth it for the chance to see one of the most spectacular places on earth.
Getting to the salt flats, lagoons and deserts will take some more travel time and must be done with a tour guide that is permitted to enter the area. The city is a dusty outcrop with a smattering of hotels, restaurants, pubs, and travel agencies willing to take you to the furthest reaches of this picturesque environment. By road from La Paz the trip can take up to 12 hours (8 to Potosí, and another 3 or 4 to Uyuni). If you’re driving to Uyuni, then the travel time can be tedious, but the drive is worth it by any measure for the chance to see one of the most spectacular places on earth.