In the last blog, we mentioned that the best time to visit the salt flat is between Dec to Feb during the rainy season. Most people don't want to travel in the rainy season, so, Feb is quite popular.
To visit the salt flat from Bolivia, you need to live in the little town of Uyuni. There is nothing much to do here other than going to the salt flat...
You do need to join a tour. Even if you have a jeep, I guess you don't want to run it on salt!
There are many tour agencies in the town. The options include:
1) 3D2N tours (around B900) will take you to all sites from Uyuni till the Chile border, including the salt flat, volcanoes, many lakes and to see the flamingos. You can return to Uyuni or cross the border to Chile at the end.
We did not join the 3D2N tour because it is too much time and the roads are quite bad. We chose to focus on the salt flat.
Special note, you don't get to see sunrise or sunset at the salt flat in the 3D2N tour because the itinerary only include 1-2 hours on the salt flat on the first day.
2)1 Day tour
There are many 1 day tours --- Starlight + sunrise (0200-0800), day time tour (1000-1700), one day+sunset tour (1100-2000), and sunset+starlight(1600-2200).
For 1 day tour, the most important thing to note is that, most tour agencies require you to charter the whole jeep. Some will tell you about that upfront and you can find your own partners, and the total cost is B900 for one day. Some others will help to post tour forms outside to find partners to fill up the jeeps. A full jeep takes 7 tourists, price for these tours range from B130-200. However, if they cannot find 7 people, each will have to pay more to make up the price of 7 in total, or it will be cancelled.
only very few agencies guarantee that they will go even if there are fewer people. Oasis is one of them.
So, you need to make sure you understand how it works.
For one day tours, they first go to the train cemetery, and then they will take you to a market to shop and then see the eyes of the salt flat. Afterwards, the routes differ. For cheaper tours, they travel less distance and only stay near the edge. The stopping places depends entirely on the driver. For the more expensive tours, they should specify that the island is included. This island full of cactus is much further away, and thus the jeep travels longer on the salt flat. The spots they stop tend to be further out and with fewer tourists.
I think the longer tour feels better as the location we went were more remote and have fewer tourists.
We went for a cheaper tour on the second because they stop at different locations. However, our driver stopped somewhere with very little water for the sunset. I insisted that he should take us somewhere else. Although the final location was ok, still not as good as the first day, because that spot has been run by too many jeeps and there were car tracks on the flat.
The sunset is brilliant, don’t miss it!
Nearly all tour agencies will try to fill up the jeep with 7 people. We are not big persons, so works ok for us. However, if you are big, you may feel that 7 people in the jeep is a bit crowded. If you don’t mind paying more, 4-5 people in a jeep is very comfortable.
Nearly all drivers don’t speak English, the tours will be a lot more expensive with English speaking driver. But, at least they are all very honest about it. If there is someone in the tour that speaks both Spanish and English, they can help translating. Otherwise, it is still no big deal, not much talking is required, you can do your own research about the salt lake.
Some tours provide boots for you to walk on the salt flat, some don’t. You should ask when you join the tour. If they do not provide boots, you should bring your flip flops. I do not recommend walking bare footed because the salt crystals is very sharp although it looks perfectly flat. The salt water is very saturated, if you have a wound on your foot, go with boots.
There is only a few cm of water, if you want to take good pictures of the reflections, you need to place your camera close to the ground, stand further away and use your camera to zoom in! However, be aware not to let your camera get in touch with salt water, it is devastating!