If you’re in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, or heck, even Peru, then I implore you to make sure the Uyuni Salt Flats in southern Bolivia is on your itinerary.

I know what you’re thinking, “Salt flats? Really? The place where all the clichéd photos of people fighting toy dinosaurs are taken?”

Well, my response to that is, “HELL YEA!”

It’s extremely tough to describe the breadth and otherworldliness of this place.

It’s impossible to imagine driving across a dried up 300km-wide lake for hours on end without seeing anything but mirage after mirage of distant mountains.

It feels like a mix between a brand new Toyota Landcruiser TV commercial and the movie, Mad Max: Fury Road.

Getting There

It’s most likely that you are coming from La Paz, where a 3-day round-trip will be your most efficient way to get in and out.

Like any tour in Bolivia, I recommend waiting until you arrive in La Paz, then heading down to the Tour Office street called ‘Calle Sagarnaga’, which runs along the San Francisco Church.

There, you will find a myriad of tour agents selling you the same 3-day tour, with which you can have fun playing The Price Is Right for an hour or so before making your mind up.

The tour will send you on a night bus from La Paz to Uyuni, a fairly meager town that really just hangs out for the Dakar Rally to sweep through each year.

In the morning, you’ll be shuffled into one of many 1990s Landcruisers where your driver will first take you out to the local town that services the salt flats.

This town, Colchani, exists for two reasons:

  1. To harvest and package salt for Bolivian consumption; and
  2. To sell you hand-made clothes and las-minute photo props for your trip to the salt flats.

Whatever your penchant, it’s a nice little 30 minute stop to wake you up.

On the Salt Flats

Once you’re done with Colchani, you’ll be ushered back into your Landcruiser and you’re 1.5hour journey out into the middle of the salt flats will commence.

To this day I still cant find the perfect word to describe the experience.

In one minute, you’re looking out the window at the vastness of white along the horizon, the next you’re peering into the mirages that make the distant mountains look as if they are floating, and the next, your dozing off to sleep as the sun beams down on you.

And then eventually you’ll come to and notice a large cactus-covered rock in the not-too-distant distance.

At least, it will feel not-too-distant…

But with no reference point to give you scale, you’ll soon realize that the rock is still at least 30 minutes drive away.

Though at that point, you can sleep no longer.

To your left you’ll see a gang of motorcyclists scooting across the planes, and to your right will be another landcruiser charging ahead with you.

Eventually, Fish Island will approach to a scaleable point and you’ll start to get a level of context the huge ocean you just drove across.

Yes, this huge cactus-covered rock was once an island millions of years ago.

But although Fish Island really is a cool and unexpected feature of the salt flats, we all know you’ve come here for one thing: to take ridiculously hilarious photos of you punching toys, sitting inside your own shoes, and touching the sky.

You’ll be driven out to the most nondescript point in the middle of the flats that you wonder how the hell the driver decided to stop.

But that’s the point. The less features there are to provide a reference of scale, the better your photos will look.

Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of time to perfect this impossible art, even if it does make you look like an absolute idiot to those you are watching from afar.

Sunset Reflections

And after a couple of hours, sunset will start to approach and your driver will have you join him for one last stop in the middle of nowhere.

It’s not lake. In fact, it’s barely an inch deep, but this mass of water will provide the perfect setting for your final photos, with the most beautiful reflections against the sunset I have ever witnessed.

Just don’t forget your jumper out here, it starts to get really cold at this time.

Return

And once the sun sets, it will be time to have you whisked off away from the flats and onto your night bus or towards your Uyuni hotel, whichever your tour includes.

  • Have you ever been to Uyuni Salt Flats?
  • What’s your number one recommendation for the perfect clichéd photo?