Where can I go with little money and get a lot of experiences in return? A lot of travellers have a limited budget and looking for the perfect trip can be a puzzel. We all would love to go to Hawaii and go island hopping in this paradise, but for most travellers that is unrealistic.
Salar de Uyuni Tours from Chile to Bolivia
The journey from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni is in my opinion a trip that must top every travellers bucketlist. In 3 days you are going to cruise in a 4x4 through a vast deserted area on an altitude of 4000m from highlight to highlight and gonna be stunned by the views that unfold in front of you. The Bolivian Altiplano is a unique and remarkable area, with features you cant find anywhere else in the world. You will be guided to lakes in all different colors, will see weird shaped rock formations, smell stinky geysers, see numerous volcano’s, stare at endless views in the most perfect settings, come up close and personal with flamingos, have a bath in a hot spring, experience a train cemetery, gaze at the most beautiful starry skies and end up in an incredible remarkable place which you have never seen before: Salar de Uyuni!
Since I am a big fan of South America and in particular this place on earth I took the trip twice. Tourism is really picking up here, but it is still one of my favorites trips to go off the beaten track and I strongly recommend this place to everyone who asks me about where to travel and what to do! Go get there as soon as you can and experience the unique Uyuni Tours.
San Pedro de Atacama
It all starts in the North of Chile, where a tiny village rises out of nowhere in the driest place on earth: the Atacama dessert. San Pedro the Atacama is already an amazing hub with a broad range of tremendous tours. So definitely make sure you have time to stay here a couple nights too. Although really remote and in the middle of the desert, the food is surprisingly good, the prices are low and atmosphere is fabulous! Fire pits will keep you warm during the cold desert evenings and the trillion stars in the sky give that little extra romantic touch to your dinner. Tours around the area are all big fun and cost hardly anything. Try to do as many as you can, they are all worth the $5 to $15.
How much do the Uyuni Tours cost?
It is pretty easy to tour Salar de Uyuni by jeep. Whether you are in Uyuni or in San Pedro de Atacama there are multiple agencies that will help you out. I always took the trip from San Pedro and it was pretty straight forward to make a booking. There is no need to make a reservation in advance as there are a couple companies that offer the journey. Go around and ask about the itinerary. Roughly its all the same, including their prices, and every company will for sure show you all the highlights of the Uyuni tours. Try to meet up with people on the days before the trip by doing tours and hanging around in San Pedro. Jeeps going to be filled up with 7 people including your guide. Making a reservation for a group of people is easily to arrange since your bargaining position is stronger. Remember that they want you to take the trip with them anyway and you should be able to arrange your own jeep for a good price. Obviously prices go up with the years as this tour gained popularity fast, but in 2008 I paid as less as $100 USD for 2,5 days, which included everything. Last year I paid $125 USD and took the trip again with the same company, named Estrella del Sur.
Salar de Uyuni Tours are off the beaten path
There are of course some things to keep in mind when taking this tour. First of all this is definitely not a trip for the luxury traveller, everything is pretty basic out there. Keep in mind that the Bolivian Altiplano is situated 4000m and up above sea level in a completely remote area with no facilities at all. There are no paved roads, it is a completely off road experience and rides can be bumpy at times. Accommodation is extremely basic, especially the first night, coming from San Pedro. You will stay in a place where numerous flies where not even able to fly anymore and found their safe haven on the concrete floor. You cant actually call it accommodation, it is basically just a shelter to keep you warm during the extremely cold desert nights. Beds and blankets are provided but you have to ask yourself the question whether they are ever cleaned or washed. Bring something like a sleeping bag to cocoon yourself! There is of course no running water and although there is an opportunity to take a bucket shower, I have never really seen someone doing it! On your first day though you will spend a bit of time in a hot spring, which makes up for not taking a shower that day! Read more about Uyuni tours in one of my latest blogs Tour Salar De Uyuni | A unique Journey
This all sounds really dodgy, but since your first day is full of fabulous experiences, the jeep ride is tiring, the altitude is knocking you out and the difference in temperature in the desert is enormous, almost everyone is sleeping like a log! Though there are quite some people that get altitude sickness, take some pills with you if you are prone or ask around. Guides can offer you some coca leaves to chew on, which does seem to help apparently.
Jeeps are quiet comfortable and although they are stuffed with everyones luggage there is enough space for everyone. Your baggage will be stored, covered and tighten up on top of the car. Put everything you need in your daypack, which you take with you in the car. A lot of cars nowadays provide a USB-access to charge phones, connect with Ipods, etc. Ask the tour company about it when making a booking, the Salar de Uyuni tours are getting a little more fancier! ;) Put your phone on airplane mode, cell reception obviously is a utopia. Some space left on your memory will be handy too,It is strongly advised though to take some extra SD-cards or something to store your pictures, since you are going to shoot a lot of them!
How to get from La Paz to Uyuni? Take the worlds most horrible busride or a scenic flight! I did them both, click on the link to read more about it!
Find the best deals for Uyuni on Agoda.
Enjoy the Bolivian Altiplano
Over the last years this trip gained popularity fast. Nowadays it has gotten so popular that besides all travellers there are a lot of people that plan their holiday in this region specifically to enjoy this unique experience and that’s exactly what I would recommend you to do too. It is may be not the most relaxing trip ever, but it is definitely the best value trip ever!
So sit back, try to relax and enjoy the ride!