A trip to the Bolivia would not be complete without a trip to the famous Salt Flats of Uyuni. I visited Bolivia in June 2022 and did the Tupiza to Uyuni Tour over 4 days and absolutely loved it. It has so much to offer and the big highlight is a tour of Uyuni salt flats and the national reserve of Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa.
Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world – it is over 10,000 square kilometres! In the wet season it can be covered in a layer of water creating a stunning mirror effect. It is also at very high altitude of 3656m above sea level.
The salt flats of Uyuni itself can be access from the town of Uyuni just by a day trip. If you have more time I highly recommend the 3 or 4 day tour to include the national park national reserve of Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa.
Overall trip was I felt like I was on a different planet. The tour involves longs days of driving on dirt roads but the scenery is stunning and enough to entertain you!
Starting in Uyuni vs Tupiza
This tour is possible as a 3 day route starting and finishing in Uyuni town. If you start from Uyuni then you see the salt flats (or the highlight) on the first day. If you start from Tupiza, it builds up and finishes with the highlight.
For this tour, I was lucky that I had made friends that I ended up travelling Bolivia with. There were 4 of us so this was an easy way to fill the jeep. If you are travelling solo, I met many people that found groups in Uyuni to split the cost of the jeep with. The tour from Tupiza is less common so might be tricky to find others.
From this tour, if you start in Uyuni there are tours that finish in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and include the border crossing. This is a simple way to do this crossing, I had to retrace my steps to cross the border as the friends I had met continued in Bolivia. The roads to this crossing are dirt roads so no buses go to this route, it must be done in a 4×4.
If you choose to do the tour starting and finishing in Uyuni, you miss out on all of the places that I describe on the first day of this tour. There are some amazing places to see just out of Tupiza and it is really interesting.
Cost of The Tupiza to Uyuni Tour
The trip cost 1250Bolivianos per person but didn’t include the entrance costs of the national parks. This cost was based on 4 people (and 1 dog) splitting the jeep, the price is the same per jeep. This was comfortable, we could’ve saved money by adding in an extra person but it would’ve been quite cramped.
Which Tour company to use for a Tupiza to Uyuni Tour
Personally I booked the tour I did with Alexandro tours but it was contracted out to Megasalt travel. Our guide Erwin was lovely and he worked with his niece grace who was the chef and a great cook. He spoke Spanish but this is was an issue as we had Spanish speakers in our group. In general, English speaking guides were hard to find in Bolivia so you pay a premium for it. I chose the 4 day 3 night tour option starting in Tupiza and finishing in Uyuni.
How to get to Tupiza
There is not much to see in the town of Tupiza although the surrounding countryside is beautiful. You see some of the countryside of the first day of the tour. I personally got the night bus from Sucre to Tupiza and then started the tour straight after. I paid 90 Bolivianos for the night bus. There are direct buses from Potosi and Uyuni town too. From La Paz, you need to change in Oruro.
Where to stay in Tupiza
There is not a huge amount of choice of places to stay in Tupiza. Most of the accommodation options are basic but have everything you need. Here are some of the best choices:
Where to Stay in Uyuni Town
There is more of a range of places to stay in Uyuni including some higher market options. Here are the best ones to pick from depending on your budget:
When to Visit Uyuni
The wet season in Bolivia is from November to March. During this time there is a beautiful mirror effect with the pooled water. But after this, the salt crystallises and becomes perfectly white. When I visited in June 2022, after a particularly rainy wet season there was still areas that were flooded. This mean that I got the best of both worlds to see the mirror as well as the salt. The mirror at sunrise or sunset is truly breath-taking.
What to Pack for a Tupiza to Uyuni Tour
Toilet paper! Some of the lodges are so remote they do not stock certain consumable goods such as toilet paper. If you will need to toilet at any point in the 4 days it is best to bring your own.
Warm clothes! And then some more warm clothes! This tour around gets to some high altitude (over 5000m). When I went (June), this was the height of winter and it down to -10C at night. It. Was. Chilly. Most of the lodges didn’t have heating in the rooms so it was a cold nights sleep. I regretted not taking a hot water bottle.
With high altitude comes extra strong sun so don’t forget sun cream. In general, the locations on the tour are very remote. Don’t expect a supermarket or a shop. If you want anything, make sure you buy it before you start the tour. We bought some nice wine for a fun last night.
There are some hot springs to bathe in during the tour so don’t forget a swimming costume to enjoy some relaxation.
Depending on the tour you select, the entrance tickets might not be included. Make sure to bring some cash to cover all of the entrance tickets. Some of the toilets during the day are paid for so this is a great opportunity to use up some Bolivian coins.
Some toy dinosaurs for some great photos! Our guide did some great perspective photos with dinosaurs, a pringle box and even a backpack.
Doing this trip without a tour
This tour is possible to do on your own, providing you have a 4×4. If you are choosing to do this on your own, make sure you bring all food and water for the whole trip. I didn’t see any markers of where to go as the guides know the route. Make sure you have sufficient satellite navigation. There have been horror stories of people getting lost in the desert as it looks the same for miles…
Tupiza to Uyuni Tour Day by Day
Tupiza to Uyuni Tour Day 1: Cuidad del Encanto and Pueblo Fantasme
Day 1 started for me with little sleep, our night bus arrived from Sucre into Tupiza at 5.30am. Thankfully there was a café inside the bus station that was open and sold coffee and breakfast.
We met at the Alexandro tours office at 7.30am. We had time to do some quick shopping for some toilet paper and snacks then came back to the office to set off. Our bags, food and water for the whole trip were put on top of the jeep. It was comfy for 4 people and a dog, I think 5 people would be too cramped especially during the long drives.
I had a bit of bad luck during my tour as the wind was particularly bad. Our guide said it was one of the worst windstorms he had ever seen. So even though it wasn’t too cold during the day, the wind chill was very cold.
View Points and lots of Llamas!
Our first stop was at a viewpoint overlooking a stunning valley filled with cacti and amazing rock formations called Quebrada de Palala. The rock formations were very impressive and were pink and red. Just after this, we stopped off to see a large herd of llamas on plains.
Our first lunch stop was at a tiny mining town that felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We had mash potato with meat and vegetables to keep us energised.
After lunch we went to even more incredible rock formations called Ciudad del Encanto. I felt like I had arrived on a completely different planet, it was insane.
Ghost Town Ruins
The last stop of the day was ‘Pueblo fantasma’ or ‘ghost town’. It was abandoned in the 16th century and the ruins remain very clearly today.
After the ruins, on the drive to the hostel for the night we entered Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa National Park. The entrance fee for this was 150Bs and the ticket was stamped with the date we entered. This ticket was checked a couple of times over my trip so make sure to keep it somewhere safe.
After we arrived at the hostel, we had afternoon tea by the first on the common area. Our dinner was a tasty one of a vegetable soup followed by rice and chicken for the meat eaters and aubergine with cheese for the vegetarians.
The first night sleep was a chilly one. We slept in a simple hostel at an altitude of 4800m. It got down to about -10C overnight and the bedroom was not heated, it was cold. This was a night I really wished I had brought a hot water bottle with me.
Tupiza to Uyuni Tour Day 2: Blue Lagoon, Hot Springs and Geysers
Day 2 was another early start of 6.30am. We had a quick breakfast of eggs and bread before getting on the road.
The wind storm continued on our second day so it made it quite a bit chillier than normal. The first stop of the day was flamingo lake. There were loads of flamingos which was just incredible. We had time to walk around the lake and take photos of these beautiful birds before jumping back in the jeep on the other side of the lake.
We then went on to blue lagoon which was simply stunning. This was one of my favourite spots on the tour (apart from the salt flats of course). The colour of the lake was bright blue with a backdrop of dramatic volcanoes. The volcano behind the blue lagoon is on the border of Bolivia and Chile. This is the closest you will get to Chile on the tour, it’s always fun being able to see a new country.
After the Blue Lagoon, we stopped off at the Salvador Dali rock formations. These are pretty impressive formations that look like they could’ve been sculpted by Salvador Dali but were actually formed naturally. We even saw a natural fox while we were there!
Then we went on to some hot springs that have a natural source. The entry to the hot springs was 6Bs per person. It was so nice to warm up and enjoy the view from the hot springs. I met some people that stayed near the hot springs so were able to go at night and watch the stars. This sounded so dreamy.
Then we had a lunch with a view over the hot springs. This was a really good one of tortilla wraps with vegetables, guacamole and a delicious sauce.
After lunch, we went on to the Geysers de Sol de Manana. This was my first time seeing Geysers and I was really impressed. The ground was smoking from all over and there was boiling mud – it was really cool.
Then from here we went to our last stop of the day – the Laguna Colorado. The red lake will alpacas just chilling out next to it. There was a viewpoint just next to it on a hill which gave a great view of the whole lake that was beautiful.
The second night was in Villa Mar. We had a lovely dinner of a traditional Bolivian stew. This hostel was more comfortable, and we could even have a hot shower for 15Bs. What a luxury!
Tupiza to Uyuni Tour Day 3: Canyon Del Anaconda, Juliaca and first look at the Salt Flats!
On day 3 we were up at 7.30am. We had a brilliant breakfast of banana pancakes with dolce de leche – it was just dreamy. And one of the best things about day 3 was that the wind storm had stopped. The wind was calm which was so much nicer, it just meant being outside was a lot more pleasant! Another great thing about this was I could get my drone out so I got some really cool photos on it.
The first stop was some really interesting rock formations that we big and we could climb to the top of them to get a great view. One of them looking like the world cup trophy even.
From here, we went to another beautiful spot of a lake with a lovely stream leading up to it. There were also lots of llamas hanging around. We were able to chill out here for a bit and really enjoy the views.
Canyon Del Anaconda and Picnic Lunch
We then when on to the Canyon del Anaconda. It is named that because it snakes down the valley. The views were simply stunning! We even saw an armadillo just hanging out next to the road by here. I had never seen one in the wild before.
We had lunch on day 3 as an outside picnic lunch further upstream. We used the boot door of the jeep as a table to serve the lunch off. This was really nice to eat in the nature.
After lunch, we went to the small town of Juliaca. I felt like I had just somehow been transported to the wildwest. Down the middle of this tiny town was a train track that is used to transport goods from the local mines. There were also abandoned water towers and an abandoned train carriage. It was such an interesting place in the middle of the desert.
Sunset at the Salt Flats
From here, we went on for our first glance of the salt flats! We went to an area that was still covered in water left over from the wet season (I went in June 2022). We made it just before sunset so was able to see the beautiful colours of the sunset reflected on the water. It was genuinely breath-taking. I look back at some of my photos from that moment and just think it looks like a dream.
We then went onto our final hostel of the trip – it was made of salt! As salt is so available, they use it as a building material. We were even able to shower here too. We had a great last meal with our guide and chef to mark the end of a great trip.
Tupiza to Uyuni Tour Day 4: Uyuni Salt Flats!
Day 4 – the big one. We woke up at 5am before the sun was up. We then drove in the dark to the middle of the salt flats. How our guide knew where to go I have no idea – it is just salt for miles!
We then took in the sunrise and with it were able to see how impressive the salt flats really are. It is hard to explain how enormous they are. I had the impression we were alone and all we could see as far as the eye could see was salt.
After the sun was up, we headed to Incahuasi island or cactus island. As the name suggests, it is a hill or an ‘island’ in the middle of the salt flats which has cacti all over it. It was 30 Bolivianos to enter the island. The morning light over the cacti with a view over the salt flats was truly beautiful.
After cactus island, we had breakfast back at the jeep on tables that were made of salt. After a tasty breakfast, we went back to the middle of the flats to do some fun perspective photos. Bring in the toy dinosaurs! Because of the flat surface of the salt you can get some really fun photos. We got some with a pringle box, toy dinosaurs and even our backpacks.
We then went onto lunch at what used to be a hotel made of salt in the middle of the salt flats. It was closed as a hotel to protect the local environment. There was also a cool flag monument with flags from all over the world. And that was our last stop on the salt flats :(.
End in Uyuni Town
We then went into Uyuni town which is only a 30 minute drive from the salt flats. There is a train graveyard here which has disused trains which is super interesting. Then we ended our tour and said goodbye to our guide and chef in the centre of Uyuni town.
Bearing in mind that the salt flats is the biggest tourist attraction in Bolivia, I expected Uyuni to be a bit bigger. But it is a small quiet town. There is also a military base just next to the town. We went out for dinner at Minuteman Pizzeria which was fab! It had some of the best pizza I had during my south America trip.
Afterwards I went to San Pedro de Atacama on a returning jeep after my tour. It was a bit of a retracing of my own steps but was worth it. I organised this through my guide and it was simple to arrange.
That’s the end of the Tupiza to Uyuni Tour Guide!
I hope you enjoyed this guide to a 4 day Tupiza to Uyuni Tour. I had a great time when I did mine, please let me know if this was useful and how your trip went in the comments.