Tourism at the Uyuni Salt Flat

Travel information

Uyuni or Tunupa Salt Flat is located at the southwest of Bolivia in the department of Potosi; it is surrounded by the Bolivian Altiplano (High Plain) and Los Andes Mountain Range. This salt flat is established as the world's largest one with 12,000 square kilometers and lies at an altitude of 3,650 meters above sea level. 

Within this "sea of salt" there are several islands with different characteristics. Nevertheless, the best known is the Incahuasi Island with 24 hectares. At the north of this sea salt there are Tahua, Llica and Coquesa populations, featuring hotels and shelters built with salt blocks, but the main attraction is that are situated at the foot of the Tunupa volcano that has a height of 5432 meters, this volcano has different viewpoints to observe panoramically the Lípez Desert and Uyuni and Coipasa Salt Flats. The communities of Coquesa and Chantani have interesting local museums containing samples of pre-Columbian mummies and ancient craftsmanship.

Within the tourist circuit visiting Salar de Uyuni about 400 km at the south of Bolivia it is possible to visit the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve, in this reserve you can visit the famous colored lagoons, the most famous is the Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) with an area of 60 square km and a depth of 35 cm.

The Laguna Colorada, called this way by its high content of sediments and pigments of some types of algae and mineral waters, tones ranging from brown to deep reds. The lagoon is home of South American flamingos, thousands of migratory birds, the three species that inhabit this lake are: Andean flamingo, Chilean flamingo and James flamingo. The Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) of salted water, is a high Andean lagoon with an area of 5 square kilometers and it´s connected to Laguna Blanca (White Lagoon) by a narrow strait, its emerald color is due to the high magnesium content. It´s located at the foot of the Licancabur volcano, one of the highest active volcanos in the world.

Within the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve you can also visit “El Sol de Mañana” (Morning Sun) volcanic activity that shows fumarolas (gases coming up from little holes in volcanic areas) and geysers, which emit sulfur gases, also visit and swim at hot springs of great pressure; the Valley of the Rocks, where nature offers a show featuring dozens of rock formations eroded by the wind that can reach an altitude of 25 meters, archaeological sites and typical fauna and flora of this land of extreme height.

COQUESA, mystique and magic

The town of Coquesa is 13 km from Tahua away and can be accessed through a zigzag dirt road. The locality gives birth to the mysteries of an archaeological deposit whose origins are unknown, although the traditional archaeologists recognize that the deposit contain tombs of El Señorio Chipaya.

What to doin Coquesa?

Visit to the mummy cave through a hike along a steep path that permits the view on the wonderful landscape of the Salar de Uyuni surrounded by green bofedales (a special kind of wetland). When arriving at the caves, the community tour guide who speaks different languages invites the visitors to enter the cave through a short walk along a dirt path. The enormous stones that serve as a portal to the grot are threshold shaped in order to let visitors in. Five mummies rest in that cave. Thanks to the cold climate they remain preserved.

From the cave of the mummies you can continue to hike to the top of the Thunupa, until you reach a viewpoint that permits you the panoramic view of the Salar de Uyuni.

Visit to the Chantani Museum: The museum has an informational section of the Thunupa volcano and the Tahua area, as well as dishes and utensils found in archaeological sites.

Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve

The circuit of the Eduardo Abaroa Reserve is complementary to the Salar de Uyuni. The main objective of this tour is to stimulate the senses by visual impressions, climate, odors and touching experiences produced by each of the attractions and surroundings that are visited during this tour.

The circuit allows us to know more about the paths opened by the ancestral cultures that allow to expand the commerce and the intercultural relations towards the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, a thesis that is now seen as a corollary for the integrity between people.

A starting point on this visit is the town of San Pedro de Quemes, a town on the shores of the Salar de Uyuni that keeps the scars of the Pacific War hidden, which are shown during the visit of Pueblo Quemado, a settlement that was devastated during the confrontation between bothers. It has chullpares and archaeological sites, a viewpoint, cave paintings and petroglyphs, next to other attractions.

The visual experience increases as we get to the Eduardo Abaroa Nature Reserve. On the way there you can already see the coloured lagoons: Laguna Hedionda, Laguna Bush, Laguna Salada and the small Salar de Chalviri.

Big amounts of wild straw can be found in this sector of the Bolivian highlands. You can also find sectors with the advent of queñua and yareta. Approximately 23 species of mammals inhabit this area.

As a complement to this tourist circuit in the southwest of Potosí, we recommend a visit to the enterprises of the Pueblos Mágicos de Lípez Association, which implemented a café, an interpretation center and a cultural center in the community of San Cristóbal.

For the arrival of foreign tourist from the neighbor republic of Argentina we recommend an information Center located in the city of Villazón, where you can access important information about the culture, and the Bolivian society as a whole.

General Information about the Uyuni Salt Flats

Location: Southwest of Bolivia, Daniel Campos province in the department of Potosí, the Andes Altiplano

Elevation: 3650 masl (in the circuit of Uyuni Salt Flat and lagoons we will reach the 4300 meters at the foot of the volcano Licancabur)
Average temperature: 1 ° C in winter, in summer 13 ° C (in winter the temperature can drop to -20 in the Lipez area)

How do I get to Uyuni?

  • There are daily flights from La Paz to Uyuni with BOA and Ecojet airlines 
  • Direct buses depart from La Paz, Sucre and Potosí every day
  • Ferroviaria Andina is the train company that departs 4 days a week from the train station located in the city of Oruro, 3 hours far from La Paz

* Uyuni and the Eduardo Abaroa Reserve are strategically located to continue your trip to San Pedro de Atacama (Chili), La Quiaca - Jujuy - Salta (Argentina) and Potosí - Sucre - Tupiza (Bolivia)

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