Transportation in Salar de Uyuni
One of Bolivia's most iconic images, the Salar de Uyuni is an expansive salt desert located bang in the middle of the Altiplano. It is a virtually flat desert that emits reflections of the sun in such a way that it creates a mirror effect with the sky. Uyuni is a small little dusty town located in what seems like the middle of nowhere. Originally a railroad junction, the place's main source of income is tourism. What would otherwise be a rather dull stopover between Salta, Argentina and La Paz or Potosi, has today become absolutely mandatory to visit on this leg of the gringo trail - the sole reason being the presence of the world's largest salt flats.
Tours are mostly arranged from Uyuni town, which is usually brimming with travellers coming and going to/from the Salar.
This Uyuni transportation guide gives a breakdown of getting to and from Uyuni. General travel information can be found in our Bolivia transportation guide. Use this guide, along with our Uyuni tours page, in order to get the most out of your holiday in Uyuni.
Getting to Uyuni
Uyuni has a rather small airport (IATA=UYU, IACO=SLUY). Líneas Aéreas Canedo (in codeshare with Aerosur) operates flights every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Cochabamba Jorge Willstermann International Airport on a Super DC-3 (the historical aircraft that was built in 1952). The flights take roughly 90 minutes and land at a salt runway near the city. The tickets cost US $ 150 for a one way ride and US $ 250 for both ways. More information is available at Líneas Aéreas Canedo's hangar at Cochabamba Airport or at any of the Aerosur offices.
For transport from the airport to the city (or from the city to the airport), we recommend Green Path Transfers, who offer eco-friendly airport transfers in hundreds of destinations around the world.
Buses to Uyuni
There is a new bus terminal in the works (funded by the US $ 0.20 terminal fee). At last look, however, all buses were still seen leaving from the west end of Av Arce, which is a short walk from the plaza. Several bus operators offer evening buses to Oruro for US $ 2 to US $ 3. The journey takes 8 hours and tourists have to change a bus for La Paz. Bus travel can be bitterly cold during the winter - tourists have been known to sit inside sleeping bags while on the night bus from Oruro to Uyuni.
With the exceptions of Panamerica Sur and Todo Tourist Bus, tourists have to change a bus in Oruro to get to La Paz. Buses to Oruro and La Paz are often booked well in advance, therefore, it is best for tourists to make a booking at least one day before they wish to travel. Ideally, if you wish to take a comfortable bus operated by one of the better companies, finalise your bookings several days before you intend to travel. In fact, it would be best to get this out of the way before going on a southwest circuit tour.
Those coming from San Pedro de Atacama, however, need to be prepared to spend a night in Uyuni town and have little choice in terms of which bus they could take. The good news is that there are several buses everyday that operate to and from Potosi (30 Bs that takes 6 to 7 hours). From there, tourists can get another one to Sucre, which will take another 3 to 4 hours.
There are several daily departures around 5.30 am and 6 am for Tupiza that stops halfway for lunch at Atocha. The travel time is 7 to 8 hours. Thrice a week, there are 9 am departures and, occasionally, a Land Cruiser departs around 6 am or 7 am. It would be best to ask around before buying a ticket.
Uyuni has a well-organised, modern railway station. Travellers could buy their tickets several days in advance or get an agency to do it for them. Trains that run south to Villazon on the Argentinian border stop in Tupiza and Atocha. The north-bound ones go to Oruro. The less comfortable and less frequent departures go to Calama, Chile.
Tourists could also rent a car in La Paz and drive to Uyuni.
Getting Around Uyuni
The best way to explore the Salar de Uyuni is to take one of the jeep tours in Salar de Uyuni.