Located in southwest Bolivia, at an area of 10,582 km² (4,086 mi²) and elevation of 3,656 m (11,995 ft), Salar de Uyuni is the largest and highest salt flats ‘Salar’ in the world. The ‘high plateau’ containing no drainage caused a giant lake ‘Lago Minchín’ to form. The lake’s water evaporated long ago, but due to the high salinity, a thick crust of salt remained. The flats contain about 10 billion tonnes of salt and roughly 70% of the world’s Lithium reserves, making it of significant economical importance to Bolivia. During the rainy season (November-March), rainfall causes a mirror-like spectacular reflection.
The closest town with reliable accommodation and services to the salt flats is Uyuni. Travelers usually stay in Uyuni and visit the ‘Salar’ on day trips. The tours offered for the ‘Salar’ are typically sunrise, sunset, day and night tours. Tour agencies, which are scattered around the town of Uyuni, organize these trips by posting signup sheets on the office’s entrance. You add your name and show up 15 minutes prior to the departure time. A 4×4 vehicle is utilized, accommodating up to 6 people, costing $20/person. For a more comfortable, intimate experience, private tours are available and can be negotiated for $80, which is $40/person if two people go.
Adventurous travelers can choose to spend the night in the ‘Salar’. A typical hotel in the ‘Salar’ offers a primitive experience, since they are constructed by cemented-salt bricks, and everything in the room is made of salt. Pretty unique experience.
The most reliable way to get to Uyuni is by bus, as trains to Uyuni do not run daily. The quickest, most convenient but, ‘most expensive’ way to get there is by plane from La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. For bus scenario, if the trip starts in La Paz, a full-cama overnight bus can be taken to Potosí ($19-9 hours). From Potosí, a semi-cama bus can be taken to Uyuni ($4-4 hours). Full-cama seats recline to about 160° angle, while semi-cama seats recline to about 120° angle.
As mentioned earlier in the post, taking a tour to the salt flats is reliable and easy. One can decide to rent a car and drive, however, this option is not recommended. The roads are hazardous, which requires a reliable 4-wheel drive vehicle and an experienced driver.