Bolivia Atacama Travel Tips & Advice

By Last Chance Traveler | Mar 2015


Best time to go:

Traveling through the salt flats and desert at different times of the year will provider travelers with uniquely different experiences. To see the water reflections on the salt flats, the best time of year is typically March and April, but expect more tourists as well. Also, during this time, some areas of the salt flat are inaccessible due to the possibly sinking your vehicle in the salt.

I traveled during May, right after the peak season and we only seen 2 or 3 other tour groups along the way. The skies wee clear and sunny all day but the temperatures was between 20 and 50 degrees (-6 - 10 Celsius)


How to get there:

  • From Uyuni, Bolivia (via La Paz)
  • From San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (via Calama). To get to Calama, you must take a flight from Santiago. I took a flight from Lima to Tacna, then a taxi to Arica and then a bus to Calama.

Many tours start in Uyuni and end San Pedro de Atacama or back in Uyuni. I did my tour backwards, where I started in San Pedro de Atacama and ended in Uyuni. After completing the trip, I’m glad I did the trip in reverse order, but it did cost a few dollars extra.

Both Uyuni and San Pedro de Atacama have plenty of tour operators available. There are a lot of backpacking travelers in both cities so multiple tours run daily in both directions. I suggest booking a tour in advance but it possible to find one when you are out there. Many of the group tours though cram 6 people in a truck, accommodations are in a hostel, and they do not provide a translator but for around $100 - $200 dollars, you get what you pay for. I did a private tour through Bolivia that included a safe driver, tour guide/translator, very nice lodging, breakfast lunch and dinner, as well snacks along the way. It was expensive but well worth the private attention, custom itinerary, and not having to deal with other people’s problems. Ask your driver and guide about all the group tour horror stories!



Freman Tours - They own many of the remote hotels in the region which makes them a good choice for the traveler who likes a hotel versus a hostel. There are many other private tours, cheaper tours, and day trips available.



The accommodations that I stayed at were very nice considering we were in the middle of nowhere.

  • Hotel Jardines de Mallku Cueva (location) – We were the only guests in the hotel that night. When we arrived, the staff was so excited to see us, they made sure we had everything we needed and began to prepare dinner right away.
  • Tayka-Hotel de Piedra (location) –The view of the stars from this hotel was spectacular- service was great, wifi work great, and the food was delicious.
  • Hotel Tayka de Sal (location) – This hotel is made entirely of salt. The dinner was great, and the view of the Uyuni Salt Flats were amazing.


What to expect:

If you are a U.S. Citizen, be prepared to pay a $135 entry Visa to enter the country in cash. Our tour operator forgot to tell us this – and trust me, you will be turned away if you don’t have the money.

The weather during May was cold, really cold! Expect sunny, windy, and below zero temperatures to the point where you need sunblock and a jacket at the same time. I picked up a llama wool jacket in San Pedro de Atacama just before our tour began for $10 USD.

If you book a private tour, you don’t need to have much money with you. During my tour I spent all of $5 on soda and candy; the rest was included in the tour price.



Photo Gallery Information

The collection of photos and panoramic pictures above were taken while on my excursion through the Chilean Atacama and Bolivia Highlands. To hear about my adventures from this trip, check out my Atacama trip recap.

Left to right, top to bottom:


Questions? Comments? Let me know what you think.

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