Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat covering an area over 10,000 square kilometres. At an altitude of 3,600 metres above sea level, it is one of the most extreme and remarkable habitats in the world. Trips to this otherworldly landscape are beautiful year round – but particularly so in the wet season (December – April). During this time a thin layer of water transforms the flats into a stunning reflection of the night sky. Despite being one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, it is home to some great wildlife watching opportunities. Visitors can see huge flocks of flamingos congregating on shining lakes and herds of vicunas watching from the hills.
Average rating: 5.0 (very good)
Average cost: a one-day tour to the salt flats can be as cheap as $20 while a multi-day tour can cost anywhere between $90 and $500. Most tours will include transport, meals, and accommodation and follow the same itinerary, so paying more usually means fancier accommodation. There’s a useful guide to choosing a tour here.
Best time to visit: the salt flats are fantastic year round. If you visit in the wet season (December to April) you have a chance to see the flats flooded with water which creates a dazzling mirror like surface.
How to get there: trips to the salt flats require organised tours. These can be easily arranged at Uyuni in Bolivia or San Pedro de Atacama on the Chilean side.
Typical activities: 4×4 safari, animal watching, bird watching
Number of reports: 1
WILDLIFE in Salar de Uyuni
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species that users most want to see here are:
Flamingo – 100% of WildSide Users (1/1) reported sightings
Despite the harshness and extremity of this environment, the Altiplano in Bolivia provides an ideal habitat for flamingos. Laguna Colorado in particular is an incredible place to spot these ethereal birds against a Dali-esque landscape. This blood-red lagoon located near to the border with Chile attracts hundreds of flamingos due to its abundant supply of plankton. Three of the world’s six species of flamingo can be found here: the Chilean, Andean, and James’ flamingos. The latter are incredibly rare – only being found in high Andean plateaus and thought to be extinct until a small population were rediscovered in 1956. The best time to see flamingos is during the rainy season (December – April) although they are present year round. Trips to Laguna Colorado are included in most tours running from Uyuni or San Pedro de Atacama.
Vicuna – 100% of WildSide Users (1/1) reported sightings
The vicuna is an animal of the Andean Altiplano. They are typically found in cold, semi-arid areas covered with herb or shrub vegetation around 4,000 metres above sea level. The vast open plains of Salar de Uyuni support herds of wild vicuna and sightings of these graceful creatures are all but guaranteed year round. Their skittish nature means that encounters are typically fleeting and distant but that – together with the otherworldly landscape – can make them even more magical.
Photo credit: WildSide team member Lizzie Hyatt