WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SALAR DE UYUNI IN GENERAL?
Uyuni is a year-round destination. So the best time to visit depends on what weather you prefer.
You have two season choices when visiting Bolivia: the rainy season (also peak season) and the dry season (low season) – with the salt flats being a completely different place in each season.
You should be also be aware that as most of the tour is spent at an altitude above 3,500m, reaching 4,000m, so the air temperature is much colder than at sea level.
Regardless of the season, you’ll need to wrap up warm when outside the vehicle.
Salar De Uyuni In Dry Season / Peak Season
The dry season (which is also known as winter) spans from May to October.
The weather year-round is relatively mild in Bolivia so this isn’t a winter like you experience in Europe or the United States. There is little to no rain, but temperatures are lower compared to the summer, especially at night.
Average temperatures are around 15°C (59°F).
On the Altiplano (the high Andean plateau where Uyuni is located ), night-time temperatures can drop to below freezing, especially in July and August.
The dry season also coincides with the peak tourist season. This means there will be more tourists, and increased prices for accommodation, restaurants, and activities.
A Salar De Uyuni Tour will be more expensive compared to peak season, with prices being closer to those advertised online ($150). You’re also less likely to be able to haggle as demand is higher.
Salar De Uyuni In Wet Season / Low Season
The wet season (which is also known as summer) spans from November to March.
During this season, day temperatures will be high, averaging 22°C (72°F) but with an increased chance of rain. Luckily on the Altiplano it rains a lot less compared to the lowlands and the Amazon.
The wet season runs alongside the low season, which means fewer tourists and lower prices.
During this time, demand is lower and so tour companies lower their prices to fill spaces, and you should always be able to haggle with them to try and reduce prices.
Travelling during the shoulder seasons is the ideal way to have your cake and eat it – better weather and fewer tourists meaning lower prices.
The shoulder seasons are the one or two months either side of the main seasons. The shoulder seasons in Bolivia are October/November and April/May.
In October/November Bolivia will be entering summer so you will start to get warmer weather without having to worry too much about it raining. In April/May, summer is ending and you go into winter so again, you still benefit from the warm weather but the chance of it raining is a lot less.
WHICH SEASON IS BEST FOR VISITING SALAR DE UYUNI - WET OR DRY?
Whilst most blogs will tell you to visit Bolivia in the dry season, which is generally true, it’s much better to be on the salt flat during the wet season.
This is for several reasons:
- it doesn’t rain as much in the Andes because it’s an arid landscape, and when it does rain, it’s light so it won’t ruin any activities.
- Day time temperatures will be more enjoyable than the dry season and night-time temperatures, whilst still cold, won’t drop to below freezing allowing you to venture out at night and stargaze in the thermal baths.
- It is also low season, tours will be much cheaper.
- You can only see the mirror effect when it’s rained on the salt flat
So in summary; you save money, still have relatively sunny weather and if it rains, this is when you get to see one of the most incredible natural reflection effects on earth.
We spent the whole of January in Bolivia and didn’t have any issues with rain. We aren’t sure if this was because we were lucky or because it’s not that bad. La Paz was sunny but mild due to the altitude. None of our flights or tours were cancelled in the Amazon, and we had terrific weather for our Pampas tour.
Sucre and Cochabamba were lovely, but they tend to stay like this all year round as they are in the lowlands. It goes to show how unpredictable the weather is, and you should never let it dictate your trip too much.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SALAR DE UYUNI FOR THE MIRROR EFFECT?
You won’t be able to get the mirror effect in the dry season as there’s little to no rainfall, so you’ll need to visit during the rainy season.
You need it to lightly rain the day/night before you visit the salt flat. So, there’s an element of luck involved. But because the salt flat isn’t very porous, a layer of rain will start to build up over time.
However, if it is raining heavily on the day, it will disrupt the surface water and the effect won’t be as clear. Oh and it can’t be windy either, the water needs to settle. Yeah, there’s a lot that needs to go in your favour.
Your driver will find a dry area of the salt flat to take the perspective shots; then they will take you to a flooded part for the reflection shots. You can see in a few of our photos (during the day) that the reflection is blurry. This was because of the wind.
In the evening, they will make a final stop as the sun is setting for more reflection shots along with the sunset. Our reflection shots were clearer at sunset as the wind had died down.
Best Month For Visiting Salar De Uyuni For The Mirror Effect
Not everyone is flexible with their travel dates, but if you are dying to see the mirror effect and take photos, then aim for between April-May.
Most months in the wet season will be fine, but as mentioned these two months are shoulder seasons so you will be able to find a cheaper tour and still enjoy good weather throughout Bolivia.
Visiting in October-November might not be fruitful as rainfall is higher in January and February.
During this time, the layer of water builds up on the salt flat, so you’re more likely to see the effect the later you go in the wet season (January onwards).
HOW TO TAKE GOOD PHOTOS AT SALAR DE UYUNI
Your guide will handle the perspective shots taking the pressure off you.
We went with Salty Desert Tours, and our guide Jaime was an expert. He took all our perspective shots and did this fantastic hyper-lapse whilst driving around us. Unfortunately, we lost the file, but it was incredible.
He will also direct the classic video that most people do. Ours was coming out of the pringle can.
How To Take A Good Reflection Shot At Salar De Uyuni
You don’t need a fancy camera to take an excellent reflection shot on the salt flat. The cameras on modern smartphones are so good these days that no one will be able to tell the difference.
If you want to take your reflection shots and experiment, here are a few tips:
- Find a smooth surface – Wait until the wind dies down and the surface of the water is flat. Calm water will split the image in half to create a perfect mirror image
- Simplify the image – Remove any background objects or distractions on the salt flat so that only the subject (usually a person) and the reflection are left.
- Find some clouds – The more clouds in the sky, the more clouds in the reflection which will make it look like the subject is walking on them
- Get close to the surface – Hold the camera low down and as close to the water as possible. Make sure the camera is as close as possible to being level with the surface of the water (at a parallel angle). A camera (not a smartphone) with a foldable screen is helpful for this so you can see what you are photographing without having to lie down and get wet. If you do have a DSLR or other camera, then investing in a tripod can also be helpful to hold the camera steady.
- Snap away – Take loads of photos at once. Not ten or twenty but hundreds. With the wind and subject causing the scene to move, it’s best to keep taking pictures so that one or two of them end up being perfect.
How To Take A Good Sunset Shot At Salar De Uyuni
Taking reflection shots at sunset takes them to a different level. With the orange glow of the sunset combining with the blues and whites of the salt flat and sky, you get a beautifully contrasted image.
You can either stand with the sun behind the subject to get silhouetted shots with the subject backed out.
If you want the subject’s features and face in the photo, then get them to stand aside so that the light is hitting one side of their body, or facing the sun.