UYUNI SALT FLATS: 5 ESSENTIAL ITEMS YOU SHOULD BRING
Forgetting to pack just one essential item can throw a spanner in the works and ruin your salt flats tour. Luckily, the weather in the Altiplano where Uyuni is located doesn’t fluctuate much between summer and winter. It hardly rains all year round, so the only differences are day and night time temperatures.
We’ve recommended some items you may want to purchase below with regards to the changing seasons. But for now, here are five great items that you will need all year round:
- E-tip Gloves
- Phone/Camera Tripod
- Face Sunscreen
- Lightweight Thermal Layer
- Waterproof Boots
- Thick thermal layers
Just a heads up, there are no affiliate links in this article. Just good advice!
1. E-tip Gloves
We skipped out on gloves on the Salkantay Trek, and we got away with it. We wish we hadn’t skipped out on them on the Salt Flats Tour.
Once the wind picks up and you are out in the open desert, your hands will be freezing within seconds. You might not see this as a problem you can just keep them in your pockets, but that defeats the point of going on this tour.
You’ll need your hands to take pictures of the incredible sights throughout. This becomes difficult and painful if your hands are frozen. We had to run back to the jeep a few times to escape the biting cold and nurse our freezing extremities.
Invest in some e-tip clothes so you can continue to use your gadgets whilst out on the Altiplano. The e-tip, of course, allows you to operate your touchscreen devices with the glove on.
2. Camera / Phone Tripod
While your guide will be an expert at taking the famous salt-flat perspective shots, they’re unlikely to become your personal photographer for the rest of the trip.
Also, if you plan to take your own perspective or reflection shots, then a tripod is essential. Getting down low to the ground is critical for both photos, so a keeping your phone or camera steady on a tripod is a huge help.
We like to use gorilla pods as they are lightweight and easy to adjust.
The long days mean you need to be up at the crack of dawn. And whilst your hotels do have electricity, outside it will be pitch black. So having a cheap headlamp with you is always helpful.
It’s also extremely useful on the second night when going to the thermal baths for some star gazing. The path isn’t lit, and the gravel road is hard to navigate, so a torch helps. It also means you can leave your phone in the hotel instead of needing to use it as a torch.
No need to break the bank with one. Spark do simple and cheap options.
4. Roll On Face Sunscreen
At 3,000m, the sun is already intense out on the salt flats. But when it’s also being reflected off a perfectly white surface onto your face all day long, then it’s even worse.
Invest in a small, roll-on sun cream that you can apply to your face easily throughout the day. You can do it quickly, and it saves your hands getting oily every time, freeing them up to take photos.
As a rule of thumb – apply every time you stop and get out of the jeep.
We didn’t do this and got very burnt within an hour of being out on the salt flat.
5. Lightweight Thermal Fleece / Jacket
The weather is constantly changing from hot to cold on the Slat Flats tour.
You will spend most of your time in the warm jeep, then stopping and stepping out into the desert landscape at 4,000m for 10-15 minutes to see the sights.
Here’s where you want a lightweight thermal layer that you can chuck on quickly over your t-shirt when you get out of the jeep, and easily take it off once you get back in. We didn’t have one of these at the time, so we used our hoodies which weren’t helpful in the slightest. Big cotton jumpers like ours weigh more, take up more space in your bag, don’t keep you warm and are just a faff in general to take off.
A lightweight thermal folds up neatly without taking up any room and keeps you warm. Also, if you get a zipped one, they slip on and off easily. They’re also great for wearing in the evenings when it’s colder.
For Summer: Waterproof Boots
Summer is the rainy season in Bolivia. Whilst it doesn’t rain much on the salt flat, it isn’t porous so the rain will build upon the surface eventually forming a small lake. The water will come up to ankle height in some places, so it’s best to purchase some good waterproof hiking boots.
The salt flat is remarkably painful to walk on barefoot as well (salt is pretty sharp) so avoid doing this. Get some waterproof footwear; otherwise, you’ll have to face having soggy footwear for the trip.
We bought ours from Mountain Warehouse while in the UK, and they served us brilliantly for the entire year-long trip in South America, from the Amazon in Bolivia to Patagonia. These are fully waterproof and were tested in several ankle high puddles and rivers in South America.
For Winter: Thick Thermal Layers
From June-August, daytime temperatures average day time temperatures of 13° Celsius and night temperatures drop below freezing.
Bring lots of layers including thermal base layers, lightweight fleece and even a jacket/windbreaker on top. This allows you to continually put on and take off layers to match the temperature.
This waterproof windbreaker from the North Face is ideal and packs down easily into a hand-sized package.
UYUNI SALT FLATS TOUR COMPLETE PACKING LIST
If you are doing the full 3 day/2 night tour and getting dropped off at the Chilean border, then you will take your big backpack with you on the jeep.
It will be strapped to the top of the jeep for the entire day, covered in tarpaulin and tied down to protect it, so you won’t have access to it until you reach the hotel for the evening. Therefore, you should pack a day bag which you can take in the jeep, so you have easy access to some essentials.
- Hiking Boots – the salt will get all over your shoes, and on the second day when you go into the mountains, most of the desert is loose gravel and stones, and you can also do some climbing over rocks when you reach the Dali valley – so best to have some robust shoes that can get dusty.
- Hiking Socks (x2) – merino wool, so they last a couple of days without smelling
- Separate pair of lightweight shoes – for the end of the day when you reach the hotel. It feels great to kick off the smelly hiking boots and wear some comfy shoes instead
- Pair of regular socks – to go with your change of shoes
- Hiking trousers or shorts – we took base layer leggings but didn’t end up wearing them. We feel more comfortable trekking in shorts, but many people were wearing trousers. Remember you spend a lot of time driving so you will want to choose something comfortable to sit in.
- Waterproof jacket/windbreaker – perfect for when you reach some of higher altitudes to keep the wind out and stay warm, or when there is a light drizzle.
- Hoody / Jumper/ lightweight thermal jacket – the evenings get very cold when you’re above 3,000m
- Woolly Hat/Snood – both are useful for keeping your ears/head warm when you reach those colder and windier places
- Cap – to keep the sun off your face/neck if you’re having good weather on the salt flat
- Sunglasses – if you have a sunny day on the salt flat, you will essentially be blind without sunglasses. The reflection off the white surface is incredibly strong so bring a good pair with UV protection
- Swimwear – for the thermal springs
- Flip flops – for making your way from the hotel to the thermal baths (about a 5-minute walk). You can also wear them in the evenings around the hotel if you don’t want to wear trainers, but it will be cold!
- Travel towel – not essential as both our hotels provided towels but always better to be prepared
- Toilet roll – better to be safe than sorry
- Wet wipes – if unluckily you need a nature poo
- Standard items – toothbrush, deodorant etc
- Medical kit and medicine – you never know what can happen on the trip, be prepared
- Water bottle – you can fill your bottle up each day at the hotel
- Portable charger – there’s electricity in the hotels, but there’s usually only one working plug socket which everyone uses, so bring a portable charger to keep your phone charged. One fully charged battery should last the 3 days.
- Camera – obviously
- Day backpack – This will be the backpack you carry each day on the trek and will need to look after your valuables like your camera, water bottle and snacks.
- Snacks – cereal bars etc., always handy although you are fed well and given snacks each day
- Extra cash – cash in BOB for when you want to buy snacks or water. On the morning of the second day, you visit a shop before driving into the desert. You can also buy wine and alcohol at the hotels.
Still unsure about booking a Salt Flat tour in Bolivia? Read our 6 reasons why you can’t miss out on this amazing trip.
And for more useful guides and information on Boliva, our three week itinerary is a great place to start to help you plan the best trip possible.