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A Different Way To Get From La Paz To Uyuni In Bolivia


la paz, uyuni salt flats, sajama, altiplano

Bolivia has been getting a lot of attention lately thanks to the beauty of its most popular attraction Salar de Uyuni. Until recently, Bolivia was just a second-option for those coming from/to Peru to see Machu Picchu but now a lot of travelers are coming to take Bolivia tours and Uyuni Salt Flats tours exclusively, including Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde and Eduardo Avaroa Reserve.
Naturally, the starting point for a Salar de Uyuni tour is the town of Uyuni but most people who arrive in Bolivia will get to the capital city of La Paz first. From La Paz, the ways to get to the town of Uyuni are pretty well-known. You can either take an overnight bus with more than one company offering this service. You can also take a 30-minute flight from La Paz and even a train that leaves from La Paz's neighbor city Oruro.
It would seem that if there is a way to get to Uyuni for the popular adventure, it has already been discovered. While this is true, most people are unaware that there is a fourth alternative to get from La Paz to Uyuni and do the popular Uyuni Salt Flats tour and the remote southwest. What most people don't know is that there is a beautiful national park not far from La Paz called Sajama and that it is almost on the way to Uyuni. Too bad that people take the overnight bus or the quick flight both of which does not allow you to notice the interesting sights outside your window.
If you want to see what is between La Paz and Uyuni, I suggest taking a tour from La Paz that can drive you to Sajama National Park, stay there for a day or two (one day is enough to enjoy it) and then take a back country road that joins Sajama with the Salar de Uyuni via Salar de Coipasa (Bolivia's second largest salt flats). Along the way you will see Bolivia's highest peak, Mt. Sajama (6.542m), archaeological sites, pristine lagoons, natural hot springs, Andean wildlife, a less crowded salt lake, snow-capped mountains and traditional countryside. I strongly suggest adding a day or two to the already popular (and ever increasingly crowded) 3-day Salar de Uyuni tour by stopping at Sajama National Park and taking the back country road that joins these two protected areas that 90% of travelers to Bolivia miss.

Further Information

Travel tips:

  • It is best to avoid driving in the dark, especially on Bolivian roads, so I would suggest avoiding the overnight bus
  • Be prepared for long drives
  • Bring plenty of snacks for the long drives
  • Get acclimatized for a day or two in La Paz
  • Take diamox or other altitude medication
  • Avoid alcohol if you feel the effects of the altitude

Must see/do at this place:

  • Sajama National Park
  • Hike to either of the base camps. You get amazing views from there
  • Bathe in the natural hot springs of Sajama
  • Photograph the old church with Sajama mountain in the background
  • Do not miss the Macaya tombs, a group of polychromatic tombs known as "chullpas"
  • Hike to Isla Incahuasi in Salar de Uyuni
  • Drive across Salar de Coipasa, a lesser-known salt flats

You should avoid here:

  • Avoid driving in the dark especially near the Chile-Bolivia border known to host dangerous people after the sun goes down
  • Do not push it too hard if you are sensitive to the effects of the altitude

Other helpful information: This is really an off the beaten track activity and there are already people who are enjoying it. You can read some reviews at so it is not something that does not have value. Few people get to do it because of the lack of information, especially in so-called expert guides such as Lonely Planet. It would be great if more people find out it is a great option.

Did you like this article? Then you'll like these: Tarabuco, Cal Orko, Potosí, Madidi National Park, The Peoples of Lake Titicaca, Pachamama, La Paz, Authentic Rurrenabaque: Sustainable Tourism At Work, Amboró National Park and Tiwanaku.

By Ben Mont
I'm an adventure traveler at heart. I love exploring new destinations and off the beaten track places in the most off the beaten track country in...
09 Aug 2015

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