Photography on the Salar de Uyuni and Bolivian Altiplano

Back when I worked as a tour leader in South America, my route used to take me across the Bolivian Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni.  It was a trip that I both loved and dreaded.  Yes, the Bolivian Altiplano is beautiful, but it’s also extremely difficult.  It’s a long ways from anything, the roads are beyond rough, the sun is oppressive during the day and the temperatures can be extremely cold at night.  And, of course, there’s also that pesky altitude. When I was guiding people, altitude was a regular issue, and I rarely got the chance to really enjoy the region as I was “on duty”.

However, after about 5 years since my last trip to the region, I finally visited the Altiplano and Salt Flats for the first time for me.  It was wonderful.  Not only did I really enjoy myself this time – despite the extreme cold of crossing in the heart of winter – but I got some really great images to add to my various stock agents.

About Crossing The Bolivian Altiplano from Uyuni to San Pedro

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to book this trip in advance.  If you book in La Paz you’ll find yourself paying quite a bit more.  In fact, you really can just arrive in Uyuni and leave on a 3-day tour as soon as you get there.  Most companies leave at about 10am, so if you catch the night bus to Uyuni you’ll be there in plenty of time to catch a tour either just of the salt flats or all the way to San Pedro.

Uyuni, Bolivia

Just outside of Uyuni, Bolivia

As soon as you get off the bus in Uyuni, there are dozens of people trying to sell trips.  Most companies are exactly the same.  Some might claim to have better accommodation or jeeps, but the truth is they are all almost identical.  The price varies, but in general if you do the 3-day trip from Uyuni to San Pedro the cost should be between 650-750 Bolivianos depending on the accommodation you want.  That price includes everything on the trip except for the park entrance fees.  On my trip, I went with a company called El Desierto and they were great.  Our driver, Richard, was really good and extremely flexible with the group.

Salar de Uyuni

The trip spends the first day on the Salar de Uyuni visiting places like the Salt Hotel and Incahuasi (Fish Island).  The second day you cross the Altiplano visiting the various lagoons before arriving at the stunning Laguna Colorada. The final day you wake up before sunrise to head to the geysers, Laguna Verde, some hot springs for a swim, and then you are transferred onto a bus at the border of Chile to head down to San Pedro.  There is also the option to return to Uyuni that same day if you don’t care to go into Chile.

Images from the Crossing

I took about 500 images well crossing the Altiplano which is probably a little bit high.  But, the scenes are just so fantastic you want to capture it all.  After editing, I was left with over 100 images which is extremely high for me.  I think about 30-40 of them will find homes at a stock agent, which is fantastic.  I was really pleased with the images that came out of the trip.  These are some of my favourites.

The Train Cemetery

One of my favourite places in the world to shoot the sunset.  Was hoping to do some star photography in the train cemetery, but it was too cloudy.  Worked well for these shots, though.

Train Cemetery, Uyuni

I got a bit selfie crazy in the train cemetery.

Train Cemetery, Uyuni

Love the graffiti.

The Salar de Uyuni

I got a fairly typical day on the Salar de Uyuni.  Not a cloud in the sky, and plenty of salt.  Visits to places like Incahuasi (fish island) and shooting stars in the middle of the night really made this place.

Salar de Uyuni

Piles of salt at a mine on the edge of the salt flats

Salar de Uyuni

The sun poking through a cactus on Incahuasi

Salar de Uyuni

A tourist wandering the salt at sunset.

Salar de Uyuni

The Milky Way over some hills on the edge of the salt flats.

Salar de Uyuni

A self-portrait before dawn on the salt flats.

Salar de Uyuni

A 32-minute exposure on the salt flats.

The Bolivian Altiplano

This is easily one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  But, it’s also really hard to capture the immensity of it all on camera.  I did my best.  I also got really lucky and saw a Culpeo (Andean Fox) in the perfect scene.

Bolivian Altiplano

Volcano and a scene from the moon.

Bolivian Altiplano

Flamingos and volcanoes.

Bolivian Altiplano

An Andean Fox in front of a laguna and volcano. The perfect scene.

Bolivian Altiplano

Andean Fox.

Bolivian Altiplano

A tourist wandering through the Altiplano.

Laguna Colorada

Flamingos at Laguna Colorada.

Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada

Bolivian Altiplano at sunset

A self-portrait on the Bolivian Altiplano at sunset.

Bolviian Altiplano

On the way to Chile at sunrise.

What’s Next on the Travel Photography Blog?

Basically as soon as I arrive in San Pedro de Atacama I left for Argentina.  I’ll be in Argentina for about 2-3 weeks visiting places like Mendoza, Buenos Aires, and Iguazu Falls.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. Excellent photos! I love astrophotography and am really pleased to see that you were able to take photos while on the 3 day tour. I am heading there in October and really want to be able to incorporate some night/galaxy shots while I’m there, without having to pay through the nose for a private tour.. I have a question, did you have to venture far from your sleeping quarters to get those night shots? Are those kinds of shots easily accessible during the 3 day tour (as in do you have to make extra arrangements to get to a suitable spot)?
    Thanks in advance. So glad I stumbled across your blog.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Alaric,
      Just be clear with the company you book with that you want to stay 1) right on the edge of the salt flats, and at the refuge right at Laguna Colorada and you’ll be fine. The company I went with had us booked away from both locations, but I was able to convince them to change so that I was closer to places to shoot. For the salt flats night photos I walked about 45 minutes although we were right on the edge of the flats. You can also pay off your driver a bit to let you photograph on the flats at sunset. They’re usually keen to make a bit more money.
      Good luck!
      OH, and also when you get to Uyuni make sure you go for pizza at Minuteman in the Tonito hotel. Best pizza in South America! If Chris (the American owner) is around, make sure you say hi for me!

      Post a Reply

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