7 Reasons Why Your Salt Flats Tour Should Begin in Tupiza Instead of Uyuni

Near Tupiza
Near Tupiza | © Jan Beck / Flickr
Travelers flock to the windy ramshackle town of Uyuni in droves, each one on a mission to explore the otherworldly landscapes of the Salar de Uyuni and beyond. Yet many are unaware there is an alternative start point, one that is superior in many ways. So give Uyuni a miss and opt to start your salt flats adventure in Tupiza instead.

Tupiza is amazing

One of the most compelling reasons to start your tour in Tupiza is that you get to actually visit Tupiza. This hopelessly underappreciated and charmingly authentic town sits right in the heart of Bolivia’s badlands, a wild west style region packed full of sunbleached quedabras and cactus-lined valleys.

Outside Tupiza © Jan Beck/Flickr

You can take the train

Traveling by train is a joy in Bolivia, thanks to an antiquated yet elegant network that slices through the center of the country. Locomotive lovers can arrive from La Paz by connecting in Oruro, while those on their way to Argentina can ride the line as far as the border in Villazon.

Bolivia Train © Patrick Nouhailler/Flickr

The tour companies are better

Uyuni is renowned for some unscrupulous operators who cut corners to maximize profits at the expense of the tourist. Tupiza-based operators, on the other hand, are generally infinitely more responsible, featuring newer vehicles which are less prone to breakdowns, drivers who are courteous, and food which is surprisingly palatable. Options abound, although La Torre is worth considering for its solid reputation.

Rock formation (Arbol de Piedra) in Uyuni, Bolivia © Byelikova Oksana / Shutterstock

Tours from Tupiza are safer

Superior comfort and services aside, Tupiza-based tour operators also have a notable regard for passenger safety. Tupiza operators tend to be selective of who they employ and typically test drivers for sobriety before allowing them to depart.

Train with graffiti © Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock

You’ll get an extra day

Tours from Tupiza last for four days instead of three, meaning travelers will get plenty of extra time to admire the stunning scenery en route. Admittedly, the extra day is not exactly the highlight of the trip, but it is an enjoyable addition extra nonetheless.

Tour departing from Tupiza © vincentraal/Flickr

You’ll beat the crowds

The best thing about tours from Tupiza is the chance to avoid the masses due to the fact that jeeps arrive at the main attractions at different times to the hordes who left from Uyuni. If experiencing incredible landscapes in utter isolation is a priority, then starting your tour in Tupiza is an obvious choice.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia © Patrick Nouhailler/Flickr

You’ll see the Salar at sunset

As the grand finale of an unforgettable trip, Tupiza-based tours visit the Salar on the final day at sunrise. Photographers relish in the chance to snap this alienesque landscape during those bewitching hours, while others travelers will appreciate the age-old adage of “saving the best till last”.

Sunrise in the Salar © Leonora (Ellie) Enking/Flickr