When’s the best time to visit Bolivia salt flats at Uyuni? This miracle of nature welcomes visitors all year round – but you should be prepared for the rainy and dry seasons!
Have you seen pictures of a land where the ground mirrors the sky so perfectly, they look almost doctored? In fact, that land exists and is likely a photo of the Bolivian Salt Flats, 4,000 miles of vast salty desert known as Salar de Uyuni.
During the rainy season, the water level rises a few inches, and the lack of wind causes the water to settle and reflect the sky. It’s the world’s largest natural mirror, and a wonder of nature that many people should try to visit at least once.
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Best Time To Visit Bolivia Salt Flats
Sowhen is the best time to visit? The salt plains have very different seasons, each with its own distinct character. Repeat trips are common as the plains go through many changes over the course of a year. Below we’ll look at the best time to visit the Bolivian salt flats.
Rainy or Dry: The Contrast Between Seasons
Bolivia has two distinct seasons: the rainy season in the summer and the dry season in the winter. The fall and spring months can also produce a different character in the salt flats.
The rainy season is when the plains swell with a film of water that reflects the sky like glass. The surface creates an otherworldly feeling that is unlike anything else. You can wade through the water and see your own reflection in a truly unique experience.
During the dry season, the water dries up from the heat and sun, leaving behind crystalline patterns of salt on the surface. The intricate network of interlocking patterns of white as far as the eye can see is a different kind of beauty, but is no less astounding than the mirrored desert in the rainy season.
During the spring and fall, the plain is a mixture of these two conditions, and in certain lucky cases you may be able to see both the mirror and the crystalline patterns while on your trip.
The Rainy Season: The World’s Largest Mirror
The rainy season takes place in the summer in Bolivia, in the months of December, January, and February. Because Bolivia is in the southern hemisphere, its winter is the opposite from that of the northern hemisphere. Typically during this time, enough rain falls and accumulates to create the mirror effect. January or February is the best time to visit the Bolivian salt flats if you want to catch it.
December may be the start of the rainy season, but sometimes not enough rain falls to create the effect. On the other hand, you’re bound to have a lot of fun celebrating the holidays in such an exotic location. Just be aware that a lot of desert tours close for Christmas and New Year.
January typically gets enough rainfall to produce the mirror effect and is considered the best month to visit this area. On the flip side, many attractions close down due to the flooding.
Historically, February is the rainiest winter month. When the flooding gets too severe, parts of the floodplains shut down for safety reasons. Typically most tours shut down this time of year. While you’re certain to see the mirror effect in February, it’s likely that that’s the only thing you’ll see.
The Shoulder Season: The Best and Worst of Both
In Bolivia the fall comes in the months of March, April, and May. During this time of year, the rain falls off and on, and the plains vary between the mirror effect and the extensive white expanse of the dry season. Truly fortunate people may even see both on one trip.
More attractions will be open, and there are better deals than during the high tourist season of December, January, and February. In March, the weather is still quite wet, but there are also likely to be some dry, sunny days. This is an excellent time to see the mirror effect with less of a chance of flooding.
April tends to be the best time to see both sides of the salt flats. While it tends to be wetter at the beginning of the month, booking a trip near the middle or end may be the ticket if you’re trying to see both sides. Moreover, plenty of attractions are open, so you can find plenty to do while waiting for that perfect picture.
May is drier as it fully transitions into winter. The temperature drops, and if you want any chance of seeing the mirror effect and the white plains in one trip, you better visit at the beginning of the month. However, the benefit is that May is the start of the off-season, and you can get fantastic deals while visiting.
The Dry Season: An Empty Sea of White
The dry season, winter in Bolivia, takes place in June, July, and August. During this time, there’s hardly any rainfall, and all of the attractions and hotels are open for business. At the same time, your chance of seeing the mirror effect is nil. The plains stretch as far as the eye can see and offer only the empty white-patterned landscape.
In June the temperature drops fast, especially during the night. June is very dry, though the temperature doesn’t get as low as in later months. If you want to visit during the dry season, bring some warm clothes in addition to sunscreen. The salt plains are essentially a desert, and the sun is intense during the day, but it cools way down at night.
Starting in July, the stargazing in the Bolivian salt flats is incredible. The desert has few lights, and at night the clear sky lights. This is perfect for visitors who love to stargaze. July is also a great time to see the other attractions in the area, like the hot springs or numerous lakes.
August is the perfect month to camp under the stars, so long as the cool nighttime weather doesn’t scare you. You can still stargaze to your heart’s content, or you can even stay in a hotel like Hotel Palacio De Sal or Hotel De Sal Luna Salada, two hotels fully made out of salt, for a unique experience. Guided tours are also available.
Spring: The Salt Plains Come Alive
After the harsh cold nights of winter comes the gentle spring. From the green mountains and migrating birds, spring helps breathe life into an otherwise empty expanse of desert. You can see unique animals like the Andean fox, or other birds and wildlife.
Spring starts in September, and slowly the temperature begins to rise again. It’s still quite cold at night, but it gets warmer throughout the month. It also begins to rain occasionally.
In October is when things really begin to warm up. The average nighttime low rises considerably, and rain starts falling more regularly. October is a good time to camp out if you don’t mind the rain. You might even see the mirror effect if you’re lucky.
Birdwatching is also popular during the dry season, but especially so during spring when you might be able to see the exotic birds with young.
Rain occurs more regularly as the temperatures rise to comfortable levels in November. The sunset grows to fantastic proportions as a myriad of colors falls on the white plains. The mirror effect is still a long shot, but you might see it happen if you’re lucky. It’s also the end of the low season for tourism in this area, so the chances of you scoring some great deals are very high.
Bolivia Uyuni Salt Flats Tour
Booking a Bolivia Uyuni salt flats tour is one of the best and easiest ways to experience this marvel of nature. Check out these popular tour options here:
In Summary – Best Time To Visit Bolivia Salt Flats At Uyuni
So what’s the best time to visit Bolivia salt flats? Almost any time! It depends on your weather preference.
This wonder of nature has its own unique charms no matter the season. The high altitude keeps temperatures low, but pack sunscreen and warm clothes for the cool nights (and schedule a few days after you get there to adjust to the altitude).
There are tons to see and do besides the salt plains, where you can take a multiple-day tour to fully explore the 4,000-mile basin. Each season shows a unique side of the salt flats you won’t see anywhere else in the world. So, whether you’re sure you want to see the world’s largest natural mirror or walk the beautiful emptiness of the salt desert, you can always find a good time to explore the area.
So pack warm clothes, sunscreen, and a camera and get ready to explore one of the most beautiful areas on Earth.