These days, Uyuni is often used as an umbrella term for the salt flats and its surrounding area.
However, technically, Uyuni refers to a small town of about 10,000 people proximate to the largest salt flat in Southwestern Bolivia.
As opposed to some close altiplano neighbors, who made their livelihoods on mining, Uyuni owes its existence to being at a railroads crossroad and transportation hub in the 19th century.
Now, it’s bread and butter are the salt flats nearby and the tourism that comes with it.
Even more recently, it’s had an increase in traffic to its small airport, and was formed part of the Dakar auto rally during several years.
Uyuni BasicsUyuni is small enough to be entirely walkable. At the very least, everything you need will be within 4-6 blocks of each other.
Things to Do in the Town of Uyuni
Though Uyuni is certainly not the world’s most photogenic town, there are certainly things to do if you’re stuck there waiting for a tour to begin or finish. Worth checking out if you’re around:
The clocktower is the town’s most recognizable symbol (besides the salt flats, of course). On a more practical level, it sits in Uyuni’s main square, above it’s town hall and above its police station. It also helps that it’s visible from most of the center of the city, helping to reorient yourself as you explore other parts of town.
There are a number of restaurants nearby.
Museo Ferrocarril--Train Museum
Remember, Uyuni got its start as a trading post due to its spot as at a crossroads of important railroad tracks.
It’s not the best museum you’ll ever see, nor one that should necessarily be high on your list, it’s worth visiting if you’ve got time to kill in Uyuni on a non-tour day.
You can find it behind Uyuni’s train station. The Train Museum is not to be confused with the Train Graveyard, included on most salt flat tours.
Museo Arqueológica y Antropológico de los Andes Meridionales
Another rather quaint museum in the heart of Uyuni is the Archeological and Anthropological Museum of the Southern Andes.
As you can imagine, it collects and displays some of the hallmark artifacts of this part of the world, including textiles, pottery, skulls, mummies as well as fossils.
Give it a look if you’re stuck in town, or have mismatched your flight arrival and tour start time.
Av Potosí Market: Thursday/SundayMarket day in the Avenida Potosí may not exactly be how you’re imaging a market day in South America--with crafts, artisanal handmade goods or organic/creative food. It’s more of a response to a shopping day, where normal vendors selling routine wares are more likely to prioritize opening up shop and shoppers prioritize going out to shop.
Services in Uyuni
Though small, Uyuni has most of the essential services you will need for your visit:
Bus Station: Avenida Cabrera at Avenida Arce. (Info on buses to Uyuni)
Train Station: Avenida Ferroviara at Avenida Arce. (Info on Trains to Uyuni)
Police Station: Below the clocktower on the Plaza Aniceto Arce.
Hospital: Hospital José Eduardo Pérez. Basic. They’ve got a Facebook Page
News about Uyuni: Noticias de Uyuni Facebook Page (Spanish). Regularly updated.
- Banks and Money in Bolivia: There are now a few banks in Uyuni. Check out this post for more information on ATMs and changing money in Uyuni.
Holidays & Special Events in Uyuni
Dia de Uyuni: July 11th
- Carnaval: Exact dates vary, usually last week of February or first week of March.