Calama to Uyuni, there and back

Calama is a city on the shores of Loa river, in the region of Antofagasta, Chile. At an altitude of 2,260 m above sea level, the city has several tourist attractions. Calama is one of the driest cities in the world with average annual precipitation of just 5 mm (0.20 in). The Loa River is Chile’s longest, and flows through the city.  Tourists who want to visit the Uyuni Salt Flat from Chile usually come from Calama due to the short distance that separates these cities and the frequency of departures between the cities.

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Road to Calama, Chile

Uyuni, on the other hand, is Bolivia´s main tourist destination. It is the largest salt desert in the world and boasts an out of this world landscape that defies the senses. Visitors are not only awed by the salt flat itself, an endless desert of salt that was featured in the last Star Wars film as the planet Crait, but it also has surrounding attractions such as the red and green lagoons and the train cemetery.

If you want to travel from Calama to Uyuni or viceversa, read on.

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Uyuni Salt Flat during rain season

From Calama to Uyuni

In order to travel from Calama to Uyuni, you have to go to the Bus Terminal of Calama, located on Granaderos Av., #3051. Before boarding the bus, you must pay a small fee called Uso de Terminal for the terminal´s maintenance. The distance between Calama and Uyuni is 425 km and the trip takes 11 hours. The bus company Cruz del Norte has semi lie-flat buses that leave every day at 5:30 am and arrive in Uyuni at 15:00.

The buses cross the border through Pisiga-Colchane, where passengers can clear customs and migration. You arrive in Uyuni at the bus terminal located on Arce Av.

If you want to book your tickets now, or to just explore the costs and payment options, just follow this link: calama to uyuni

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Calama, Chile

From Uyuni to Calama

For the return trip, from Uyuni to Calama, we have normal and semi lie-flat buses that leave from the Bus Terminal in Uyuni, located on Arce Av. The bus company Expreso 11 de Julio has buses that leave at 04:00 am and arrive in Calama at 15:00  in the afternoon. Their seats are normal, meaning they recline to 120 degrees.

The bus company Cruz del Norte leaves at 5:30 from the same bus terminal and arrives in Calama at 16:00 in the afternoon. Their buses are semi lie-flat, with seats that recline to 140 degrees.

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Uyuni, Bolivia

To book your tickets online for this route, and to see costs and other details, you can just click on this link: uyuni to calama

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From Uyuni to Cusco by land

In a perfect world there would be a beautiful tourist train that could take you directly from Uyuni (Bolivia), the largest salt desert in the world, to Cusco (Peru), the colonial city that is the gateway to Machu Picchu, crossing smoothly the amazing landscapes of the Bolivian Altiplano and the lush valleys and forests of Peru, thus making sure you don´t miss two of the most breathtaking tourist destinations in South America.

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Uyuni Salt flat. Photo by Gaby Iturri

But no, the world is not perfect, and until the dream comes true, the trip from Uyuni to Cusco must be divided in at least two segments, or three, depending on your plans and wishes. You will need to travel from Uyuni to La Paz, either directly or with a stop in Oruro, and from there you can take a direct bus to Cusco. Keep on reading to find out all you need to know.

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La Paz, Bolivia

Uyuni to La Paz

The distance between Uyuni and La Paz is 731 km. La Paz is the largest city in Bolivia and is located at 3600 meters above sea level. You can travel from Uyuni to La Paz either by direct bus, or by a combination of train and bus. All buses headed for La Paz leave Uyuni at night, from the bus stop located on Cabrera Street, on the corner of Arce Av. The trip takes around 11 hours. In La Paz, the buses arrive at the main Bus Terminal, located on Uruguay Street on the corner of Peru Av.

There are several bus companies that work this route. Trans Omar leaves every day at 19:30 (lie-flat bus) and 20:00 (semi-lie flat bus), arriving in La Paz 11 hours later, between 6 and 7 am. The bus company Panasur leaves every day at 20:30 in semi lie-flat buses, ad arrives in La Paz at 06:00. Finally, Cruz del Norte leaves Uyuni at 20:30 and arrives in La Paz at 6:30 am. Their buses are also lie-flat. To book tickets with any of them or just to know more details, just follow this link: uyuni to la paz

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Uyuni Salt Flat

To go by train and bus, you have to take the train from Uyuni to Oruro and then continue by bus to La Paz. The train companies offering this service are: Expreso del Sur, which leaves on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Wara Wara del Sur, which leaves on Mondays and Thursdays. The trains offer Salon class and Executive class services, where Executive class is more expensive and has more comfortable seats, and amenities such as blankets and snack on board. All passengers have access to the dining car on the train.

The train leaves Uyuni from the station located arrives at the train station on Ferroviaria Av. on the corner of Arce Av. They arrive in Oruro at the train station located on Velasco Galvarro St. From there you can take a taxi to the bus station in Oruro in order to take a bus to La Paz. Buses leave every half an hour and the trip takes around three hours.

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Machu Picchu, Peru

La Paz to Cusco

Traveling from La Paz to Cuzco will enhance your tour through south America. The journey is about 12 hours, covering a distance of 640 km. In order to travel from La Paz to Cusco by bus you have two alternatives: you can go through the Bolivia-Peru border in Desaguadero, or you can go though Copacabana, crossing the border in Kasani. Desaguadero is a more direct route, while Copacabana is the more scenic route, taking your to the shores of Lake Titicaca.

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Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Three bus companies offer this service. The bus company Nuevo Continente has lie-flat buses that leave at 07:30 in the morning and arrive in Cusco at 21:30. Trans Salvador leaves every day at 16:30 and arrives in Cusco at 5:00 also in lie-flat buses.  And the company Tour Peru has semi lie-flat buses that leave every day at 16:30 and arrive in Cusco at 5:30. you can book tickets by following this link: la paz to cusco

Tips

You should know that in Bolivia, lie-flat buses have seats that recline to 160-170 degrees, not 180. Semi lie-flat buses recline to between 150 and 160 degrees, depending on the bus. This is important to keep in mind in order to keep your expectations realistic. The services on board usually include one snack on board, so you should make sure you take something to drink, blankets and more food on board, just to make sure your trip will be comfortable.

 We hope you found all the information useful. Have a nice trip!