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.

Calama to Uyuni by bus
Road to Calama

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.

Uyuni Salt Flats during the rainy season
Uyuni Salt Flat during the rainy 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

calama, chile
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.

Salar-con-agua-Dic-05-252_redim
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

From Uyuni to Cusco by land

Whether you travel by land or by plane, the trip from Uyuni to Cusco must be divided in at least two segments, or three, depending on your plans and preferences. 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 or flight to Cusco. Keep on reading to find out all you need to know.

View of La Paz from mirado Killi Killi
La Paz, Bolivia

The fastest option

There aren’t direct flights between Uyuni and Cusco but the fastest way to get there would still be flying with one stop and change of plane in La Paz. Amaszonas, a Bolivian airline, has direct flights from Cusco to La Paz and then from La Paz to Uyuni. This journey would take the whole day and costs about 200-260 us$ depending on the time of year but it is the fastest way.

Stop in La Paz

Uyuni to La Paz

The distance between Uyuni and La Paz is 731 km. La Paz is located at 3,600 meters above sea level and a necessary . 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 9 hours. In La Paz, the buses arrive at the main bus terminal, located on Uruguay Street on the corner of Peru Av.

Company Bus class Route Time of departure and arrival Prices in US Dollars
Trans Omar Semi lie-flat/Lie-flat 3 rows Direct service 20:00/6:00 (+1 day( $14.60/21.90
Panasur Lie-flat Direct service 20:30/6:00 (+1 day) $14.60/21.90
Cruz del Norte Semi lie-flat/Lie-flat Direct service 20:30/6:30 (+1 day) $14.60/21.90
Trans Titicaca Lie flat Direct service 22:00/7:00 (+1 day) $27.74
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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 four hours.

machu-picchu
Machu Picchu, Peru

La Paz to Cusco

The journey takes 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.

puno_lapaz_jul10-771
Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Direct buses from La Paz to Cusco  

Bus company Seat class Time of departure  Time of arrival  Price in US$ Extra info
Nuevo Continente Internacional Lie flat 7:30 21:30 $21.90 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
Trans Titicaca Normal bus 16:00 6:00 (+1 day) $27.94 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
Trans Salvador Lie flat 3 rows 16:30 5:00 (+1 day) $24.09 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
Tour Peru Lie flat 16:30 5:30 (+1 day) $27.74 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero

Trip with multiple stops

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 don’t usually include foods or drinks 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, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Have a nice trip!

Tips for traveling from Villazon to Uyuni

Updated: 1 August 2019

Please note that the route in train between Villazon and Tupiza is functioning again since 28 July 2019.

The trip from Villazon to Uyuni is one of the favorites of tourists coming from Argentina in the months of December and January, a must for those who want to reach Uyuni by bus or train. Villazon is a border town with a population of 30,000, located at 3,400 meters above sea level. It is a few miles from the Argentinian town of La Quiaca, which has a population of 18,000. The climate is warm in the day and chilly at night. Here are  5 tips for making your trip from Villazon to Uyuni perfect and decide the best way to get to Uyuni. 

Salar-con-agua-Dic-05-252_redim
Salar de Uyuni

1. Take your time crossing the border

The border crossing between La Quiaca and Villazon is open 24 hours. Nevertheless, the attention at their offices for migration paperwork (sealing of travel documents, tourist visas, etc.) are open between 7:00 am and midnight (12:00). It is important that travelers take into account this schedule in order to enter Bolivia legally. Another thing to keep in mind is that, during high season (December-January) the amount of people crossing the borders is enormous, causing lines up to 6 hours long at the migration offices. This, especially in the days close to Christmas and new Years. 

puente_villazon_la_quiaca
Border La Quiaca-Villazon

2. Train to Uyuni

estación

There are pros and cons with each option, but in general trains are the preferred form of transportation by tourists due to its comfort . In order to travel by train, the options are Expreso del Sur and Wara Wara del Sur. Their schedules are as follows:

  • Expreso del Sur: Wednesdays and Saturdays at 15:30. The train makes a stop in Tupiza.
  • Wara Wara del Sur: Mondays and Thrursdays at 15:30 The train makes a stop in Tupiza.

The train station in Villazon is located here:

fca- villazon

Due to floods and heavy rains, the route between Villazon and Tupiza has been under repair for over 1.5 years. For travelers who want to take the train from Tupiza, they can easily find a public bus, shared taxi from the ex-terminal in Villazon. Taxis and buses leave when they are full which is about every 30 minutes-1 hour. It is an informal way of transportation. More regular buses leave from the main bus terminal in Villazon. The route between Villazon and Tupiza lasts about 1.5 hours.

Trains depart Tupiza as follows:

  • Expreso del Sur: Wednesdays and Saturdays at 18:25. The train makes a stop in Atocha.
  • Wara Wara del Sur: Mondays and Thursdays at 19:05. The train makes a stop in Atocha.

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3. Villazon to Uyuni by bus

Buses leave from the new bus terminal of Villazon located here.

Bus schedule from Villazon to Uyuni

Bus Company Seat class Time of departure Time of arrival Price Additional information
Auto Transporte Tupiza Semi lie-flat 08:00 15:00 US$ 7.30 Goes via Tupiza
Exp. 11 de Julio Normal 16:00 23:00 US$ 7.30 Goes via Tupiza
Auto Transporte Tupiza Semi lie-flat 16:00 23:00 US$ 7.30 Goes via Tupiza

4. Take into account the climate and altitude

Both Uyuni and Villazon are located at altitudes above 3,000 meters above sea level. This generates conditions that travelers should take into account in order to enjoy their trip without health problems. In order to assuage the effects of altitude in the body, fr example, you should not engage n heavy physical activity, drink too much liquids nor eat heavy meals, especially at night. A cup of coca-leaf tea can do much to improve the symptoms, which can include dizziness, shortness of breath and headaches.  

Also keep in mind that the climate conditions can be very similar to those in deserts: very hot in the day, and cold at night. It´s important to have warm clothes for the evenings, and light ones for the daytime. Also, due to the altitude and landscape of Uyuni, it is very important to have sunblock and sunglasses in order to avoid damage from the sun´s radiation. 

Tupiza, Bolivia
Cañón del Duende, Tupiza – Jan Beck via Wikimedia Commons

5. Don’t miss out on the surroundings!  

If you have time, make a stop in Tupiza, made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This small town doesn’t lack charm and is a particularly good spot for those who enjoy hikes in wild, but safe, environment.

From Tupiza it is also possible to do a 4-day tour of the Salt Flats, which is a less touristic route and has the added advantage to stop at the sites at different times than the other tours coming from Uyuni or San Pedro. Tours from Tupiza are slightly more expensive, due to the extra day but are a good option for those coming this way and heading to Uyuni.

Not far from Villazon and Uyuni are the colonial cities of Sucre and Potosi, very popular tourist destinations that stand out for their beautiful architecture, rich historical interest and warm inviting climate. Both cities have been declared Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO. On the other hand, at only 10 hours from Uyuni is the city of La Paz, one of the 7 Wonder cities of the world due to its unusual topography, great night-life and cultural heritage. If you’re traveling between Villazon and Uyuni, don’t miss out on these destinations.