Uyuni to Sabaya

Uyuni – Isla Incahuasi – Llica – Coipasa – Sabaya

An at times surreal trip across Bolivia’s two biggest salars – Uyuni and Coipasa. The larger Salar de Uyuni is great fun to cycle on, but from Colchani to Isla Incahuasi you’ll often have to share it with tourist jeeps. Crossing the Salar de Coipasa was a magical and unforgettable experience – we saw no-one and nothing except sparkly salt for the afternoon it took us to cross to Coipasa island.

Make sure you clean your bike well after crossing the salars. The Salar de Coipasa especially will leave a salt deposit on your bike. Also ensure you wear sunglasses and sun cream – otherwise the strong altiplano sun and reflection off the salars will fry you. If you plan on camping on either salar note that there is absolutely no protection from the wind and also that the salt is very hard so it’s difficult to get tent pegs into it.

It’s also a good idea to check with local people on the current state of each of the salars. In wet season parts become inundated and difficult to cycle on – and the dates this occurs can vary quite a bit year on year.

[scrollGallery id=59]

Total dist. Stage dist. Description
0km Uyuni (3,650m – GPS01). Tourist town with all facilities, including ATM.
23km Take the main road north out of Uyuni, passing the petrol station.
23km Colchani (GPS02). Town with small shops, some pensiones to have lunch at and 2 hospedajes. Turn L (west) in Colchani at the signposted junction to get to the Salar de Uyuni.
5km Once paved road to the salar.
28km Reach the edge of the Salar de Uyuni.
8km Jeep track to the Hotel de Sal.
36km Hotel de Sal (GPS03). Water, expensive snacks, meals and accommodation available.
62km Good surface to Isla Incahuasi. Take the R of the 2 tracks that leave the Hotel de Sal towards the island, as this is the most direct route.
98km Isla Incahuasi (GPS04). All the tourists in Bolivia seemed to be there on the W side of the island when we arrived, but they soon left to allow us to enjoy sunset to ourselves. Water and meals are available. Alfredo (the island’s first resident) will let you stay in his ‘cave’ for a fee but you can camp on the island away from the buildings for free. 15Bs entrance fee to go onto the island (a guardaparque cycles round the island to check no-one is trying to sneak on!). For Llica take main track radiating northwest from the island.
22km Head towards Llica.
120km Alongside Isla del Pescado, which is a few kilometres to the south.
50km Continue across the Salar.
170km Exit Salar de Uyuni at (GPS05). Continue taking shortcuts across the Salar though as this is quicker than taking the road round the shore.
9km After 5 kms of shortcuts across the Salar join the road for 4 kms to Llica.
179km Llica (GPS06). Large village with accommodation, a number of restaurants, shops and decent internet. A brass band marched round the street playing the same tune continuously for the 2 days we stayed.
6km Leave Llica heading north.
185km Junction (GPS07). Signposted. Head R towards Tres Cruces.
5km Sandy surface.
190km Challacollo (GPS08). Small village with a nice church. Didn’t see any shops or inhabitants, but it looked lived in so probably possible to get water.
6km Continue heading NE.
196km Crossroads (GPS09). Go straight. R heads to a small (abandoned?) village.
5km Good surface on main ‘road’.
201km Junction (GPS10). We went R (very small climb) and this took us to Villa Victoria, where there was a family and we could obtain water. Unless you need water, better to go L at the junction.
2km Sandy surface to Villa Victoria (1.3km from junction). 0.7 km back to the main road.
203km Rejoin main ‘road’.
21km Continue heading E on a track. There were many tracks heading L (north) onto the Salar de Coipasa, but we ignored these, thinking the Salar might be spongy here, and carried on to join the Salar at a ramp. This is a few kms past the village of Tres Cruces (the track we were on did not go to the village, but passed a few kms to the N of it) near the only tree we saw all day. If the salt at the edge of the salar is solid it may well be easiest just to head onto the Salar at the earliest opportunity.
224km Ramp onto Salar de Coipasa (GPS11).
39km Magical cycle on the Salar de Coipasa. No traffic, tracks or rubbish. Nothing but whiteness and sparkly salt. First few hundred metres on the Salar were a bit spongy, but after the surface was good (though not as hard as the Salar de Uyuni, so our bikes got a lot of salt on them). Head for the right hand side of Coipasa island, where there is a small hill.
263km Leave Salar at (GPS12) and go onto Isla de Coipasa.
3km Good track to Coipasa village.
266km Coipasa village (GPS13). Accommodation, water, basic supplies. No restaurant.
19km Leave Coipasa on track heading NW. 4kms until track re-enters the salar (GPS14). Head north-ish across the salt, straight for the shore. After 9kms we hit a dirt track and 5kms later reached land (GPS15). 1km later this track meets a larger road at the small settlement of Buen Retiro.
285km Buen Retiro. Small settlement. Join main road and go R.
8km Pass 2 small villages on the way to the next junction.
293km Junction (GPS16). Main road goes L, but we took a good short cut and went R, heading straight for Sabaya.
7km Good surface to Sabaya.
300km Sabaya (GPS17). Large village with accommodation, plenty of restaurants and shops, but no internet.
Time taken – 4 days and amount climbed – a massive 430m 7 hours: Uyuni – Isla Incahuasi.
6 hours: Isla Incahuasi – Llica (headwind).
8 hours: Llica – Coipasa (headwind).
3 hours: Coipasa – Sabaya.
Traffic Some from Uyuni to Colchani. Plenty of tourist jeeps from Colchani to Isla Incahuasi. Nothing from Isla Incahuasi to near Llica. A few vehicles around Llica, then nothing to Coipasa. Some near Sabaya.
When we cycled Mid July 2010.
Difficulty 2
How much we had to push on this route 0.5kms (sand)

GPS Point Description Lat/Long/Altitude
GPS01 Uyuni 20.4633 S, 66.8235 W, 3,650m.
GPS02 Colchani 20.3025 S, 66.9384 W, 3,660m.
GPS03 Hotel de Sal 20.3308 S, 67.0468 W, 3,660m.
GPS04 Isla Incahuasi 20.2439 S, 67.6239 W, 3,660m.
GPS05 Edge of Salar 19.8797 S, 68.1742 W, 3,660m.
GPS06 Llica 19.8507 S, 68.2485 W, 3,690m..
GPS07 Junction (go R) 19.8039 S, 68.2636 W.
GPS08 Challacollo 19.7661 S, 68.2636 W.
GPS09 Crossroads 19.7164 S, 68.2589 W.
GPS10 Junction 19.6777 S, 68.2392 W.
GPS11 Ramp onto Salar de Coipasa 19.5814 S, 68.0904 W, 3,660m.
GPS12 Enter Isla de Coipasa 19.2776 S, 68.2628 W, 3,660m.
GPS13 Coipasa Village 19.2778 S, 68.2782 W, 3,660m.
GPS14 Re-enter Salar 19.2583 S, 68.3076 W, 3,655m
GPS15 Hit land 19.1462 S, 68.3227 W, 3,660m.
GPS16 Junction (take shortcut R) 19.0763 S, 68.3422 W.
GPS17 Sabaya 19.0160 S, 68.3712 W, 3,700m.

View Uyuni – Sabaya in a larger map
Nearby routes:        Ollague to Uyuni                 Sabaya to Sajama

21 Responses to “Uyuni to Sabaya”

    Error thrown

    Call to undefined function ereg_replace()