My friend and I are planning a trip to Salar de Uyuni. We need to eventually end up in Pa Paz. We are wondering if it would be better for us to take a tour from La Paz, go to Salar de Uyuni, and back to La Paz or if it would be better to reach Salar de Uyuni from San Pedro de Atacama and go to La Paz from Uyuni.
San Pedro de Atacama is a very nice pueblo to rest-up in (it also has an outstanding anthropology/archaeology museum), and the surrounding area is well worth exploring. The elevation in San Pedro is approximately 2,400 meters. The route from San Pedro to Uyuni supposedly gains altitude very quickly, as the elevation in Uyuni is approximately 3,670 meters. There is a big difference between 2,400 meters and 3,670 meters, and you will definitely feel this change in altitude.
La Paz has an altitude that is equal to or greater than Uyuni, while El Alto (where the airport is in La Paz) is approximately 3,850 - 4,061 meters, depending upon where you’re standing.
The point that I’m making is that if you start out from La Paz (after spending time exploring La Paz), you will be acclimated by the time you head out onto the salar in Uyuni. It will be tougher if you begin the trip to Uyuni from San Pedro de Atacama.
With all that said, I believe that it would be optimal to travel from either San Pedro de Atacama or La Paz to Potosi before moving on to Uyuni. If you do spend time in Potosi (4,090 meters) before heading out to Uyuni, you shouldn’t have any altitude problems on the salar.
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