About 325 miles (520 km) north of Chile's dramatic San Pedro de Atacama, you'll arrive in the Bolivian desert town of Uyuni. The region is remote, and only accessible by road.
Going by private transfer is the most popular and most recommended option, and the journey takes about seven hours. Renting a car for this trip is difficult, and the desert roads are difficult to navigate, especially once you get to Uyuni, so this is not recommended.
Buses drive this route pretty frequently, but the trip adds an additional four hours with stops and breaks.
If you'd like to take a curated trip that starts in Chile and ends with a four-day excursion in Bolivia—where you'll see the Salvador Dalí Desert, towering geysers, and jewel-blue lagoons—take a look at this 8-day itinerary. For a longer 12-day trip that takes you through some of the most magical sites in Bolivia and Chile's Atacama region—like the Tiwanaku Ruins, the Uyuni Salt Flats, Death Valley, and more—then consider this itinerary.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 7 hours, plus more at the border crossing
A private transfer from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni is the best and fastest choice. Consider talking with a local specialist as transfers are usually booked well in advance, and it can be difficult to secure your spot.
As the trip is long, you'll want to make a few stops along the way to get some food and stretch your legs, but if you want to make longer stops along the route, then make sure to mention this while booking.
You'll take Route 21 through Chile, and once you cross the border into Bolivia, you'll follow Route 701 to your destination.
Some recommended stops along this route are Laguna Verde and the Tatio Geysers (both about an hour and a half into your drive), and the Alto Loa National Reserve (three hours into your drive).
Duration: 11 hours, plus more at the border crossing
The most common bus company that offers trips on this route is Cruz del Norte, and the bus will make one stop in Calama, about an hour outside of San Pedro de Atacama. There is no need to make a transfer during this journey, making it easier to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Some of the buses that travel this route are not as modern and comfortable as you might expect, so consider asking a local specialist for assistance with your booking to ensure you get a seat on a vehicle with air conditioning and entertainment. Expect a journey of 11 hours and more waiting time at the border than you'll have going by car, as you'll have to wait for each passenger to pass through security. As most buses won't have refreshments available, consider bringing your own.