The wonders of Bolivia by 4x4: from Altiplano to Yungas
We invite you at this off-road expedition, a great loop through the immensities of the Altiplano and the lush slopes of the Yungas. This trail begins with a hike to Lake Titicaca, to acclimatize and enjoy this colorful place full of legends. We then stop at Potosi, a city steeped in history and listed as World Heritage by Unesco, before joining Tarija and its vineyards and Tupiza la Douce. Time seems suspended, as the most beautiful natural landscapes of the Andes parade: volcanoes, multicolored lagoons, the Uyuni salt flats ... the wildlife is abundant: vicuñas, viscas and ñandus accompany us, from the canyons of Tupiza to the park from Sajama, through the Lipez desert and Coipasa salar. Further east is the Yungas region, a buffer zone where the Cordillera collapses in the Amazon basin. We then sink in tropical vegetation increasingly dense, contrasting with the harshness of the climate of the highlands.
PROGRAMME DAY TO DAY
El Alto Airport - La Paz
Our private driver will pick us up in the hotel lobby at 9:00 am for a full-day tour around the best points of view over the city and into the Moon Valley. La Paz, world’s highest capital elected in 2014 as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities, is surrounded by the high picks of the Andes.
From many parts of the city we can admire the white summits of the Cordillera Real and the imposing Illimani, protector of the city. From the K’Illi K’Illi mirador and the Laykakota Park we will enjoy a panoramic view over the capital.
The Montículo, in the bohemian Sopocachi is the classical meeting point of lovers and newlyweds for romantic pictures.
Since 2014 La Paz is proud of its new cable cars. From the sky the panorama over the city and the mountains is unique and we can have a feel of the social gaps while flying over different neighborhoods.
We will then drive to the south, across the rich "Zona Sur" and get out of the city to enter the Moon Valley. Here we can enjoy the quietness and walk amongst the lunar rock formations during an hour.
In the afternoon we will go back to the historical center and wander around its colorful markets.
NOTE: The K’Illi K’Illi mirador and the Laykakota Park are closed on Mondays.
La Paz - Copacabana - Yumani
Copacabana - La Paz - Yumani
We will return to La Paz in private transportation (about 3½-hour).
La Paz - Potosi
Today we will get to know the history and current life of Potosí, city listed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO (full-day tour). Our guide will pick us up at 09:00 am at the hotel lobby and we will go to the Cerro Rico to visit the mine and see the miners at work. This encounter can be overwhelming since the miners (of all ages) work in very hard conditions. We will then go back to the city-center to visit the Casa de la Moneda. The coins of the Spanish crown were minted in this beautiful colonial house until the 19th century. It is now an important historical museum.
NOTE: It is possible to visit the mine everyday but the miners do not work on Sundays and the activity is greatly reduced on Saturdays and Mondays. The Casa de la Moneda is closed on Sundays afternoon and Mondays.
Potosi - Tarija
A private driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the terminal bus.
Transport Potosi - Tarija
Transfer in bus station Tarija
Night at the Mitru hotel**.
The bulk of Bolivian wine production is located in the Tarija department, located in the south of the country, at an altitude between 1700 and 3000 meters. This wine, among the highest in the world, can count on a rich aroma due to intense exposure to ultraviolet rays. This characteristic has also given its identity to Bolivian wine. Most of the vineyards are in the valleys of Santa Ana, Concepción and Los Cintis, where the prestigious Aranjuez, Campos de Solana and Concepción are located. These valleys also produce a very sweet wine called Oporto.
At 9:00 we leave our hotel and we head to the surroundings of Tarija. We visit wineries and family wineries where the best wines of Bolivia such as Singani are produced. Tasting of hams and cheeses. Return to Tarija at the end of the day.
Singani is a brandy made from the distillation of muscat wine. The first productions correspond to the arrival on the Bolivian territory of the Jesuit and Augustini missionaries in the XVI century, when they planted vines to produce their own wine of mass. These plantations first developed in the southern valleys of Potosi, at the time of the Golden Age of the mining town. Today the majority of this liquor is produced in the central valleys of the department of Tarija, even if the departments of Chuquisaca and Potosi continue their production. The two most famous Singani cocktails are Chuflay (Singani, Ginger Soda and Lemon Juice) and Yungeño (Singani and Orange Juice).
Night at the Mitru hotel**.
Tarija - Tupiza
In the morning, we head to the East and cross the cordillera de Mochara. We continue our descent through lush valleys until we reach Tarija (el. 1850 m.a.s.l.). The Mediterranean climate of this charming colonial town feels like a treat after the harsh climate of the altiplano.
Cold lunch. Dinner open.
Night at the Mitru hotel**.
Start at 09:00am with the mountain bikes for a trip the South through a green valley to the site of El Angosto and to the Mirador of Entre Ríos (9 miles / flat). The San Juan del Oro and Tupiza Rivers meet just down below, both very colorful in different colors. We can also see from there the Tower rock. We will then visit the Quebrada Seca by 4WD with its rugged red mountains covered with cacti very particular to the area. Stop at the Canyon Duende, before arriving to Toroyoj (1½-mile by car) where we will taste the famous Tamales (food specialty made out of corn).
We will find our horses in the afternoon at the entrance of the canyon of Palmira, for a trek to the Puerta del Diablo, the Canyon of the Inca and the “Valle de los Machos”. These strange multi-colored geological formations with phallic shapes explain the origin of their name! Return to Tupiza by horse. Back to the 4WD we will drive to the Quebrada of Palala and to El Sillar, at an altitude of 3750 meters. After enjoying the view, we will drop of 800 m to Tupiza… by mountain bikes, of course!
Lunch included. Dinner not included.
Night at the Mitru hotel**.
Tupiza - San Pablo de Lipez
We will climb to the Altiplano via the Quebrada de Palala and the site of Sillar and enter areas mostly unknown to tourism. Condors and ostriches found shelter in this wild and remote country to escape the more frequented areas of the South of Lipez. We will drive through the village of San Vicente, where Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid ended their legendary epic during a shooting with the soldiers searching for them (the legend is still alive as their bodies were found). Arrival to San Pablo at the end of the day.
Accomodation at the los volcanes hotel.
185 kms/ 7 to 8 hours driving.
Night at the Sumaj Jall'Pa hotel***.
San Pablo de Lipez - Quetena
Driving west towards the marvels of the South Lipez. Visit of the old village of San Antonio del Nuevo Mundo. According to the legend, the village was suddenly abandoned because of a massive and unexplained invasion of viscachas (typical rodent of the area). We will drive by the strange geological formation of the “Torreón”, and pass a saddle at 4500 m.a.s.l., before descending to theLaguna Morejón, with a detour to the remote Laguna Celeste. We will then get back on the road to the village of Quetena.
Night in a shelter (basic comfort).
Night at the Doña Braulia accommodation (basic comfort).
Quetena - Laguna Colorada
We head west, in the direction of Laguna Colorada. This laguna owes its intense red-brick color to the light sensitive phytoplancton present in its water. We keep heading south for an excursion to the Sol de Mañana Geysers (el. 4850 m.a.s.l.) a volcanic crater from which escape sulfuric fumes and heavy water. We then stop for breakfast in Polques before skirting Laguna Salada and crossing the Dali Desert (named after the scenery reminiscent of one of his paintings). We reach the lagunas Blanca and Verde, at the foot of volcanoes Juriques and Licancabur (el. 5960 m.a.s.l.) at the end of the afternoon. Curious phenomenon: when the wind picks up, the waters of Laguna Verde change to a spectacular emerald color. Return to Laguna Colorada at the end of the day.
Cold lunch. All included. Night in refuge (basic comfort).
Night in Latitudes hostel (basic confort).
Laguna Colorada - San Juan
We head north through the magnificent landscapes of the Siloli desert and its famous “Arbol de Piedra” (Stone Tree) where we may be able to spot some viscachas. We then skirt the Chilean border following the “Route of the Jewels”: lagunas Honda, Ch’arkota, Hedionda and Canapa, a sanctuary to 3 different types of flamingoes. We stop at the viewpoint of volcano Ollague. This active volcano hosts the world’s highest sulfur mine.
The track then drops from around 4200 meters above sea level to 3600. We cross the small Salar de Chiguana at the foot of volcano Tomasamil (el. 5900 m.a.s.l.) before arriving in the village of San Juan where are located the spectacular mummies of the “Lipez Lords” (1200 A.D.).
Night at La Cabaña de Sal hostel* (basic comfort).
Salar Sector Room.
Salar Sector Room.
Jirira - Sajama
In the morning we drive to the Salar of Coipasa. We find ourselves in the heart of the wild and arid altiplano, surrounded by volcanoes that punctuate the nearby Chilean border …
We will cross the Urus country by sandy and treacherous dirt roads. Before crossing the Río Lauca, the most beautiful polychromatic chullpas of Bolivia will appear to sight (the chullpas are the ancient tombs of Aymara lords; pre-Inca times). We will arrive to the Sajama National Park by the end of the afternoon.
Night at the Oasis hostel*.
Sajama - Tomarapi
In the morning, we head to the geysers in our 4WD. This particularly active area offers a unique display of bubbling baths spread over hundreds of square meters. We can try cooking eggs in their slightly sulfuric water.
From there, we walk to the natural hot springs for a relaxing bath at the foot of volcano Sajama, revered by the local population (about a 2-hour walk).
In the afternoon we keep on walking to Laguna Huaña Khota, where flamingoes sometimes come to mix with the ducks and wild geese. We then get back in our 4WD and drive to the village of Tomarapi and its very typical Andean church.
Cold lunch. All included. Night in the new shelter “Albergue” of Tomarapi (comfort of a Hotel).
Night at the Tomarapi Ecolodge***.
La Paz - Tomarapi
In the morning, we get back on the dirt road and head to the nearly abandoned village of Oxany. There are only two inhabitants left in this village, prosperous before the construction of the new asphalted road to Chile, it is now a ghost town. Option to do a short hike in the rocky chaos surrounding it, before returning to the international road.
We head back to La Paz. On the way, we stop in the village of Curahuara de Carangas, well known for its well-adorned colonial church (perfectly preserved frescoes). Further on, we discover the chullpas (carangas sepultures) empty today after their systematic pillaging.
Cold lunch (included). Dinner open. Hotel.
La Paz - Chairo - Coroico
A DOSE OF THRILL AND EXCITEMENT !
We will meet at 6:30 a.m. at the Xtreme Downhill agency's office (our provider), where our exciting mountain bike tour on the famous death road will begin. A vehicle will bring us to the Cumbre Pass (el. 4750 m.a.s.l. – 1h), in the Royal Cordillera. Here begins our thrilling mountain bike descent!
On the way down this winding road, the scenery becomes greener, the air more humid, the wind warmer...
Some 100 km lower (more than 3500 meters of elevation loss) is the Amazon Basin! Welcome to this incredible intermediate region called the Yungas.
A final 7-kilometer steep ascent (650 m of elevation gain) leads us to the village of Coroico, the paradise of the Yungas region (possible to do this last part in the vehicle). Lunch at the village and possibility to refresh in the swimming pool.
Return to La Paz at the end of the day.
Note: the descent is done in groups with English-speaking guide.
Night at the Viejo Molino hotel****.
Coroico - La Paz
Leave from the Coroico central square at 09:00am. From there it will be a 45 minutes walk to arrive to the Santa Rosa de Vagante community by private transport. At 10:00am you will walk down to the waterfalls with information on the way about the vegetation around the track. When arrived at the Rio entrance the guides will give you the instruction and equip everyone (wetsuit, helmets and harness).
Rappel of the 8 waterfalls. Short lunch break (cold lunch) before walking back to the community where the bus will wait for the return to Coroico around 16:30pm.
Local guide to Vagante River
Transfer Coroico-La Paz.