Best of Bolivia in 15 days
This route combines the "best" of Bolivia in 15 days. A perfect tour for Andean cultures lovers and great outdoors, without forgetting the great historical and cultural places of this country totally out of line.
On the menu: Titicaca lake, cradle of Andean civilizations and full of legends and mysteries, then Uyuni Salar and Lipez desert with their breathtaking landscapes, and finally the imperial cities of Potosi and Sucre, testimonies of the colonial era's past.
PROGRAMME DAY TO DAY
El Alto Airport - La Paz
Our guide will pick you up at 09:00 am at the hotel lobby. Today you will discover the most traditional side of the city, walking into the day-to-day life of the “paceños” (inhabitants of La Paz).
You will first enter the indoor market of the Plaza San Francisco (Mercado Lanza) where many workers have breakfast. You will then take the cable car going up to El Alto and enjoy a unexpected view over the city and the mountains that surround it. You will fly over different neighborhoods and the general cemetery, in which you will then enter to discover the Andean post-mortem traditions: here the families leave elaborated offerings on the graves. Walking from the cemetery down to the historical center you will walk through the traditions of clothing and traditional celebrations of the city.
In the Los Andes Street you will feel like carnival is coming. It is the tailor’s street and every shop is filed with colorful costumes and masks. You will end our tour in the Witches Market (“Mercado de las Brujas”) where the locals buy all the necessary artifacts for ceremonial offering to the Pachamama (Mother Earth): coca leaves and other medicinal plants, miniature figurines in sugar and lama fetuses.
La Paz - Copacabana - Yumani
A private boat takes us to the north of the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), where we disembark at the old Inca Palace of Pilkokaina.
An hour walk brings us to the village of Yumani, from where there is a magnificent view of the lake.
Hiking time: 1h
For lunch we will share a traditional meal called “Apthapi”. This tradition of the Aymara people probably takes its source into the Tiwanaku pre-Inca culture.
It is a moment of sharing within the community: everyone brings some products of it land or livestock to the "table" and the meal is shared around a piece of traditional cloth (Aguayo) laid on the floor. Traditionally you will find corn, cheese, fish, fried or dried meat, quinoa and a great variety of potatoes from the Altiplano.
After our lunch, a traditional healer (“Yatiri”) will realize a ceremony dedicated to Mother Earth (“Pachamama”). We will enjoy these unique moments in the heart of the pre-Inca and Inca traditions: the Isla del Sol (“Island of the Sun”) owes its name to its important role in the cult to the Sun God “Inti” during the Inca Empire area. Here the people care about preserving the nature and their traditions.
Copacabana - Chuñavi - Yumani
Departure from Copacabana. After 3 hours of transport, we will arrive in the small aymara village of Chuñavi.
We are welcomed by Marisol, the woman of the community. She will share with you her daily life in the heart of the Cordillera, this life happening at the rhythm of the “pastoreo” of the llamas, the collection of medicinal plants, the legends associated with all the surrounding summits (and there is no lack of them!), the traditional cooking, work in the mines and more…
Installation then typical Andean lunch. You will be invited to participate in the elaboration of the meal according to the local methods, in the company of the women of the village. The meal is based on local and seasonal products (dried lama meat, mutton milk, quinoa, chuño, potato, local herbs, ...).
All included. Home stay at the locals.
In the morning we will descend the 500 steps of the Fuente del Inca to the pier and take the boat to the Pilkokaina temple, south of the island. This palace was built by Inca Tupac Yupanqui for its pilgrimages on the island.
We will then return to the boat and head towards the peninsula of Yampupata (20 minutes). Trek along the peninsula to the Virgin of Lourdes, passing the remote village of Zampaya (about 4 to 5-hour hike). Return to Copacabana by boat.
Hiking time: 4h; Elevation gain: +350m / -550m
Traditional musical band during dinner.
Chuñavi - Tuni - La Paz
Transport Chuñavi-Tuni. Approx.1h00
The inhabitants of this small community (about 50 inhabitants) share their daily life in the heart of the Cordillera, this life happening at the rhythm of the “pastoreo” of the llamas, the collection of medicinal plants, the legends associated with all the surrounding summits (and there is no lack of them!), the traditional cooking, work in the mines and more…
Note: The result of long years of friendship between the members of the community (some of them are guides, muleteers or cooks on our treks since the creation of the agency) this project of Eco Lodge as for goal to accompany the community of Tuni in the valorization of the life style of the traditional Andean culture, through the practice of a real responsible tourism and an opening on the world.
Transport Tuni - La Paz. Approx.3h30
La Paz - Uyuni
Private Transport La Paz - Oruro.
We start the long north to south crossing of the altiplano to Uyuni, small town on the edge of the Salar (12 to 14-hour trip). We meet at the hotel one hour before the bus departure, for a transfer to the bus station of La Paz.
- Tuesdays and Fridays, departure of the private transport for Oruro at 9am on tuesday and at 10 a.m. on fridays. Arrival in Oruro at around 1pm-2 p.m., then departure of the train Expreso del Sur for Uyuni at 2:30 on tuesdays and at 3:30 p.m on fridays. Arrival in Uyuni at 9:30 on Tuesdays and at 10:20 p.m. on fridays. Pick up by our team upon arrival.
- Wednesdays and Sundays, departure of the private transport for Oruro at 2 p.m. Arrival in Oruro around 6 p.m., then departure of the train Wara-Wara for Uyuni at 7 p.m. Arrival in Uyuni at 2:20 a.m. the next day. Pick up by our team upon arrival.
- Other days, day open. We meet in the hall of the hotel at 8 p.m., for the transfer to the bus station of La Paz.
Departure of the night bus at 9 p.m. This bus is comfortable and direct to Uyuni. Arrival the next morning at around 7:30 a.m. Pick up by our team upon your arrival in Uyuni.
Lunch and dinner open (bar-restaurant La Loco recommended).
Note 1: for your own comfort, we advise you to do this trip on the train
Note 2: Dining car on board
Note 3: This trip can be done by plane (1 hour flight). On request.
A private driver will pick you up at the train station in Uyuni and drive you to your hotel.
Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.
Uyuni - Villamar
We begin today our journey across the Sur Lipez area, elevated region of colorful landscapes and lagoons, rock formations and volcanoes. We will start the day at 09:30 am with the visit of the train cemetery on the outskirts of Uyuni. Here a collection of old rusted train engines remind the glorious mining past of the region.
We will then ride south and make different stops on the road to visit villages, in particular the model urbanization of Culpina K. Here the population has decided to waive working in mines and organized to ensure that the whole community can live from the culture of quinoa and from community based tourism.
We will have lunch in the village of San Cristobal, where we can visit a beautiful colonial church if we are lucky (it is not always open). We will then cross the region of Rio Grande to reach the village of Villamar (4022 m.a.s.l.) at the end of the afternoon.
Distance covered today in our private jeep: 190 km.
Night at Las Piedritas hostel* (basic comfort).
Villamar - Laguna Colorada
During our second day in the Sur Lipez we will discover the most famous highlights of the region. We start the day with the Laguna Colorada (el. 4278 m.a.s.l.). This immense lake of pinkish water owes its name to the presence in its waters of light sensitive phytoplankton, which also attracts thousands of flamingo part of the year.
We will then visit the geysers Sol de Mañana (el. 4850 m.a.s.l.), a volcanic crater with sulphur springs and boiling mud. Next stop: the Polques thermal springs. You are almost 4200 m.a.s.l. but get ready to jump into hot water (86°F/30°C), surrounded by an amazing frozen landscape.
We will then jump back into the jeeps and ride along the Laguna Salada and the Dali Desert (el. 4750 m.a.s.l.). Here the strong wind has created surprising rock formations that reminds the work of the Spanish master.
Short before midday we will reach the Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde (el. 4350 m.a.s.l.), at the foot of volcanoes Juriques and Licancabur (el. 5704 and 5960 m.a.s.l.). After having driven around 170 km we are here at the very south of Bolivia, close to the border with Chile.
From here we will drive 90 km back to the Laguna Colorada, where we will spend the night.
Night in Latitudes hostel (basic confort).
Laguna Colorada - San Juan
This morning we head north to the Siloli Desert (el. 4700 m.a.s.l.) and its famous “Stone Tree”. Keep your eyes wide open: it is not unusual to spot some viscachas (Andean rabbits) in this area. We will then ride along the Chilean border on the scenic “Route of the Jewels”, which owes its name to all the lagoons along its way: Honda, Ch’arkota, Hedionda, Cañapa.
These lagoons are home to three species of flamingoes. We will stop at the view point of volcano Ollagüe (el. 5868 m.a.s.l.). This volcano is still active and shelters one of the world’s highest open pit copper mines and then cross the small Salar de Chiguana located at the foot of volcano Tomasamil (el. 5900 m.a.s.l.). After a 230 km ride we will reach the village of San Juan (el. 3600 m.a.s.l.), where we will spend the night. This small village is famous for its surprising mummies of the “Lipez Lords” (1200 after J.C) and its interesting small museum.
Night at La Cabaña de Sal hostel* (basic comfort).
San Juan - Uyuni
Today we leave the Sur Lipez and go for a unique moment: driving across the world’s largest salt flat! After a two hour ride we will reach the famous Salar de Uyuni (el. 3650 m.a.s.l.).
We will then ride half an hour on the salt desert (34 km) to reach the Island of Incahuasi. This surprising island lost in the middle of the Salar offers an incredible view over the Salar and the several volcanos that surround it. Of volcanic origin, it is covered with stromatolites and giant cacti (stromatolites are fossilized bacterial colonies, first traces of life on earth).
In the afternoon, we continue loosing ourselves on the white desert during an hour and a half more (73 km) until arriving to the city of Uyuni. Just before leaving the Salar, we will stop in the village of Colchani to visit its salt exploitation and salt hotel (closed since 2001).
Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.
Uyuni - Potosi
We will leave Uyuni in a private car at 08:30 am and cross the Cordillera de los Frailes to reach Potosí (el. 3900 m.a.s.l.). The so-called “Imperial City” had a time of international glory in the 16th and 17th century when it sheltered the world’s largest silver mine. Nowadays the Cerro Rico (“Rich Hill”) is still exploited but the glory is memory.
On the way, we will stop in Pulacayo, village that sheltered the second largest silver mine in South America in the 17th and 18th century. It is now almost a ghost town but the museum relates its glorious past. We will arrive in Potosí after 3 to 4 hours on the road (205 km).
Our guide will pick us up at 2:00 pm to visit the Casa de la Moneda, one of the most important historical buildings of the city - one of those which owed the city to be listed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
Until the 19th century the coins of the Spanish crown were minted here. This beautiful colonial house is now an important historical museum.
NOTE: The Casa de la Moneda is closed on Sunday afternoon and Mondays.
Potosi - Sucre
This morning we will get to know the mines of the “Rich Hill”. Our guide will pick us up at 9 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.
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.
We will leave Potosí in a private car to reach the nice small colonial city of Sucre (el. 2810 m.a.s.l.) at the end of the afternoon. We will leave behind the Altiplano and descend to the Chuquisaca Valley.
Here we will cross the Pilcomayo River on the Sucre Bridge; an interesting structure that looks like a medieval construction, even if built in the 19th century. We will arrive in Sucre after around 3 hours on the road (160 km).
Today we spend the day in the beautiful “white city” of Sucre. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the constitutional capital of Bolivia is famous for its flair of quietness, its beautiful colonial architecture and its numerous churches.
Our guide will pick us up at 9 am in the lobby of the hotel to guide us through the most famous buildings and museums of the city. We will start with the Convento de la Recoleta, monastery of the Franciscan order built in 1601. We will then learn more about the culture of the region and the country in the Museum of Indigenous Art (ASUR) and about the Bolivian history in The Casa de la Libertad, where the Independence Act was signed in 1825.
We will end the day visiting the Monastery of San Felipe Nery, enjoying a beautiful view over the city from its terrace.
NOTE: Museums are closed as following: Convento de la Recoleta, ASUR and Monastery of San Felipe Nery on Sundays, Casa de la Libertad on Mondays.
Sucre - El Alto Airport
Domestic flight Sucre - La Paz.
Sucre - El Alto Airport - La Paz
Our driver will pick us up at 8:00 am to visit the traditional market of Tarabuco.
We will drive around 1.5h (70 km) in our private vehicule to reach this traditional village, which Sunday market is known in the whole country. It is one of the biggest traditional markets of the continent.
Buyers and sellers come from all over the region in traditional clothing: they wear the same leather hats as those of the Spanish “conquistadores” and very colorful clothing. The sound of the “charango” (small Andean guitar) brings a nice festive atmosphere.
We will then drive 20 km south (around 1h) to Candelaria, a very authentic small village at the heart of the Tarabuco culture, famous for its textile art.
We will have lunch with a weaver family who will show us their weaving shop and the museum of the village.
We will come back to Sucre at the end of the afternoon.
A private driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport.