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Exploring Bolivia's diversity

This very complete trip makes you aware of the diversity and richness of Bolivia, its people, its history and its breathtaking natural landscapes.
The circuit begins in the warm plains of the "Oriente" lands Chiquitos Indians, to discover the Jesuit Missions. Then we visit Sucre, with the mild climate and jewel of the colonial architecture. Vicissitudes of history, the population is here Quechua majority.
We must then climb the foothills of the Cordillera to discover Potosi, city steeped in history and listed as World Heritage by Unesco. Then it is Uyuni, gateway to the Lipez desert, with its fabulous multicolored lagoons, and the largest salt lake in the world, the Tunupa salar (also called Uuni Salar).
We will discover La Paz, a unique and colorful city, and Lake Titicaca, mythical place full of legends. As on all the rough altiplano, the population is Aymara.
Our itinerary ends with a trip to the amazing tropical Yungas region, where the Andes collapse literally in the Amazon basin. There is no doubt: Bolivia is the pearl of South America!

4WD tour
19 Days

MAP

PROGRAMME DAY TO DAY

DAY
1

Santa Cruz

Your guide and a private driver will pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel.
In the afternoon, departure to La Rinconada, a hidden paradise at 7 kilometers of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. In this beautiful leisure park located to the west of the Rio Pirai, the inhabitants of Santa Cruz come to relax amidst beautiful tropical gardens. The artificial lake is populated by various colorful fish and aquatic plants including the impressive Victoria Regia, the world's largest water lily from the Amazon. Playgrounds are available for children and there is a restaurant where guests can enjoy regional specialties in a beautiful setting. It is also possible to enjoy the swimming pool.
After this half-day in the wilderness, we return to Santa Cruz at the end of the day.
Night at the Armonia hotel***.

DAY
2

Santa Cruz - Concepción

Departure from the hotel at 8:30am by private vehicle to drive to San Javier, the first stop of our trip (3 hours on sealed road). This first Jesuit Mission, founded in 1691, also hosted the first music school, as well as a workshop dedicated to the fabrication of violins, harps, harpsichord…
After lunch, we will head towards the village of Concepción, 70km to the East (1hh30) with a stop to the “Piedras de Paquió”, some geological formations of balanced rocks.
Free time for the rest of the day.

DAY
3

Concepción - Santa Cruz

In the morning, visit of the church and the Mission’s museum, located in the house in which was born General Hugo Banzer (dictator then President of Bolivia in the 70th and the 90th). Lunch in Concepción. Then return to San Javier and to Santa Cruz at the end of the afternoon.
Night at the Armonia hotel***.

DAY
4

Santa Cruz - Sucre

A private driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport.
Domestic flight Santa Cruz - Sucre.
Your guide and a private driver will pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel.
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.
Night at the Su Merced hotel***.

DAY
5

Sucre

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.
Night at the Su Merced hotel***.

DAY
6

Sucre - Potosi

Departure from the hotel by private vehicle. We will cross Sucre bridge with its anachronical design, over the Río Pilcomayo (the river separates Argentina and Paraguay further South). We will then leave the Chuquisaca Valley to climb to the Potosí plateau (4100 m.a.s.l.) where we will arrive 3 hours later (asphalt road).
Our guide will pick us up at the hotel lobby to spend a half-day discovering the city-center of Potosí. We will walk along the streets enjoying the rich architecture and discovering the historical buildings that owed the city to be listed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.

We will then enter in the Santa Teresa convent that houses one of the major museum of religious art in Latin-America.

NOTE: The Santa Teresa convent is closed in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Friday.
Night at the Colonial hotel***.

DAY
7

Potosi - Uyuni

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.
We will leave Potosí in a private car and cross the Cordillera de los Frailes to reach Uyuni, a small town at the shores of the Uyuni salt flat, 3650 m.a.s.l. 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 Uyuni at the end of the day (total ride today: 3 to 4 hours, 205 km).
Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.

DAY
8

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).

DAY
9

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).

DAY
10

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).

DAY
11

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***.

DAY
12

Uyuni - El Alto Airport -

A private driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport.
Domestic flight Uyuni - La Paz.
A private driver will pick you up at the international airport of El Alto and drive you to your hotel in 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.
Night at the Naira hotel***.

DAY
13

Tuni

Morning departure from La Paz to the Cordillera, Andean wall culminating at 6400 meters above sea level and separates the Amazon Basin of the Altiplano. After 3 hours of travel, we reach the Aymara village of Tuni.We will be welcomed at the aymara village of Tuni by the families of the community. Typical andean lunch. You will be proposed to participate cooking the dinner, learning the local methods of the village's women. The dinner is made from local products of the season (dried llama meat, sheep milk, quinoa, chuño, potatoes, local herbs...). You will be amazed of the originality of the andean gastronomy.
A local guide will accompany you in the afternoon to visit the village families and show you the weaving art. We can even try weaving ourselves with the advise of a woman from the village. Share the life of the locals.
Dinner with a traditional andean night. A music band from the village of Chuñawi nearby will join us for the night. It will be the opportunity to learn a few moves and to discuss around the fire.

DAY
14

Tuni

In the morning, we share the village life and learn about the local activities: The importance of the llamas, the education of the children, beliefs and ceremonies, social organization of an Aymara village.
Andean lunch.
We leave the community at about 2 p.m. with our private vehicle. We skirt Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real until we arrive in Copacabana (about a 3½-hour drive). We climb the hill of the Way of the Cross to watch the sunset.
Lunch included and dinner open. Hotel / view over the lake.
Night at La Cúpula hotel***.

DAY
15

By motorboat, we reach the cave of Lourdes. Our trek on the Yampupata peninsula starts from there. We cross the timeless village of Zampaya...

Later on we reach the village of Yampupata. A boat takes us to the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), where we disembark at the old Inca Palace of Pilkokaina.A 30 to 40-minute walk brings us to the village of Yumani, from where there is a magnificent view of the lake.

Cold lunch and dinner.

Note: During the following 2 days a boat will be at our disposal to transport the group as well as the gear during the walks.

Hiking time: 5h; Elevation gain: +550m/-350m
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.
Private boat available for two days.
Night at the Puerta del Sol hotel*.
Dinner included.

DAY
16

In the morning, a short hop by motorboat first takes us to Pilkokaina temple, south of the island. This palace was built by Inca Tupac Yupanqui for its pilgrimages on the island. We then head to Isla de la Luna where we visit the temple of the Ñustas, The Inca virgins. We then come back to Copacabana.

Cold lunch (included). Dinner open.
We will return to La Paz in private transportation (about 3½-hour).
Night at the Naira hotel***.
The boat will take us back to Copacabana.

DAY
17

Coroico

Departure at 8:30 a.m. from the hotel for a 4WD trip to the Cordillera Real. After passing La Cumbre, a saddle at 4750 m of altitude, the Andes abruptly drop down. The Amazonian Basin is only a few hundreds kilometers on a straight line! Welcome to the Yungas, an incredible area which name is from a pre-Incan tribe which used to live on these steep slopes. As we will drive down the winding road, the vegetation will becomes thicker, the air more humid, the wind warmer... it is a more than 3500 meters of elevation loss to reach Yolosa (el. 1100 m.a.s.l.) in just a few hours!

To end the day, a steep, 7-kilometer uphill (650 m of elevation gain) takes us to the village of Coroico, the “pearl of the Yungas”.

Excursion to the Senda Verde Wildlife Sanctuary. At La Senda Verde they take care of rescued wild animals, provide them a forever home, and help them to regain trust, hope and happiness.We carry out a tour of the sanctuary where more than 650 animals from 54 different species are treated and restored. We are also learning more about wildlife trafficking and its impact on the environment and humanity.

Return to Coroico at the end of the day.

Lunch and dinner are not included.
Night at the Viejo Molino hotel****.

DAY
18

Coroico

We will cross by 4WD the Yungas from north to south in the morning on very steep mountain slopes. The vegetation is still thick and the waterfalls and rivers very cold. We will drive through the villages of Coripata and Arapata before arriving at Puente Villa after 3/4h on a dirt road, with successive uphills and downhills via a very poorly frequented route, crossing coca terraces, coffee plantations and orchards during our journey; on the way we will stop to visit an bizarre building: el Castillo, a Scottish style castle lost in the middle of a tropical vegetation… Arrival in La Paz at the end of the day.
Departure in private transport with your guide towards the "Cafetal" family coffee plantation and coffee treatment center, located in the community of San Felix, 4.5 km from Coroico on the road to the cascades.

This day will allow us to delve into the coffee cultivation and the production in the Yungas region. We learn to know its history, its current production and its relation to the cultivation of coca (very important in the region). The tour will explain all the steps of production and processing of coffee in a participatory manner with various activities and experiences.

Activities and explanatory content: hand harvesting coffee beans, grain selection, pulping and fermentation, coffee drying on pallets inside a solar tent, artisan roasting in the mud and comparison with the industrial toasting, coffee tasting.

The tour ends with a quick hike near the waterfalls (which are 100 meters from the plantation).

Time of the visit: 3/4 hours
Night at the Naira hotel***.

DAY
19

El Alto Airport -

A private driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport.