Andean train : Argentina, Bolivia & Peru
For many of us, the train is part of our childhood dreams. But what about the Andes, its mysteries, its thousand colors and its millennial history, are not they just as fascinating? So why not combine these two pleasures in an extraordinary journey, because the train is the most beautiful way to discover South America ! Our journey begins in northwestern Argentina. From Salta, it is a train that rises, it is said, to the clouds! It is the highest train in the world, which leads us to San Antonio de los Cobres, at 4200 meters above sea level. We are in the heart of the great Andean Cordillera, with striking landscapes that the slowness of the convoy allows us to appreciate in the best conditions. We then go to Bolivia, which we cross from one side to the other. It's all the Altiplano that unfolds before our eyes... From the pleasant city of Tupiza, the rails lead us to the famous salar Uyuni, the largest salt lake in the world. The impression is unique! We then reach La Paz, Andean city par excellence, colorful markets and narrow and steep streets. Continuing north, we discover Lake Titicaca, cradle of the great civilizations of the Altiplano and natural border between Bolivia and Peru. From Copacabana and the Island of the Sun (where according to legend was born Manco Capac, the first Inca), we reach Puno, from where we take the train to Cusco. Other wonders await us, like the citadel of Machu Picchu, lost in the mountains. It is only reached on foot, by small steep paths, or by train of course!
PROGRAMME DAY TO DAY
Villazon - Tupiza
We meet our driver at the Argentinean – Bolivia border. Transfer to the pleasant town of Tupiza (3 hours on a dirt road).
Night at the Mitru hotel**.
Tupiza - Uyuni
We will leave at 09:30 in private 4WD or van for the community of Torre Huayco, located at 15 Km - 20 minutes northwest of Tupiza. This site is surrounded by beautiful red brick canyons that have been formed for millions of years by the winds in the area. These incredible sandstone formations stand a spectacular lunar landscape.
Around 10:30, we start a short hike accompanied by our local guide. He will also share his knowledge of the region and of the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the community.
We will go back to the community of Torre Huayco for mate tea tasting and lunch .
Back to Tupiza around 16:00.
A private driver will pick you up at your hotel and and drive you to the train station.
Train Tupiza - Uyuni : 7.15pm - 1.15am
Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.
Uyuni - Jirira
A private driver will pick you up at the train station in Uyuni and drive you to your hotel.
Today we will discover the world’s largest salt desert! At 9 a.m. we leave the hotel with our jeeps to the Salar de Uyuni (el. 3650 m.a.s.l.). After an half an hour ride, we stop in the village of Colchani to visit its salt exploitation and salt hotel (closed since 2001).
We will then ride 73 km on the salt desert (around an hour and a half) to reach the Island of Incahuasi. This surprising island lost in the middle of the salar, offers an incredible view over the salt desert and the several volcanoes 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 will keep riding 46 km on the white desert (around half an hour) to reach its northern extremity. Here, on the feet of the Tunupa volcano (5432 m.a.s.l.) we will spend the night in the small village of Jirira. Before arriving, we will stop in the neighbor village of Coquesa, famous for its “chullpas”: mummies of the Chipaya culture.
Night at the Doña Lupe accommodation*.
Salar Sector Room.
Uyuni - Jirira
Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.
Partial ascent - no technical difficulties - good physical condition required
We start the day early to climb up the volcano Tunupa, a colorful mountain located only few kilometers from the salar. Tunupa is the name of the pre-Inca god of volcanoes and thunderstorms.
Our jeep drops us off at the end of the track above the village, at an elevation of 4300 m.a.s.l. We will then trek 3 to 4 hours to the mirador (el. 4700 m.a.s.l.). What an exceptional panorama! It almost seems like we are above the clouds or the sea, but it’s the world’s largest salt flat we are looking at! The summit (el. 5432 m.a.s.l.) can not be attempted since the path is too dangerous.
We will walk back to Jirira in the afternoon and from there drive to Uyuni, where we will arrive at the end of the afternoon after a 2.5 h ride (140 km). We will stop on the road to visit a salt hotel and a salt exploitation.
Trekking time: 4h - Elevation gain: +850m/-850m
A private driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the train station.
Wednesdays and Saturdays, departure of the train Expreso del Sur for Oruro at midnight. Hotel available until your departure from Uyuni. Arrival in Oruro the next day at 7 a.m.
Reception at the train station and private tranport to La Paz.
This afternoon our guide will show us the historical center of the city. We will meet at 02:00 pm at the hotel lobby.
From the Plaza San Francisco (the main square of La Paz) we will go up the Sagarnaga street, where it is hard to resist the temptation of buying some local handicraft sold all along the street. We will stop 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.
We will then wander in the different markets of San Pedro before we go the Plaza Murillo. This square is the political heart of the city since it has become the executive capital of Bolivia in 1899: here are the Presidential Palace and the National Congress.
Night at the Naira hotel***.
Departure from the hotel at 9 a.m. with a private transport. We will follow the Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real until Copacabana (3 ½ hours).
Copacabana, a quiet town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, between the hills of Calvary and Calvary Child, attracts all year round tourists who come to enjoy the peace and beauty of the lake and the pilgrims of the Virgin of Copacabana .
In particular, for the "challa" of his new car, there is a blessing ceremony that protects the vehicle and its driver for the rest of the year. We visit the cathedral and we walk on the market and the harbor.
Possibility to climb Calvary if the weather allows us.
A boat takes us to the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), where we disembark at the old Inca Palace of Pilkokaina.
A 1h15 walk brings us to the village of Yumani, from where there is a magnificent view of the lake.
Note: During 2 days, a boat will be at our disposal to transport the group as well as the bags during the walks.
Night at the Puerta del Sol hotel*.
Departure with our private vehicle (or taxi) to the border post of Kasani (15 minutes).
From Yumani, we start the trek by following the crest of the Island to the North where we find the vestiges of the Inca ruins of Chincana, the labyrinth in Aymara (3 to 4-hour walk).
We then descend to the village of Challapampa, where is the museum of Marka Pampa. Visit of the museum.
Our boat takes us back to Copacabana after lunch.