Aymara Highlands/Altiplano 13 days BOLTAA13SV

Itinerary in brief
This tour starts in La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia and also the highest capital in the world at 3660m/12.010ft. We visit Copacabana where we sail on the Lake Titicaca the highest navigable lake in the world and we go for a short trek across the famous Sun Island (Isla del Sol). We also visit the small community of Chacaltaya in Pampalarama where we get an insight in life on the Altiplano. The tour continues to the Salar de Uyuni where we discover the island with the giant cacti and the vastness of this 10.582km²/4.086mi2 big salt desert. Still in southern direction we cross the Lipez desert with its volcanoes, Lagunas as well as its rich animal life (lama, vicuña, alpaca, viscacha, pink flamingos, foxes, Nandu, etc....). After this incredible visit to the most southern spot of Bolivia we head back north to the beautiful cities of Potosi and Sucre before our tours ends back in La Paz. 

1. Arrival in La Paz
Today you arrive in La Paz. Flying into La Paz is always an experience; if you arrive at night you can admire the lights of the city between the mountains or during the day you might get a view of the Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. Once arrived in the International Airport of El Alto which is also the highest commercial airport in the world our team will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. After a short briefing there are no more activities planned and you can take the time to acclimatize to the altitude and explore La Paz on foot.

2. La Paz – Copacabana
We leave the hotel at 07h30 and after approximately 3½ hours we arrive in Copacabana. After getting installed in the hotel we leave to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana which is a 16th century church that houses the image of the patron saint of Bolivia. The church attracts thousands of local tourists throughout the year and it remains one of the two principal sacred places both for indigenous people and Catholics. After lunch we have the option to climb to the Calvario from where we have a beautiful view over the lake and the village or climb to Intiwatana or Horca del Inca which is believed to have been an astronomical observatory. If time permits we can visit both the Calvario and the Horca del Inca and the rest of the day is free to enjoy Copacabana.

3. Copacabana – Isla del Sol (Sun Island)
After breakfast we walk down to the port of Copacabana from where a motor boat will bring us to the extreme north of the Isla del Sol (Sun Island) to the small village of Challapampa. First we visit the museum and from here we walk slowly to the ruins of Chincana also called the Inca Labyrinth. From the ruins we start our trek of the Isla del Sol which along the crest of the island takes us from the north to the south to the village of Yumani. During our trek we have an unobstructed view of the sacred Lake Titicaca and if the weather permits in the background the Royal Cordillera with its snow-capped peaks. We spend the night in an Eco Lodge on the outskirts of Yumani.

4. Isla del Sol – Copacabana – La Paz
In the morning we descend the Inca Staircase (204 steps). This staircase which is still in a very good condition will take us to the Inca Fountain and the port of Yumani from where we take the boat back to Copacabana. We have time for lunch and at 13h30 we take the bus back to La Paz where the evening is free.  

5. La Paz – Pampalarama
We leave La Paz after breakfast to visit the community of Chacaltaya. After approx. an hour we reach the heart of the Andes Cordillera at the shelter Pampalarama where we get installed before visiting the area. We go for a short hike (5h return) to the Khuno Tincuta glacier situated at 5000m/16.400ft above sea level. We have lunch at the glacier and after recollecting our strength we return to the shelter where we enjoy a typical bolivian snack which consists of Buñuelos (type of doughnut) and hot Api (sweet and hot corn drink). The rest of the day is free to enjoy the surroundings. The original community of Chacaltaya was born in 1871 and through time is as managed to retain most of the Aymara culture. The community celebrates the important rituals of the Aymara calendar and life if lived at the rhythm of the agricultural production and the seasonal migration of llamas and alpacas in the month of September. Developed over time in the ancestral customs the community has kept the organic organisational and administrative structure which is managed by the "Ayni", "Minka" and the "Waki" – terms that indicate mutual aid and community work. The inhabitants speak Aymara and the majority of the Spanish as a second language.

6. Pampalarama – La Paz – Uyuni
At 08h00 we leave for a short walk in order to admire the magnificent landscape of the Royal Cordillera and we climb to 4700m/15.420ft to the Laguna Pampalarama. We have the possibility to sail on the lake or go for a stroll around the area. After lunch we return to La Paz and at 19h30 you are transferred to the bus terminal in La Paz. The bus station is famous for having been built by Gustave Eiffel (Eiffel Tower in Paris, France) and used to be the railway station of La Paz. At 21h00 we start our journey to Uyuni and our route takes us first to Oruro from where we descend through Challapata where the asphalt gives way to dirt tracks. If the first 350km/218mi seemed easy, some of Bolivia’s worst roads lie ahead of us; holes, mud, river crossings, cold and detours. Finally after this adventure we arrive in Uyuni around 07h00 where you have time for breakfast (we recommend Minut ‘Man Pizza) before the tour starts.

7. Uyuni – Colchani – Salar de Uyuni –Incahuasi – Cevat de las Galaxias – Puerto Chuvica
We start our journey around 10h30 in the morning and our first stop will be the locomotive cemetery which is a vestige of more prosperous times. From here we continue to Colchani which is a small village situated on the edge of the Salar and who’s inhabitants live from salt exploitation. In Colchani we discover how the salt is processed manually and we visit the small salt boutique, which also serves as a museum, where we can see large salt carvings and other objects (pottery, jewellery, tools, etc.). After this impressive visit with the craftsmen on the top of the world we enter the famous Salar de Uyuni; the biggest salt desert in the world with acreage of 10.582km²/4.086mi2. One of the particularities of the Uyuni Salt Flat is that it contains a reserve of 9 million tonnes of Lithium which represents 40% of world production. We head to the Island Incahuasi which mistakenly is better known as the Fisherman’s Island. This geological formation is a remnant of petrified coral and is covered in giant cacti that can get up to 12m/39.37ft high. From the top of the island we have a wonderful 360° view of the Salar de Uyuni. After lunch our journey continues in the direction of Puerto Chuvica. We have the possibility to visit the “Cueva de las Galaxias” which is a strange phenomenon of fossil algae which reminds us that the ocean was present here all the way to Oruro. In the adjacent cave we can observe the Chullpares which are Inca funerary remains. We climb to the viewpoint from where we have an unobstructed view of the desert and if we take a closer look we can also observe the fossil coral that once were part of an impressive coral barrier. After this impressive visit we continue to the small village of Puerto Chuvica (or San Juan depending on availability) situated at the doors of the Lipez desert. We arrive at the shelter around 16h00 and the evening is free.*

*Depending on the season and the weather the itinerary will change and there are some sights which are not accessible at all times!

8. Puerto Chuvica – Salar de Chiguana – Ollagüe Volcano – Siloli Desert – Ruta de las Joyas Alto Andinas (Lagunas Cañapa, Hedionda, Chiar Khota, Honda et Ramaditas) – Stone Tree - Reserva Nacional de la Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa - Laguna Colorada
We continue our tour of south Bolivia and from Puerto Chuvica we pass the Uyuni – Ollague railway, which is the property of the FCA (Empresa Ferroviaria Andina), before crossing the Salar de Chiguana. We observe the still active volcano Ollague and even from far we can see its fumarole. We follow the famous Jewel Route which is composed of the Lagunas Cañapa, Hedionda, Chiar Khota, Honda and Ramadita. Today we also visit the Stone Tree (please refrain from climbing on the rock) planted in the middle of the Siloli desert and at the end of the day we enter the Reserva Nacional de la Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa where we arrive at the Laguna Colorada. This Alto Andina Laguna gets its name because of the red colour which is caused by microscopic shellfish which is the principal nutriment of the rose flamingos that live in this area. Due to climate changes (lack of rain) and the high evaporation of the Altiplanic basin the water level of the regions Lagunas is reduced rapidly which year after year also reduces the population of the flamingos. Mid-afternoon we leave to get installed in our shelter and the evening is free.*

*Depending on the season and the weather the itinerary will change and there are some sights which are not accessible at all times!  

9. Reserva Nacional de la Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa - Laguna Colorada – Geyser de Sol de Mañana – Polques Thermal Spring –Dali Desert – Laguna Verde – Licancahur (5971m) – Villamar – Valle de Rocas – San Cristóbal – Uyuni – Potosi
Our tour continues in southern direction to the Laguna Verde – one of the most southern points in Bolivia. We leave the Laguna Colorada in order to go even deeper into the Reserva Nacional de la Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. We visit the boiling geysers of Sol de Mañana which is an impressive geothermal field with pits of boiling mud and strong smells of sulphur. Our tour continues in the direction of the thermal bath of Polques, a natural source of hot water where we have the possibility to go for a swim. We continue through the South Lipez and we observe the “Damas del Desierto” which are enormous rocks planted in this barren landscape and carved by the wind and weather over the years. We also cross the Dali Desert, which was named in reverence to the Catalan artist because of the resemblance of the landscape with the unreal yet natural colours to the masters’ work. We continue to the Laguna Verde and Blanca at the foot of the Licancahur where we stop to take a few pictures. The Laguna Verde gets its green colour from the high concentration of lead, arsenic sulphur and calcium – please refrain from bathing;-) From the Laguna Verde we start our drive back north. We pass by the small village Villamar which seems lost in the middle of the gigantic Lipez desert before passing by the biggest mining project in Bolivian history at San Cristobal. We arrive around 18h00 in Uyuni just in time for a quick dinner before getting the bus to Potosi. Once arrived in Potosi you are transferred to your hotel.*

*Depending on the season and the weather the itinerary will change and there are some sights which are not accessible at all times!  

10. Potosi – Visit of the Mines (Cerro Rico)* - Sucre
After breakfast we start with a visit to the miners market. Custom says it brings good luck to buy Coca leaves, cigarettes, alcohol or even dynamite as presents for the miners that will receive us at their workplace. Once we have finished our purchases we visit one of the mines in the Cerro Rico mountain. The mines here are quite different from western mines, some of them are very old – dug out by hand by the slaves of the Inca Empire and later by African slaves during the Spanish occupation and very narrow and short (not for claustrophobics). Our visit of the Cerro Rico starts by the “Tio” (uncle) who is the protector of the mines and to whom the miners on many occasions make offerings in order to be protected from bad spells. We visit the 1st level of the mine and have the possibility to descend up to 3 levels below – 500 or 600 m into the depths of the Cerro Rico. After this impressive visit we return you are transferred to the bus terminal for the bus to Sucre. From the highland we descend steeply into the valleys that lead to Sucre and on our way we can see the Mendez bridge which is a national monument built in the late nineteenth century. Once arrived in Sucre our team will be waiting to bring you to your hotel and the evening is free.

*Depending on the day it is possible that go for a tour of the city instead (Sunday or public holidays where the mines are closed)  

11. Sucre City Tour
After breakfast we leave to visit Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia also called the White City. This gem of Baroque art and the Renaissance is the most European cities in Bolivia and probably one of the most beautiful in Latin America. Founded in 1538 by order of Pizarro, Sucre was destined to become the residence and the centre of the Spanish bourgeoisie. From an architectural point of view, Sucre has remained like a postcard of the 19th century which is of course part of its charm. Sucre is considered the most beautiful city in Bolivia, but apart from its beauty and atmosphere of the 18th & 19th centuries, Sucre also has the advantage of being the historic capital of Bolivia. We visit the various museums, the Convento de Santa Clara and also the Casa de la Libertad, which saw the signing of the Declaration of Independence August 6, 1825 (all visits may vary depending on the day because the museums are closed on Sundays and public holidays). The evening is free to enjoy Sucre.

12. Sucre – La Paz
In the morning you are transferred to the airport for your flight Sucre – La Paz. Upon arrival in La Paz you are transferred to your hotel and the evening is free.

13. La Paz Departure
According to your time of departure you are transferred from the hotel to the airport. For international flights it is recommended to arrive at the airport 3 hours before scheduled departure.End of our services.

 

General Information:

Highlights: Lake Titicaca, Sun Island, La Paz, Pampalarama, Salar de Uyuni, South Lipez, Laguna Colorada, Potosi, Sucre

Support Team: English speaking tour leader for the entire tour for groups of 4 people or more. For smaller groups it is possible to book this tour without a tour leader. Instead you would have guided visits with a local guide in chosen language. Please contact us directly to receive a personalised quote.

Guaranteed departure: from 4 people

Group size: 4 to 12 people

Flights: Prices are valid only in certain tourist/economy classes which serve this destination. Therefore prices are subject to changes in case of unavailability at the time of reservation.
- National flight Sucre - La Paz

Accommodation: 7 nights in hotel/hostel, 1 night in Eco Lodge, 1 night in bus and 3 nights in shelter (South Lipez and Pampalarama)

Porterage: Your luggage will be transported either by plane, car, boat, and bus. You will have to carry the personal belongings (camera, water, etc.) which you need during the day.

Tour Leader: In groups of 4 to 12 people you will be accompanied by a tour leader in the chosen language. His role is to make sure that everything goes smoothly during the tour and that each individual and the group as a whole are safe. Don’t hesitate to ask him if you are unsure of anything and, very important, to follow his advice.

Included in the price:
- Water and land transfers as indicated in the program
- Accommodation in hotel/hostel in double rooms, Ecolodge, shelter, home stay, camping, bus and plane as indicated in the program : 7 nights in hotel/hostel, 2 night in Ecolodge, 2 nights in shelter and 1 night in bus
- Meals as mentioned in the program
- The assistance of specialised local English speaking guides, their fees and expenses
- The assistance of our local teams; driver(s) and logistics department (24/7)
- Visits as outlined in the program
- National flight Sucre – La Paz

Not included in the price:
- Entrance fees to sites visited, national parks and museums as indicated in the program (allow for approx. 250 bolivianos (Bolivian national currency) per person – this is an estimate and actual prices may vary)
- Meals not mentioned, drinks, tips, individual equipment, everything not mentioned in “included in the price” and all personal expenses - Individual obligatory personal travel insurance (this could be included with your credit card – please check with your credit card provider)
- The supplement for a single room: 125 USD / 78 GBP (subject to availability, must be reserved and paid upon reservation). Attention; no single room available for the nights with accommodation in shelter, home stay and camping.
- Possible visa expenses
- International flights

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