Colorful Indian traditions and enigmatic ancient ruins make Bolivia one of the world’s most mystical countries, the “Tibet” of South America

BBE's Best of Bolivia Land Expedition offers the opportunity to experience our hand-picked top non-mountaineering treats of this extraordinarily colorful and welcoming country. The culture of Bolivia is fascinating, with the highest percentage of indigenous people in the western hemisphere. Many of the Aymara and Quechua people, living in the remote areas, do not speak Spanish, yet in La Paz, there is a colorful mix of modern and traditional, European and ancient Andean cultures.

Kicking off in the south we visit the Salar de Uyuni, which covers an area of 10,580 sq. km and situated at over 3000m. It is the largest and highest salt flat in the world, its white surface resembling an immense glacier. The scenery here, high in the Andes, is out of this world – vast expanses of white desert that stretch as far as the eye can see, bordered by jagged peaks and littered with conical pyramids of salt. With few settlements and only occasional llama herders to be seen, travelling in this landscape feels like travelling in the very farthest reaches of the earth, or perhaps another planet! The surrounding area contains lakes, hot springs and geysers and is home to impressive birdlife.

From Uyuni we return to Bolivia's capital. There are few cities with such an extraordinary setting as lofty La Paz, and at 3,640 metres above sea level, La Paz has serious altitude. Thankfully after Uyuni we won't be affected. Flying in we see the flat Altiplano (high plain) fall away into a steep-sided bowl lined with a maze of adobe and red-brick buildings, which mix with modern skyscrapers at the base. And towering above it all is the jagged, glacier-topped Cordillera Real.

We complete this adventure with a visit to the shimmering Lake Titicaca, located at 12,448ft/3,856m above sea level, and providing a magnificent backdrop to this uniquely high world. Said to be the birthplace of the Incas, it’s home to numerous ruins and steeped in history.

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  • Cost

    From $1950

    Minimum of 8

  • Duration

    9 days

  • Location

    Bolivian Andes

  • Client/Guide

    6:1

  • View in Map

Day 1: Arrivals in La Paz
No one will forget their first view of the city whether it’s from the plane coming in to land at El Alto airport or from the bus driving down into the town 400m below; the valley of La Paz, guarded by the soaring Illimani at 6,438m, is simply breathtaking. Your BBE guide will be waiting for your arrival at El Alto Airport to meet you and transfer to our hotel. We stay at the four-star Rey Palace Hotel in the Sopocachi district in the center of the city. Everyone will feel the effects of the altitude and will need to take things easy for this first day. La Paz is a beautiful city with many interesting sights to see, both natural and man-made. After some free time for  rest and lunch your guide will meet you at the hotel for a team briefing, before you set off on foot to enjoy a short (2 hour) and gentle walking tour of some of the nearby markets of La Paz: the Indian Market and the Mercado de las Brujas (Witches Market) where various potions and even dried llama foetuses are dispensed for ritual use. Later you return to the hotel for a free evening for an earl night before an early start tomorrow. Overnight Rey Palace Hotel. Meals included today: B. (B = Breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner.)   

Day 2: Uyuni Salt Flats
An early breakfast before transfer to the airport to catch a local flight at 08:15 to Uyuni town in the south of Bolivia. Arrival in Uyuni at at 09:00. With our 4wd waiting to pick us up we make a quick getaway from the airport and immediately begin exploring this fascinating area. Passing the town of Uyuni en route, we first visit the Cemetery of Trains – a collection of the oldest trains of Bolivia introduced by the British and dating back years. We then head to Colchani, gateway of the Salt Flats, and the start our 4-day salt adventure. 1 hour’s drive across the trackless Salar de Uyuni brings us to the ‘Island’ of Incahuasi rising abruptly above the surface of the salt. Formed by piles of volcanic rock covered with huge cacti growing on a fertile soil, these islands (there are several of them dotted across the Salar de Uyuni) provide an amazing sight. Continuing on for an hour we arrive at the village of Coquesa (3690m) where we encounter several bird species in the salty lagoons of Coquesa, also home to flocks of pink flamingos. The last section of the day is a 2 hour drive the village of Quemes stopping en route to visit the “galaxia” caves and its  interesting karst formations. Overnight at the remote Hotel Tayka de Rocas (shared rooms). (B,L,D).

Uyuni Town was founded in 1889 and stands isolated in a desert landscape in the southwestern corner of Bolivia. Despite the harsh conditions, it is a cheerful town and the gateway to the Salar de Uyuni. Uyuni remains an important military base, and mining plays a significant role with the world’s largest lithium reserve – about 100 million tons – lying beneath the nearby salt flat.

Day 3: San Juan Mummies and Ojo de Perdiz
Today we visit the Graves of San Juan, the lava flows of Ollague, and a series of colourful lakes (Chiguana, Hedionda, Honda), which are home to intense concentrations of birdlife. During our approach to the Siloli Desert we enjoy extraordinary and rock formations before the last vegetation disappears completely, giving way to the dunes.  After a journey of around 6 hours we arrive at a remote hotel in the middle of the desert where we will spend the night at 4600m. Overnight Tayka Hotel del Desierto (B,L,D).

Day 4: Laguna Colorada, Geysers, and the Dali Dessert
This morning we drive for around an hour and a half until we arrive at breathtaking Laguna Colorada. Minerals lining the shores sustain a large concentration of flamingos. We then continue to the extreme south west of Bolivia, on the border with Chile, passing en route the Geysers of Sol de Mañana and the hot springs of Chalviri with a stop off for a hot bath. We then reach stunning Laguna Verde passing the Salvador Dali desert en route, and stop for lunch in Verde, before returning to Ojo de Perdíz for a second night. Overnight at Tayka Hotel del Desierto (B,L,D).

Day 5: Uyuni and La Paz
Today we have a 5 hour drive to return to Uyuni following a direct route via a breathtaking canyon where lama herds graze. We arrive back in Uyuni by mid-afternoon with some free before a short transfer to the airport to catch our flight at 20:40.  Once back in La Paz, we transfer to the hotel Rey Palace for the night (B,L).

Day 6: La Paz and Copacabana
Today we focus our attention on the most outstanding areas of La Paz city, starting a tour at 08:30. We begin by heading to the main square Plaza Murillo, and Jaen street where we find colonial architecture of the 16Th century. We later visit the Museum of Music Instruments, and finally take a fascinating trip in the city’s new cable car system flying over the city from north to south. At the other end we meet our vehicle to continue to the Moon Valley. Return to La Paz at 11:00 with free time for lunch. At 14:30, we meet our driver to drive to the Titikaka  Lake visiting in the way the museum of Paulino Esteban, the Bolivian Indian that built for Heyerdal the boat RA II which crossed successfully the Atlantic ocean. After around 4 hours we reach the pretty town of Copacabana (3,825m) on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This is a popular resort and pilgrimage area. Accommodation in hotel Las Olas or Cupula. (B).

Day 7: Isla de La Luna and La Isla Del Sol
Waking up in this peaceful town after busy La Paz, we have an early breakfast and board our private boat at 08:30. Our first stop is the Moon Island (La Isal de La Luna) to visit the temple of the Inca virgins of the Aclla Huasi. We will enjoy a 90 minute walk enjoying superb views of the Illampu and Ancohuma mountains, part of the Cordillera Real. Afterwards, our boat awaits for a short and final water transfer to the Sun Island (La Isla Del Sol), where we disembark at the Pilkokaina palace (Inca ruins at the extreme southern side of the Sun Island) where we also stop for lunch. Our hotel is then a further hours hike away, but we will have already taken care of delivering your luggage! The Ecolodge Palla Kasa is located in the village of Yumani. Later in the day we take a short walk (30 minutes) to the highest point of the island (4,080m) to enjoy the colorful sunset over the lake, enjoying the peace and quiet of the magical and historical island whose only traffic is people and donkeys. Return to the lodge for diner. (B,L,D). 

Day 8: La Paz
In the morning, from the hotel, we descend 1 hour to the Incas garden which is an idyllic florid spot which boasts an Inca spring considered by the locals as a fountain of youth. With our boat we have a transfer of an hour and a half to return to Copacabana beach. In the town we visit the Indian market to see exotic produces. The church where is located the famous virgin of Copacabana. We also participate in the traditional ceremony of blessing cars at the main square where the Franciscan priest comes out to bless them. Finally, at 12:00 we start moving from Copacabana to return to La Paz, stopping en route to have lunch (fresh trout). Arrival at the hotel Rey Palace in La Paz. (B,L).

Day 9: Departures for Home
After breakfast, group transfer to the airport. B.

______________________________________

EXTENSION HUAYNA POTOSI CLIMB

Day 8: Huayna Potosi Base Camp
Our group will split in two today. Those doing the mountaineering extension will board a 4x4 close to La Paz as far as the base of Mount Huayna Potosi. We drive to the Zongo Pass Area today and head to our accommodation in the Casa Blanca Mountain Refuge (B,L,D).

Day 9: Huayna Potosi High Camp (5,270m)
Our 2-3 hour hike to Huayna Potosi High Camp will be assisted by porters, following a rocky trail via the base of the moraine towards the East Ridge below the glacier. Afternoon relaxing, hydrating and preparing for summit attempt, night at high camp (shared dormitory in refuge: basic accommodation in an alpine refuge where we sleep in bunks but definitely we sleep warm). (B,L,D)

Day 10: Huayna Potosi Summit Day (6,088 m /19,968 ft)
Normal Route North Ridge. Difficulty grade: FR: AD-. Average slope angle: 40º. It is the 88 m over the magic 6000 m figure and on the other hand, the 26th under the magic 20000 ft figure. It is located in the middle of the whole Cordillera Real range and it is Bolivia’s most straightforward 6000 metre peak!

Pre-dawn start for the 5-6 hour ascent. With a dramatic sunrise over the Amazon Basin below, we set off on our summit day enjoying interesting roped up glacier travel and intermittent sections of moderately steep ground. We climb via the North Ridge. The summit of Huayna Potosi awaits us at the end of a beautifully sculptured ridge, providing and exhilarating finish to a great series of climbs. The last 180 meters we scramble between ice and snow and rocks in a 35ª-40º angled slopes. Once on the top we are rewarded by an impressive view of the whole Cordillera Real. The descent to Zongo Pass takes around 5 hours, and we arrive at the trialhead for lunch before we return to La Paz to meet the rest of the group. Overnight Rey Palace Hotel. (B,L.)

Day 11: Departures for Home
After breakfast, group transfer to the airport. B.

Getting There
Most routes from the States to La Paz are via Miami . Most climbers arrive on the American Airlines flight. LACSA also known as TACA is another option. It flies to La Paz with a connection in Lima-Peru. Climbers that arrive early or depart late will incur in an additional airport pick up fee.

Entry Requirements 
A valid passport is required when traveling to Bolivia. Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the expected return date. U.S. passport holders may stay up to 90 days without a visa.

You will have to pay an international exit tax from La Paz airport of $20.00 U.S. Dollars or its equivalent in Bolivianos (the Bolivian currency).

We suggest making a copy of the first two pages of your passport and keeping them in a separate bag as a backup. A copy should also be left with your emergency contact.

Visa Application 
Yes currently you do need a visa to enter the country, please contact the office or the Bolivian Consulate with questions.

In Country Transportation 
The provided transportation in Bolivia is via private vehicle.

Food 
All of the meals served on Benegas Brothers Expeditions trips are a combination of the best local and regional fares along with occasional specialty items brought from the US. We are happy to accommodate your dietary restrictions and/or allergies. We practice an expedition motto of “happiness through eating!”

Mountain Snacks
We recommend that you bring snacks to supplement the mountain lunches for 5 days. We may have a chance to purchase additional food in La Paz, but we recommend you take what you need and only supplement with local food if necessary.

Take snacks that you genuinely enjoy. Eating well is the key to maintaining your strength while in the mountains. And in order to combat the loss of appetite at altitude, it is best to have a variety of foods from which to choose, from sweet to sour to salty.

Lunch snacks are eaten during short breaks throughout the day while in the mountains. Avoid packing any items that require preparation or hot water.

Recommended mountain lunch items: dry salami, smoked salmon, jerky (turkey, beef, fish), small cans of tuna fish, individually wrapped cheeses such as Laughing Cow or Baby Bell, crackers, bagels, candy bars, hard candies (Jolly Ranchers, Toffees, Life Savers), Gummy Bears, sour candies (Sweet Tarts), cookies, dried fruit, nuts, energy bars, GORP mixes, and drink mixes (Gatorade/Kool-Aid).

Breakfast and Dinners 
The breakfast menu includes items such as instant oatmeal, cold cereals (granola), breakfast bars, hot drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa, cider) and local fresh fruit.

Dinner usually begins with soup and ends with dessert, followed by a round of hot drinks. Healthy one-pot meals, incorporating fresh local food whenever practical, are served as the main course. There are limitations, but the menu is planned to offer good variety and ample portions.

Hotels
Our international trips feature local standard three-four star accommodations in the larger cities and towns. These hotels offer all of the amenities you would expect; room service, laundry, wireless internet…etc. They are often close to the local points of interest, unique shops and colorful markets, and offer guests a comfortable place to relax between the trip activities.

Money
The national currency is the Boliviano (BOB, Bs). Bills come in denominations of 200, 100, 50, 20, and 10; coins are in 5, 2, and 1 Bolivianos, and 50, 20, and you will find sometimes 10 centavos (1/10 of a Boliviano). Bills larger than Bs50 can be hard to break, but a quick phone call or internet session at an Internet Café (see Contact, below) will usually get you change

Resources
http://wikitravel.org/en/bolivia and http://www.lonelyplanet.com/bolivia offer a wealth of information.

Location: Bolivia

Length: 9 days

Trip dates: Your Choice

Prerequisites: A keen attitude to explore new cultures

Client/guide ratio: 6:1

Trip cost per person: $2,650 for 3;   $2,250 for 4;   $2,400 for 5;   $2,150 for 6 or 7   or   $1,950 for 8

Trip cost Huayna Potosi Extension per person: $500 for 3 or 4;   $475 for 5;   $450 for 6 or 7;   $425 for 8    $995 for 2;    $775 for 1

Deposit: $750

The trip fee includes:

  • BBE Leadership
  • Hotel accommodations as indicated in the itinerary (double occupancy*)
  • Park entrance fees and cultural guides in La Paz, Uyuni and Titikaka
  • All group private land / water transportation in country per the itinerary
  • La Paz - Uyuni - La Paz Airfares
  • For Huayna Potosi Ascent: Permits, Equipment, Transfers, Guide 1:3 Ratio; Overnights and all meals until return to La Paz

The trip fee does not include:

  • International airfare
  • Travel insurance and personal medical insurance
  • Passport and visa fees
  • Excess baggage fees & Departure taxes
  • Meals not included in the itinerary
  • Meals in La Paz and Copacabana (other than breakfast which is included at our hotel)
  • Bottled water and personal drinks throughout
  • Customary guide gratuities
  • Additional room charges including laundry service and other personal expenses
  • Medical, hospitalization and evacuation costs (by any means)

*Single Travelers: If you wish to share accommodations, we will assign you a roommate. If you wish to stay alone, a supplemental fee will be charged for a single room. The single supplement is not available in huts, tents, or in all hotels