|La Paz||La Paz|
Straddling the Andes, Bolivia is a landlocked country overflowing with towering mountains, rugged terrain and steamy Amazon jungle. It’s also full of Indian culture with lots of locals to chat with and give you a real feel of ancient traditions.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Our trip starts today with arrival in La Paz. No activities are planned, so you may arrive at any time. Please refer to your itinerary for the joining hotel's name and address. There is a pre-departure meeting with our local tour guide at 7pm this first evening. Don’t forget to check the noticeboard in the foyer of the joining hotel for details of this meeting and for any other messages from our tour guide. Please bring your passport and insurance documents to the briefing. The highest city in the world, La Paz lies nestled in a steep canyon on the Altiplano (high plains), with the towering Mount Illimani forming an impressive backdrop over it. La Paz is the country’s largest city and home to over half of the country’s Indian heritage. It was founded in 1548 following the discovery of gold and although that boom didn’t last long, the city’s location on the main silver route ensured its continued prosperity. We enjoy free time in La Paz to wander around the cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways that are features of this charming city. We can also explore the colourful markets, including the famous 'Witches Market', or simply relax in one of the many cafes. Note: The city is situated 3,636 metres above sea level and it is possible that, as a result of the high altitude, you may experience some light-headedness, insomnia and a shortness of breath when you first arrive. If this is the case we recommend that you avoid any strenuous activity for the first couple of days of your trip or alternatively you may wish to arrive a day earlier to allow more time for acclimatisation.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch
Our departure today is by bus from La Paz to Oruro, where we catch the train for a spectacular journey around the edge of Lake Poopo and past the villages of Popp, Challapata and Huari. We ascend into the highlands, where we are greeted with superb views over the mineral rich mountains that characterise this part of Bolivia, as well as enjoy our first glimpse of llamas, alpacas and even the graceful vicunas. The town of Uyuni is our base for two nights for exploring the Uyuni Desert, an immense saltpan stretching over an area of 12,000 square kilometres. It was once part of a pre-historic salt lake called Lago Minchin, which covered most of southwestern Bolivia. The sunsets here can be quite incredible. On Day 4 we enjoy a full day excursion across this strange and fascinating desert. We start by visiting the local village of Jiria, which lies at the foot of the Tunupa Volcano. There is time to explore the natural caves on the volcano, where we can also enjoy outstanding views over the desert. Our next stop is Isla Pescado - a small, volcanic island, situated 80 kilometres in the desert and home to enormous cactus, Here, there is plenty of time to do some of our own exploring. In the late afternoon we return to Uyuni, where we can enjoy some local cuisine at one of the restaurants close to our hotel.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts
Today we travel by road to the silver-mining town of Potosi. This six-hour, picturesque journey takes us across the high Bolivian plateau, passing through dry deserts and occasional oasis towns inhabited by shepherds. After arriving in Potosi, we check into our hotel before taking a stroll in the streets lined by colonial architecture - a feature of this old city. The immense Cerro Rico Mountain (4824m) forms a backdrop over the city. Potosi itself is situated at 4070m and in its heyday was considered home to the richest silver mines in the world. Founded in 1545 following the discovery of silver in Cerro Rico, the town quickly flourished into one of the wealthiest in Latin America. This abundance of silver ensured that it became the backbone of the Spanish economy for over two centuries, resulting in some extravagant behaviour by its rulers. Millions of miners worked in the mines in horrible conditions resulting in a incredible number of deaths, either by disease or preventable accidents. However, at the turn of 19th century, the reserves began to dwindle and the city declined. Evidence of Potosi’s rich colonial past can be seen in the form of its grand colonial architecture, narrow streets and ornate churches. We enjoy a guided tour of the city and visit many of its highlights, including the San Lorenzo church, the Cobija Arch, the main square, the cathedral, the Jesuit Tower and the magnificent museum in the Casa Real de la Moneda, which has a fascinating section dedicated to art and historical artefacts. The afternoon is free to further explore the city and there are many optional activities available. You could indulge in a thermal bath or visit the historic, colonial farm at the Marquise de Ottavi, situated in a picturesque valley.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts
Just a three-hour drive away on a paved road is the beautiful colonial city of Sucre, the judicial capital of Bolivia. The road we take descends more than 1000 metres to the temperate valleys of Chuquisacra, which are full of small rivers, cactus fields, fruit and vegetable gardens, gentle, local people and their mud huts. Sucre is a pleasant city set in a valley surrounded by low mountains and has retained its colonial heritage as exemplified by its churches, museums and ancient mansions. It was founded in 1538 as the Spanish capital of the vast region of Charcas. In 1776 with new territorial division created by the Spaniards, the city's name was changed to Chuquisaca. This region played an important role during the long colonial period and influenced much of Bolivia’s history. It was actually here that Bolivian independence was declared on 6 August 1825. Several years later the name of the city was changed to Sucre, in honour of a general who promoted the independence movement. On arrival we transfer to our charming colonial guesthouse before enjoying a guided tour of the old part of town including the Recoleta Church and Monastery, the chapel of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the cathedral and museum of La Casa de la Libertad. We also have Day 8 as a free day to enjoy this historic town and absorb its colonial ambience. You may want to visit the local markets or textile museum, take a walk around the city or a horse ride out in the surrounding countryside.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Today we catch a flight back to La Paz, where our adventure comes to an end. Our flight arrives at La Paz Airport in the afternoon. If you are departing La Paz today, please do not book to depart until 8:00pm (20:00 hrs) or after.
An experienced local tour guide in Bolivia and there will be the services of local guides at some sites. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and meals as indicated.
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
We have chosen a selection of some great optional activities to enhance your travel experience. You will need to cover any additional costs yourself. The below list is not exhaustive and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed below have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Beware that night time temperatures can be very cold on the Bolivian Altiplano (high plains) and down to minus 10°C, especially during the winter months from May to September.
Public Holiday Inconveniences
Please be prepared for the inconvenience of sights such as museums and churches being closed to tourists on public holidays (ie. Christmas Day and New Years Day). Throughout Latin America, most museums also tend to be closed on Mondays.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
26 February 2013