Bolivia – To the High Andes – a 15 day Small Group Tour.
Bolivia is South America’s highest and most remote country, bordered by Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay, with no access to the ocean. It’s also a country characterised by indigenous people, who make up almost two-thirds of the population, more than any other South American state. Bolivia today is a rich country; it has the continent’s second largest natural gas reserves.
However, the exploitation of this gas by foreign enterprises is highly contentious, and the distribution of the country’s wealth remains starkly iniquitous. A 2019 a constitutional crisis and widespread protests saw the resignation of the country’s first indigenous president, Left-leaning, Evo Morales, after a disputed election. Currently Morales is in exile in Mexico and his political supporters, a majority in the Bolivian parliament, refuse to recognise the self-declared interim president, Jeanine Áñez. Interesting times indeed.
This tour explores Bolivia’s lowlands and Andean highlands, visiting many of its major natural sights, and also its cultural sights, from pre-history, through Inca civilisation, European colonisation, to the present day. If you’re looking for microcosm of South America, be it on country-size scale, Bolivia fits the brief very well.
Often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbour Peru, Bolivia offers the adventurous traveller just about all you could want from a trip to South America, without the numbers of tourists found in other areas.
On this two week trip we journey through a variety of landscapes from the steamy jungles of the Amazon to the desolate and foreboding salt flats of Uyuni, nestled up against the border with Chile. We visit the lovely Jesuit churches and pretty villages of the Chiquitania, region and the colonial cities of Sucre and Potosi with their amazing architecture, which transports us back to the days of the conquistadors.
We also take time to delve into ancient cultures at Tiwanaku, and embark on an adventure through the mountains of the High Andes, where the barren landscapes have to be seen to be believed.
Bolivia is a hotbed of nature, adventure and culture that should be high on the list for any prospective visit to South America.
Day 1 - Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Arrive in the atmospheric city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra where you will be met and transferred to your hotel to relax after your flight. In the afternoon begin a city walking tour at the busy main square of 24 de Septiembre, including the main sights such as the church of San Lorenzo, the History Museum, and the handicrafts market of Recova Vieja. Overnight at Hotel Americana or similar.
Day 2 – Samaipata
(Approx. driving time 2.5 hours)
Today we visit the Fort and village of Samaipata. En route we have spectacular views of the Los Volcanes mountain range, and on arrival we take a 45-minute guided tour of the archaeological site. We discover the pre-Columbian architecture in the ruins of the defensive, religious and esoteric buildings. In addition, we hear the history of Fort Samaipata, which has belonged to the Chané, Inca and Spanish civilizations. After our stroll we visit the Samaipata Archaeological Museum, located just 12 miles from the archaeological complex. This colonial building exhibits the objects discovered during the excavations of the fort in its six rooms. After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll start our return journey back to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, making stops along the way at Las Cuevas waterfalls where we take a hike of approx. 1 hour and a half round trip to visit the rain forest and bathe in pools. We return to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Overnight at Hotel Las Americas or similar. (BL)
Day 3 – Sucre
This morning we transfer to the airport to catch the short flight south to “The White City” of Sucre (2.700m). After lunch we visit the impressive paleontological site of Cal Orck’o to see the rock face with its thousands of dinosaur tracks. On our way back to Sucre we visit the Indian market to understand the local folklore. After a short coffee break, we walk up to the roof of the tower of the San Felipe Neri Church. Overnight Hotel De Su Merced or similar (B)
Day 4 – Sucre – Potosi
(Approx. 3 hours driving)
This morning begins with a visit to the Museum Casa de la Libertad, the site of the declaration of independence, for an insight into the history of Bolivia. We then drive to the Recoleta viewpoint for panoramic views across the city, and visit Museo Asur to learn something of the development of textiles in the region. We will continue on foot to enjoy close up, the wonderful colonial buildings and churches. After lunch we depart Sucre for Potosi City driving through beautiful landscapes. Overnight at Hotel Santa Teresa or similar (B)
Day 5 – Potosi
This morning we will travel by bus to visit the mines of Potosi. After donning appropriate clothing (helmet, torch etc.) we take a short ride to the Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain). Every day the miners celebrate the ritual of the Challa with offerings to Tio, the demon who is said to own the underground mineral riches. This afternoon we visit the Money Museum with its artefacts of a bygone age including machinery, utensils and coinage. Overnight at Hotel Santa Teresa or similar (B)
Day 6 – Potosi– Uyuni
(205 kms, approx. 5 hours)
This morning we depart for Uyuni, stopping en route in the canyons of Porco, Andean wetlands and the Cacti Forest, and after lunch we travel by road to the town of Uyuni. Overnight at Hotel Casa de Sal or similar (B)
Day 7 – Salt Flat of Uyuni – Quemes
(Approx. 7 hours driving time)
This morning we take a short journey to visit the “graveyard of trains” a collection of historic steam locomotives and railcars, dating back several hundred years. We continue to the village of Colchani and witness how the locals transform the natural salt to edible salt using rustic ovens and tools. Colchani is the entrance to the fabulous salt flat of Uyuni, and we will take an impressive 3 hour cross country drive across the salt flat, with only track ways as points of reference. We stop en route at Incawasi Island to explore an area of giant volcanic ash rocks accompanied by hundreds of giant cactus rising up all around. Our journey across this remote area is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip. We finally move out of the salt flat towards the hamlet of Quemes. Overnight at Tayka Hotel de Piedra or similar (BLD)
Day 8 – Desierto Siloli
(Approx. 7 hours driving time)
Today we pass by the lava flows of Ollague, and a series of colourful lakes (Chiguana, Hedionda, Honda), which are home to great concentrations of Andean birds. On the approach to the Siloli Desert (Ojo de Perdíz) stand huge Aeolian formations of surreal figures, before the shrubby vegetation disappears completely, giving way to dunes. After a journey time of around 6 hours we arrive at a country hotel in the middle of the desert where we will sleep at 4600m. Overnight at Tayka Hotel del Desierto or similar (BLD)
Day 9 – Mallku
This morning we drive for around an hour and a half until we arrive at Laguna Colorada which is a burnt orange colour as a result of algae in the water. Generous mineral deposits line the shores and sustain a large concentration of flamingos. We continue to the extreme south west of Bolivia passing by the geysers of Sol de Mañana at 4950m, before arriving at the hot springs of Chalviri for a late breakfast, with some time for bathing. Return to Chalviri for lunch and 4 hours to travel to the Canyons of Mallku passing en route by the Valley of rocks and the Neolithic rupestrian paintings of Mallku. Overnight at Hotel Mallku Cueva or similar (BLD)
Day 10 – Uyuni
(Approx. 6 hours driving time)
Today we return to Uyuni following a more direct route but passing by the Canyons of Mallu, the Valley of Rocks and the Negra Lagoon and arriving by mid-afternoon where you will have some time at leisure. Overnight at Hotel Casa de Sal or similar (B)
Day 11 – La Paz and Tiwanaku
This morning we catch a flight to La Paz at 8.30am and transfer to the city and on arrival. we will take the 2 hour drive to the archaeological ruins of Tiwanaku to explore the temples and palaces originating from Pre-Inca times. We will return to La Paz in the late afternoon. Overnight at Hotel Bivouac or similar. (BL)
Day 12 – La Paz
Today will be spent discovering the sights of La Paz starting with main square Plaza Murillo and the streets around it where we can still find colonial architecture from the 16th century. We will visit the Museum of Magic Instruments and the Indian market. We will also take in the Witches Market known for the potions and magic amulets. We will drive to the cable car for a journey across the city from north to south, and drive to Moon Valley which is actually a maze of canyons and pinnacles formed by erosion. Overnight at Hotel Bivouac or similar (B)
Day 13 – La Paz – Copacabana & Lake Titicaca
(Overall driving time is approx. 4 hours)
Today we head towards the Titicaca, stopping on the way to visit the museum of Paulino Esteban, the Bolivian Indian that built the boat RA II which crossed successfully the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy the fascinating history and learn about how to do this kind of reed boats using the totora reed, endemic to the Andes. Later, at about midday we arrive in Copacabana (3825m / 12546 ft) on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This is a beautiful town and a popular resort and pilgrimage area, with lots to see and several nearby hills, which offer commanding views over the lake and towards the Cordillera Real. At the beach of Copacabana embark on a motor boat and continue the journey for another hour as far as the extreme southern side of the Sun Island (Isla del Sol) where we land near an Inca temple called Pilkokaina to have lunch in a typical restaurant with superb view over the lake to enjoy a traditional late lunch. Then, visit the Pilkokaina temple and walk about one hour to the Lodge Pallakasa. In the late afternoon, depart to walk up to the highest point of the island (4070 m/13350 ft) in time for a colourful sunset over the lake. Return to the lodge for the diner and overnight. Overnight Lodge Pallakasa or similar (BLD)
Day 14 – Copacabana – La Paz
In the morning walk approx. 1 hour to descend to an idyllic Garden with an Inca spring considered by the locals a fountain of youth. We then take a boat to the Moon Island (about 45 minutes driving). Visit the Temple of the Sun virgins Aclla Huasi where the girls were educated to be sacrificed. Walk for another hour to the hamlet Coati to catch our boat and travel to the replicas of floating islands of the Urus people to stop and catch some trout for our lunch. Finally return to Copacabana for a short visit to the Indian markets and the famous Church of Copacabana that shelters to the famous Virgin of La Candelaria before returning to La Paz. Overnight at Hotel Bivouac or similar (BL)
Day 15 – La Paz Departure
At your convenience we transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
Dates & Price.
Minimum Group Size
This group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 3 travellers.
Single Supplement from £645.
Return flights from London into Santa Cruz and return from La Paz start at £1000. Contact us for a quotation.
Bolivia - To the High Andes Private Tour
If you do not wish to be part of a group tour then you can do the same tour on a private basis. Please contact us for prices.
Kindly note that we can also tailor a similar or totally different itinerary to meet your requirements. Please get in touch with Linda so that I can tailor your perfect tour of Bolivia.
Combine Argentina, Chile and Bolivia!
Did you know you can do our Argentina and Chile Puna & Atacama Experience tour directly before our Bolivia tour?
Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?
Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.
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