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Altiplano 4wd Special Tour

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Itinerary in Brief This special 4WD Altiplano tour starts in the Bolivian administrative capital Nuestra Seora de La Paz known simply as La Paz. To acclimatize a bit before the real adventure begins we start with . .
Country: Bolivia
City: Uyuni
Duration: 14 Day(s) - 13 Night(s)
Tour Category: 4wd Tour
Package Itinerary

Itinerary in Brief

This special 4WD Altiplano tour starts in the Bolivian administrative capital Nuestra Señora de La Paz known simply as La Paz. To acclimatize a bit before the real adventure begins we start with a visit to Tiwanaku where we can discover the wealth of this lost civilization which played an important role in the history of Bolivia before continuing to Copacabana where we sail on Lake Titicaca the highest navigable lake in the world and we go for a short trek across the famous Sun Island (Isla del Sol).

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 the 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 in the northern direction and we cross the inter-Salar zone between the Salar de Uyuni and the Salar de Coipasa (also known as the mirror of the earth because it is constantly covered by a small layer of water which makes it look as a giant mirror). We continue to the Sajama National Park which was established in 1939 as the first protected area in Bolivia.

It features a spectacular Andean landscape, flora, and fauna and was declared a National Park to protect the endangered Queñua forests. We finish our tour in the Andes Cordillera in the community of Pampalarama where we discover the way of life of the indigenous people.

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 Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world.

Once arrive at 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. There are no activities planned for today and you can take the time to acclimatize to the altitude and explore La Paz on foot.

2. La Paz – Tiwanaku – Copacabana

We leave around 08h30 for our visit to the ruins of Tiwanaku, the capital of the pre-Inca empire. Tiwanaku was one of the oldest civilizations in the world and is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire. We visit the Pyramid Akapana and the semi-subterranean temple as well as the archaeological area where we can see the Temple of Kalasasaya one of the largest and oldest ceremonial centres of the world.

We also visit the famous “Puerta del Sol” (Gateway of the Sun) which is a monolithic structure that weighs about 10 tons. On the Puerta del Sol, we can observe the Tiwanakota calendar which is expressed in 365.24 days distributed over 12 months. We visit the archaeological museum where we can observe the Monolith Bennet which measures approximately 7 meters and weighs 20 tons and we also get an insight into the 13 centuries of history that make Tiwanaku the oldest civilization in Latin America.

After we visit the site we have lunch (not included) in a typical restaurant where we have the opportunity to taste quinoa; the most important grain of the Andes. Around 16h00 we leave for Copacabana where the evening is free.

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 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. Upon arrival in La Paz, we are transferred to the hotel and the evening is free.

5. La Paz – Oruro - Uyuni

Your driver and the guide will meet you at the hotel early for the beginning of our Altiplano adventure. It takes between 10 and 12 hours to cover the almost 600km between La Paz and Uyuni. We pass by the mining town of Oruro where we have lunch and we cross all of the central Altiplano before arriving in Uyuni in the evening. After getting installed in the hotel the evening is free to have dinner and relax after this long day.*

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

6. Uyuni - San Cristóbal – Salar de Challviri – Licancahur (5971m/19.590ft) – Laguna Verde - Geyser de Sol de Mañana - Polques Thermal Spring - Reserva Nacional de la Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa – Laguna Colorada

We leave Uyuni early to reach the famous Laguna Colorada. We pass by the biggest mining project in Bolivian history at San Cristobal and from here we continue to the Alota, a small village lost in the middle of the giant Lipez desert. Further south we visit Stone City and we cross the Salar de Challviri before arriving at one of Bolivia’s most southern points, the Lagunas Verde and Blanca at the foot of the Licancahur volcano where we stop to take pictures.

The Laguna Verde gets its green color from the high concentration of lead, arsenic sulfur, and calcium so please refrain from bathing;-) 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 colors of the masters’ work.

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 as well as the thermal bath of Polques, a natural source of hot water where we do encourage you to go for a swim. At the end of the day we arrive at the Laguna Colorada.

This Alto Andina Laguna gets its name because of the red color 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.

After this impressive visit, we get installed in the shelter and the evening is free.*

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

7. Laguna Colorada - Stone Tree - Ruta de las Joyas Alto Andinas (Lagunas Ramaditas, Honda, Chiar Khota, Hedionda and Cañapa) - Siloli Desert - Ollagüe Volcano - Salar de Chiguana - Puerto Chuvica

After breakfast, we leave the Reserva Nacional de la Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa and we visit the Stone Tree (please refrain from climbing on the rock) planted in the middle of the Siloli desert. We then follow the famous Jewel Route which is composed of the Lagunas Ramaditas, Honda, Chiar Khota, Hedionda, and Cañapa.

We observe the still active volcano Ollagüe (even from far we can see its fumarole) and we cross the Salar de Chiguana before passing the Uyuni – Ollague railway, which is the property of the FCA (Empresa Ferroviaria Andina). We arrive in Puerto Chuvica (or San Juan depending on availability) in the afternoon and the evening is free.*

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

8. Puerto Chuvica/San Juan – Salar de Uyuni – Incahuasi - Jirira

We leave the small village of Puerto Chuvica or San Juan (depending on availability) and we can visit the “Cueva de las Galaxias” which is a strange phenomenon of fossil algae that reminds us that the ocean was present here 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 was part of an impressive coral barrier.

After this impressive visit, we enter the famous Salar de Uyuni; the biggest salt desert in the world with an 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.

We visit the “Ojos del Salar” which is a geological phenomenon where water rises from the depths of the Salar, and a couple of kilometers further we also stop at the salt hotel “Playa Blanca” which is the first hotel which was built on the Salar (it does not serve as a hotel anymore because of lack of plumbing). We arrive at the small village of Jirira in the north of the Salar at the foot of the Tunupa Volcano by late afternoon and the rest of the day is free.*

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

9. Jirira – Tunupa – Jirira

After breakfast, we visit the archaeological center of the Chullpares (graves) of Coquesa and its surroundings. We then continue to climb the Tunupa to the viewpoint (you have the option to go by car) from where we have a panoramic view of the Salar de Uyuni. On the way down we pass the “Bofedales” (altitude wetlands) to see the rose flamingos. We return to the shelter and the evening is free.*

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

10. Jirira - Sabaya

The morning is free to enjoy the beauty of the Salar de Uyuni and after lunch, we leave Jirira. We follow the north of the Salar de Uyuni to reach the small garrison town Llica before we drive on the humid salt of the Salar de Coïpasa (depending on the water levels) which is also called the mirror of the earth. We then continue to Sabaya where we spend the night.*

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

11. Sabaya – Sajama

From Sabaya we continue in the northern direction and we follow the border with Chile. During our tour, we stopped to visit the polychrome Chullpas of Macaya which are funeral towers which here have the particularity that they are painted with natural pigments. After this impressive discovery in the northwest of the Altiplano, we continue to the Sajama National Park.

The Sajama National Park which was Bolivia’s first protected area lies at the foot of the extinct stratovolcano Sajama, the highest summit in Bolivia with its 6542m/21.463ft. It was declared a national park to protect the endangered Queñua forests which constitute the highest forests in the world.*

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

12. Sajama – La Paz

After breakfast, we leave to visit the park’s geothermal fields with boiling geysers covering a radius of approximately 100m/328ft. We continue our visit to the thermal baths where we can go for a swim at 4200m/13.780ft. We enjoy the last moments in the Sajama National Park before heading back to La Paz after lunch.

A few kilometres after leaving the park we stop at the small village Curahuara de Carangas. The town's colonial church is known as the Sistine Chapel of the Altiplano, because of its perfectly conserved frescos, painted solely with natural paint. After this impressive visit continue towards La Paz and on our way we visit the Chullpas which are burial chambers from the pre-Colombian era, now empty because of systematic pillage.

We arrive in La Paz in the evening and after you get installed in the hotel – in a room with hot water for a change;-) – the evening is free.*

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

13. 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 (a 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 has 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 agricultural production and the seasonal migration of llamas and alpacas in September. Developed over time in the ancestral customs the community has kept the organic organizational 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.

14. Pampalarama – La Paz – Farewell Dinner

At 08h00 we leave for a short walk to admire the magnificent landscape of the Royal Cordillera and we climb to 4700m/15.420ft to the Laguna Pampalarama.

We can sail on the lake or go for a stroll around the area. After lunch we return to La Paz and the rest of the afternoon is free maybe do a bit of souvenir shopping in the famous Sagarnaga street. In the evening our guide will pick us up and we go for a nice farewell dinner in one of the best restaurants in La Paz.

15. La Paz Departure

According to your time of departure, you are transferred from the hotel to the airport in El Alto. For international flights, it is recommended to arrive at the airport 3 hours before scheduled departure. End of our services

Important: The itinerary can change as a result of weather conditions and some sights are not accessible at all times – Lipiko Tours cannot be held responsible for any changes in itinerary and sights not visited as a result.

General Information

Highlights: Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca, Sun Island, Salar de Uyuni, South Lipez, Laguna Colorada, Coipasa Salt Flat, Sajama National Park, Pampalarama

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 your chosen language. Please contact us directly to receive a personalized 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.

Accommodation: 6 nights in hotel/hostel, 1 night in Eco Lodge, 6 nights in the shelter (Salar de Uyuni, South Lipez, Sajama, 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: 6 nights in hotel/hostel, 2 nights in Ecolodge, and 6 nights in a shelter
- Meals as mentioned in the program
- The assistance of specialized 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

Not Included in the Price:

- Entrance fees to sites visited, national parks, and museums as indicated in the program (allow for approx. 350 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: 99 USD (subject to availability, must be reserved and paid upon reservation). Attention; no single room is available for the nights with accommodation in a shelter, homestay, or camping.
- Possible visa expenses
- International flights

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