Salt lakes and volcanoes in Bolivia

Roundtrip through the highlands of Bolivia (Licanabur, Parinacota).

Bolivia offers an unbelievable cultural and scenic variety. Breathtaking summits (some above 6000meters high), multifaceted highlands, bizarre sandy deserts, lively markets and mysterious Inca monuments are waiting for us!

Tour overview

We arrive in La Paz, at a height of 3500 meters the highest metropolis on earth. After having visited the city, we will head off to some interesting tours in the environment, for instance the famous Titicaca lake. The ruins of Tiwanaku and the highest ski region worldwide, namely the Chacaltaya. Later on we will carry on towards the south of Bolivia Uyuni, to observe the biggest salt lake on earth, the Salar de Uyuni. With the hike to the Licacabur we will even conquer a 6000meters high volcano, formed perfectly symmetrically. Arriving at the Sajama national park we will climb up the marvelous icy volcano Parinacota, drive through the most dangerous street worldwide towards Coroico and lastly visit the fascinating Condori group.

Highlights

  • La Paz
  • Salar de Uyuni
  • Coroico
  • Cerro Uchumachi
  • Titicacasee
  • Isla de Sol
  • Copacabana
  • Chacaltaya
  • Licancabur
  • Condoririgebiet
  • Parinacota
  • Optional:
  • Illimani

Dates and Prices

  • Length: 22 days, 1.- 22. June 2009
  • Price: 1.545,00 Euro
  • Further dates on request

We offer

  • Transport within the country with Bus and Taxi
  • Accommodation in simple Hostels and tents
  • Mountaineering tours to Licancabur ans Parinacota with organization, guidance and rented equipment
  • Roundtour in the Salar de uyuni
  • Travel guidance on site
  • Food and Beverages during the guided tours in Licancabur and Parinacota and the Salar de Uyuni

Not included

  • Flight
  • Travel accident and health insurance
  • Travel luggage and travel cancellation insurance
  • Not mentioned food and beverages
  • Tips
  • Personal spending

Particpants

  • Minimal: 2
  • Maximal: 10

Detailed description of the tour

1. Day: Arrival in La Paz

Only the arrival in La Paz in between the 6000meters high icy mountains can take your breath, not to forget that the airport is at a height of 4000meters. However, there we won’t stay long, but carry on to the lower center of this impressive metropolis, at „only“ 3500 meters. Here you will check into your hotel, before taking a rest. To conclude our first day we will have a nice dinner in a traditional local restaurant of La Paz.

2. Day: The city of La Paz

To get used to the height steadily, we will start off with a city visit. There are a lot things to see, for instance the famous Calle Linares, practically one solely market place. Major parts of the city are significantly embossed by the Incan culture, there are booths everywhere. In the solely Coca museum worldwide we can learn a lot about this interesting plant that enjoys a indescribable importance for the country and their inhabitants. For lunch we will select one of the numerous traditional restaurants, in order to get a deeper impression of Bolivia. In the afternoon we will do a short contrast program, next to the Prado street we will also observe the governmental buildings. Besides we will visit the Plaza Murillo and San Francisco, both embossed by beautiful cathedrals. Additionally we will enjoy some green parks, from where from we can see both the high skyscrapers as well as the poor huts on the hillsides of La Paz. During dinner we will enjoy La Paz at night with its impressive light shows.

3. Day: Tiwanaku

For today we have planned another cultural program, as we will visit the most important pre Columbian cultural site of Bolivia, the Tiwanaku. The ruins are located only 70km away from La Paz and are therefore quite easy to reach. Once upon a time the god Con Ticci Wiracocha is to be dropped out of the Titicaca lake and created the sun as well as the earth and the humans in Tiwanaku (100BC.- 1200AD.) The former capital of Tiwanaku lies about 20km in the inner part of Bolivia, also the sun and moon islands used to belong to this empire. Possibly Tiwanaku used to lie directly ay the lake, as the lake used top be bigger in former times. However, exact facts are unfortunately not known, the visible constructions are dated back to the years 400 and 1000. Concerning the number of habitants, the scientist also have to guess, assumable between 2000 and 12000. Anyway, we will observe interesting column monoliths as well as the temple-like sun look-out Kalasasaya and the hill Akapana. Also the sun gate Intipunto we shouldn’t miss. After this interesting visit we return to La Paz where we will dine and go to sleep.

4. Day: Titicaca lake

Deep blue and endless wide, surrounded by gigantic mountains, this is the Titicaca lake! Our destination is called Copacabana, Bolivia’s most famous pilgrimage site as well as starting point for our short boat trip. We float along to the Isla de Sol, the famous sun island, according to a legend the derivation of the Inca empire. Even before the Inca century this site used to be considered holy. Here we can enjoy glorious views on to the northern Cordillera Real including the Illampu and the Ancohuma. There is some time left to take a walk on the island. However we have to conquer 2000meters up high before that. After having managed this we have to climb down again to not miss our boat back to Copacabana. After enjoying a delicious trout at the harbor, we will take a walk around the harbor region before climbing up the Cerro Calvario. From here on we can enjoy a terrific view above the entire lake, Besides there is a cross trail, where little graves are patterned out of flowers. Tonight we will stay overnight in Copacabana with beautiful white views on the deep blue shining lake.

5. Day: Cerro Ceroca

Today we have planned to conquer a small mountain in the direct environment of Copacabana, namely the Cerro Ceroca (over 4000m high). Steadily we hike through the green landscape that is used by various animal species. Later on the trail gets steeper, but also the views a lot more beautiful. Not long time after we reach the summit. From here on we can look over the Cordillera Apolobamba in the north and of course also above the entire lake. Para glider use this site to start their flight. Back down in the village we will enjoy another trout for lunch, just before getting on the bus to La Paz.

6. Day: On the way to Coroíco

Firstly we drive through La Paz towards Vila Fatima, a indigene characterized district with various markets and stands. Here our mini bus stars off to Coroico. After passing a control point at 4750meters we will enjoy the view of impressive mountain regions and a crystal clear lake. Than our bus carries on downwards on 3000m into the Yungas. This narrow road is often described as the most dangerous road on earth. The vegetation gets greener and richer and right next to as the mountain, the road is not a lot broader yhan a horse track. This impressive amtmosphere is accompanied by sparkling waterfals and tropical busches. Behind the Puente Yolosa at 1200 meters it goes a bit up again through tropical plantation right to Coroico (1750m=. here we will check into our hotel and take a look around. Probably we make it to one of the waterfalls to take a bath. A tropical characterized dinner concludes our day.

7. Day: Cerro Uchumachi

Coroico is surrounded scenery by small hills and coffee, citrus, banana and coca plantations, so that there are numerous possibilities for wonderful hiking tours. Our tour leads us to the Cerro Uchumachi, a densely grown mountain side. From here on we can enjoy marvelous views above the Königscordillera. On the way lie old Haciendas and diverse plants and we get to see a glorious jungle landscape. Who doesn’t want to bat in the waterfalls can do that in Coroico in the hotels, as there are clean pools. Afterwards we will observe the city and look out for a nice restaurant to have dinner.

8. Day: Cumbre Coroici, Cerro Saturno

By bus we drive up the pass where we will head off to an interesting hike. A small observation house is located here, in other words this is the entrance to the national park. On broad tracks we climb up the trail towards Coroico until passing the first lake. Instead of following the classical trail to Coroico we change the side and carry on to another direction where interesting summit constructions are waiting for us. Here we enjoy a free view on various Andean summits, reaching up to the Chacaltaya with its icy top. Also this mountain can be reached from here on, as well as other interesting ones that are around 5000 meters high. On the last bit of the summit we have to overcome easy climbing bits, in total we have to manage only 400 height meters. Back at the lake, the most exciting part is waiting for us, we have to charter a vehicle back to La Paz. Eventually we can get a taxi, with a bit of luck we can get on the back of a truck.

9. Day: Ride to Uyuni

The first part of the day we will spend in La Paz to visit the highest football station on earth, the Estadio Hernando Siles. Due to the enormous height the Fifa thinks about closing it down, as at this height no regular matches can be carried out. As a reaction the former president Mesa and other leaders climbed up to the Sajama and initiated a football match at 6500 meters. But this district has to offer also more than that, namely the real big city life of La Paz and many traditional options for a nice Bolivian lunch. In the early evening our bus to Uyuni and at the mean time a cold and long journey is waiting for. The desert regions that welcome us he following morning are unbelievable impressive.

10. Day: Salar de Uyuni

After arriving in Salar we deposit our luggage at our partner agency and take a look at the city. Shortly after having breakfast we head off to observe the biggest salty desert worldwide. Between December and march the Salar de Uyuni is disturbed by heavy rainfalls. Then the Salar water shines in a deep blue color and the workers retire. In the dry season this water evaporates and a hard salty crust stays. This panes de sal is removed by men with the help of axes and later on continued processing in a salt mill. Center of the salt exploitation is Colchani, where almost the entire village is living from the salt production. The yearly production adds up to 20.000 tons. Colchani is our first destination, here we can observe how the salt is loaded on the trucks before being transported further. The endless seeming salty lake shines in a brilliant white color . It is very amusing to take a walk in the salt. Besides there is a hostel out of salt, including a museum. Here can be bought all kinds of artifacts made of salt, as well as the usual tourism kitsch. Now we carry on to the endless widths of the Salar. There are no trails, but our driver will find the way. Our destination is the Isla Pescado, a fish formed island, which appears slightly above the salt, significantly covered by cactuses. These are about 1200 years old and reach a height of 12 meters. They offer the perfect color contrast to the white salt lake. This highest point of the island comprises only 100 meter surface, but offers a impressive overview up to the ice covered volcano summits. In Pueblo San Juan we will stay overnight, totally distanced and in quite a height. There are simple bed rooms as well as quite cold showers. We have to cook with gas cookers that we have brought with us, there is no electricity. Outside, herds of Llamas are moving from one place to another, a nice image to take a picture. In front of us lies a random and spare volcano landscape, rocks, sandy grounds and snow covered summits as well as some tiny green areas make the picture a unique one. Believe it or not, even potatoes and corn is grown here.

11. Day: Lagoons and Volcanoes

In the same way as yesterday we will carry on our adventure today, crossing lonely villages, rotten schools and interesting landscapes. Smoking volcanoes, like the Ollague (5800m) and the most differing cactuses and forms of vegetations. Today’s highlights are the Laguna Verde with the 6000meters high pyramid of the Licancabur and a thermal bath nearby, a hot source with bathing possibilities. We head off to two read lagoons, various flamingos included. With a bit of luck we will observe the natural change of the lagoon from red to green.

12. Day: Geysire

For this day we have planned a trip to the Sol de Manana, a Geysire out of cooking lava mud holes. These are only active early in the morning and blow a 10 meters high cloud of steam into the ice cold air. Joined by yellow brimstone steams and brewing holes. Afterwards we are passing a random, gray rock formation, namely Arbol de Piedra, tree out of stone. Further bizarre landscapes and flamingos accompany us on our way.

13. Day: Licancabur

Early in the morning we conquer the summit. Ancient Inca trails lead us to our destination. 1000meters and an exhausting ascend on loose volcano stones lye in front of us. However there are no technical difficulties to be overcome. At the end a few smooth, easy rocks are waiting for us. Deep underneath us a crater lake is located as well as ruins and grout boarders. A few minutes later we have reached the view full summit, the complete Atacama lies underneath us. Even the 6893 meters high Ojos de Salado appears. After having enjoyed a meal up high we will climb back down, where a car is already waiting for us to take us to our camp. We sleep in a gambled sleeping room, the camp is surrounded right within the stony desert with unique views on lagoons and volcanoes. At this height of 4000meters the air is clear and fresh.

14. Day: Return to Uyuni

Through bizarre rocky landscapes and spectacular deserts we return to Uyuni, where we will visit the Cemeterio de los Trenes. After taking a shower in a hotel we will return to La Paz. The bus is rather comfortable with its reclining seats, so that we will fortunately be able to sleep during the night. The Hotel in Uyuni with its hot shower seems rather luxury to us after these days. This luxury we will conclude with a nice dinner, what about pasta?
15. Day: Ride to La Paz. In the morning we will still sit in the bus, but only for a short time, then we will finally arrive in La Paz. The rest of the day can be used for relaxing our to your personal preference.

16. Day: Chacaltaya

Today we will head off to a tour in the highest ski region worldwide, the Chacaltaya. Firstly we will pass El Alto , where we will make a short stop to buy some groceries. We carry on up higher, here and there we will see some huts and Llamas, but not more. Narrow trails lead up higher, beautiful wide views are included. Even the white top of the Sajama can be seen from here as well as deep views on to the Titicaca lake. The high amount of iron in the ground leads to a read color of some debris fields and lakes. At 5100 meters the air gets thinner. A hut of the Austrian alpine clubs located here, with accommodation possibilities. A bit further down there is a ski lift, there is one single route only. Instead of going skiing we climb up the Chacaltaya (5300m). Here we can only move steadily. Probably we will meet some other mountaineering fans on the summit, before carrying on to the neighbored summit. After returning to the valley, we prepare the equipment for Parinacota, together with our partner organization.

17. Day: Drive to Sajama

Today we go by bus to Patacamaya into a small village at the main road, where we will enjoy a nice breakfast first. The way carries on through a sparse steppe landscape towards a nice market where we will take a short break. Sajama is a small, totally distanced village at the bottom of the correspondent mountain, with a height of 6542 meters. This is the highest mountain in Bolivia. The whole environment has been protected since 1939 and the national park was named Parque National Sajama. Her there are several more volcano mountains, including the highest forest of Bolivia (Quenual trees), lagoons, hot sources, geysers and interesting ruins. This is the home of an interesting bunch of different animal species like Vicunas, Condors, Marsupials, Andean Pumas, Andean foxes, flamingos and Andean wild cats. But firstly we have to register and pay a fee, which not should take us too long. The village is arranged quite easily, there are no electricity and water, but a small shop a restaurant and a few extremely simple Hospedajes. All this at a height of 4300 meters.

18. Day: High camp Parinacota

Today we will start early in the morning to head off towards our high camp on a sparse stony area. The first short part we can do by car, but than we have to carry on walking. The camp is located at a height of 5300 meters, that means there are still 800 meters waiting for us, not to forget that we have to carry our baggage! Our destination is located in the southeast of the volcano at distinctive grout pieces. Here we will build up our tents, enjoying an unforgettable view on numerous lagoons and volcanoes. The ascend to the camp is quite flat, nevertheless quite exhausting, as it leads though loose and slippery volcano ashes. Up high it is very cold, so we have to get into our tents as quickly as possible. The highlight is the sunset within this breathtaking highland coulisse.

19. Day: The summit of Parinacota

The sun rise we will experience not in front of our tent this time, as today we head off really early in the middle of the night. After a short cold breakfast we will fasten our crampons. Right after that we have to conquer a steep part of an ice wall, but fortunately the ice passages aren’t too demanding. The ascend almost seems to be quite monotone, however the view is unforgettable. Very exhausting it gets if we will have to cope with fresh snow, fortunately this happens very seldom. After 6 hours, we have reached the border of the crater, little by little the sun rises. Another 1 hour more it will take us for the surrounding of the crater, before finally being able to enjoy the stunning view from the top of the volcano. Especially the Sajama next by dominates this beautiful picture. Also impressive seems the neighboured Pomerape, the almost equal seeming twin-summit of the Parinacota. We climb down to the high camp that we will break down first before carrying towards our car. Thus is taking us to the neighboured hot sources, where we can enjoy a wonderful bath. Later on we will rent a shop restaurant, although this is lacking proper toilets it is offering a nice meal with a refreshing drink. And anyway, the only thing that we are now really interested in, is a warm bed.

20. Day: From Sajama to La Paz

In the morning there is some time left to take some last volcano pictures in this crystal clear air. In every case you should take the classical Sajama photo, white in between the white gate of the grave yard. Through the glorious volcano landscape our trail leads us back to La Paz.. Today we don’t have to do anything more than sitting in the car, marvellous views back on the Sajama included. In La Paz we will recover from the last days and enjoying a hot shower as well as a rich dinner.

21. Day: Day off

This day can be used as a buffer, in the case that the weather is bad, we have another day to climb up the summit. Otherwise this day can be used to you personal preference, in most of the cases for relaxing. Besides it can be used to buy some souvenirs and gradually say goodbye to Bolivia. Another idea would be to visit some parks, another market or some colonial buildings. In the evening we will celebrate our summit ascends with a nice dinner.

22. Day: Departure

Definitely the saddest day, as today you will have to return home. Of course our guide will be glad to accompany you to the airport. Before heading back home we will skim through Bolivia mentally. Interesting keen insights of the Andean and Amazon regions let us recall the most exceptional memories of our journey and create a lot of space for more ideas and itinerary. We hope that you enjoyed your special South-American experience and that it won’t be your last one!

Further information

Special requirements

A good physical fitness is desired and definitely a huge advantage.

Extension of the trip

For those who want to visit another gigantic mountain, can try out the giant Illimani (this would take you additional 4 days and cost you 300 Euro more) For this trip alpine knowledge an experience is indispensable. Furthermore we offer a wide range of individual tour components, which can be combined with every journey.

Additional information