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Highlights of Bolivia

from $4,199.00

Discover Bolivia’s immense landscapes, ancient history and colonial cities

  • Reviews 2 Reviews
    5/5
  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
    Guided
  • Activity Level Leisurely / Moderate
  • Group Size Small Group
    4 - 16
All about the Highlights of Bolivia.

Landlocked Bolivia is a quintessential South American country both in terms of the immensity of its landscapes and its strong indigenous culture. Although little-known, Amboró National Park boasts almost unparalleled bio-diversity and the charming, albeit rustic, gateway town of Samaipata also gives access to the nearby Pre-Columbian UNESCO site of El Fuerte. Nowhere else on Earth can you find salt flats of comparable scale to Salar de Uyuni; a comprehensive three day 4WD adventure reveals its multi-coloured lagoons, cacti islands and spouting geysers. In stark contrast to these natural wonders are the vibrant cities of Sucre, Potosi and La Paz whose heritage was shaped by both the Incas and the Spanish Conquistadores. Finally, wind down with a night in an eco-lodge on the Isla del Sol overlooking the deep, tranquil waters of Lake Titicaca – fringed by snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Real.

The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.

* All breakfasts, 8 lunches and 5 dinners
* All accommodation
* All transport and listed activities
* Arrival and departure transfers (for group flights only)
* Tour leader throughout
* Airport transfers (at designated times)

What is not included in this tour?
  • Flights
  • Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)
  • La Paz – Santa Cruz internal flight not included, inquire for pricing

Highlights

  • Three day Salar de Uyuni 4WD adventure including the train cemetery, salt flats, Incahuasi (cactus) Island, colourful lagoons, geysers and ancient volcanoes
  • Pre-Columbian UNESCO World Heritage Sites of El Fuerte and Tiwanaku
  • Daywalk to see the Giant tree ferns and spectacular landscape of Amboró National Park
  • Visit La Recoleta viewpoint overlooking the ‘White City’ of Sucre
  • Discover the colonial and silver mining heritage of Potosí
  • Walk to the ‘Fountain of Eternal Youth’ on the Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca
  • Full day city tour of La Paz including the cathedral, cable car and Moon Valley
  • 12 nights hotels, 1 night salt hotel and 1 night eco-lodge
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min. age 16 yrs
  • Time spent at altitude
  • Travel by private minibus, 4WD & boat (and internal flights, not included in tour price)
  • Some long drives and early starts
  • Daywalk in Amboró N.P

 

  1. Day 1 Start Santa Cruz

    To meet the airport transfer plan to arrive Santa Cruz this morning.  There will be a notice board in the hotel reception with details of where and when the group welcome briefing will be held.*Armonia Hotel (or similar)*

  2. Day 2 Drive to Samaipata, visit Las Cuevas Waterfalls en route and the Pre-Columbian UNESCO site of El Fuerte

    Located some 120km from Santa Cruz is the little-visited laidback town of Samaipata, set amidst beautiful countryside. The drive takes about three and a half hours direct but we break up the journey with a visit at Las Cuevas Waterfalls en route, where it is possible to take a quick swim in the clear water if you wish.In the afternoon we visit ‘El Fuerte de Samaipata’ (or Samaipata Fort), a Pre-Columbian archaeological site of UNESCO World Heritage status, located about 10km outside the town. The hilltop ruins form an excellent vantage point over the picturesque valley and although no standing structures remain, excavations (which continue today) have revealed over five-hundred dwellings. It incorporates buildings from three different cultures: Chanè, Inca, and Spanish. The main site is a gigantic stone slab (over 100m in length), covered in Inca and Pre-Inca carvings of geometric shapes and animal figures, thought to have been of religious/ceremonial significance.  We will also visit the museum which contains artefacts from El Fuerte.*Hotel Quinta Pirai, Samaipata (or similar) *

  3. Day 3 Daywalk to discover Amboró N.P., one of the world’s most botanically rich national parks

    Samaipata is also the gateway to the southern part of Amboró National Park, which stretches from the Andean foothills to the Amazon Basin. It is one of the most botanically rich and wildlife abundant national parks in the world, owing to its sharply divided topography, range in elevation (from 300m to over 3,000m) and unique geographical location spanning three different eco-systems.Following a short transfer, we set out on foot for a daywalk (approx. 10km but a shorter loop is possible). We will see Giant tree ferns which reach up to an impressive thirteen metres tall, and visit a viewpoint which unveils a panorama of sheer sandstone cliffs rising high above an endless expanse of tropical jungle.Amboró National Park is vast containing some 830 bird species (including Cock of the rocks, Blue horned curassows, hummingbirds, toucans and macaws) – we may see a few of these with the help of our local guides who will also identify some of the endemic plants. Elusive mammals (ocelots, Spectacled bears, tapirs, jaguars and pumas to name a few) also reside within Amboró but we are not likely to see them, especially in the daytime.**Hotel Quinta Pirai, Samaipata (or similar) **

  4. Day 4 Free morning in Samaipata; afternoon return to Santa Cruz

    This morning is free to relax (there are lovely gardens in the grounds of our hotel) or visit the small town of Samaipata, which has some nice restaurants for lunch overlooking the main square. Our hotel is located a few kilometres outside of Samaipata but transport into town can be arranged or it takes around 15 minutes to walk. In the afternoon we make our way back to Santa Cruz (approx. 3.5hrs drive).*Armonia Hotel (or similar) *

  5. Day 5 Short flight to Bolivia's capital, the 'White City' of Sucre (2,800m); afternoon city tour

    We take an early morning flight to Bolivia’s capital, Sucre (approx. 45min flight), which with its narrow streets and fine colonial white-washed buildings, is often said to be Bolivia’s most beautiful city; protected by its UNESCO status.After checking into the hotel we’ll embark on a guided tour of the sights, including La Recoleta viewpoint, monastery and museum of indigenous art, situated at the base of Churuquella Mountain overlooking the city. We’ll visit the main square, ‘Plaza 25 de Mayo’ and adjacent historic Casa de la Libertad (House of Liberty) where Simon Bolivar signed the Act of Independence in 1825. Following on from this we’ll come to the San Francisco Basilica, complete with its ‘freedom bell’, so named as it was allegedly rung so hard to mark Bolivian independence that it broke! A stroll through the manicured Bolivar Park and cemetery are also part of the tour.*Hostal de Su Merced (or similar) *

  6. Day 6 Free day in Sucre; optional excursion to the indigenous community of Jatun Yampara

    There is nothing planned today but your leader will be able to recommend some activities.It is possible to arrange an optional excursion to the indigenous community of Jatun Yampara, about half an hour’s drive from Sucre. They produce some ceramics but are largely a weaving community, producing traditional textiles and llama fabrics with complex patterns in vivid colours. Taste the traditional ‘chicha’, a fermented corn drink with an acquired taste to say the least!*Hostal de Su Merced (or similar) *

  7. Day 7 Drive to Potosí (4,090m); walking tour to discover its colonial and silver mining heritage

    The drive to Potosí takes around three and a half hours. You will notice the increase in elevation as Potosí lies at 4,090m.This afternoon we have a tour of the city, which was the centre of the silver rush in the 16th century. The silver was mined from nearby Cerro Rico (‘rich mountain’) and was predominantly used to make coins but also other objects as it was so plentiful. We visit the famous museum ‘Casa de la Moneda’, the National Mint of Bolivia – the coinage minted here during this period was world-renowned.Potosí developed into a large and prosperous city with thousands of colonial buildings. The consequences for the indigenous miners and African slaves, however, were tragic – some estimates speculate that there were as many as nine million casualties.Amongst other sites, we also visit the market, San Francisco Church, notable for its 6th century architecture, catacombs and colonial art and San Lorenzo Church with its ornate 16th century stone carvings.*Hostal Patrimonio (or similar) *

  8. Day 8 Free morning; afternoon transfer to Uyuni

    This morning is at your leisure to talk a walk around Potosi or perhaps rest to acclimatise to the high altitude. In the afternoon we drive to Uyuni town (approx. 4 hours driving) with some wonderful landscapes on the way. *Hotel Jardines de Uyuni (or similar) *

  9. Day 9 Begin a three day 4WD adventure to discover the incredible landscapes of Salar de Uyuni, including the train cemetery, salt flats, colourful lagoons and cactus islands

    Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, covering over four thousand square miles (ten thousand square kilometres). It is incredibly flat and the reflective vast white surface creates an optical illusion – a loss of scale and perspective (perfect for photo opportunities).We first visit the train cemetery located just outside of Uyuni town. The railway was originally built to transport minerals from the salt flats but when the mining industry declined in the 1940’s the tracks themselves, together with a number of trains were abandoned ‐ a surreal sight in the midst of this vast open landscape.Next, we drive via San Cristobal village and through the rocky valley where we see some remarkable stone formations. Finally, we arrive at the area of Villamar, where our unique hotel is located (4,044m).*Hotel Jardines de Malku Cueva (or similar) *

  10. Day 10 Second day to discover more sights of Salar de Uyuni by 4WD

    We wake early and set off before sunrise; a beautiful spectacle at this altitude and over this vast landscape. Our first stop is usually the Polques Thermal Baths, where those who can brave the cold air temperatures before getting into the warm waters can enjoy a dip.A different highlight awaits today as our 4WD adventure brings us into Eduardo Avaroa National Park and to the Sol de Mañana hot springs (4,850m), meaning ’morning sun’. This sulphur spring field is one of the few places where you can get up close to volcanic (hydrothermal) activity. Across this expanse, lie boiling mud lakes and steam pools, and there are several geyser‐like features where pressurised steam spouts up to fifty metres into the air!Set against a backdrop of volcanoes and mountains, are colourful lagoons (the colours are a result of algae or the chemical composition) and we’ll visit Laguna Colorada (red lagoon), Laguna Verde (green lagoon) and Laguna Blanca (white lagoon). Flamingo breeding grounds are found here and we’re certain to see flocks of them at the lagoons, as well as possibly vicunas and Andean geese.Today is a long day of driving after which we pass through Uyuni town on the way to a beautiful hotel in Colchani, constructed entirely out of salt bricks but which has all the facilities of a normal hotel.*Hotel Palacio de Sal Salt (or similar) *

  11. Day 11 Third day to discover Salar de Uyuni; evening fly to La Paz (3,640m)

    We spend today on the salt flats. Pyramids of salt are mounded up and in the dry season the ground is desiccated and hexagonal tiles of salt form as far as the eye can see. There are wonderful photo opportunities and we’ll have time today to create some fun pictures. In the middle of the salt flats we come to Incahuasi Island, known for its giant cacti and unusual fossils. This small island on the middle of the salt flats is an amazing sight and we have the chance to walk across it for 360 views from the top. After more photo opportunities, we’ll make our way to a spot to watch the sun come down and watch the light cast shadows and reflections on the water. This evening we leave the amazing landscapes of Uyuni and fly to La Paz (3,640m), the highest administrative capital in the world.*Hotel Qantu (or similar) *

  12. Day 12 La Paz city tour including the cathedral, cable car and Moon Valley

    We begin the tour at the main square, Plaza Murillo, in the old town, where we find the Presidential Palace, government congress buildings, and the Cathedral. Next, we visit the Basilica of San Francisco, famed for its mestizo-baroque façade depicting masks, dragons, tropical birds and snakes. There’s also a stone tunnel stairway which leads to the roof. From here we wander along the steep and narrow cobbled street, ‘Calle Jaén’, one of the city’s best preserved colonial streets, lined with brightly painted houses, museums and shops. We go on to visit an open-air museum about Tiwanaku culture.A visit to La Paz would not be complete without riding the innovative cable car system for views over the entire city. Venturing a short distance outside the city we will also visit ‘Moon Valley’, known for its intriguing landforms of eroded canyons, pinnacles and cacti.*Hotel Qantu (or similar)*

  13. Day 13 Travel to Isla del Sol (4,100m) on Lake Titicaca; walk to the ‘Fountain of Eternal Youth’ and stay in an eco-lodge

    We drive towards Copacabana, crossing the Tiquina Strait by boat (a short ten minute ride) and following the shores of Lake Titicaca for much of the journey (the total drive time is around four and a half hours). On arrival at Copacabana we board another boat and travel for an hour to Lake Titicaca’s beautiful Isla del Sol, disembarking at Pillkokaina port where we ascend the steps to the ’Fountain of Eternal Youth’. It’s about a one hour and fifteen minute walk to our eco-lodge, which allows us to take in the stunning surroundings; deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca in contrast to the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Real. From the lodge the setting sun in the west casts a lovely light across the mountains ahead. Your main luggage will be left on the transport (which we leave at Copacabana) so you need only take an overnight bag to Isla del Sol. We recommend keeping any valuables with you.*Ecolodge La Estancia (or similar) *

  14. Day 14 Return to La Paz via the Pre-Incan ruins of Tiwanaku; fly back to Santa Cruz.

    We make the same return journey back (by boat to Copacabana, bus and then a short ferry ride across the Tiquina Strait) and head towards the Pre-Columbian ruins of Tiwanaku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (approx. 3.5hrs driving). Founded around 1500BC, Tiwanaku became the capital of a massive empire that lasted almost thousand years, developing into a sophisticated urban ceremonial complex. After lunch we have a guided visit of the site. In the late afternoon we drive approximately one hour and a half to the airport in La Paz and then have an evening flight back to Santa Cruz. *Armonia Hotel (or similar) *

  15. Day 15 End Santa Cruz

    The tour ends after breakfast. The airport transfer is scheduled to depart very early this morning.

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Where you stay

Hotels, Salt Hotel & Eco-Lodge

12 nights hotels, 1 night salt hotel and 1 night eco-lodge – all nights based on twin-share with en suite facilities.

The hotels usually used are listed within the itinerary and below, however occasionally these may vary by departure date due to availability. The hotels are generally a 3-star local rating and have been carefully selected for their location, quality and character. Accommodation standards in Bolivia are generally lower than their South American counterparts and standards of accommodation on this trip vary from one location to another.

Our hotel in Santa Cruz is new and contemporary in style; rooms have air-conditioning and there is an outdoor swimming pool. Accommodation choice within Samaipata is limited and so we stay at Quinta Pirai Cabanas, located on a hillside with views over the valley, about a few kilometres from town – it’s fairly simple accommodation but has a pool and lovely gardens, so is a very tranquil spot. Hostal de Su Merced in Sucre is a family-run hotel of colonial style. The large converted colonial house has a roof terrace and the rooms are furnished with antique furniture. In Potosí, our accommodation is simple but has character and is close to the town centre.

In Uyuni we stay in Hotel Jardines de Uyuni which offers a comfortable bed for the night and is located next to Tika, one of the nicest restaurants in Uyuni town. Salar de Uyuni tours have a reputation for being a bit of a hardship but we have selected some of the better hotels available. We stay in a cave hotel, Hotel Jardines de Mallku Cueva, which has been hewn out of the rock face. The rooms have a cosy feel and the views are fantastic. Probably the highlight will be our night at the Hotel Palacio de Sal, a unique property that is entirely built with salt, from the walls, floors and ceilings to the furniture and sculptures! It has hot water and heating (electric/central depending on the room), a games room, and a viewing room to observe the starry nights, sunsets and sunrises across the salt flats.

In La Paz we stay in the comfortable Hotel Qantu located on a busy street but close to the famous Witches Market and around the corner from the Basilica of San Francisco.

We also spend one night in an eco-lodge on Isla del Sol (Lake Titicaca). Ecolodge La Estancia comprises of fifteen cottages with private bathrooms; all have a view over Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real, and there is a comfortable restaurant and bar. For more information regarding the lodge’s sustainable practices please see the Responsible Tourism section on their website.

Should you wish to extend your stay, we can also arrange extra nights in Santa Cruz for you before or after the tour. Single supplements should be requested at the time of booking and are subject to availability.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 8 lunches and 5 dinners are included.

Some of the lunches are box lunches whilst others are restaurant meals. Where meals are not included your leader will be able to recommend a variety of local restaurants.

Drinking water will be provided in large containers to minimise the amount of single-use plastic bottles; please bring a refillable bottle with you.

Bolivian cuisine is a fusion between Spanish and Andean traditions and varies from one region to another. In the lowlands fruit, vegetables, yucca and fish are abundant whereas in the altiplano these are less readily available and there are more spiced dishes to combat the cold. Bolivian cuisine has a reputation for its meat dishes but corn (maize), quinoa and potatoes are also part of the staple diet.

Common street food and snacks include ‘salteñas’ (baked pastries filled with spiced meat or vegetables), ‘buñuelos’ (sweet or savoury bread – often stuffed with cheese) and ‘papas rellenas’ (deep-fried battered stuffed potatoes).

Popular main dishes include ‘pique a lo macho’ (a kind of beef stir-fry, served with chunky chips), ‘picante de pollo’ (spicy chicken) and ‘tucumanas’ (a sort of pasty). In Sucre try ‘mondongo’ (a dish made of chicharron – crispy fried pork usually accompanied by corn, potatoes and a rich chilli sauce) and in La Paz check out a ‘sandwich de chola’ (pork sandwich).

Bolivia is less developed than many of its South American counterparts and things do not always happen as planned; expect the unexpected and approach travel here with an adventurous spirit.

There is a daywalk through the jungle of Amboró National Park and a walk to our lodge at the top of Isla del Sol. The sightseeing around archaeological sites and tours of some of the cities may involve walking up and down steep streets or on uneven steps/ground. As such, you should have a good level of mobility and a reasonable level of fitness.

Although graded Leisurely/Moderate (level 2), the altitude can make physical activity feel more tiring than at sea level. As this trip spends considerable time at altitude we ask you to refer to the Altitude Warning within the Trip Notes for more information and advice on how to limit the effects of altitude sickness. The tour allows for gradual acclimatisation, spending two days in Sucre (2,800m) before continuing to Potosí (4,090m), Salar de Uyuni (ranging from between 3,650m and 4,850m), La Paz (3,640m) and the Isla del Sol (4,000m). The maximum altitude on this trip is 4,850m at Sol de Mañana – please ensure that your insurance covers you up to this altitude.

Due to the altitude you should expect some low temperatures, particularly during the Salar de Uyuni adventure when it regularly falls well below freezing at night.

There are some long drives during the tour and in Uyuni you will spend a considerable amount of time in the 4WD vehicle, although there will be plenty of stops to enjoy the landscape, take photos, and to explore on foot.

Samaipata is little-visited and accommodation and facilities here and also in Uyuni town are basic.

Strikes are not uncommon in Bolivia and while these are generally peaceful protests, they can result in roadblocks and disruption to travel. In this event, your leader will amend your itinerary if necessary to minimize any impact on the itinerary.

Overall Rating
5/5
Reviewed On 07/10/2019
5/5

Excellent first experience of South America

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The amazing landscape just kept giving from start to finish, but I guess standing on the Salt Flats at Uyuni and driving through the spectacular wilderness of Alti Plano had to be the most inspirational moments of the trip.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Melany was just fantastic. She kept us all well organised and well informed at all times. Her general, cultural and historical knowledge of all the different places that we visited was really good, along with her knowledge of South America as a whole.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take plenty of layers for the different climates between the low lands and the higher altitudes and you will be fine.

Reviewed On 26/07/2019
5/5

Highlights of Bolivia

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The main reason for going on the trip was for the few days in the Salar de Uyuni. That didn't disappoint, I would have loved another couple of days in that area of Bolivia at a slower pace to take in all the wonderful sites and take loads more photographs. The cable car trip in La Paz was a surprise highlight, flying low over the city and looking into peoples gardens.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Marco was a great leader. Helpful and informative and always cheerful. If any problems occurred (eg.vehicle breakdown) he had a solution to hand and on we went. He was ably assisted by all the drivers we had during the two weeks as well the local guides.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This trip has something for everyone. Masses of history, good hotels, great food, wonderful scenery, friendly locals and of course the superb salt plains plus a few hundred dinosaur footprints. Go and enjoy.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Some walks (especially the first) were a bit tougher than expected but Marco ensured that the slower walkers were encouraged and not made to feel as though we were (read' I was') being a nuisance.

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