In summer, Salar de Uyuni becomes a giant puddle, offering seemingly endless reflections of the sky and clouds. © Jonathan Rossouw
Exploring Lake Chalalan by canoe in Madidi National Park offers a glimpse into the park’s staggering wealth of biological riches. © Jonathan Rossouw
The ruins of the once-epic city of Tiwanaku are windows into the pre-Inca civilization thought to have existed between 300 BC and AD 300. © Jonathan Rossouw
A peculiar Amazonian resident, the Hoatzin has a unique digestive system amongst birds, using an enlarged crop for fermentation of leaves, flowers and fruit. © Jonathan Rossouw
The Southern Viscacha is found in the rocks and crags of Bolivia’s mountains and although they more closely resemble rabbits, they are chinchillas. © Jonathan Rossouw
Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt, of which less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually. © Jonathan Rosssouw
Bolivia Travel Adventure
“Dizzying” is an apt adjective for Bolivia, and not merely because of the light-headed feeling one gets touching down in 12,000-foot-high La Paz. To explore this country is to encounter wildly diverse and dramatic landscapes and cultures: from the stark Andean Altiplano, to the wildlife-rich lowlands of the Amazon river basin; from Titicaca, the continent’s largest lake, to the earth’s largest salt flats in Uyuni. From the thriving indigenous community in Tarabuco, to the harsh existence of silver miners in Potosi. Join Apex on this 17-day journey, and experience the dizzying variety of people, wildlife and historic sites on offer in this, the geographic heart of South America.
- Travel by Air
- Travel by Road
- Travel by Boat
- Travel by Bullet Train
- Travel by Rail
- Travel by Dog Sled
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Day 3
- Day 4
- Days 5 & 6
- Day 7
- Day 8
- Day 9
- Day 10
- Day 11
- Day 12
- Day 13
- Day 14
- Day 15
- Day 16
- Day 17
Tuesday, October 31: Arrive in La Paz, Bolivia
Arrive in Bolivia’s de facto capital late at night, and transfer to your comfortable hotel in the upmarket, lower altitude, and considerably more oxygen rich, Calacoto neighborhood. Overnight at Casa Grande Hotel.
Wednesday, November 1: La Paz
Take the day to acclimate to the city’s 12,000-foot elevation. Independently explore the city’s alleys and lively markets, grand colonial plazas and museums if you are feeling energetic. Enjoy lunch and dinner at the hotel with a briefing by your expedition leader this evening. Overnight at Casa Grande Hotel.
Thursday, November 2: La Paz – Tiwanaku / Valley of the Moon
This morning, take a short drive to the southeastern shore of Lake Titicaca, where the ruins of the once-epic city of Tiwanaku stand. Several carved monoliths, archways and arcades, as well as pottery and tools in the site’s museum, are windows into the pre-Inca civilization that inhabited Tiwanaku, thought to have been constructed around 700 AD. After lunch, head just outside La Paz for a stroll around the cactus-covered badlands of the Valley of the Moon. Peruse the Alpaca knitwear and local jewelry in Obrajes, Calacoto and La Florida on your way back. Return to La Paz for dinner and overnight at Casa Grande Hotel.
Friday, November 3: La Paz / Rurrenabaque / Madidi National Park
After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Rurrenabaque. From there, travel by boat up the Beni and Tuíchi Rivers to the indigenously-owned Chalalan Ecolodge, located within the vast Madidi National Park. En route, watch for wild macaws, Capybaras and a plethora of waterbirds. Enjoy a late lunch at the lodge followed by an initial exploration of the palm-fringed Chalalan lagoon. Bolivian Squirrel, Large-headed Capuchin and Bolivian Red Howler Monkeys are all present around the lagoon, as is a healthy population of the bizarre, leaf-eating birds known as Hoatzins. After dinner, light out on a night hike to look for insects, tarantulas, amphibians, and nocturnal birds. Overnight at Chalalan Ecolodge.
Saturday & Sunday, November 4 & 5: Madidi National Park
The 7,300 square-mile Madidi is a biodiversity hotspot, boasting one of the highest number of bird species on the planet and an incredible 1,300 known vertebrates. Ranging in altitude from 600 to 20,000 feet, its topography is vast and varied, including snow-capped peaks, cloud forests and tropical jungles. For two full days, enjoy guided treks and canoe trips, while looking for sloths, the recently discovered Madidi Titi Monkey, and the herds of White-lipped Peccaries for which the area is famous. Learn about the magnificent variety of flora and medicinal plants in the area. Enjoy the cacophony of birdsong from parakeets, parrots, toucans, woodpeckers and over 300 other species around the lodge. On the last evening, indulge in a traditional “dunucuabi” catfish dinner, followed by music and dance from the local San José de Uchupiamonas community.
Monday, November 6: Madidi / Rurrenaubaque / La Paz
Bid farewell to the upper Amazon basin as you cruise down the Tuíchi and Beni Rivers back to Rurrenabaque. Enjoy lunch in town, followed by a flight back to La Paz. Dinner and overnight at Casa Grande Hotel.
Tuesday, November 7: La Paz / Colchani / Uyuni Salt Flats
After breakfast, fly to Uyuni in southwest Bolivia. Travel in a 4×4 to the village of Colchani to appreciate the unique processing of salt, before continuing across the 4,000-square-mile shimmering white expanse of the world’s largest salt flat. Notice the Ojos del Salar, holes where underground water bubbles up, and the seemingly endless mosaic on the surface of the flats. Ascend the foot of 17,500-foot Tunupa Volcano for phenomenal panoramic views over the saltpan, and visit remote Coquesa to see well-preserved ancient mummies, the picturesque village of Chantani, and the pre-Columbian ruins of Pukara in Ayque. Make sure to be well positioned to watch the sun set over the white desert. Dinner & overnight at the Hotel Luna Salada, made of salt blocks.
Wednesday, November 8: Uyuni Salt Flats
Take a full day to explore the Uyuni Salt Flats, making sure to see Galaxy Cave, where bone-like rock formations dangle from the walls and ceiling. Nearby Devil’s Cave is a sacred burial ground, and human remains are visible within. Visit Incahuasi Island, with its giant cacti and spire-like rocks made of petrified coral, watching for the attractive rabbit-like Andean Vizcachas that call the island home. Incahuasi is the top of an ancient volcano that was submerged when the whole area was a lake, roughly 40,000 years ago. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Luna Salada.
Thursday, November 9: Uyuni Salt Flats / Potosi
After breakfast, set off on an overland drive to Potosi, the world’s highest major city at 13,420 feet, and the silver capital of colonial South America. Stop at the virtual ghost town of Pulacayo outside Uyuni, once the site of the largest silver mine in Bolivia and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the defunct mine and its network of tunnels. See a nearby collection of decaying steam locomotives, including the train that was robbed by legendary bandit Butch Cassidy, which bears the bullet holes from the attack. Arrive in Potosi, at the foot of the Cerro Rico, a hulking, red mountain once thought to be made of silver. Dinner in town and overnight at Coloso Potosi Hotel.
Friday, November 10: Potosi
Potosi was the largest supplier of silver for Spain during its conquest of the New World. Mining is still the major industry, with over half of its mainly Aymara-speaking inhabitants employed in one of the cooperative mines on Cerro Rico. This morning, tour a working mine to see the conditions and systems inside the mountain after 500 years of mining. The trade has not changed much over the years, and seeing the mine today gives a sense of how it was in the 15th century. After lunch, tour Potosi, a stunning colonial jewel, with ornate edifices constructed in a fascinating “Andean Baroque” style that incorporates Amerindian influences. Dinner in town and overnight at Coloso Potosi Hotel.
Saturday, November 11: Potosi / Sucre
A scenic drive brings you to Sucre, arguably the most beautiful city in Bolivia, and its constitutional capital. Nestled in a semi-arid inter-Andean valley, Sucre enjoys a milder climate than the high Altiplano, and its whitewashed colonial buildings are remarkably well preserved. Enjoy lunch in town before embarking on an exploration of the city’s historic buildings. Visit the House of Freedom, where the Bolivian declaration of independence was signed in 1825, and the Museum of the Treasure, housed in one of the oldest homes in Sucre and containing a beautiful display of Bolivian precious and semiprecious stones. Look down upon the city from the Convent of San Felipe de Nery. Stroll through French-influenced Bolivar Park, before dinner and overnight at Hotel Parador Santa Maria La Real, located in a beautifully restored 18th-century mansion.
Sunday, November 12: Sucre – Tarabuco
Numerous villages dot the hills around Sucre, and the best preserved of these is Tarabuco. Today, visit Tarabuco’s world famous Sunday Market, to experience first-hand the fabrics for which the local Yampara people are known. Strolling through the market is not only a great opportunity to shop for tapestries, bags and shawls, but also to witness the Yampara people in their beautiful, traditional monteras (leather helmets), multicolored, hand-woven ponchos and chuspas (bags for carrying coca leaves and money). Afterwards, visit the community of Jatun Yampara and enjoy a typical indigenous lunch, demonstration of weaving, consultation with the local shaman and the opportunity to buy textiles directly from the community. Return to Sucre for dinner and overnight at Hotel Parador Santa Maria La Real.
Monday, November 13: Sucre / La Paz
A morning flight back to La Paz allows you the opportunity to explore the famous city built on the edge of the Altiplano, in the shadow of Volcan Illiniza. Visit the magnificent San Francisco Colonial Church and Plaza Murillo, where the Cathedral, Government Palace and National Congress buildings are located. Walk the famous colonial Jaen Street, then peruse the famous Mercado de Brujas or Witch Doctor’s Market, where various parts of frogs and insects used in rituals are on display. A late afternoon cable car ride offers incredible views over the city, as you fly between La Paz and El Alto. In the evening, enjoy dinner and a show of folkloric music and dance from around the country. Overnight at Casa Grande Hotel.
Tuesday, November 14: La Paz / Lake Titicaca
Rise early today and head to Copacabana, on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca, the sacred lake of the Incas. Board a catamaran and sail to Isla del Sol, the legendary birthplace of Inca civilization. This is the lake’s largest island, and home to over 180 pre-Inca and Inca ruins. Visit Challapampa, one of the larger villages on the island, and allow local guides to take you through the Gold Museum, displaying Inca relics that have been found in the lake. Visit the chapel, school, and a typical indigenous house. Trek along trails paved in Inca style. At day’s end, watch an authentic Kallawaya Andean ceremony, then return to the catamaran for dinner and overnight onboard.
Wednesday, November 15: Lake Titicaca / La Paz
This morning, sail to the southern end of the island and explore the ruins of Pilko Kaina Palace. Continue to the Inti Wata Cultural Complex to see pre-Inca agricultural terraces and native high-plateau plants and animals, including Llamas, Alpacas and Guanacos. Walk along the Inca steps to the Fountain of the Inca, once suspected to be the Fountain of Youth by the Spanish. Sail aboard a totora vessel, a traditional reed raft, and experience primitive Titicaca navigation. Return to Copacabana and travel back to La Paz for a farewell dinner. Overnight at Casa Grande Hotel.
Thursday, November 16: Depart La Paz
Rise early and transfer to the airport for your international flights home.
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A Natural Treasure Trove
Bolivia truly has an amazing collection of natural features. There’s the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, at 12,507 feet and dotted with 41 islands. Salar de Uyuni stretches for more than 4,500 square miles and is the world’s largest salt flat. Uyuni’s large area, clear skies, and the exceptionally flat surface creates optical illusions and offers fantastic photo opportunities. Madidi National Park includes glacier-covered Andean peaks as well as tropical rainforest. This variety of ecosystems offers a staggering wealth of biological riches with 4,739 species of plants, 1,370 species of vertebrates and the highest number of bird species in the world.