Getting from La Paz, Bolivia to Cusco, Peru – or vice versa – is a common trip taken by many travelers visiting the South America continent. Each offers a unique experience between two major cities in the Andean Mountain Range with a ton of history, culture and many things to do and see. From the World’s Most Dangerous Road, Andean treks, Valle de la Luna and Tiwanaku in La Paz; to Cusco with its Sacsayhuaman, Museo Inka (Inca Museum) and jungle treks to the famed Machu Picchu, this expedition is one of the most traveled in all of South America.
Leaving from Terminal de Buses in La Paz, tickets to Cusco can be purchased any day of the week; leaving early in the morning or in the afternoon with direct routes to Cusco, or a stops in one of the main cities on the way: The prices are fairly standard: 130-140 Bs. (around $20 USD). The buses will pick passengers up from hotels in La Paz, heading northwest for Copacabana and Lake Titicaca. The route takes about 3-4 hours and is a beautiful display of Bolivia’s landscape as the bus travels passed the Cordillera Real and famous Condoriri - visible throughout the route - offering some great views of the snow-covered mountain peaks of the Andes.
Once in Copacabana, travelers can either stay for a visit to the popular Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna for the day (spending the night in Copacabana), or hop a connecting bus to Puno in Peru – located on the opposite side of Lake Titicaca. Approximately 25 minutes after leaving Copacabana, the bus arrives at the Peruvian border, where passengers must go through immigration. Being dropped off at the police station, you will need to acquire a stamped document before walking 300 meters downhill to the immigration office, where your passport will be stamped and you are free to enter Peru. After re-boarding the bus, the remainder of the journey to Puno will take a total of 3-4 hours, speeding along the blue shores and small fishing communities of Lake Titicaca. Once in Puno, visitors (depending on your itinerary) can opt to stay in the city for the night and visit the floating Uros islands in the morning, or continue on straight to Cusco.
Fishing village en route to Puno, Peru
The final leg of the bus trip will take roughly 8 more hours, passingly through the vegetated valleys and mountains of the Andes headed for the beautiful colonial city of Cusco, Peru. Once at the terminal in Cusco, travelers can meet awaiting taxis outside where about 5 Peruvian Soles ($1.80 USD) will bring you to your hostel or hotel in the heart of the historic valley.
Getting to La Paz from Cusco takes the same route, where a bus ticket can be bought for the same $20-25 USD (around 60 Peruvian Soles) at the Terminal de Buses in Cusco. The total time required to make the trip will involve between 13 and 16 hours; depending on the weather and punctuality of connecting buses. Though the time needed to travel by road is much longer than plane, it is certainly much less expensive.
El Alto International Airport is the highest airport in the world and home to the longest runway on earth, and the only way out of La Paz to Cusco. Flights can be purchased online by travelers, through a travel agency in La Paz or through helpful receptionists at the front desk of your hotel or hostel. A round trip ticket costs anywhere between $450-$700 USD, while a one-way trip will be around $340-575: Prices will vary depending on the airline and amount of time between arrival and departure dates (for a round trip ticket). Planning ahead and booking your flight well in advance will surely save you some money in the long run.
Most flights will make one stop in Lima before heading to Cusco; taking a little over 5 hours. Some flights with a layover in Lima can take as much as 24 hours, so be sure to spend a little time researching which flight best fits your travel itinerary. Direct flights are relatively hard to come by, but will involve 50 minutes to an hour to land on the airstrip located in the city of Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco many taxis wait outside the airport willing to bring travelers to their hotels or hostels. Flights from Cusco to La Paz generally cost the same amount and involve similar travel times.
Cusco, Peru from Sacsayhuaman
Regardless of which city you plan to depart from, La Paz is one hour ahead of Cusco; so don’t forget to change the time on your watch! However you decide to travel between these two wonderful cities, the experience of visiting two of the most important and historic places in the Andean Mountain Range leave travelers with an unforgettable experience. Both offer much to do and see all the while surrounded by the warm, unique people and cultures that call these mammoth mountains home.
For more information about travelling between Cusco and La Paz, click here. Or, download our free La Paz Travel Guide for tips, suggestions and information on Bolivia’s Capital city!
Ecological biodiversity and a tropical climate are the perfect breeding ground for a wide assortment of distinctive flora. In Bolivia’s Madidi National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, this is especially true. Within the deep jungle canopy thousands of flora species can be found. For foodies Madidi National Park provides an especially interesting opportunity; within the borders of the Amazonian park a number of unique, edible and most importantly delicious fruits are abounding.
Pineapple, banana and cacao are popular edibles found in the tropics, but in Madidi many more unusual varieties of fruit can be found. Below are three of our favorite unique jungle fruits, brought straight from those who call Madidi home to you!
Pacay, commonly referred to as the ice-cream bean, is a podded capsule that to those who don’t know, resembles for a vegetable than the sweet custard like legume it is. The white edible pulp that surrounds the beans large seeds grows throughout Madidi National Park. With a texture similar to cotton candy, and a sugar rich content, pacay are a sweet natural treat. Good thing pacay trees grow in abundance: they are a popular snack and a favorite for both the jungle’s local animal and human populations.
photo by Flickr user J Bradley Snyder
Achachairu resembles the mangosteen and is known for its prolific fruiting throughout Madidi. Called achacha for short, the fruit looks as if it was created out of the pages of Tropics 101. Achacha has a bright orange skin which adds to the visual appeal of the small egg-shaped treat. The fruit, however is not just a pretty one to look at, the flavor of achacha is as attractive as its’ vibrant peel: the white pulp exhibits an alluring and addictive balance of bitter and sweet. It’s not uncommon to see locals in Madidi snacking on achacha every and all day long. For those lucky enough to stay overnight at one of the many ecolodges that are spread throughout Madidi National Park, it is not uncommon to be served sweetened and puréed achacha as a refreshing morning drink.
photo courtesy of www.santacruz.gob.bo
If you like chocolate covered fruit, it’s likely you’ll enjoy cupuaçu. The Bolivian jungle fruit is related to the more famous cacao plant. Cupuaçu fruits are fuzzy an oblong, resembling some sort of overgrown coconut. The pulp of the fruit itself is rather unique and because so, a favorite of Bolivians especially for use in desserts, juice and sweets. When cracked open, cupuaçu releases a fragrance that smells like a cross between chocolate and pineapple and when eaten, the flavor of the fruit has additional hints of pear and banana. The all around jungle superfruit, cupuaçu eaten fresh, baked into a sweet cake or as a juice is a real unique Madidi treat.
photo courtesy of www.blog.horaluterana.org.br
Trying the unique various fruits of the Amazon is just one way to enjoy Madidi National Park. For more information on the region or to start planning your trip, download our free destination guide.
There is no better way to experience the beauty of Bolivia than to travel its vast landscapes by road. Surrounded by high mountain peaks as you wind through the ever-changing terrain, one truly gains an appreciation for this country. No matter where you go in Bolivia, if the voyage is made by road, expect to find beauty at every turn.
Traveling through the countryside from La Paz to Potosi, the landscape changes from flat grasslands…
…to a desert-like sandy valley…
…to sedimentary cliff faces full of color.
The trip from Potosi to Uyuni offers even more to see as lush pastures are overwhelmed with llamas…
…small towns and houses can be seen with the beauty of the landscape in the background…
…and small valleys full of cacti, villages and trees next to dry creek beds.
Heading to Lake Titicaca, the views are quite unexpected as the massive lake slowly begins to show itself at more than 12,500 ft. above sea level.
Copacabana from the road as it sleeps quietly on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Views from the road heading towards La Cumbre Pass and a hike on the Takesi Trail.
End of the road before the the Takesi Trail!
Traveling by Bolivia by road, you are never out of sight from the towering Andes Mountain Range, and there is never a dull moment as the massive landscape engulfs your attention. Eyes glued to the passing scenes outside the window, there is no better way to experience the beauty of Bolivia than traveling by road. With all the beautiful attractions that Bolivia has to
offer (such as Salar de Uyuni or Lake Titicaca) the old saying comes to mind when thinking of the adventure of traveling through Bolivia by road: “It is not the destination but that journey that matters.”
To learn more about Bolivia, download our free Bolivia Travel Guide by clicking the button below!
Roughly the size of Texas and California combined (or twice the size of Spain), The Plurinational State of Bolivia is divided into nine different political and geographic divisions called departments – similar to states in the US or provinces in Canada. Each department is comprised of different provinces, divided further into additional sections called cantons and municipalities. Each department in Bolivia has its own capital city where the departmental seat of government is located. Each region is unique in terms of its environment, geography and culture; offering visitors every kind of experience imaginable traveling through Bolivia.
BENI (Capital City: TRINIDAD)
Beni is the second largest department in Bolivia, located in the northeast section of the country. Sitting in the lowlands region, it is on the border with Brazil and comprised of tropical, humid environments and hot temperatures. Mainly covered by rainforest, it is home a popular destination called the Pampas where lush grasslands and swampy terrain offer visitors the chance to glimpse the department’s vast array of wildlife. Its many rivers are home to over 400 species of fish (the third largest concentration in all of South America) including the dreaded piranha along with caiman and the rare pink dolphin.
PANDO (Capital City: COBIJA)
Located in the far north reaches of Bolivia, Pando is situated on the Brazilian border in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Known for its wet landscape and high temperatures (commonly above 26 degrees Celsius, 80 degrees Fahrenheit) this department thrives in the agricultural, timber and cattle industries. Relatively isolated due to the lack of roads into the region, the area suffers from a lack of accessibility to both the rest of Bolivia and bordering Brazil. Tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever are common in this region, making a voyage into this remote stretch of habitat in the Amazon Jungle that much more hazardous.
Photo by: Ivar Mendez
LA PAZ (Capital City: LA PAZ)
Nestled high in the Andes at over 12,500 ft. above sea level is the Governmental Capital of Bolivia; La Paz. A department rich in geological and cultural variety, it encompasses some truly amazing landscapes and famous destinations. Located on the western stretches of Bolivia, this department is home to Los Yungas region to the north, where the Andes Mountains give way to a sub-tropical range consisting of deep valleys and high peaks leading into the Amazon Basin. In the north of the region is a popular destination called Madidi National Park; proclaimed as the most biologically diverse region on the entire planet with countless species of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth. It is also home to the famed Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world at over 13,000 ft. above sea level. Sitting on the border of Peru, it shares ownership of the Altiplano (or High Plateau) made famous by its thriving culture and breathtaking views of the towering Andes. From the sticky heat to the north, to its cold and unforgiving mountain peaks, this department is the epitome of the ecological and environmental variety available within the borders of Bolivia. As the most visited department in Bolivia, La Paz is a great place to begin an adventure through this beautiful country.
SANTA CRUZ (Capital City: SANTA CRUZ)
Located in the eastern stretches of Bolivia, Santa Cruz is the country’s largest department with Brazil to its east and Paraguay to its south. The comfortable, tropical savanna climate and average temperature of 23 °C (73 °F) makes a visit here well worth the trip. Rich in history, the flourishing metropolitan capital of Santa Cruz offers much to see and do when traveling through the beautiful city. Called one of the fastest growing cities in the world, the city of Santa Cruz is home to 70% of the total population in the department; making it easy for a traveler to find something to do in this busy destination.
COCHABAMBA (Capital City: COCHABAMBA)
Smack in the middle of Bolivia, the Cochabamba Department is known as the “granary” of the country because of its prosperous agricultural industry. Its capital city is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” and “The Garden City” because of its year round Spring-like temperatures. Attractions in Cochabamba include an adventure off the beaten path through the Toro Toro National Park, a hike up Tunari Peak, the Incachaca waterfall and El Cristo de la Concordia (a towering statue of Christ standing 33m. tall).
Photo by: Reinhard Heinisch
ORURO (Capital City: ORURO)
An important region for mining in Bolivia, Oruro sits in the southwest of the country directly below the La Pa Department. Its capital city holds one of the biggest and most celebrated religious festivals in all of South America – Carnaval de Oruro – dating back more than 2000 years. Generally cold throughout the year, this department is just north of the salty lakes of Uru Uru and Poopó and well as the famed Salar de Uyuni. Known mainly for its mining exploits throughout the year, Oruro is the place to be in February to experience the festivities of one of the biggest parties in all of South America.
POTOSI (Capital City: POTOSI)
The department’s capital city of Potosí is one of the highest cities in the world, sitting over 4,000 m. (13,420 ft.) above sea level. The capital is rich in colonial architecture and history, and was once the richest city in all the Americas due to the Spaniards’ exploits of the city’s famed Cerro Rico (literally Rich Mountain) where massive amounts of silver were extracted. This department in the southwest corner of Bolivia also boasts the beautiful Salar de Uyuni in the southern Altiplano where the highest and largest salt flat in the world resides; known also as the flattest place on earth. Accompanied by the deserts, lagoons and hot springs, the region is one of the most visited in all of South America for its beautiful and bizarre landscapes. The Department of Potosí is comprised of large mountain ranges, valleys and the flat desolate regions to the far south, making a trip to this Department one that won’t soon be forgotten.
Cerro Rico at Night
CHUQUISACA (Capital City: SUCRE)
Located in south-central Bolivia, Chuquisaca is home to the Constitutional Capital of Bolivia. Known as the “White City” for its colonial style building that are painted white, Sucre is a great place to visit for the history buff and architectural enthusiast. Crisscrossed by the high ridges of the Andes, and parts lying within the basin of the Amazon River, Chuquisaca offers a stunning landscape and a wonderful city in Sucre.
TARIJA (Capital City: Tarija)
At the southern-most reaches of Bolivia sits the Department of Tarija hugging the border of Argentina to its south and Paraguay to its east. Sharing the same lands as the famous vineyards of Argentina, Tarija has quickly made a name for itself as a prominent wine producer. With a pleasant, mild climate perfect for agriculture, Tarija has put itself on the map rivaling many of the top wines in the world. Travel to Tarija and take part in many of this region’s wine tastings, trek around the Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve or just relax in the city taking in the friendly locals and pleasing climate.
The different regions and departments of Bolivia offer a wide variety of climates, environments and experiences. It is a good idea to know which destinations you wish to see before coming to this beautiful country, as well as knowing where they are located and what to expect from each. Bolivia’s regions display their own unique, particular characteristics - from the types of festivals, cultures and geological surroundings to the vast landscapes – making it a wonderful place to visit and experience.
For more about this beautiful country, download our free Bolivia Travel Guide for useful tips, information and suggestions!
Potosí is a wonderful, colonial city sitting at 4,090 m. (13,400 ft.) in elevation that was founded on the exploits of the region’s natural resources – primarily silver. Spanish mining of the 15,800 ft. Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) led to Potosí becoming the richest city in all of the Americas; a source of wealth that is still utilized today. A trip to this lively city will involve some travel time, but is well worth the trip.
Scene from the road to Potosí
Getting to Potosí from La Paz
From La Paz, travelers will need to journey by road – first headed through El Alto. There are frequent strikes and demonstrations in this large, populated city, so make sure to plan ahead to avoid any road blocks or sit-ins. Once through El Alto, the road through the country-side is a beautiful, scenic route; passing small villages of herders with flocks of sheep, llamas, cows, donkeys and goats.
The road then passes through the important mining town of Oruro, where a massive statue of the Virgin Mary overlooks the miners working diligently in the dangerous undergrounds of the mines.
Continuing on to a fork in the road, the choice direction is to go left to head to Potosí. Taking a right brings one to Uyuni via a rough travel as the roads are unpaved and relatively unmanaged. The roads to Potosí are newly-paved and pose no real issue to travel (aside from the occasional heard of llamas blocking the way).
The journey takes between 7 and 8 hours by car, and around 10 by bus. There is an airport near-by, but commercial flights are next to impossible to come by. It is recommended that one buy a bus ticket or join a tour when travelling to Potosí as there are many tolls along the route making it difficult for a traveler to pass through the country easily in a rented vehicle.
Though the trip to Potosí is relatively long, it is a sought after destination in Bolivia. Its working mines are open to tourists partaking in a guided tour, allowing visitors to discover how this city came to be. The colonial architecture is beautiful, highlighted by the many Spanish colonial cathedrals that are scattered throughout the city. There is also the National Mint of Bolivia which was used to make the silver coins that made Potosí – and the Spanish Empire – immensely rich.
To learn more about Potosí, click here, or email us for more information on this wonderful city or for answers to questions on how to book your own trip to the Silver City.
Being a responsible traveler can involve many different things. If you’re the type that seeks out an authentic experience based on a mutual respect for the people, culture and the surrounding environment; then you’re well on your way to being a responsible traveler. But being a responsible traveler involves more than just admiration for a place and its people. When traveling, we all want to experience the highlights of a place, the cultures that thrive in the location and the natural environments in which all is reliant. In most cases, this involves joining a tour group or referring to travel agencies to access the riches a country has to offer. However, in order to travel responsibly, we must be informed as to the process in which the industry has been established. Do the tours you join benefit the people of the visited country economically or otherwise? Is the local community involved in the industry, or overlooked? Does the industry pose any negative effects on the environment or cultural integrity of a place; or does it aim to preserve these important aspects? Seeking out responsible ways in which to experience a place as a visitor is what sets apart the responsible traveler from the mere site-seeing tourist.
Responsible Travel Through Sustainable Tourism
Responsible travelers search for unique experiences that can only be attained through visiting a location. They not only have a respect for the people but a sort of moral obligation to preserve the place. They have no intention of changing the lives of the people or negatively impacting any aspects of the locations they visit. Far from conventional tourism - which is in many cases carried out by foreign investors - Sustainable Tourism aims to preserve the culture and environment; all the while incorporating local communities in their initiative to boost economic development and offer opportunities for skill training. Most all Sustainable Tourism projects are operated by local communities, or the tours are carried out by local operators. For instance, Grupo Rosario’s Turisbus in Bolivia run Lake Titicaca tours using water taxis owned and operated by locals - carrying visitors to Isla del Sol or Isla de la Luna. The employees in both of Rosario's hotels are comprised of 90% locals, and all their tour guides were born and raised in Bolivia. Initiatives like those taken at Grupo Rosario across Bolivia recognize the social responsibility involved in the industry, offering employees management, language, and useful career skills.
For the responsible traveler, this is not only an opportunity to experience a unique visit lead by those who know the area best, but a way to give back to the hosting communities. Another example are the Ecolodges established in the Bolivian Amazon, where indigenous communities have taken the initiative to preserve their way of life, and surrounding environment through conducting tours and constructing lodges for visitors. By visiting these campaigns, travelers not only experience the Amazon and the lives of those that live in the jungle, but contribute economically to their efforts. Initiatives such as these have led to the protection of one of the largest plots of land on earth. Tours take travelers up river to the Ecolodges via local-operated boats, where they stay in a small encampment run by the locals and embark on tours led by local guides. For the responsible traveler, nothing could be more fulfilling than a genuine experience such as this with far reaching, positive impacts for both the communities of the Amazon Basin and the jungle as a whole.
Responsible Travel Through Ecotourism
If you like wildlife or care about the environment, Ecotourism is a form of Sustainable Tourism that gives much back to the habitat and its people. Ecotourism is an ideal form of Sustainable Tourism because it utilizes the environment to generate economic development while preserving environmental and cultural aspects of a location. Other avenues of reaching economic stimulation may involve the extraction of natural resources from the land, subsequently ruining any chance of Ecotourism that may have been available. Preserving the habitat and allowing travelers to visit these remote locations and meet the people that call them home is a perfect way to bring about economic growth, while actively engaging in the preservation process. The tours conducted in the Bolivian Amazon through The Chalalán and Tareche Ecolodges are prime examples of Ecotourism in Madidi National Park; providing environmental and cultural conservation as well as economic advancement for indigenous communities located in the Bolivian Amazon.
While thinking of yourself as a responsible traveler, take into consideration the ways in which you choose to see a country. How are the tours operated? Are the local communities involved in the industry’s initiatives? We all want to experience something new and exciting while traveling, but in doing so, we must also recognize how it affects the places we visit. Seeking out responsible modes of traveling – ones which the local communities can benefit – ensures not only your satisfaction as a traveler, but the satisfaction of the hosts as well.
To learn more about Sustainable Travel, click here. Or, download our free Bolivia Travel Guide below!
As the high-speed endurance race nears its starting date of January 5th, 2014, Bolivia is growing more and more anxious for one of its marathon stages to pass through the famed Salar de Uyuni. The two marathon stages of the race will involve solely the moto class (i.e. motorcycles and quad bikes) representing 2,702 km. of the entire race. During these marathon stages, the racers will be left to the elements, unable to call on their team for any mechanical assistance; they will only have their fellow competitors to rely upon if issues with their vehicles arise.
Utilizing the vast South American landscapes to display the racers’ talents, Bolivia has been added to this year’s Dakar for the first time, exemplifying the harsh environment of Salar de Uyuni and testing both racers and their machines against the flat terrain. From Salta, Argentina, racers will make their way north crossing the border into Bolivia, and traversing the salt flat. Finally reaching Uyuni, racers will turn south headed back over the border in to Chile where they will stop at Calama and completing the marathon stage through Bolivia. This 1,474 km. marathon stage from Salta to Calama is something of a late Christmas present to Bolivia; a long, demanding stretch that will test even the most experienced rider and give Bolivian onlookers an opportunity to experience the Dakar in their home country.
Photo by: marathonrally.com
Constantly looking for new routes to include in the long-distance endurance race against the elements, Bolivia seems a perfect addition to the epic race. With its towering peaks surrounding racers at all times - accompanied by the flat, salty region of the Salar - the beauty and difficulty of this stage seems a perfect fit for the spirit of the Dakar Rally. Home to some of the most dramatic, stunning and unforgiving landscapes in all of South America, Dakar organizers saw an opportunity in Bolivia to add not only beauty, but a new level of complexity to the race. Weighing against geographical and climatic difficulties, the decision to add a marathon stage through Bolivia presents difficulties in its preparation; as the route will have to cross the border in a particular way to negotiate the south of the country and Salar. Being traversed during the crest of the wet season, riders will surely face the annual layer of water that collects on the Salar, adding to the difficulty of crossing the expanse of salt and bringing about certain mechanical trouble. This stage will allow a new strategy to be tested during a live race, and could present broad opportunities for the Dakar in the future.
If you are looking to catch a glimpse of this epic endurance race, expect to pay for what you get. Hotels and hostels in Uyuni are preparing for the race as they are expecting a large influx of visitors. It would be best to book a room in advance to ensure you have a place to stay during the marathon stage. Deciding where to stay in Uyuni is imperative, as rooms are expected to double and even triple in price as the moto class passes through the Salar, giving visitors a chance to view this unique, new stage of the Dakar Rally. Planning ahead will undoubtedly save you money and unneeded stress searching for a room last minute.
Photo by: asphaltandrubber.com
The marathon stage through south Bolivia is not only viewed as a new addition to the famed Dakar Rally, but a beautiful illustration of South America’s landscape and the harsh environments it possesses. This addition will present racers with many obstacles, testing their skillsets and the machines they operate. Left to fend for themselves without the assistance of their teams, competitors will need to utilize all their knowledge and skills to ensure a safe passage across the southern tip of Bolivia; unquestionably adding to the race’s already dramatic sequences.
To learn more about the 2014 Dakar Rally and its marathon stage through Bolivia, visit the Dakar Rally website by clicking here. Or, download our free Salar de Uyuni Travel Guide for more information about this remote, beautiful destination in Bolivia!
Located 4,000 m. (13,000 ft.) above sea level, the Governmental Capital of Bolivia has much to offer in terms of culture, history and - of course - sightseeing. When exploring this wonderful place, some of its more visited sites can be found within the confines of the city, while others involve a little travel time; all of which are well worth the visit.
Located about three hours northwest of La Paz – resting on the serene shores of Lake Titicaca – is the quiet town of Copacabana. A city steeped in Colonial history, it is home to the patron saint of Bolivia: Our Lady of Copacabana. It is also home to one of the country’s most important cathedrals - the Basilica of our Lady of Copacabana – with its large courtyard and impressive paintings that decorate its interior. Visitors can wander the main streets, peeking in to local handicraft shops or visiting the buzzing market place. From the shore, take a water taxi to the nearby and highly sought after islands, Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna; taking in the history and culture – past and present – surrounding the Lake Titicaca region. A relaxing reprieve away from the bustling streets of La Paz, Copacabana and its tranquil atmosphere supply ample leisure time and an abundance of lake-side beauty.
Once the political and religious center for an Andean civilization that thrived more 1,500 years ago, Tiwanaku serves as a reminder of the region’s history, culture and technological prowess. Encompassing most of western South America, this culture constructed colossal temples, statues and buildings with technology and knowledge far ahead of their time. The Tiwanaku culture is not only held as the most important and influential in all of South American history, but is considered the foundation for all subsequent Andean civilizations - most notably the Inca. Only about 30% of the UNESCO World Heritage Site has been excavated to date, but the importance of this city as a political and religious hub, and the expertize involved in its construction is clearly evident. Located about two hours north of La Paz, visitors follow the long, Royal Range of the Andes en route to this fascinating site.
Photo by: Paulo Afonso
For the more intrepid La Paz visitor, a two hour drive north of La Paz will bring you to four different trials pre-dating the Inca Empire; most popular of which are the Takesi and Choro Trails. Both hikes involve at least one over-night stay, in which case the appropriate gear is necessary (i.e. food, sleeping bag, tent, etc.). The Choro trail is the longer of the two, spanning approximately 90 km., while Takesi covers about 30 km. Traversing similar routes, the trails begin in the sparse, llama filled grasslands of the Andes before leading up over a snow-covered pass and finally descending in to Las Yungas where the environment shifts quickly to a lush, sub-tropical habitat full of wildlife. Surrounded by towering mountains while climbing through deep valleys on ancient paths, the trails give way to some truly spectacular views of the Andes. The journey can be undertaken without a guide by hikers with trekking experience as the trails are marked relatively well, but joining a tour is recommended as both trails can be disorienting with the common cloud cover and foggy conditions.
World’s Most Dangerous Road
Take a death defying thrill-ride down the World’s Most Dangerous Road, testing your cycling skills as you wind your way through deep valleys hugging the cliff side next to a 1,000 meter vertical plunge. The North Yungas road is world renowned for its danger whether in a car, bus or on a cycling tour as many die on this precarious 40 km. strip of curves, steep drops and landslides. Booking the adrenaline-packed voyage through Las Yungas is easy as many agencies in La Paz offer this popular excursion. Departing from the city, the courageous adventurers travel about an hour and a half before mounting their bicycles and barreling downhill through the Yungas.
Photo by: news.com.au
Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)
Only 25 minutes south from the central tourist hub near the San Francisco Church and Sagárnaga Street, Moon Valley is located near the wealthier districts of La Paz. The otherworldly clay formations of the valley are reminiscent of a lunar landscape; so giving the location its name. Over thousands of years of exposure to the elements and consequential erosion, the bizarre configurations were carved into the valley and the dense clay of the surrounding mountains. A small entrance fee is needed to enter the curious natural creation, after which visitors are free to explore the jagged valley with its strange columns and crevasses.
Mercado de las Brujas (The Witches' Market)
Tucked away in a back street between Calle Santa Cruz and Calle Sagárnaga, resides the mysterious dwellings of the Witches’ Market. Stalls offer traditional and magical remedies, potions and herbs for illnesses as well as conjuring spells in an attempt to bring about good fortune and luck. Most apparent are the llama fetuses hanging in the stalls, used in traditional Aymara ceremony and ritual. Located within walking distance from the popular tourist destination of Calle Sagárnaga, the Witches’ Market is certainly a unique cultural experience that must be visited while in La Paz.
When visiting another country, most will want to bring home some sort of souvenir to remember all they experienced while traveling. Calle Sagárnaga has catered to La Paz’s visitors since the city’s inception, where it has since been a traveler’s one-stop-shop for all necessities as far back as the colonial era. At the center of the tourist district, Sagárnaga is the place to go when searching for that unique memento or gift for someone back home, as well as anything one may need while traveling. Beginning directly to the left of the San Francisco Cathedral, the steep street heads uphill towards Calle Illampu, offering anything you could possibly think of: Souvenir markets and shops, outdoor-adventure outlets for hiking gear, local handicrafts shops, restaurants, pubs, and hotels.
Photo by: trekkingbrasil.com
If you're simply passing through La Paz, or looking to spend a few days, there is much to do and see during your stay. Whether planning an extended adventure in the Andes, a relaxing weekend in Copacabana, or spending a day full of culture, site-seeing or shopping, La Paz offers much to keep its travelers entertained and busy.
For more information about this great city - or for suggestions, tips and ideas – download our free La Paz Travel Guide below!
Lake Titicaca is the largest and highest navigable lake in the world sitting at 3,800 m. (12,500 ft.). With its sleepy, deep blue waters, clear skies and thriving culture it is one of the most visited destinations in all of Bolivia. Situated in northwest Bolivia high in the Andes Mountain Range, Lake Titicaca is a natural wonder rich in culture, history and beauty.
This quaint, slow moving town is home to about 6,000 people. The thriving market place offers fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat and fish for visitors to try, as well as dining areas where the local cuisine can be sampled. The main tourist street back dropped by the lake gives way to handicraft shops, many restaurants, pubs, cafes, hostels and hotels – making finding something to do in this quiet town quite easy. Copacabana essentially shuts down after nightfall, giving way to a tranquil, seaside-like relaxing ambiance and a very peaceful sleep emphasized by the calm, rippling waters of Lake Titicaca.
Founded in the 16th century, based on religious reformation and indigenous assimilation into Catholicism, the city is home of the patron saint of Bolivia: Our Lady of Copacabana. It is also home to the Basilica of our Lady of Copacabana, a massive Moorish-style cathedral held as one of the most important religious centers in all of Bolivia. With many festivals carried out in Copacabana’s historic streets, the city fills to capacity on Bolivia’ Day of Independence on the 6th of August; where a festival full of parties and dancing lasts an entire week. Called Dia de la Patria, many Bolivians flock to Copacabana for the week-long celebration of the country’s liberation from Spanish control.
Full of history, culture, and tradition, Copacabana is a wonderful escape from the busy streets of La Paz and a great place to relax beside the soothing waters of Lake Titicaca.
Isla del Sol (Sun Island)
Hopping on a water taxi from the beach at Copacabana heading north on an hour long trip will bring you to the historic and cultural shores of Isla del Sol. This island has a long, integral affiliation with the many cultures that have inhabited the region over many centuries – including the Inca and Tiwanaku. Many ruins still litter the island, including the important Temple of the Sun, the Fountain of Youth, and the 240 Inca Steps that were once walked upon by Inca Kings. The island was once an important spiritual and religious location for the Inca, where the sun and Sun God were worshiped; yet it still maintains its spiritual importance today. Traditionally, only men were allowed on Isla del Sol while women were made to inhabit the smaller sister island of Isla de la Luna: This, of course, is not the case in contemporary times, offering the opportunity for all to visit this rocky island.
Home to approximately 3,000 people, the terraced landscape is used to grow crops such as quinoa, beans, and the Omni-present potato. Llamas, donkey and sheep can also be seen roaming the slopes, traversing the rocky inclines of the island. Water taxis are available, taking visitors to and from the port at Copacabana, with or without a guide or tour group. However, joining a guided tour is recommended so that visitors can learn as much as possible about the island, its history and its culture.
Isla de la Luna (Moon Island)
Smaller than and sitting just to the east of Isla Del Sol, Moon Island is no more than 2 km. long and home to about 600 people. Once used as a prison during the dictatorship in Bolivia, it now boasts some of the most spectacular archaeological ruins in the region. With breathtaking views of the surrounding lake and the high, snow-covered peaks of the Andes far off in the distance, Moon Island is a delightful day trip filled with beauty, culture and history.
According to Inca mythology, Moon Island is the location where Viracocha – the Great Creator God – commanded the rise of the moon. Hiking across the mountain, visitors gain some insight to the importance of the island as a spiritual center in Inca times. Dotted with many ruins, the northeast end of Moon Island is where the Iñac Uyu temple lies, built into the steep agricultural terraces. At the center of the ruins is a large amphitheater, where a former Inca palace constructed for the Virgenes del Sol (Virgins of the Sun) resides. Here, the daughters of Inca nobility were sent to be educated; studying the fine arts, cosmology and spiritual teachings.
Not as frequently visited by tourists, Isla de la Luna is a great way to escape the masses in Copacabana and Isla del Sol.
Sunset from the shores of Copacabana. Photo by: Adolfo Cornejo
Copacabana, Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna are three great destinations available on the Bolivian shores of Lake Titicaca. With the relaxing, blue waters of a lake sitting nearly 4,000 m. above sea level, the lake allows for some time to decompress while experiencing the culture of the region. Take a day trip to the nearby islands to delve even deeper into the ancient cultures that have called the lake home for centuries; learning about the unique traditions and ideologies of the Lake Titicaca region.
To learn more about Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Isla del Sol or Isla de la Luna, download our free Travel Guide!
Salar de Uyuni is the most visited destination in all of Bolivia; yet this massive landscape exemplifies two contrasting experiences depending on when it is visited. Deciding which time of year - during the dry or wet season - to visit this amazing destination in the southern Altiplano is important in order to get the most out of a trip to the Salar.
For the majority of the year, the southern Altiplano is relatively dry. Rain may fall periodically throughout the year but for the most part it remains dry and cold. The blinding sun is reflected off the vast stretches of white salt, and winds can reach violent speeds. Without water hindering the path, the Salar can be crossed with ease (though with some time), reaching all the most popular sites; Incahuasi Island, The Galaxy Caves, Coquesa and Tunupa can be reached without much hindrance at all, including the further destinations such as the Siloli Desert.
View from Incahuasi Island during the dry seasons
The sheer volume of white makes for some great pictures, including the usual perspective photo which has become a must when visiting the region. The geometric patterns that form on the flat expanse are still not fully understood, yet offer a beautiful example of the region’s uniqueness. The pictures afforded at Incahausi Island and Tunupa are stunning and only really attainable during the drier seasons. If these and other attractions are something you really want to experience, then a dry Salar de Uyuni is for you; from about April to December the Salar remains relatively dry and accessible.
December until the end of March or mid-April marks the wet season in the Uyuni Salt Flats. This means a large accumulation of rain water on the flat terrain, and a truly spectacular natural vista. In some parts of the Salar, more than a meter of water can collect, making it impossible for a vehicle to traverse the region; unable to reach the more desirable destinations. However, the views afforded by the rain are some of the most beautiful in the world. The mirroring effect of the water results in the striking illusion of there being two skies, two sunsets and two sunrises. Most tours will travel along the coast of the Salar during the wet season not venturing into the salty waters of the region itself. Yet, the views available after the rainfall serve as a suitable compromise to not seeing the other sites in the area.
No view can compare to the Salar at dusk, regardless of the season. The seemingly endless sky and flat region combined with the colorful display of a beautiful sunset is hard to put in to words. However, the wet season offers some exceptional illustrations of the region’s natural beauty this time of day. The colors of the sky above meet with their reflections on the stretches of glass-like water underneath, giving way to a view comparable to no other. With relatively warmer temperatures, the summer months in the southern Altiplano are still fairly cold and, of course, wet.
Deciding which time to visit Salar de Uyuni is paramount in determining which beautiful side of the region you wish to experience. From April to December, the salt flat remains more or less dry and cold, affording visitors the chance to embark deep into the white landscape and explore the main destinations of Incahuasi Island, Tunupa and the deserts further south. Traveling into the middle of the Salar offers some very unique views of this otherworldly landscape. December to mid-April gives way to an impenetrable Salar, but some of the most beautiful views on earth. The water reflecting the wide open skies above, coupled by an almighty sunset is something available only in this unique section of the globe. Which Salar do you wish to experience?
To learn more about Salar de Uyuni, download our free Travel Guide!