Round Trip: Highlights of Bolivia (12 days, from Santa Cruz)

A journey that combines the well-known highlights and superlatives of the country. Starting in Sucre, the center of the Bolivian and south American independence movement, it goes on to the once richest city in the world - Potosi, through the largest salt lake in the world - the Salar de Uyuni, on to the birthplace of the Inca civilization on the Sun Island in Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. The trip ends with a visit to Tiwanaku, the archaeological remains of the capital of South America's first high culture, and with La Paz, the Andean metropolis of superlatives with an incomparable urban geography. A dream trip that could not be more varied, in one of the most exotic and pristine countries on our planet.

Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival in Santa Cruz and flight to Sucre

Welcome to Bolivia and the dynamic 1.5 million metropolis of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in the lowlands of Bolivia. A short flight in the morning takes you from Santa Cruz to Sucre, the country's constitutional capital. Welcome to the Andes. The white city of Sucre lies between green hills east of the Altiplano. It is the most beautiful city in Bolivia and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 due to its intact colonial center. Thanks to its altitude at 2,710 m above sea level, the climate is mild and spring-like all year round. Transfer-in. Overnight in Sucre. (-/-/-)

Day 2: Sucre

In the morning, you explore the colonial center of the “White City”. The Metropolitan Cathedral on the main square Plaza 25 de Mayo, the large obelisk and the Gran Mariscal Theater with its beautiful facade on Plaza de la Libertad, and the San Felipe Neri Monastery are just a few of the architectural attractions of the historic city center. The people of Sucre are proud of their city, which was declared the capital of the newly founded Republic of Bolivia in 1825, even though the government moved to La Paz in 1899. Visit the Casa de la Libertad on the main square, the place where Alto-Peru's independence was signed in 1825 and the first constitution of Bolivia was drawn up. From the viewpoint "La Recoleta", you can enjoy a wonderful view over the red tiled roofs and white plastered facades of the city. Make sure you visit the ASUR Museum, which hosts an elaborate display of unique hand-made indigenous textile art of the region. Overnight in Sucre. (B/-/-)

Day 3: Visit the Sunday market in Tarabuco

In the morning, drive to the Sunday market in the small town of Tarabuco 60 km from Sucre, at an altitude of approx. 3300 meters. Here, the locals use their traditional clothing made of the finest hand-woven textiles, as part of their everyday life, since Tarabuco is the center of the Yampara culture and surrounded by many Yampara weaving communities. People come from far away, often on foot, to do their weekly shopping here. You stroll through the narrow streets of the village, past the many market stalls, and enjoy the still authentic atmosphere. After lunch, return to Sucre. Overnight in Sucre. (B/L/-)

Day 4: Sucre to Potosí, city tour in Potosí

Today you drive from Sucre to the city of Potosí, located at an altitude of 4000m. First, however, the road winds downhill to the Rio Pilcomayo that you cross at 2200m. From here the road winds up again in long serpentines into the Altiplano until you reach the city of Potosí. Potosí is the highest city in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mountain towering over the city provided the silver that financed the Spanish Empire from 1545 to the beginning of the 20th century. The name of the mountain, "Cerro Rico", literally means "rich mountain". During an afternoon city tour of the colonial center, you'll learn about the city's splendid past. At times, Potosí was larger than Paris or London, and its dark side tells the story of countless indigenous Bolivians who worked and died in the mines under the Spanish colonial rule. A visit to the nationally known museum "Casa de la Moneda", the former colonial royal mint, is an absolute must. Overnight in Potosi. (B/-/-)

Day 5: Visit to the mines of Potosí, drive to Uyuni

In the morning you visit the miner’s market of Potosí and the Cerro Rico silver mountain and learn more about life in the mines. Interested guests have the opportunity to take a closer look into the tunnels and get an idea of the impressive and terrifying conditions under which people still dig for precious metals, not very different from the colonial era. In the early afternoon, you start the scenic and varied overland journey from Potosí to Uyuni with various stops at viewpoints and other interesting sights. Before sunset, you descend to Uyuni with a fantastic view over the lowest part of the Altiplano, the salt flat of Uyuni. Arrival in Uyuni in the evening. Overnight in Uyuni. (B/-/-)

Day 6: Salar de Uyuni

In the morning you start your trip in a private 4WD vehicle to the largest salt desert in the world with 10,582 km². The journey takes you along the edge of the salt flat to the village of Colchani, where the salt of the Salar is painstakingly processed into table salt. You will visit a small family business before you continue to the salt pyramids on the banks of the Salar - salt that has been piled to dry with pickaxe and shovel. Here you can finally immerse yourself in the seemingly endless "white" of the Salar. The Tunupa volcano dominates the horizon on the northern edge of the Salar, the direction you are now heading for. On the north west shore, you visit the “Pucara de Chiquini” ruins. After a short ascent and visit to this interesting and beautiful viewpoint over the Salar, the extraordinary geological formations in the cave not far from the "Pucara" pose some riddles to science. They show unique geological formations, that can be traced back to the remains of the drying prehistoric lakes "Lago Minchin" (approx. 300,000 years ago) and "Lago Tauca" (approx. 40,000 years ago). Not far from the edge of the Salar, you will see the small salt pyramids - salt that has been piled to dry using a pickaxe and shovels. For lunch, enjoy a picnic in the middle of the gigantic salt flat, with breathtaking views over the vastness of the pure white. In the afternoon the vehicle brings you up the flanks of the Tunupa volcano to visit a cave tomb and the mummies of Coquesa. From here, the Salar lies literally to your feet. After the visit, you drive to the Incahuasi “island". Located in the middle of the salt flat, the island is one of the absolute highlights of the region. A small circular route takes you across the island, where you can marvel at the centuries-old cacti that soar up to 12 meters into the blue sky. From the viewpoint at the top of the island you have a 360° view of the Salar. Return to Colchani and check-in to your comfortable salt hotel for the night. Overnight in Colchani. (B/BL/D)

Day 7: Highland lakes

From Colchani you drive back to Uyuni and visit the train cemetery of Uyuni which tells the story of the blooming mining industry at the beginning of the 20th century and its decline after the collapse in prices on the world market. At that time, Uyuni was an important railway junction in the southwest of Bolivia with connections to the ports on the Pacific coast in Chile. An hour out of Uyuni, you pass the "new" village of San Cristobal, relocated to make room for the country's largest silver mine. In the “Valle de Rocas” (rock valley), you will be marveled by Laguna Turquiri Lake with its many birds and you will enjoy lunch there. A breathtaking landscape lies ahead of you in the afternoon. You reach the colorful lakes "Laguna Cañapa", "Laguna Hedionda", "Laguna Chiarkota", "Laguna Honda" and "Laguna Ramaditas" which are lined up in the desert landscape like a collar. On their flat shores you can observe the three flamingo species that live in this region, looking for food at these rather inhospitable water sources framed by hard borax and sulfur crusts. You leave the valley of the lakes and immerse yourself in an extensive sand and stone desert - the “Siloli” desert, a fantastic surreal landscape that offers the whole range of terracotta and ocher tones. You race through the expanse over improvised tracks, and in the middle of this wide and empty reagion you reach the Tayka Hotel del Desierto. Overnight in the Siloli desert. (B/BL/D)

Day 8: Eduardo Avaroa Nature Reserve with: Arbol de Piedra, Laguna Colorada, Gueysirs, Polques hot springs and Laguna Verde

You start the day early and your journey takes you past the "Arbol de Piedra", a stone figure created by erosion, to the absolute highlight in the heart of the Avaroa Reserve - the "Laguna Colorada", a lake colored red by algae that hosts thousands of flamingos. Continue to the geyser field "Sol de Mañana" - a "devilish" spectacle of hissing water vapor columns and bubbling earth holes, where you have also reached the highest point of the trip at 5000 meters. But you still won't run out of highlights – the trip goes on to the Salar de Chalviri - a play of colors from snow white to desert red and azure blue. Nearby, the hot thermal springs of Polques invite you to a stop. Shortly afterwards you will see the valley "Valle de las Damas del Desierto" - also called "Salvador Dali Desert" by tourists. Rock formations formed by the wind, unique in their shape, lonely in a huge sandy desert exposed to erosion. And as soon as you think that things can no longer get any more beautiful, the pearl of this region lies in front of you: the brightly emerald-colored "Laguna Verde" at the foot of the majestic volcano "Licancabur". You have now reached the southernmost extension of your trip. Start you long drive back to Uyuni. Arrival in Uyuni in the evening. (B/BL/-)

Day 9: Flight to La Paz, drive from La Paz to Copacabana

Transfer to Uyuni airport and flight from Uyuni to La Paz. Arrival in La Paz. Pick-up and drive from La Paz to Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. You will enjoy wonderful views of the glaciated peaks of the Cordillera Real as you travel north. In Tiquina, on the strait between Lago Menor (Wiñaymarka) and Lago Mayor (Chucuito), you cross over in a small boat powered by an outboard motor. On the other side, you continue in your vehicle. The terraced slopes of the lake shores to the right and left of the road testify to the cultivation of crops by pre-Colombian cultures such as the Chiripa. Arrival in Copacabana at noon. Check-in to your hotel and walk through the town of Copacabana with its pilgrimage church, dedicated to the Virgin of Copacabana. Overnight in Copacabana. (B/-/-)

Day 10: Boat ride on Lake Titicaca and visit to Sun and Moon islands

You start the day with a wonderful boat ride across Lake Titicaca to the Isla de Sol (Sun Island), the holy island of the Incas. At the Pilkokaina temple, a two-story Inca palace built by the Inca Tupac Yupanqui, you go ashore. After the visit, a slightly ascending donkey path winds up through agricultural terraces up to the crest of the island, with magnificent views over the lake. You enjoy a traditional lunch (Apthapi) on Sun Island before taking a boat over to nearby Moon Island in the early afternoon. It houses the ruins of the Iñak Uyu Temple, also known as Moon Temple, which was once an "Ajillawasi" or “house of the chosen virgins of the sun". In this charming and calm atmosphere, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views that extend all the way to the Cordillera Real with its glaciated six-thousand-meter peaks. Enjoy the vastness of the deep blue Titicaca Lake around you! Then return to Copacabana and in the afternoon on to La Paz, where you will arrive in the evening. Overnight in La Paz. (B/L/-)

Day 11: Visit to Tiwanaku and city tour in La Paz

In the morning, drive to Tiwanaku, the most important archaeological site in Bolivia. In pre-Inca times, Tiwanaku was the capital of a large Andean state, where an area of 30 hectares harbors the remains of an enormous temple complex of the Tiwanaku culture. Among them the Kalasasaya temple with the famous sun gate (Puerta del Sol) and the so-called "semi-subterranean temple" (Templete semi-subterraneo) with its mysteriously carved stone heads. After an extensive tour, return to La Paz, the country's seat of government. You start with an impressive ride on one of the cable car lines inaugurated in 2015, which span the city of La Paz and El Alto. Enjoy fantastic views over the Andean metropolis situated in steep bowl-shaped valley, a seemingly endless sea of houses that hugs the slopes against the dramatic backdrop of the glacier-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real and the gigantic ice-capped Illimani. You will then visit the so-called witch market, the Church of San Francisco, the central main square - the Plaza Murillo with the government buildings - and the famous Calle Jaen, which shows the colonial past of the city in the historic center. Overnight in La Paz. (B/-/-)

Day 12: Transfer to the airport, return flight

It's time to say goodbye today. Depending on the departure time of your flight or your connecting program, the morning is at your leisure. In the afternoon transfer to the airport of La Paz and return flight. (B/-/-) - END OF OUR SERVICES AT EL ALTO AIRPORT.

Included in the package:

- Changing local English-speaking guides (EXCEPTIONS: the domestic flights and the drive from Potosí to Uyuni are not accompanied by a guide).
- Private transport
- Private 4WD vehicle with English-speaking driver-guide from/to Uyuni (our all-terrain vehicles are equipped with oxygen tanks and satellite phones)
- 11 nights in DBL room
- All entrance fees (and community fees on the tour from/to Uyuni)
- Meals according to itinerary (see above) (B/L/D)

Reservation:

Please do not hesitate to contact us for price requests, reservation, general question, and individual tour inquiries, at: contact(at)landmarktravelbolivia.com

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