This is an arrival day. No activities are planned, so check into the hotel and set out to explore the city. La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (the City of Our Lady of Peace) is a great place to discover on foot.
When you arrive in La Paz, the altitude and resulting lack of oxygen may affect you. It may take a little time to acclimatize to this, but before long you probably will not even notice it. Just take it easy for the first day or two, and cut back on alcohol and cigarette consumption to minimize the effects. You may also find that your appetite is reduced. This is no cause for alarm, but simply a reaction to the altitude. Be sure to drink plenty of water and do not attempt too much in any given day.
Founded by Alonso de Mendoza in 1548, La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (the City of Our Lady of Peace) is the highest capital in the world. Although Sucre is the official capital, La Paz is the Bolivian centre of commerce, finance and industry, and the de facto capital. This is a busy modern city, with its centre at the base of a canyon 5 km (3 miles) wide and sprawling impromptu housing all the way up the surrounding hillsides. The city is at nearly 4000 m (13,120 ft) above sea level, so visitors should be prepared for cool evenings and mornings.
Explore the city’s many fine museums or its historic ecclesiastical structures, such as the Iglesia de San Francisco, whose architectural details reflect the indigenous and mestizo heritage of modern Bolivia. The city is also renowned for its many markets, including the Mercado de Hechicería (Witches’ Market), where Paceños and visitors may purchase potions and incantations made from all sorts of herbs, seeds, and secret ingredients to remedy any number of illnesses (real or imagined) and protect from evil spirits. With streets lined with market stalls and vendors, the pace on the street and the vibrant atmosphere is an incredible experience. There is also a thriving black market and a Carnaval market, where locals purchase carnival costumes. You’ll also find a wealth of shops selling all sorts of handicrafts, mainly alpaca wool products, silver jewellery, woven textiles and leather goods.
Optional activities in La Paz include museums, excursions to Tiahuanaco ruins (cradle of Inca civilization), or a visit to the world’s highest ski resort, Chacaltaya (5600 m/18,368 ft). To the south of the city is the Valley of the Moon, with crater-like formations made of sand.
Spend the day traveling by bus and/or train to Uyuni.
* Please note that on days the train does not run, you will be taking an overnight bus to Uyuni on the night of Day 2.
La Paz to Uyuni
Approximate distance: 462.907km
EStimate travel time: 10 hours
Travel through the Bolivian landscape to the town of Uyuni. Despite its isolation and challenging climate (cold and blustery most of the year), the town of Uyuni has earned the nickname of Hija Predilecta de Bolivia (Bolivia’s Favourite Daughter). It is also the starting point for our 3-night excursion through the spectacular Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flats) in 4x4 vehicles.
Spend three days in the stunning landscapes between the Salar de Uyuni and the Atacama Desert in Chile. The salt flats now cover a total area of over 12000 square km (7440 square miles) and is one of Bolivia's main salt mining centers. Driving across the salt flats is a fantastic experience, particularly for the contrast of piercing blue skies and blinding white salt on the flat lakebed. The area’s unusual landscape of mountains, active volcanoes and geysers is like nowhere on earth. Our groups like to get creative with photography, as the endless white of the salt flats creates some great depth illusions that are fun to play with in photos.
The tour takes us through the impressive large red lagoon of Laguna Colorada the striking blue-green Laguna Verde at 5000m. The region's volcanic activity is present as we pass by numerous geysers, boiling mud pools, thermal baths and Licancabúr Volcano. Surprisingly, both wildlife and flora manage to survive and even thrive in the desolate landscape; this includes vizcachas (of the rodent family), flamingos and assorted varieties of cacti.
We offer unique accommodation on the Uyuni Salt Flats. Instead of very basic refuges and homestays most operators use, we have upgraded to simple hotels that are equipped with solar panels to provide electricity and hot water. Rooms are multi-share and each with a private bathroom. Meals are made from local ingredients, most of which are grown on-site.
Note: During the rainy season the locations visited may change due to some routes being covered by water.
Situated at 4070m (13,350 ft), Potosí is the highest city of its size on earth. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1987 in recognition of its tragic history in the mining of silver during the time of Spanish colonization. Potosí provided a large share of the silver mined and shipped back to Spain until the early 1800s, when both the supply of silver and world market prices began to decline; it’s said the silver taken out of Cerro Rico (rich hill) propped up the Spanish empire for over 300 years.
Working conditions for miners were appalling, and a large portion of the indigenous population was decimated. African slaves were brought in to replace the native workers, and it is estimated that as many as eight million indigenous people and Africans died in the mines during the first three centuries of Spanish colonial rule. Though sometimes distressing and uncomfortable because of the harsh working conditions, the optional trip underground into the mines of today is an experience that should not be missed as it will open your eyes to the real-life hardships of many in Latin America.
Uyuni to Potosi
Approximate distance: 149km
Estimate travel time: 6 hours
After spending the morning in Potosí you will travel to Sucre, a fascinating, historic town. You have plenty of time to explore its variety of museums and colonial buildings.
Often referred to as Bolivia’s White City, the country’s official capital, Sucre, is situated at nearly 2800m (9184 ft) above sea level and offers its visitors and inhabitants a more moderate, comfortable climate than cities at a higher elevation. Before the conquest, military, religious and political leaders of the local indigenous population made their homes on the present day city site. The site became the headquarters for the Spanish Royal Court, which by the late 1700s ruled over colonial Paraguay, parts of Peru, Argentina, Chile, and most of Bolivia. In 1825, in the wake of the Latin American independence movement, the city was renamed Sucre, after Simon Bolívar’s second-in-command, General Antonio Jose de Sucre. The city’s fine museums, colonial buildings and ties to the independence movement make it a city of great historical interest. Optional activities include a visit to dinosaur footprints, an old tin baron’s mansion, a textile cooperative, mountain biking and hiking.
Potosi to Sucre
Approximate distance: 79.31km
Estimate travel time: 3 hours
Transfer to the airport in Sucre for the flight to La Paz. Spend the afternoon exploring and shopping in the many markets of La Paz. The city is an especially good place to buy textiles and leatherwork. Make sure to visit the Witches' Market - it’s not everywhere you can buy a dried llama fetus (locals bury them under a new house for good luck, as a stillborn fetus is revered as an offering to Pacha Mama, or Mother Earth). Take one of the several optional excursions available, or just wander the streets and get a final taste of this unique country.
Sucre to La Paz
Estimate flight time: 45 minutes
Depart at any time.