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Trip Location: La Paz
Start your tour of Bolivia in vibrant powerhouse Santa Cruz, including a visit to pre-Incan El Fuerte before flying to the market town Cochabamba. Bolivia’s capital La Paz lights up your nights, while the “white city” Sucre entices you with its peaceful architecture, and UNESCO heritage town Potosi fascinates with its silver mining past.
La Paz, the highest capital
Uyuni Salt Flat
UNESCO world heritage Potosi
"White City" Sucre
Upon arrival at the La Paz airport, a SouthAmerica.travel representative will greet you and transport you to your La Paz hotel. Called “The City That Touches the Sky,” La Paz is the highest altitude capital in the world, so allow yourself to acclimatize a bit before you venture out into the city to explore its charming streets, colonial churches and historic buildings, and brilliant blue skies. The city of La Paz lies at approximately 3650 meters (12000 ft), and is surrounded by towering mountains, including the beautiful snow-capped Mt. Illimani. You have the evening free to explore on your own.
After breakfast in the hotel, enjoy a half day La Paz city tour and a visit to the Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley. Start the tour of La Paz with a visit to Plaza Murillo. This beautiful main square is named after one of the heroes of the Bolivian Independence movement. See the Palacio Quemado, the Government’s Palace, as well as the main Cathedral. Then stroll along the narrow Jaen Street, with its brightly painted houses, curved walkways, and cobblestone streets. Then visit the Mercado de Hechicería, the Witches Market, where you can buy medicinal herbs, aphrodisiacs, and potions. After getting a taste of the colonial and modern feel of the city, we’ll continue the tour to Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon, which lies a few miles outside of the city. After a short ride, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the moon-like rocks and formations of this famous desert. Enjoy a spectacular sunset and amazing landscapes, in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. Finish the tour with a visit to a local ceramic workshop to see a demonstration of how local pottery is made and decorated. Then return to your hotel for the evening and enjoy free time walking the city streets, breathing in the fresh air.
Prepare for a full day of wonderful scenery and amazing sights on this tour of Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol on a Catamaran Cruise. Leave La Paz early in the morning, and drive to the town of Copacabana, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This brilliant blue lake is the highest in the world that is large enough for sailboat and cruise ships. Lake Titicaca is also the legendary birthplace of the mighty Inca Empire. It is said that Manco Capac, the great Inca leader, was born here, and later walked to Cusco, where he founded the empire. Take a brief tour of Copacabana, with its beautiful harbor, Cathedral, and small farms. Then board the catamaran for a cruise across the crystal clear waters of Lake Titicaca. Arrive later in the afternoon on Isla del Sol, or Island of the Sun. This island is full of interesting archeological sites including the Inca gardens and the Inti Wata Complex. You can even board a traditional reed boat, made by the locals from reeds around the shores. Then board the catamaran to return to Copacabana, enjoying spectacular sunset views along the way. Return to La Paz at night.
After breakfast in your hotel, head for the La Paz airport and then take a short flight to the Salar de Uyuni, or Uyuni Salt Flats, in Southern Bolivia. The Uyuni desert is one of the most impressive natural wonders in all of South America. Imagine an endless desert of clear white salt plains, green and red lagoons, vibrant volcanoes, bubbling geysers, and pink flamingoes. The Uyuni salt flats contain approximately 12,000 square km of salt, making it the largest salt flat in the world. Begin your Uyuni Salt Flats tour with a visit to the Salt Factory in Colchani. Here you can learn about how local farmers harvest and refine the salt. Explore the salt plains themselves, which seem to stretch out for miles in all directions. Next visit Incahuasi Island, located near the center of the plains. There are tall cacti that grow here, and it’s a great way to view the salt flats from above. Enjoy lunch while looking around at the salt plains. Continue to Pucara de Chillima, pre-Columbian ruins, which you can explore. Walk to nearby stone formations, whipped by the harsh wind and elements over the centuries. In the evening, check into the Tayka Salt Hotel.
After breakfast in the hotel, continue the Uyuni Salt Flats tour with a visit to the Thunupa volcano, which gives panoramic views of Uyuni below. Then visit the Coquesa Mummies Museum, and eat in lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon, enjoy free time exploring the Train Cemetery, where many locomotives have met their fate. These rusty trains stand in a vast desert, telling the story of when trains carried silver, tin, and other products from Bolivia to Chile. Then stop at the Pulacayo Colonial Mine on the way to Potosí. Check in to your Potosí hotel and relax for the evening.
Located at the foot of Cerro Rico, a mountain that was discovered to have silver ore, the city of Potosí became a prosperous mining town. Miners extracted the silver and it was shipped abroad, or minted in the National Mint located in town. Silver mining continues today, although the resource is nearly depleted, and tin is the major product. Now an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Potosí tells the story of Bolivia’s colonial and post-colonial history. Take a half-day tour of Potosí, visiting the National Mint to see how the Bolivian currency is produced, the Cathedral, and the “Street of Seven Turns,” a winding avenue that reflects how the early settlers wanted to avoid the harsh winds blowing through the city. Then take another half-day tour of the mines, visiting Cerro Rico and seeing how present-day miners perform the difficult task of extracting valuable resources from the mountain.
After breakfast in your hotel, continue this Classic Bolivia tour by heading to Sucre, about 4 hours away from Potosí by coach. You’ll be transferred directly to your Sucre hotel, where you can relax before starting your next tour. Sucre is the constitutional capital of Bolivia; it was the colonial capital, and it is now where the Supreme Court is held. The Spanish Viceroy preferred Sucre because of its temperate climate. Because of the strong Spanish presence in the city during the colonial era, the city’s architecture is exemplary of Spanish colonial style. There are many churches, mansions, and convents, two prominent universities, and even a castle. We will visit the House of Freedom Historical Museum and the Convent of La Recoleta, which has an impressive view of the city. We’ll also see the façades of the churches of San Lazaro and Santo Domingo, the main historical monuments in the historic district, and Bolivar Park. There is also an option to visit the Textile ASUR Museum to see traditional handicrafts or visit the Convent of San Felipe de Nery. Spend the evening at your leisure.
After breakfast in your hotel in Sucre, prepare for a full-day outing to Tarabuco, often one of the most colorful and popular outings on this Bolivia tour. The Tarabuco Sunday Market is held in the town of Tarabuco, several miles outside of Sucre. Locals from around the region come to the market to sell their handicrafts, fruits, vegetables, and other goods. This indigenous market is one of the longest-standing in all of South America. It is a wonderful place to purchase souvenirs, try different fruits, or see how locals barter and trade. The indigenous people of Yampara wear brightly colored ponchos, hats, and chuspas (little bags for carrying change and coca leaves). A delicious lunch at the market is included.
After breakfast in the hotel, transfer to the airport for a short flight to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. This city is the largest in Bolivia, although a few decades ago, it was just a remote town at the edge of the Chaco Desert. During the colonial era, Jesuit missionaries were the only ones willing to migrate here. But now Santa Cruz is a destination because of its strong business center, outlying farms, and tropical climate. After checking into the hotel, enjoy a tour through the streets of Santa Cruz to view its colonial architecture. We will visit the largest zoo in Bolivia, and then the San Lorenzo Basilica, and see the Piray River that runs through the city.
After breakfast in the hotel, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your flight home.
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