Uyuni

 

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni, is the world’s largest salt flat. Sitting 3650 meter high, Salar de Uyuni sits in the Departmento of Potosí in southwest Bolivia near the crest of the Andes.

40,000 years ago the salt flats were a part of Lago Minchin, a giant prehistoric lake. When this lake dried, it left behind two modern lakes, Lagos Poopó and Uru Uru, and the two major salt deserts, Coipasa and the larger Uyuni.

Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt of which less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually. Every November Salar de Uyuni is also the breeding grounds for three breeds of South American flamingos – Chilean, James and Andean. Salar de Uyuni is also a significant tourist destination in south-western Bolivia.

How to go

Plan to arrive a day or two before you intend to depart on a salt flat tour, especially if there are only 2 of you. That gives the chance to meet other travellers, thus a larger group has more bargaining power for the ‘daily rate’.

By plane

Uyuni has a small airport (IATA=UYU, IACO=SLUY).
TAM flights to La Paz (via Sucre) several times a week. Currently (July 2015) you can’t buy a ticket online but they have office in the Uyuni centre.
Amaszonas is also servicing Uyuni. There are three flights per day and cost about $250 each way. However, for many the Amaszonas is the worst airline in South America. It’s very often late, usually by 2-3 hours. In these occassions Amaszonas doesn’t care at all and provide passengers absolutely nothing. To sum it up, you pay fortune just for a one-way 50-minutes long flight which is at the end slower, less comfortable and ten times more expensive than an overnight bus. I strongly recommend you think very hard before booking any overpriced flight with this unreliable and unprofessional airline. Rather get a flight with TAM instead.

By bus

You will need around 12 hours from La Paz, by bus. The bus ride with worse operators can be bitterly cold in winter – travellers have been known to sit in their sleeping bags on the night bus from Oruro to Uyuni. With other companies (Todo Tourismo, Trans Omar and Panamerica Sur) it’s much better. There is direct line, heating and toilet. Buses to Oruro/La Paz are often booked up in advance – you likely need to book at least the day before, several days if you wish to take the comfortable tourist bus or one of the better bus companies – best to do this before going on a Southwest Circuit tour (if coming from San Pedro de Atacama, be prepared to spend a night in Uyuni and have little choice of bus company).
There are several buses daily to and from Potosí (4 hours, 30 Bs.), from there you can go one to Sucre (3 hours more). There is also a nightly bus to Sucre leaving at 9 p.m., arriving at 3:30 a.m., for 60 Bs. Beware however, companies such as Transporte 11 de Julio have been known to cancel buses without notice, and without even opening their office to explain. As of June 2014, beware of companies such as Flecha Bus selling “direct” tickets to Sucre, when the bus reaches half-way in Potosi, the bus driver claims the service ends there and will try and make you go all the way by taxi, this is a scam, you should ask for ALL your money back from the bus driver and get a taxi if you´re stuck in Potosi to Sucre(3hrs about 40B each).
Many daily departures around 5:30 – 6:00 AM for Tupiza, stopping halfway for lunch in Atocha, 7-8 hours, 60 Bs. Three days a week there are 9 AM departures, and occasionally a Land Cruiser departs 6-7 PM, -ask around. Although the train is definitely smoother, and somewhat faster, this bus ride offers terrific views.

By train

Trains of Ferroviaria Andina  run south to Villazon on the Argentinian border, stopping in Tupiza and Atocha. Northbound trains go to Oruro. The formerly existing train connection to Calama, Chile has been discontinued. The views from Oruro to Uyuni are interesting – the train goes over the Poopó lake (with flamingos), then over the altiplano (terrain and towns are quite depressing), you can see nice sunset on the way. Expreso del Sur (better class) trains leave from Oruro on Tuesdays and Fridays at 15:30 and arrive 22:30 to Uyuni. You can select executive and 2nd class (Bs 56) tickets in Expresso del Sur. It’s best to buy the tickets, i.e., 5 days in advance to have a seat – for this you may contact the company offices in La Paz. The other Train Wara Wara leave Oruro on Sundays and Wed at 7pm and arrive in Uyuni at 2:30 am.

By car

You can also rent a car in La Paz and drive. After Challapata the road signs are scarce to find Uyuni, in the rainy season the rivers grow and it’s dangerous to come in a car that is not a jeep 4×4.

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Potosi

Potosi and Toro Toro

 

Potosi

Potosí is a city, the capital of the department of Potosí in Bolivia. It is at an altitude of 3967 meters and has about 115,000 inhabitants. It is claimed to be the highest city in the world. It lies beneath the Cerro Rico (“Rich mountain”), a mountain of silver ore, which has always dominated the city.

EscudopotosiFounded 1545 as a mining town, it soon acquired fabulous wealth. In Spanish there is still a saying vale un Potosí meaning “being worth a fortune” and, for Europeans, “Peru” was a mythical land of riches. It is here that most of the Spanish silver came from and Indian labour, forced by Francisco de Toledo through the mita institution, came to die by the thousands. After 1800 the silver mines became depleted, making tin the main product. This eventually led to a slow economic decline.

During the War of Independence (1809-1825) Potosi was frequently passed from the control of Royalist and Patriot forces. Major blunders by the First Argentine auxiliary Army (under the command of Castelli) led to an increased sense that independence was needed and fostered resentment against the Argentine. During that occupation there was anarchy and martial excess, and Potosi became unfriendly to the point where it could not be defended.

When the second auxiliary army arrived it was received well, and the commander, Belgrano did much to heal the past wounds inflicted by the tyrannical minded Castelli. When that army was forced to retreat, Belgrano took the calculated decision to blow up the Casa de Moneda. Since the locals refused to evacuate this explosion would have resulted in many casualties, but by then the fuse was already lit. Disaster was averted not by the Argentine who at that time were fleeing, but by locals who put the fuse out. In one stroke the good feelings Belgrano delicately built were destroyed. Two more expeditions from the Argentine would seize Potosi.

Zacatecas in Mexico was the other big silver mine of the Spanish Empire..

Toro Toro National Park

This National Park in a remote area from Cochabamba has few things to offer to a visitor, there are dinosaur footprints, fossils, Umajalanta caves, and a special Halloween (Todos los Santos) where villagers from around they gather in the cemetery with offers, music and sweets for their ancestors.

Search Hostel in Potosi

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Titicaca

Tiwanaku and Titicaca

 

Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku (Spanish: Tiahuanaco or Tiahuanacu) is a Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia, South America.

The site was first recorded in written history by Spanish conquistador Pedro Cieza de León. He came upon the remains of Tiwanaku in 1549 while searching for the Inca capital Qullasuyu.

The name by which Tiwanaku was known to its inhabitants may have been lost as they had no written language. The Puquina language has been pointed out as the most likely language of the ancient inhabitants of Tiwanaku.

How to go

Getting there is rather easy. If you’re staying in El Centro (the city), take a taxi to, or a minibus with the “Cementerio” flap on the window to the Cemetery. Across the street from the cemetery’s main gate, there are florists and to the right of this area are minibuses headed to Tiwanaku, which is usually a stop on route to the border at Desaguadero.

The trip should take about 6 hours in total, so it’s ideal to take a bus to Tiwanaku around 8:00am, do a 1.5 – 2 hour tour, buy souvenirs and check out the museums, and head back to La Paz getting there around 2:00pm or 2:30pm.

You shouldn’t pay more than 8-15 bob (15 Bolivianos as of July 2014) for the bus to the entrance to the modern village of Tiwanaku. It is 2-3km from the entrance of the village on the main road (90 mins by bus from La Paz, a bit more to the town itself) to the archecological sites, so try to find a direct bus whenever possible. Buy some snacks and drinks before going anywhere close to the archeological sites, because prices may double and triple as one approaches.

You can book a tour when you arrive there for 95 Bolivianos (July 2014) per group (the bigger the group, the less you pay per person). The tours are very helpful and informative (otherwise you probably won’t know what’s going on) and last 1.5 – 2 hours. (Note: the tours are in Spanish).

You can also book a tour through the many tour operators in La Paz. Most of these appear to be in Spanish only.

Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake and, at 3821 m above sea level, the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. There are higher non-navigable lakes and tarns in the Andes and Himalayas Titicaca has a surface area of approximately 8300 square kilometers. Located in the Altiplano high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia, it has an average depth of between140 and 180 m, and a maximum depth of 280 m. More than 25 rivers empty into Titicaca, and the lake has 41 islands – some of which are densely populated.

Titicaca is notable for a population of people who live on the Uros, nine artificial islands made of floating reeds. These islands have become a major tourist attraction for Peru, drawing excursions from the lakeside city of Puno. Another island, Taquile, is another tourist attraction featuring a different indigenous community. The Taquile locals are known for their hand woven textile products, which are some of the highest quality handicrafts in Peru.

Titicaca is fed by rainfall and melt water from glaciers on the sierras that abut the Altiplano. It is drained by the Desaguadero River, which flows south through Bolivia to Lake Poopó; however, this effluent accounts for less than five percent of the water loss, the rest being accounted for by evaporation as a result of the strong winds and intense sunlight at this altitude.

The origin of the name Titicaca is unknown; it has been translated as “Rock of the Puma”, combining words from the local languages Quechua and Aymara, and as “Crag of Lead”. Locally, the lake goes by several names. Because the southeast quarter of the lake is separated from the main body by the Strait of Tiquina, the Bolivians call this smaller part Lago Huinaymarca and the larger part Lago Chucuito. In Peru, these smaller and larger parts are referred to as Lago Pequeño and Lago Grande, respectively.

How to go to Copacabana

Buses leave from La Paz’ cemetery bus terminal; the fare is around Bs20 (Bs35 if you splurge for hotel pickup — tickets are sold at all travel agencies in La Paz) and travel time is 3-1/2 hours. At the Tiquina Strait, you get off the bus and take a quick ferry ride (Bs2) to pick up the bus (which is ferried across by barge) on the other side. Beware of theft and keep a close eye on all valuables. Buses arrive in Copacabana at Plaza 2 de Febrero and leave from Plaza Sucre.

There are now new direct buses to Copacabana called Bolivia Hop. They can bring you straight into Copacabana from La Paz or/and Puno and Cusco. This new service has brand new semi-cama buses and allows you to hop on or hop off at any of these places, they provide passenger assistance in Spanish and English at the border. Bolivia Hop includes hotel/hostel pick-ups and drop-offs they also can include a tour to the Islands.

Buses also leave from Puno in Peru, and take roughly the same 3-1/2 hours to arrive in Copacabana; an hour is typically spent at the border, just 5 miles south of Copacabana. Beware of dishonest border police issuing false fines. Refuse to pay and stand your ground.

Update Jun 2015: Do not change money before Peruvian/Bolivian border as you will be instructed to do so by bus conductor. It’s a scam operated by all bus companies and you’ll end up with MUCH worse rate than exchanging your money later at the border or in Copacabana town. There is a number of exchange offices for competitive rates.

If you take a bus from Cusco to Puno, be aware that the saleswomen on the counters will be dishonest and tell you absolutely anything just to sell you a ticket! If you want to travel during the day from Cusco to Copacabana, you will need to spend the night in Puno, no matter what the bus companies tell you! The border closes so this is the reason. The bus from Cusco to Puno arrives in Puno between 3-4PM. The buses from Puno to Copacabana leave ONLY at 7:30AM and 2:30PM. There are three companies leaving Cusco at 10.00 pm. In all three options you have to change bus in Puno! All of them arrive around 6.00 am in Puno, the bus on to Copacabana leaves at 7.30AM. Vans and/or shared cabs leave for the Peruvian border from Plaza Sucre as soon as they fill up. 3 Bs, 30 minutes. From the border to the Peruvian town of Yungani its about 2 km, 1 Sol by van. From Yungani to Puno buses and vans leave several times every hour, 5 Soles. This way is slower, more dangerous and less comfortable, but cheaper, than direct buses.

It is possible to get to/from Sorata without going back to La Paz. Get on a La Paz bound bus/minibus/micro from either town, tell the driver you wish to go to Sorata/Copacabana and you will be dropped off at the small lakeside town of Huarina (2 hours from La Paz). Cross the road and wait for a Sorata/Copacabana bound bus/minibus with space to pass. They should honk their horn if they have space and see people waiting, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out and flag one down if you see it first. Best to get started early as you may have a bit of a wait at Huarina – it should still be quicker than going all the way to La Paz and then 2 hours back in the same direction though.

Hostel in Copacabana Isla del Sol

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Bolivia

  • Mercado de las Brujas - Witch Market
  • Potosí
  • Uyuni

 

Bolivia

Bolivia is a beautiful, geographically diverse, multiethnic, and democratic country in the heart of South America. It is 108px-Flag_of_Bolivia.svgsurrounded by Brazil to the northeast, Peru to the northwest, Chile to the southwest, Argentina and Paraguay to the south. It shares with Peru control of Lake Titicaca (Lago Titicaca), the world’s highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805m).
Sometimes referred to as the Tibet of the Americas, Bolivia is one of the most “remote” countries in the western hemisphere; except for the navigable Paraguay River stretching to the distant Atlantic, Bolivia and Paraguay are the only two landlocked nations in the Americas. It is also the most indigenous country in the Americas, with 60% of its population being of pure Native American ancestry.

bolivia

Visas

The following nationalities will not need a visa for short stays of less than 90 days as tourists: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany,Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.
Canadians do not need a visa to visit Bolivia but can only stay a maximum of 30 days without a tourist visa and 90 with a tourist visa.
Visitors from countries from Group 2 can obtain a visa on arrival for a fee of around USD50 (BOB370) payable at the border.
Alternatively, obtained at a Bolivian consulate in advance, the visa is free (photo, yellow fever vaccination, photocopies of some passport pages, etc.). It takes between five minutes and 24 hours to obtain the visa at the consulate. The visa is for 30 days. Extensions are possible at immigration offices in Bolivian cities, but not at immigration offices at border crossings. An extension for 30 more days costs BOB210. The immigration office in La Paz is pretty busy and bureaucracy and photocopies rule the day. You will need a photo of yourself and photocopies of a few things, depending on who you talk to. Then you need to come back 24 hours later to pick up your passport. Extensions in smaller cities might be less hassle. Depending on how many days more you need to stay in Bolivia, you might be better off overstaying your visa and paying a fine at the border (BOB20 per day). This way you also save a page in your passport. All prices are as of June 2013.

The following nationalities normally cannot obtain a visa on arrival: Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chad, East Timor, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and those from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, under urgent and special circumstances, foreigners in this group can obtain visas at the port of entry. US citizens will normally receive a triple-entry visa valid for 3 entries per year over a 5-year period.

Holders of Indian passports can obtain a visa on arrival or advanced at any Bolivian Embassy or Consulate – the visa will not take more than 24h to be issued and most times are issued on the spot, as long as the applicant presents the following documents: passport, photos, itinerary of travels in Bolivia, photocopy of credit cards and hotel reservations. And Indians also walk away with no visa fees (gratis visa).
Note that all business travellers and persons wishing to stay longer than 90 days in a year must obtain a visa in advance.

Unless you are under the age of 1, you will need a yellow fever vaccination certificate to apply for a visa.
Arriving overland from Peru, US citizen tourist visas can be obtained at the border. Officially, they require a visa application form, a copy of the passport, a copy of yellow fever vaccination, a copy of an itinerary leaving Bolivia, evidence of economic solvency, a hotel reservation or written invitation, and a 4cm X 4cm or “passport sized” photo. A USD135 fee is also required, payable in freshly minted cash. Any old or marked bills will not be accepted. There are photocopy machines at border crossings.

How to go

By plane

Air travel is the obvious way to get to Bolivia, the main airports are located in La Paz to the western side of the country and in Santa Cruz to the east. The arrival plan must be based mostly in the purpose of your visit to the country; you have to remember that La Paz receives most of their visitors due to the immense culture and heritage from the Incas and other indigenous cultures from the Andean region, and therefore from La Paz it is easier to move to the Tiwanaku ruins, Oruro’s carnival, Potosí’s mines, Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, Los Yungas valley and the Andes Mountains; since La Paz is the seat of government all the embassies and foreign organizations have their headquarters in the city, which is useful in case of an emergency. On the other side, Santa Cruz with a warmer weather could become a good location for doing business visit other alternatives in tourism like the Misiones, the Noel Kempff Mercado national park or visit the eastern cities. There are also some foreign consulates in Santa Cruz. But don’t forget that the cities in the south and central Bolivia, like Cochabamba, Tarija and Sucre also offer a very rich experience; there are several ways to get to these cities from La Paz or Santa Cruz.

From Europe

Following on from Aerosur’s demise in September 2012, the best options from Europe to Bolivia are now with Air Europa or Boliviana de Aviacion from Madrid to Santa Cruz. Other connections can be made in neighbouring countries such as Brazil or Peru, or in the US. The cost could go from €1000-1200 to other higher prices depending on the class and duration.

From Latin America

Airlines that fly into Bolivia from other Latin American countries include LAN from Santiago via Iquique and from Lima, and TACA Perú from Lima to La Paz. Amaszonas flies from Cuzco to La Paz. Avianca flies from Bogotá to La Paz. TAM Mercosur flies from São Paulo and Buenos Aires to Santa Cruz via Asunción. Copa Airlines has begun to fly to Santa Cruz from Panama City. Gol Airlines (from São Paulo and Campo Grande, Brazil) and Aerolineas Argentinas (from Buenos Aires) also fly directly to Santa Cruz. Boliviana de Aviación flies from Buenos Aires and São Paulo to Santa Cruz.

From the USA

There are departures from Miami to La Paz and Santa Cruz on American Airlines. Connections are also possible on Latin American airlines such as LAN, Copa, Avianca, and TACA.
Once you have your international flight booked, it’s far easier and cheaper to organize your internal flights from the point of departure.

By train

There are many train lines in Bolivia, each with varying degrees of quality and efficiency. However, adequate transportation via train can be found.
The FCA timetable can be found at their website.
Watch your belongings.

By car

It is common for tourists to travel through a land border at the north-east of Chile/ South-West of Bolivia.
Keep in mind that only about 5% of all the roads in Bolivia are paved. However, most major routes between big cities such as Santa Cruz, La Paz, Cochabamba and Sucre are paved. A 4×4 is particularly required when off the flatter altiplano. Be aware that in mountainous regions traffic sometimes switches sides of the road. This is to ensure the driver has a better view of the dangerous drops.
An international Driving Permit (IDP) is required but *most* times EU or US driving licences will be accepted. There are frequent police controls on the road and tolls to be paid for road use.

By bus

There are many options for travelling from Argentina to Bolivia by bus. Check out the Bolivian Embassy’s website in Argentina for specific options. There is also a bus that runs from Juliaca and Puno in Peru to Copacabana
From Brazil there is a painful 30+ hours bus from La Paz to Guayaramerín. Be aware that the border controls are only during the day, and that if the Bolivian side is fixed schedules, the Policia federal has scarce hours on the weekend and also during schedule times they might tell you they are busy etc so plan in abundance.

By boat

It is common for tourists to arrive in Bolivia by boat, by navigating from the port city of Puno, Peru, over Lake Titicaca.

Hostels in Bolivia

Cochabamba    Concepcion    Copacabana    Coroico    La Paz    Oruro    Potosi    Rurrenabaque    Samaipata    Santa Cruz    Sucre    Tarija    Tupiza    Uyuni    Villa Tunari