Bolivia: Ancient Andean Highlands (7 Days)
This photographic journey is led by Sergio Ballivian and Raymond Gehman (National Geographic Photographer for 15+ years) who are joining forces to offer a superb teaching and learning workshop.
It is specifically designed to concentrate in the regions that are part of the western Andes mountains of Bolivia, specifically in the Lake Titicaca basin and the Cordillera Real (Royal Mountain Range). The extreme variety of terrain, vistas and climates as well as a huge smorgasbord of different people make this photo safari an all-encompassing regional tour-de-force.
The trip begins in La Paz (av, height 12,000’/3,610 mts.), a unique city that hides inside a massive bowl at the foot of triple-crowned Mt. Illimani (21,163’/6,452′ Mts.) with a population of close to a million people, all clamoring to extract a place to live as the city crawls up the sides of the bowl and spilling onto the wind-swept Altiplano.
There is no other city like La Paz anywhere in the world
A series of rugged canyons extend from the center of La Paz in all directions while the Altiplano overlooks the spectacle and is where our journey continues as we head to the jewel of the Andes and the birthplace of the Incas – sacred Lake Titicaca. At almost every point along the route the massive Cordillera Real looms above everything else and is part of our route as we photograph it from below, at mid-height and from Lake Titicaca as well.
We’ll visit the canyons that make up the crumbling arms of the arid valleys near La Paz that are mostly made of ancient multi-colored mud that are extremely photogenic. Lake Titicaca, Copacabana and the Island of the Sun (Isla Del Sol) is our base for a few days to experience it’s different moods and faces as it changes from the cool morning blues to the sun-drenched afternoons where sunsets tend to be extremely colorful.
The people are always busy tending to their animals or crops so we will have many opportunities to photograph daily life in the Andes in a simple and mostly unchanged manner that has been around for centuries. Once acclimatized we will head into the heart of the Cordillera Real so you can get eye-to-eye with a 20,000’/6,000m peak only a couple of hours from downtown La Paz.
We will end our photographic journey in La Paz before you head back home with fond memories and great images to share.
Tour Dates: May 21-27, 2017 (Sun – Sat)
Tour length: 7-days
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate and slightly challenging due to the altitude
Group Size Limit: 10
Tour Highlights: National Geographic Photographer Raymond Gehman, La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Island of the Sun, Altiplano, Cordillera Real, Sorata, Copacabana, colonial history, ancient indigenous cultures, Inca and pre-Inca civilizations and ruins.
Prices are in $ US Dollars:
4-6 people: 3,580.00
2-3 people: 4,045.00
1 person: 4,535.00
*International airfare is NOT included in the tour price.
Deposit:$ 500.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee)
Inclusions: As per the itinerary: hotels (as per the itinerary), meals as noted (B,L,D), private transport, bi-lingual guides, airport transfers, decades of experience and local knowledge
Anyone can book a single spot on any tour at any time. These prices reflect the cost for one person, based on the total number of fully-paid people booked on a trip. If you have more people in your group and/or if the total number of people rises, the cost per person goes down. These prices are NOT based on a person or complete group bringing in a set amount of people on a tour. As more people book a spot on a tour the lower price is spread among all the participants. Thus we encourage you to include friends and family to join you so everyone gets a lower price.
Please note: We can run this trip at any time, so please let us know your date preferences and we will create a custom departure date for you and your group
– ITINERARY –
Typically, flights to Bolivia depart late in the evening from Miami and arrive in La Paz the next morning. Depending on your airline, you would arrive at different times on day 1 in La Paz. Please let us know your flight info so we can coordinate pick-ups and other services. International airfare is NOT included in this itinerary.
For airline tickets, please contact our ticketing agent GEO Travel 1-800-938-7285.
Day 1: Mon / May 23: La Paz – City Tour – La Paz
Arrival at El Alto International Airport in La Paz, Bolivia. Pick-up and transfer IN from the airport to Hotel Oberland Hotel in Mallasa located in the Valley of the Moon district. The rest of the morning is free for you to rest and relax and acclimatize. Lunch on your own (we suggest the restaurant at the hotel). At 2:00 PM we depart on a city tour of La Paz’s canyon, visiting different neighborhoods, scenic points of view and open-air markets as well as nearby outskirts for scenic views of this city. Dinner together at the hotel. Overnight at Hotel Oberland (3*). (D)
Day 2: Tue / May 24: La Paz – Andean Foothills and Valleys – La Paz
After breakfast we depart and head east to the spine of the Andes…our objective is the high-altitude agricultural valleys as we head towards Mt. Illimani, the 6000 meter sentinel that looms over La Paz. The geographical ruggedness of this region is stunning and you will see a great deal of canyons, cliffs, river valleys and never-ending stacks of mountains. Great photographic opportunities abound of people working the fields with stunning backgrounds. We will have lunch at a local restaurant while en route. We return to the Hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Hotel Oberland (3*). (B,L,D)
Day 3: Wed / May 25: La Paz – Altiplano – Isla Cohani – Puerto Perez
After breakfast we depart to the jewel of the Andes – Lake Titicaca – the birthplace of the Incas. Our first goal is the port-side town of Puerto Perez where Lake Titicaca is calm and depending on the weather partake in a brief boat ride to see some nearby islands. We will have lunch at our hotel before heading out and drive across a small pass with spectacular views of the Cordillera Real and Lake Titicaca as we head to our next goal. We will drive around an island accessible via an ancient stone bridge. This will allow us to access agricultural landscapes at lake level where people still farm the old-fashioned way and gather totora reeds in the traditional manner. We will return to the hotel in the late afternoon in time to get the best light for sunset. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Las Balsas (3*). (B,L,D)
Day 4: Thu / May 26: Puerto Perez – Strait of Tiquina – Copacabana
The early risers can take advantage of the magic of Lake Titicaca when the early morning light creates stunning photo ops! We depart after breakfast and head via the Altiplano towards the Peninsula of Copacabana and the port-side pilgrimage town of Copacabana. The route goes next to Lake Titicaca on our left and the Cordillera Real on our right, with plenty of spectacular locations for photos of both locations, many including both the lake and the Andes. The road will head north to the Peninsula de Copacabana and across the Strait of Tiquina where the vehicle will cross on a barge and you will take a motorized boat to the Peninsula of Copacabana. Once across you will continue your journey high above the lake with spectacular views of the Altiplano, Lake Titicaca and the Islands of the Moon and Sun before arriving in the lakeside town of Copacabana in time for lunch. After checking-in to our hotel on the slopes of the Calvary hill, we can either explore the town a bit or head into the further points of the peninsula where quiet coves hide little villages and hamlets where people still farm and tend to the their animals as they have for millennia. We return to our hotel after sunset. Dinner and overnight in Hostal La Cupula (3*). (B,L,D)
Day 5: Fri / May 27: Copacabana – Island of the Sun
We will sail to the Island of the Sun on a motor yacht, sailing along the rocky shores of the Peninsula de Copacabana for about an hour. We will land on the southern edge of the Island of the Sun and begin a slow and steady walk up to the top of the island on the Inca Stairs. The breath-taking hike to the top of the Island will get you to your hotel that sits prominently along the spine of the island with spectacular views to the northern Cordillera Real and all the way south to Mt. Illimani. Lunch. We have many options to visit while we walk across the island with that are nothing short of stunning and you will get a chance to catch the sunset this evening and the sunrise next morning directly from your cabin or from the main lodge. Dinner and overnight at Estancia Eco-Lodge (4*). (B,L,D)
Day 6: Sat / May 28: Island of the Sun – Copacabana – Sorata
For those that like sunrises don’t miss this one in the morning – as the views south to Illimani and the Cordillera Real are stunning! After an early breakfast we have another opportunity to photograph the local Aymara people doing their daily chores of farming, tending to their animals and living at 13,000′ above sea level as we continue on our journey back to the mainland which heads down the Stairs of the Inca and the Sacred Water Fountain before boarding the boat back to Yampupata where our vehicles will be waiting. Our route is via a spectacular road high above the lake before arriving in Copacabana in time for lunch. We head back to the mainland and drive around the Taraco Peninsula before climbing towards Mt. Illampu – the prominent mountain you have been seeing for days – and soon enough will be eye-to-eye with this spectacular glacier-covered behemoth. We drive down into a deep valley at the foot of Mt. Illampu and head to Sorata and a little oasis for the night. As we loose elevation quickly we see multi-colored patches of farmland being tended to by the Aymara people and arrive in a mediterranean climate with more green and lots more oxygen. We drive 15 minutes out of the town of Sorata to Hostal Altai Oasis where we check into our cabins – surrounded by forest, plants and flowers and solitude. Dinner and overnight at Hostel Altai Oasis (3*). (B,L,D)
Day 7: Sun / May 29: Sorata – Cordillera Real – La Paz
After breakfast we drive out of Sorata – next to Mt. Illampu and head directly towards the glacier-covered peaks of the Cordillera that we have been looking at these past few days to see them up close and personal! We will go to a village named Tuni Condoriri – a typical Andean village at the foot of the mountains and a large reservoir where much of La Paz’s water comes from. Lunch en route. Afterwards we head south through the backroads of the Cordillera Real to the base of Mt. Huayna Potosi – one of Bolivia’s highest and most beautiful peaks that rises close to 20,000 ft asl. This magnificent peak is only two hours from downtown La Paz! We will stay until sunset and hope that mother nature cooperates as the views of this massive peak are stunning at sunset. We return to La Paz in the evening. Our final dinner at a local restaurant and overnight at Hotel Oberland (3*). (B,L)
Day 8: Mon / May 30: La Paz – Home
We will provide a complimentary shuttle to the airport so please coordinate with us to schedule your transfer time.
– End of our services –
Below is a regional map of where the route is (subject to change). There is much to see and do in a small region, all close to La Paz.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.