The best Bolivian destinations for museum lovers

Museums are wonderful places that allow us to travel through time through physical objects, be they pieces of artwork or historical relics. In this time of staying behind closed doors, many of the best museums in the world have opened their collections to virtual visits, allowing their expositions to be enjoyed online.

This has been wonderful for museum lovers, but we cannot deny that being there is just different; breathing the air, seeing the light on the objects, listening while a specialized guide lets us in on all the secrets. Just like theater and dance need the presence of spectators to come alive, museums are complete only with the living presence of visitors.

Museo Nal de Arte
Colonial artwork at the National Museum of Art in La Paz

In this post, we tell you all about the best Bolivian destinations for you museum lovers, explaining how you can travel to each city from different points in the country and which are those museums you just cannot miss, so you can plan your trip for when lock-down is over.

La Paz

La Paz is the seat of government of Bolivia, a city of two million inhabitants, at an altitude of 3600 m above sea level. As one of the liveliest cities in the country, it has a large cultural and historical tradition, and a wide array of museums you just can´t miss. Here, we tell you about our favorites:

  • National Museum of Art: located in a majestic colonial house just a block away from the Palace of Government, the National Museum of Art takes you on a journey of Bolivian art from the times of the colony to today´s contemporary pieces, with work from the best artists like Gil Imaná and Gastón Hugalde, among others. The museum is under the administration of the Cultural Foundation of the Central Bank of Bolivia (FCBCB).
  • National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore: This museum is located only a few blocks away from the first, and is also under the administration of the FCBCB. Here, you will get to know the different artistic expressions of Bolivia´s indigenous peoples and its cultural and biological diversity, fromtextile art to feather clothes and ornaments. Make sure you don´t miss the impressive collection of ritual and festive masks. This is one of the most original museums you will see in Bolivia.
Museo Nacional Etno Y Folk
The mask collection at the Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore

You can travel to La Paz from Peru easily, through Puno, and make La Paz your first stop in Bolivia. You can also travel to La Paz from Chile, with direct bus trips from Arica or Iquique with bus companies that offer comfortable buses and a very good service. If you are in any other city in Bolivia, you can take a bus to La Paz very easily and at different schedules. All buses from other departments arrive at the Bus Terminal of La Paz, located on Peru Av.

Potosi

Potosi is a city of colonial architecture, with a very rich history and culture. It is key for understanding Bolivia´s history. It was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1987, due to it´s contribution to universal history and its architecture and art attractions. The city was founded on the foothills of the Cerro Rico de Potosi, literally a mountain of silver that provided funds for the Spanish Crown for centuries. At it´s summit, Potosi had more inhabitants than Paris. Today, the city has several museums that might interest you, but we bet this one will be your favorite:

  • Casa Nacional de la Moneda: It is said that, if you took all the silver mined from the Cerro Rico de Potosi during the spanish colony, you could build a bridge from America to Spain. Well, it was here, at the Casa Nacional de la Moneda, where silver coins were minted for the Spanish Colony. Visiting this museum will help you understand the relevance of Potosi in universal history, the way the coins were made, and the importance of our indigenous peoples and cultures.
bolivia-2543145_1920
Icon of the Casa Nacional de la Moneda. Image by jo vanel from Pixabay

Potosi is a very easy city to travel to, with completely paved highways if you´re coming from La Paz, Villazón or Sucre. If you´re coming from La Paz, you can buy your bus tickets online here. The buses depart from the Bus Terminal of La Paz at 21:30 and arrive in Potosi early in the morning. If you come from Sucre, you can buy your tickets here online. The trip from Sucre to Potosi takes only 3 hours in normal buses.

Sucre

Sucre is a colonial city in the Bolivian valleys, the constitutional capital of the city, despite the seat of government being in La Paz. Known for its streets of white walls and houses with red tile rooftops, its churches and castles and… its beautiful museums. Birthplace of intelectuals, historians, political leaders and writers, it was on the streets of Sucre that the first cry for liberty came about in Latin America, in the 19th century.

Museo Casa de la Libertad Sucre
Interior – Casa de la Libertad
  • House of Liberty:  If you are interested in Latin American history, this is the museum for you. The house of liberty is the place where the Act of Independence of Alto peru was signed in 1825, establishing liberty from the Spanish Colony. Among its treasures is the original Act Of Independence of alto Peru, declared in 2019 as Memory of the World by the Committee  Comité Memory of World-Bolivia (MOW-Bolivia-UNESCO). It also has ancient portraits of the liberators Simón Bolívar, Antonio José de Sucre and José Ballivián, the tomb of captain Juana Azurduy, the first independent flag of South america and other relics.
  • Museum of Indigenous Art ASUR: Unique in it´s style, this museum is a must for those who appreciate and want to know more about the arts of indigenous peoples of Bolivia, specially centered around their textiles. It is said that the indigenous peoples of Tarabuco and the jalq’a, in the department of Chuquisaca, tell their stories and express their cultural identity in their intricate weavings. In this museum, you will see exquisitely woven pieces and you will aproach an understanding of the artistic and philosophic depth of these cultures. You also get to see and meet weavers as they work on their textiles!
Museo asur
Jalka textile

Traveling to Sucre is easy from any main city in Bolivia, such as Santa Cruz or Cochabamba. All you have to do is buy your tickets online and show up at the bus station at least 30 minutes before the trip. Trips from Potosi to Sucre by bus are very frecuent, since the two cities are not far away and the highway that connects them is in very good shape.

We wish you a happy return to museums very soon!

 

The best Bolivian destinations for nature lovers

Lovers of the outdoors have been hit hard by the lock-down measures taken all over the world, their souls itching to get back on the trail, climb a mountain, explore a river in an unknown jungle, bathe in a pristine waterfall after a hike in the forest. Bolivia is one of the best countries in South America to travel to if you love ecotourism, nature and the outdoors, named in the New York Times as one of the places to visit in 2020.

In this post, we tell you all about the best places in Bolivia to travel to if you are looking for a post-lockdown immersion in the Great Outdoors.

samaipata
The Fort, Samaipata

Samaipata

Samaipata is a small town about three hours away from the city of Santa Cruz, on the foothills of the Amboro National Park, a natural reservation known for its biodiversity and amazing, contrasting landscapes. The town itself is very quaint and offers an array of restaurants and lodging to fit every taste and budget.

The town is rife with tourist agencies where you can book all kinds of experiences, from hiking to the waterfalls, to climbing up to the Condor´s Nest, to exploring the Amboro National Park or The Fort, an Incan archeological site that was named Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

amboro-south-refugio-los-volcanes
Amboro National Park (Ruta Verde Tours)

 

San Ignacio de Velasco

San Ignacio de Velasco is a town on the Chiquitos Missions Circuit in the department of Santa Cruz. It is one of the towns founded by Jesuit priests in colonial times, which have become famous for the blending of indigenous and western cultures, the architecture of its amazing churches, named Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and traditions in music, dance and fabrication of classical instruments that are still alive today.

PArque NKM
Caiman in one of the rivers in Noel Kempf Mercado Park

Best of all, San Ignacio is the entry gate to the incredible Noel Kempf Mercado Park, a pristine natural reservation so off the beaten path that many travelers recommend it as the only one in South America where you can actually hike for days without meeting another soul. Incredible wildlife, waterfalls, mountains and jungle, all in one amazing destination.

Parque Nacional 2
Wildlife is amazing at Noel Kempf Mercado Park

You can travel to San Ignacio de Velasco by train from Santa Cruz easily and afordably, online with the most reliable payment platforms, and book a tour to the Noel Kempf Mercado park from there.

Riberalta

Riberalta is a town on the departmento of Beni, a tropical region of Bolivia known for its rain forest tropical climate and many options for eco-tours through the tropical rivers and jungle. Riberalta is the place to go if you don´t flintch from tarantulas, like to see pink dolphins as well as alligators and will enjoy sleeping under a mosquitoe net.

bolivia-4613280_1920
Riberalta, Bolivia. Image by Patrick Fransoo from Pixabay

Traveling to Riveralta is not as easy and affordable as the first two options, but very much worth it. To travel to Riberalta, you have two options; either do it bu bus or plane. To travel to Riberalta by plane, you will take a plane from one of the major Bolivan cities (La Paz, Cochabamba or Santa Cruz). It is unlikely that you will find a direct flight, so you will probably make a scale in Trinidad, the department´s capital, before arriving in Riberalta. It is even possible you will need to change planes, depending on where you are arriving from.

 If you choose to travel by bus, you can take one from the Bus Terminal of Santa Cruz or La Paz. Be aware that the highway conditions are very poor, making the trip very long, even though the actual distance between Riberalta and any major city is not that big (La Paz and Riberalta, for example, are separated by 922 km, but the trip takes about 30 hours). If you don´t mind a long bus trip, the views are gorgeous.

Meet you on the trail!

Calling all music lovers; from Santa Cruz to the Chuiquitos Circuit by bus or train

If you are a lover of music and travel, if you are keen on getting to know those places still off the international tourist radar, then this post is for you. I’ll tell you all about the Chiquitos Circuit, the amazing music festival held there every two years, and how you can travel easily from Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz, to the Chiquitos Circuit by bus or train.

The ancient Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, towns founded between 1691 and 1767 in the territories of the chiquitano indigenous people, are some of the most important monuments of Bolivia´s cultural and historic heritage. It is not only the amazing churches that mix indigenous and European imagery, showing off the intricate artistry of indigenous hands, nor the joy of watching children play in an orchestra with instruments they made themselves, nor the lush green forest surroundings that make the Chiquitos Circuit a destination to discover.

chiquitos iglesa II
A church in the Chiquitos Circuit

It is also the fact that, during the process of restoration of the Jesuit temples in the 70s, an enormous musical treasure was discovered: more than 9,000 sheets of religious music written between the XVII and XVIII centuries, both by European and indigenous composers. 

This amazing discovery gave way to turning Chiquitos into the epicenter of the celebration of baroque music in South America, with the creation of the International Festival of Renaissance and Baroque Music “Misiones de Chiquitos”, which is organized by APAC and held in April  every two years since 1996. And you can attend the festival easily, by traveling from Santa Cruz to the Chiquitos Circuit by bus or train. 

afiche festival chiquitos
Poster for the festival held in 2018

For the international musicians of baroque music that come from all over the world to play at this festival, it is like going back in history in a cross-cultural experience. The music played is often arranged or composed by local indigenous musicians, a magical moment because of its cultural implications. Most of the concerts are held at no cost to the public and the the local communities participate actively in the Festival, as well as many music lovers who come just for the concerts. In fact, there are special tours offered for those who want to get to know the natural, cultural and historic richness of Bolivia and  experience a tour for people who don’t like tours.

The towns of Chuiquitos are very special. Founded between 1696 and 1760, most of the churches have their original structure and facades and the works of art inside made by European and indigenous artists. But it is not just the temples that live on; despite the expulsion of the Jesuits in the year 1767 and the passing of time, the teachings, language, religious and pagan customs, the temples and the music have been kept intact. Thus, the towns are not ruins or museums, but live communities with the inheritance of a rich, complex historic past and a thriving mestizo culture. 

chiquitos niños violín
Children musicians in Chiquitos

In 1990, UNESCO declared six missions of Chiquitos Cultural Heritage of Humanity, naming them “living towns” for the living and thriving customs that have been kept alive by their communities. These towns are:

But there are other mission towns that, despite not being named in UNESCO’s declaration, are part of the Chiquitos Circuit and also extraordinary destinations. These are:

There are two main ways to travel from Santa Cruz to the Chuiquitos Circuit, and here we tell you all about it.

mapa circuito de chiquitos
The Chiquitos Circuit

Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train

The trip from Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train lasts around 6 hours, covering a distance of 272 km. San Jose is the capital of the province of Chiquitos, and it was the third town founded as a ministry of the Jesuits on March 19th, 1697. This town is well-known for its church, built of stone in the 17th century.

To travel from Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chuiquitos by train, you take the train at the Station in Santa Cruz, located on Montes Av. Trains leave every day except on Saturdays. They arrive at the Train Station in San Jose, located on Gallardo Av. If you want to reserve the tickets and heck out times of departure and arrivals, click here: Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train

chiquitos catedral-concepcion
Traditional dancing at the church of Concepcion

Santa Cruz to San Ignacio de Velasco By bus

San Ignacio de Velasco is one of the largest towns in the Chiquitos Circuit, and it lies at a distance of 471 km from the city of Santa Cruz. Trip data:

The bus company Pionera Trans Bolivia offers USB chargers, coffee & water bar and Wi-Fi. If you want to check prices and availability, click here:  Santa Cruz to San Ignacio de Velasco by bus

San Ignacio de Velasco was founded in 1748 by Jesuit missions at the foot of beautiful mountains and close to the Paragua River. The town is strategically located, making it the receptive center for tours to the Missionary Triangle: San Miguel, San Rafael and Santa Ana de Velasco.

chiquitos niños musica
Children musicians in Chiquitos

We hope this information was useful and that you will plan your trip from Santa Cruz to Chiquitos by bus or train. If you are rather a nature lover than a megalomaniac, look out for our next blog, where we explain how to explore the Noel Kempf Mercado Park, one of the most remote and exotic national reservations, located at just 198 km from San Ignacio de Velasco. Cheers and good travels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to cope with altitude sickness in Bolivia and Peru

Should you be worried by altitude sickness? When does it start to become dangerous and how to prepare for it?

When traveling to Cusco or Puno in Peru, or La Paz and Uyuni in Bolivia it is important to come prepared as adjusting to the altitude can take some time and could affect your trip in Bolivia and Peru. Here are some tips to help you with this and some useful information.

Altitude sickness typically occurs only above 2,500 meters (8,000 ft), though some are affected at lower altitudes. Risk factors include a high degree of activity, and a rapid increase in elevation.

1. What are the effects of altitude

Altitude can affect anyone in some way. Your physical fitness has no impact on how the altitude difference will affect you so there is no need to go to the gym to prepare. The symptoms are roughly the same for everyone but it will impact people on different levels.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Slow digestion
  • Out of breath

Severe altitude sickness is rare but if you think you are not adjusting well to the altitude, go see a doctor and travel to a lower altitude if required.

2. Can you prepare before?

The best way to prevent altitude sickness and be prepared for high altitude locations is by climbing slowly, by steps, allowing the body to adjust to the new altitude. If that is not possible and you are planning to trek or want to attempt a climb soon after arrival, taking acetazolamide can be used to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Acetazolamide is also known as Diamox. Please consult with your doctor before taking it.

How to use Diamox Tablet

Acetazolamide should be taken 1 to 2 days before starting to climb. Continue taking it while you are climbing and for at least 48 hours after you have reached your final altitude. You may need to continue taking this medication while staying at the high altitude to control your symptoms.

3. What to do when you arrive

However, it is not absolutely necessary to take Diamox, or acetazolamide, before coming to Peru or Bolivia. In most situations, you can adjust by taking some time when arriving to a new height and avoiding certain things:

  • Do not exert yourself
  • Avoid smoking and drinking, and other intoxicating substances
  • Eat light meals

Some companies advertise over the counter medicine against high altitude sickness, these medicine (Sorojchi pills for example) only treat some of the symptoms, such as the headache and are made of aspirin, acetaminosalol (Salophen) – which is an analgesic – and caffeine. These pills don’t cure altitude sickness and you should check the composition before taking them.

Coca tea is also believed to help with altitude sickness, though there isn’t any evidence to support this. However, drinking coca tea wouldn’t hurt and coca’s analgesic properties would certainly help.

Ultimately, it is important for travelers arriving to Peru and Bolivia to understand the difference between Diamox, Sorojchi Pills and coca tea.

  • Check with your doctor before taking Diamox.
  • Sorojchi pills can help with the symptoms when you first arrive but are not a treatment for altitude sickness.
  • Like the pills coca tea may help alleviate some of the symptoms
  • If you are planning to trek or climb a peak, make sure to plan time to acclimatize to the altitude. And if it is not possible do check with your doctor for the best way to deal with it.
  • If strong symptoms of altitude sickness remain after a few days please check with a doctor.
  • The only treatment for high altitude sickness is to descend to a lower altitude.

A complete guide to train travel in Bolivia

There are two train companies in Bolivia. Ferroviaria Andina and Ferroviaria Oriental. They only operate on a few routes in the country but provide a convenient alternative to buses on these routes. Villazon to Uyuni and Oruro to Uyuni by train are particularly popular routes In Bolivia. On the eastern part of the country, Ferroviaria Oriental covers Santa Cruz – Puerto Quijarro (border with Brazil) and Santa Cruz – Yacuiba (border with Argentina).

Find here all the train terminals in Bolivia and Peru.

Ferroviaria Andina

Ferroviaria Andina railroads in Bolivia

Villazon to Uyuni by train

The city of Villazon is located on the border of Bolivia and Argentina. It is a commercial town, very busy with economic activity.

There are two types of trains

  • Wara Wara del Sur
  • Expreso del Sur

Please note that the Expreso del Sur train only has a Ferrobus class available at the moment. The business class is no longer available.

You can take the train from Villazon to Uyuni, there are four departures per week and the journey takes between 8 and 10 hours.

TrainDays and time of departureArrival timePrice (in bolivianos)
Expreso del Sur – FerrobusWednesday and Saturday – 15:3023:5072 (normal)
Wara Wara del SurMonday and Thursday – 15:3001:15 (+1)38 (popular)
56 (normal)
118 (executive)
Train schedule Villazon – Uyuni

Villazon to Tupiza by train

If you have time you can break your journey from Villazon to Uyuni by stopping in Tupiza. The train stops in Atocha and Tupiza but Tupiza is charming small town known for its warm climate, beautiful landscapes with spectacular rock formations such as the cañón del Inca. The train takes about 3 hours covering a distance of 91 km.

To travel from Villazon to Tupiza by train you must go to the train station located on Avenida Antofagasta. The Tupiza train station is located on Avenida Serrano and Calle Avaroa.

If you don’t want to take the train from Villazon to Tupiza, you can take a bus or a colectivo. Colectivos (shared taxis) leave every 30 minutes from the old bus terminal in Villazon.

Tupiza to Uyuni by train

The trips from Tupiza to Uyuni by train take around 6 hours crossing a distance of 207 km.

And back: Uyuni to Villazon by train  

The train station in Uyuni is located there:

For your return trip, schedules and prices from Uyuni are the following:

TrainDays and time of departureArrival timePrice (in bolivianos)
Expreso del Sur – FerrobusTuesday and Friday – 21:4006:05 (+1)72 (normal)
Wara Wara del SurMonday and Thursday – 02:5012:05 (+1)38 (popular)
56 (normal)
118 (executive)
Train schedule – Uyuni – Villazon

Ferroviaria Oriental

Travel bolivia by train
Ferroviaria Oriental
Ferroviaria Oriental railroad in Bolivia

Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro by train

Trains in Bolivia

The train between Santa Cruz and Puerto Quijarro is sometimes called the ‘Death Train’. You can read here more about that particular route and origin of the name.

TrainDays and time of departure Arrival TimePrice (in bolivianos
Expreso Oriental – Super PullmanMonday, Wesdnesday, Friday – 13:2006:00 (+1)100
Ferrobus – Lie-flatTuesday, Thursday, Sunday – 18:0007:00 (+1)235
Schedule and prices from Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro

The train from Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro stops in San Jose de Chiquitos, Robore, Rivero Torrez and arrives in Puerto Quijerro at around 6:00 in the morning. The trip lasts between 13 and 16 hours depending on the train.

San Jose de Chiquitos

San Jose de Chiquitos, most commonly referred to as simply San Jose, is famous for being part of the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos. The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos are part of six of these former missions which were all designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. The International Festival of American Renaissance and Baroque Music takes place once every two years in over 20 Jesuit Mission towns of the Amazon jungle regions around Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

The next festival will take place from April 24 to May 3, 2020. the festival features over 1,000 musicians from Europe and Latin America in 100 concerts.

Border with Brazil

The train will stop in Puerto Quijarro a few kilometers from the border with Brasil. The Brazilian town on the other side of the border is Corumba.

Puerto Quijarro train station to Corumba

To cross the border you will have to go to the border control post on the Bolivian side to leave the country and then cross over the border and repeat the process to enter Brazil. Make sure that you get your passport stamped on both sides.

Santa Cruz – Yacuiba by train

Yacuiba is a Bolivian town near the border with Argentina. To cross the border you will have to first go to the border control post on the Bolivian side to leave the country and then cross over the border to the Argentinian town of Salvador Mazza and repeat the process to enter Argentina.

The train takes about 16 hours and stops in Charagua, Boyuibe and Villamontes.

RouteTrainDays and time of departure Arrival time Price (in bolivianos
Santa Cruz – YacuibaMixto Thursday – 15:3008:05 (+1)47
Yacuiba – Santa CruzMixto Friday – 18:0009:55 (+1)47
Schedule and prices between Santa Cruz to Yacuiba

How to get from Uyuni to La Paz: a complete guide

Uyuni to La Paz Bus

Uyuni to La Paz by road
Uyuni to La Paz by road

The most popular way to travel from Uyuni to La Paz is in bus. Buses offer comfortable night buses with reclining seats, heating and blankets. Tickets Bolivia works with Panasur, Trans Omar, Cruz del Norte and Trans Titicaca:

CompanyBus classRouteTime of departure and arrivalPrices in US Dollars
Trans OmarLie-flatDirect service20:30/6:30 (+1 day)$21.90
PanasurLie-flatDirect service20:30/6:00 (+1 day)$21.90
Cruz del NorteSemi lie-flat/Lie-flatDirect service20:30/6:30 (+1 day)$14.60/21.90
Trans TiticacaLie flatDirect service22:00/7:00 (+1 day)$27.74

Uyuni has no proper bus terminal, but it has a street where buses depart from and arrive. All the buses leave from the bus company office in Uyuni which are all located in the same street: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_uyuni.php

Buses arrive at the main bus terminal in La Paz. The terminal is located here: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_la_paz.php

Useful information:

  • All the direct buses between Uyuni and La Paz are night buses.
  • These companies don’t offer food or refreshment during the trip. Sometimes they will take sellers on board offering drinks or food, this is a common custom for buses in Bolivia. Sometimes they will also stop to pick passengers or packages along the way.
  • Buses should come with heating and blankets as the journey gets cold at night on the altiplano but it is better to always come prepared. It will also be very cold (whatever the time of year) when arriving in the morning so better have warm layers.
  • There are other bus companies doing this route, another very good company that offers this service is Todo Turismo with buses leaving at 21:00 every day and tickets costing about 37 us$.

Train from Uyuni to La Paz

With this option, passengers have to travel first from Uyuni to Oruro by train and then take the bus to La Paz. 

1- Buses depart from Uyuni to Oruro four times a week on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The trip lasts around seven hours and the trains arrive at the train station located on Avenida Velasco Galvarro.

The trains that travel from Uyuni to Oruro are Wara Wara del Sur and Expreso del Sur, they are both owned by Ferroviaria Andina and people can choose between two different classes: 2nd class and Executive.

Wara Wara del Sur leaves on Wednesdays and Sundays at 19:00, arriving in Uyuni at 02:20 in the morning. Expreso del Sur leaves on Tuesdays and Fridays at 14:00, arriving in Uyuni at 21:20. 

2 – Once you are in Oruro, you must take a taxi to the bus terminal of Oruro, located on Gregorio Reynolds Av. The cost of the bus should be about 30-35 bolivianos. Here is the map: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_oruro.php

With this option you can enjoy the trip by train and to travel during the day so to enjoy the views of the altiplano. The trains also have a restaurant wagon where they can purchase drink and food during their journey. 

Flights from Uyuni to La Paz

There are two Bolivian airlines doing this route directly with the following departure times:

Schedule flights Uyuni - La Paz
Schedule flights Uyuni – La Paz

The flight lasts about an hour and departure are in the mornings and the evenings. The prices start at about 95 US$ and up to 170 US$ for one way. Flying has the advantage of being the fastest option.

Alternative itineraries

Via Potosi or Sucre

Depending on your plans, budget and planned itinerary you can decide to visit Potosi and/or Sucre before heading to La Paz. Sucre and Potosi are relatively close so it is easy to visit both in a few days. Potosi is famous for its history and silver mines which can be visited, it’s also packed with museums worth visiting such as Casa de la Moneda.

Buses from Uyuni to Potosi leave at 7:30, 8:00 and 16:00 with Expreso 11 de Julio. It takes about four hours by bus. There are no trains or direct flights available.

Sucre is the constitutional capital of Bolivia, it’s a charming and pleasant city with colonial architecture. There are also plenty of museums to explore and is located near cretaceous sites where you can observe dinosaur footprints.

To travel directly to Sucre from Uyuni, you will have to take a night bus. You can travel with Exp. 11 de Julio (not to confuse with Expreso 11 de Julio which goes to Potosi) at 21:30, or with 6 de Octubre at 22:00.

There is no train or direct flight from Uyuni to Sucre.

Uyuni – Potosi – Sucre – La Paz

You can travel to Potosi or Sucre but if you have the time, you can go to Potosi first before continuing to Sucre and then taking a night bus or flight to La Paz. Buses to La Paz are regular with the bus company Trans Emperador and the journey takes 4 hours.

Via Oruro

If you are planning to take a train from Uyuni or want to travel during the day to La Paz then you will have to stop in Oruro and change transport before continuing to La Paz. There are regular departures between these cities.

Where to stay in La Paz

If you are planning more than one day in La Paz, which we recommend, you can stay either in the city center near the bus terminal or in the south zone which is at a lower altitude and warmer conditions.

What to do in La Paz

Travelers may stop in La Paz after Uyuni and before heading to Cusco. La Paz can be overlooked sometimes but there are plenty of activities, restaurants and bars to go to. Here is a guide on things to do in and around La Paz:

Things to do in and around La Paz

And if you only have a few hours there is this option so you don’t miss on the best things La Paz has to offer:

Discover La Paz in three hours:

To buy tickets online from Uyuni to La Paz, visit Tickets Bolivia.

Everything you need to know for your trip to Copacabana and Isla del Sol

This guide will give you all the information you need in order to plan your visit to Copacabana and Isla del Sol in Bolivia. You will find here bus and boat schedules and suggestions on what to do and where to go.

Bus from La Paz to Copacabana

La Paz to Copacabana by bus takes about 4 hours. Buses leave throughout the day but the last bus to leave from the main terminal leaves at 13:30. There are no night buses to Copacabana because buses need to cross by ferry the strait of Tiquina which closes at night.

Schedule and prices  for La Paz to Copacabana buses:

Bus Company Bus Class Time of Departure Time of Arrival Price Additional Information
Vicuna Travel Normal 07:30 11:30 Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Turisbus Tourist 07:30 11:30 Includes the crossing of Tiquina. Programmed stops to take pictures and pick-up service.
Trans Titicaca Normal 08:00 12:00 Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Diana Tour Normal 08:00 12:00 Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Trans Titicaca Normal 13:30 17:30 Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)

Please note that this is the schedule for formal buses leaving from the main terminal in La Paz. The route between La Paz to Copacabana is also operated by informal transport companies (buses and minibuses) leaving from the General Cemetery in La Paz. These leave every day between 6:00 and 18:00 (depending on the time of year). There is no schedule as they leave whenever they are almost full and stop regularly along the way to drop or pick-up passengers. Because of the irregularity and lack of any guarantees regarding safety, we recommend traveling with an established company to avoid any problems. But they do provide the advantage of being more frequent and flexible. The price is about the same than buses leaving from the main terminal: 20/30 Bs.

View of Copacabana, Bolivia
View of Copacabana from the Calvario – Photo: sunny-upadhyay via Unsplash

Bus from Puno to Copacabana

The Puno to Copacabana bus takes about 4 hours by bus. The journey involves crossing the border at the Kasani office. Depending on the time of day this process can take longer. since the border is closed at night, this trip can only be done during the day.

These two cities, each on the shore of Lake Titicaca but in different countries, offer a very different experience of the lake. Both touristic destinations Puno is a larger city with a more developed tourism industry while Copacabana is smaller and more relaxed. From Copacabana you can visit the Isla de Sol which is perfect for travelers who want to enjoy a more quiet, independent experience.

Schedule and prices for buses from Puno to Copacabana:

Bus Company Bus Class Time of Departure Time of Arrival Price Additional Details
Trans Titicaca Normal 06:00 11:00 US$ 10.22 Migration in Kasani
Tour Peru Normal 07:00 12:00 US$ 9 Migration in Kasani
Huayruro Tours Semi lie-flat 07:00 12:00 US$ 5.84 Migration in Kasani
Huayruro Tours Lie-flat 07:00 12:00 US$ 7.30 Migration in Kasani
Transzela Inca suite 07:00 10:30 US$ 15.00 Migration in Kasani
Trans Titicaca Normal 07:30 12:30 US$ 10.22 Migration in Kasani
Trans Titicaca Normal 13:30 18:30 US$ 13.14 Migration in Kasani

A guide to visiting Copacabana

Most people go to Copacabana to visit Isla del Sol, therefore it has the feel of a transit town, but if you take the time there are some interesting sights and things to do around depending on how much time you have.

If you only have a couple of hours in Copacabana, you can walk up the Cerro Calvario for amazing views of the lake (this is especially popular at sunset). The walk up can take 30 minutes to an hour and the hill is easily accessible from Copacabana. Look for the steps to the north of the city. You can also visit the Cathedral of Copacabana and enjoy some trout from the lake.

If you have at least a whole day in Copacabana, you can do a day-hike to Yampupata. This path is not a touristy one, very few people head that way but it provides a nice walk in the countryside with amazing views of the lake on a mostly flat-surface. This is perfect if you want to try high-altitude trekking and do something a bit different. The hike to Yampupata takes about 5 hours and from there you can hire a boat to Isla del Sol or a taxi back to Copacabana.

However, the absolute must-see for people is Isla del Sol. It is possible to go there for the day or even a few hours but ideally one should stay one night on the island to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the scenery. There are also pre-Columbian ruins on the island that are worth visiting.

Where to eat

There is an abundance of places where one can grab a bite in Copacabana, and like in any other touristy, transit town, it is difficult to pick the good places from the less reputable ones. Here are some options we recommend for those who want a quick lunch or a snack to take on their next bus. There are also plenty of more fancy sit-down restaurants where you can try the local trout, local or international dishes.

El Condor & The Eagle Cafe: For a good breakfast. It’s located inside Residencial Paris
They serve hearty homemade Irish bread, beans, porridge and organic coffee.

The Pit Stop: Located across from the main plaza where buses drop and pick passengers, it’s ideal for those who just want something small, tasty and convenient to go. They have empanadas, cake and other quick bites to go.

Pan America: For those who crave pizza. They have a simple menu and a rotating selection of fresh ingredients for toppings.

Where to sleep

Backpackers on a small budget will find very affordable accommodation for 20-30 Bs. These hostels will provide very basic rooms and it is recommended to have a sleeping bag as it gets very cold at night. You can find some of these hostels online but the majority doesn’t have an online presence.

As with food, the range of choice for accommodation is wide and with some research you can find what suits your needs best, there are hotels on the shore of the lake, others near the center, eco-lodges and more luxurious options. Prices range between 4 USD to about 150 USD per person per night.

How to get to Isla del Sol

The only way to get to Isla del Sol is by boat from Copacabana (or from Yampupata if you are hiking there). You can hire a private boat from Copacabana which could cost about 40-100 USD depending on your itinerary or you can take a public shared boat for 5-7 USD.

Please note: When arriving to Isla del Sol you will be charged an an admission fee of 10 bolivianos.

Shared boats leave twice a day at 8:30 and 13:30. The journey takes about 1:30 hours to the south part of the island and 2 hours to the north side. Boats stop on both sides so make sure to specify where you want to be dropped off and, if you are doing the trip in one day, where you want to be picked up.

For the last two years the island was experiencing a conflict between the north and south sides with the northern part being closed off to tourists. It has now been solved and tourists can access both sides again. However, there may be small changes of schedule so please take into account that the times given here might be subject to change.

Isla del Sol, Bolivia
Isla del Sol – Photo: Christopher Crouzet via Unsplash

What to do on Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol is often an underestimated destination where travelers wish they had staid longer. The views, tranquility and absence of motorized vehicles make it the perfect spot to relax between two tours/treks or long bus journeys. We would recommend spending one night there to have time to really appreciate how special this place is.

The north side of the island is where most of the touristic attractions are with pre-Columbian ruins such as: The Rock of the Puma, or Titi Kharka; the Inca Table, supposedly used for human sacrifices; and the Footsteps of the Sun. You first arrive at Cha’llapampa, the town on the northern end of the island. From there you can also visit the Gold Museum which displays Inca treasures discovered underwater off the island. 

In the south side is the Yumani community from where you can take the Inca steps down to the port and stop at the Fountain of Youth. Further down south from Yumani is the temple of Pilcocaina. There are not as many sights in the south side but there are plenty of accommodation choices ranging from backpacker hostels to luxurious eco-lodges. There are also more options for food and drinks there.

Explore: You can follow dirt paths and walk around the island to enjoy the views. Please note that the Cha’llapampa community charges about 15 bolivianos to access its archaeological zone but it is where the best beaches are. Walking around the island is generally safe but be careful of stray dogs.

A popular itinerary for a one-day trip to the island is to get dropped off on the north of the island and walk to the south side. The walk takes about 3 hours so you can take the first boat which arrives at about 10:00-10:30 and catch the afternoon boat leaving the south side at about 15:30.

Relax: Find a quiet spot or pick a room with a view, watch the sunset and enjoy the stars at night. To the west, you can see the Peruvian side where Puno is or you can look to the east and admire the Cordillera Real in the distance.

Isla de la Luna: While on Isla del Sol you can visit the smaller island Isla de la Luna next to it. You can take a boat from Yumani or arrange it from Copacabana. This island is home to the Temple of the Virgins and can be explored in an hour by foot. There is a small village to the south. The island doesn’t have any electricity.

To return to Copacabana you can take the boat back in the morning at around 10:00 or in the afternoon at 15:30. Normally, the buses leaving and arriving Copacabana take the boats schedule into account so you have time to visit the islands and take a bus to your next destination.

All you need to know to travel from La Paz & Puno to Copacabana by bus

Puno to Copacabana by bus takes about 4 hours. From Bolivia, La Paz to Copacabana also takes about 4 hours by bus. This guide will give you all the information you need in order to plan your trip from La Paz and Puno to Copacabana and Isla del Sol in Bolivia. You will find here bus and boat schedules and suggestions on what to do and where to go.

Bus from La Paz to Copacabana

La Paz to Copacabana by bus takes about 4 hours. Buses leave throughout the day but the last bus to leave from the main terminal leaves at 13:30. There are no night buses to Copacabana because buses need to cross by ferry the strait of Tiquina which closes at night.

Schedule and prices for La Paz to Copacabana bus:

Bus CompanyBus ClassTime of DepartureTime of ArrivalPriceAdditional Information
Vicuna TravelNormal07:3011:30US$
4.38
Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
TurisbusTourist07:3011:30US$ 19Includes the crossing of Tiquina. Programmed stops to take pictures and pick-up service.
Trans TiticacaNormal08:0012:00US$ 3.94Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Diana TourNormal08:0012:00US$ 4.38Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Trans TiticacaNormal13:3017:30US$ 3.65Doesn’t include the crossing of Tiquina (2 Bs)
Bus from La Paz to Copacabana

Please note that this is the schedule for formal buses leaving from the main terminal in La Paz. The route between La Paz to Copacabana by bus is also operated by informal transport companies (buses and minibuses) leaving from the General Cemetery in La Paz. These leave every day between 6:00 and 18:00 (depending on the time of year).

There is no schedule as buses from La Paz to Copacabana leave whenever they are almost full and stop regularly along the way to drop or pick-up passengers. Because of the irregularity and lack of any guarantees regarding safety, we recommend traveling with an established company to avoid any problems. However they do provide the advantage of being more frequent and flexible. The price is about the same than buses leaving from the main terminal: 20/30 Bs.

View of Copacabana, Bolivia
View of Copacabana from the Calvario – Photo: sunny-upadhyay via Unsplash

Bus from Puno to Copacabana

The Puno to Copacabana bus takes about 4 hours by bus and the journey involves crossing the border at the Kasani office. Depending on the time of day this process can take longer. since the border is closed at night, this trip can only be done during the day.

These two cities, each on the shore of Lake Titicaca but in different countries, offer a very different experience of the lake. They are both touristic destinations: Puno is a larger city with a more developed tourism industry while Copacabana is smaller and more relaxed. But, from Copacabana you can visit the Isla de Sol which is perfect for travelers who want to enjoy a more quiet, independent experience.

Schedule and prices for bus from Puno to Copacabana:

Bus CompanyBus ClassTime of DepartureTime of ArrivalPriceAdditional Details
Trans TiticacaNormal06:0011:00US$ 10.22Migration in Kasani
Tour PeruNormal07:0012:00US$ 9Migration in Kasani
Huayruro ToursSemi lie-flat07:0012:00US$ 5.84Migration in Kasani
Huayruro ToursLie-flat07:0012:00US$ 7.30Migration in Kasani
TranszelaInca suite07:0010:30US$ 15.00Migration in Kasani
Trans TiticacaNormal07:3012:30US$ 10.22Migration in Kasani
Trans TiticacaNormal13:3018:30US$ 13.14Migration in Kasani
Bus schedule Puno to Copacabana

A guide to visiting Copacabana

Most people go to Copacabana to see Lake Titicaca and visit Isla del Sol, therefore it has the feel of a transit town, but if you take the time there are some interesting sights and things to do around depending on how much time you have.

  • If you only have a couple of hours in Copacabana, you can walk up the Cerro Calvario for amazing views of the lake (this is especially popular at sunset). The walk up can take 30 minutes to an hour and the hill is easily accessible from Copacabana. Look for the steps to the north of the city. You can also visit the Cathedral of Copacabana and enjoy some trout from the lake.
  • If you have at least a whole day in Copacabana, you can do a day-hike to Yampupata. This path is not a touristy one and very few people head that way but it provides a nice walk in the countryside with amazing views of the lake on a mostly flat-surface. This is perfect if you want to try high-altitude trekking and do something a bit different. The hike to Yampupata takes about 5 hours and from there you can hire a boat to Isla del Sol or a taxi back to Copacabana.

However, the absolute must-see for people is Isla del Sol. It is possible to go there for the day or even a few hours but ideally one should stay one night on the island to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the scenery. There are also pre-Columbian ruins on the island that are worth visiting.

Where to eat

There is an abundance of places where one can grab a bite in Copacabana, and like in any other touristy, transit town, it is difficult to pick the good places from the less reputable ones. Here are some options we recommend for those who want a quick lunch or a snack to take on their next bus. There are also plenty of more fancy sit-down restaurants where you can try the local trout, local or international dishes.

El Condor & The Eagle Cafe: For a good breakfast. It’s located inside Residencial Paris and they serve hearty homemade Irish bread, beans, porridge and organic coffee.

The Pit Stop: Located across from the main plaza where buses drop and pick passengers, it’s ideal for those who just want something small, tasty and convenient to go. They also have empanadas, cake and other quick bites to go.

Pan America: For those who crave pizza. They have a simple menu and a rotating selection of fresh ingredients for toppings.

Where to sleep

Backpackers on a small budget will find very affordable accommodation for 20-30 Bs. These hostels will provide very basic rooms and it is recommended to have a sleeping bag as it gets very cold at night. You can find some of these hostels online but the majority doesn’t have an online presence.

As with food, the range of choice for accommodation is wide and with some research you can find what suits your needs best, there are hotels on the shore of the lake and others near the center. There are also eco-lodges and more luxurious options. Prices range between 4 USD to about 150 USD per person per night.

How to get to Isla del Sol

The only way to get to Isla del Sol is by boat from Copacabana (or from Yampupata if you are hiking there). However, you can hire a private boat from Copacabana which could cost about 40-100 USD depending on your itinerary or you can take a public shared boat for 5-7 USD.

Please note: When arriving to Isla del Sol you will be charged an an admission fee of 10 bolivianos.

Boat from Copacabana to Isla del Sol

Shared boats leave twice a day at 8:30 and 13:30 and the journey takes about 1:30 hours to the south part of the island and 2 hours to the north side. Boats stop on both sides so make sure to specify where you want to be dropped off and, if you are doing the trip in one day, where you want to be picked up.

Please note:

For the last two years the island was experiencing a conflict between the north and south sides with the northern part being closed off to tourists. It has finally been solved and tourists can now access both sides again. However, there may be small changes of schedule so please take into account that the times given here might be subject to change.

Isla del Sol, Bolivia
Isla del Sol – Photo: Christopher Crouzet via Unsplash

What to do on Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol is often an underestimated destination where travelers wish they had staid longer. The views, tranquility and absence of motorized vehicles make it the perfect spot to relax between two tours/treks or long bus journeys. While you are there, we would recommend spending one night there to have time to really appreciate how special this place is.

Suggested itinerary for visiting Isla del Sol

  • The north side of the island is where most of the touristic attractions are with pre-Columbian ruins such as: The Rock of the Puma, or Titi Kharka; the Inca Table, supposedly used for human sacrifices and the Footsteps of the Sun. You first arrive at Cha’llapampa, the town on the northern end of the island. From there you can also visit the Gold Museum which displays Inca treasures discovered underwater off the island. 
  • In the south side is the Yumani community from where you can take the Inca steps down to the port and stop at the Fountain of Youth. Further down south from Yumani is the temple of Pilcocaina. There are not as many sights in the south side but there are plenty of accommodation choices ranging from backpacker hostels to luxurious eco-lodges. There are also more options for food and drinks there.

Explore

You can follow dirt paths and walk around the island to enjoy the views. Please note that the Cha’llapampa community charges about 15 bolivianos to access its archaeological zone but it is where the best beaches are. Walking around the island is generally safe but be careful of stray dogs.

Another popular itinerary for a one-day trip to the island is to get dropped off on the north of the island and walk to the south side. The walk takes about 3 hours so you can take the first boat which arrives at about 10:00-10:30 and catch the afternoon boat leaving the south side at about 15:30.

Relax

If you want to relax, find a quiet spot or pick a room with a view, watch the sunset and enjoy the stars at night. To the west, you can see the Peruvian side or you can look to the east and admire the Cordillera Real in the distance.

Isla de la Luna: While on Isla del Sol you can visit the smaller island Isla de la Luna next to it or you can take a boat from Yumani or arrange it from Copacabana. This island is home to the Temple of the Virgins and can be explored in an hour by foot. There is a small village to the south and please note that the island doesn’t have any electricity.

Finally, to return to Copacabana you can take the boat back in the morning at around 10:00 or in the afternoon at 15:30. Normally, the buses leaving and arriving Copacabana take the boats schedule into account so you have time to visit the islands and take a bus to your next destination.

You can find here more information on bus from Copacabana to La Paz or Copacabana to Puno.

Check our other Bolivia Travel Guides!

Why you should visit La Paz in July

Bolivia was, technically, the first Latin-American nation to declare its independence. This took place on 16th July 1809 in La Paz where insurgent and revolutionary Pedro Domingo Murillo took arms, somewhere around where the current Plaza Murillo stands today. However, this lasted about 6 months until the Spaniards took back the control of the capital and the country. Bolivia waited another 16 years to be independent again, on 6 August 1825.

This is why, July is a very special month for all paceños and the best time to visit Bolivia. The city is known to celebrate with concerts, theater and dance. Most of the celebration is held on the evening of the 15th, during what is called verbana. People celebrate in the streets of La Paz while drinking hot drinks such as sucumbe. Sucumbe is a tradition on its own, only available around this time of year. It is a Bolivian version of the eggnog with milk, eggs and singani, the Bolivian grape-base liqueur.

During the verbana, there is a huge street party at Plaza San Francisco where people can eat, drink and enjoy free concerts. Thus, tourists in La Paz will be able to enjoy much more than the usual breathtaking sights, cable car rides across the city and towering mountains.

Chola Pacena in La Paz, Bolivia

The celebrations include cultural events, with art and photography shows, food festivals, folklore and poetry readings. On the 16th there is a parade and the day is a local bank holiday.

But festivities don’t stop here. Since 1988, every year between July and August takes place the Entrada Folklórica Universitaria, it is a dancing celebration organised by the Unversidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA) in La Paz to honor local traditions. University departments all dance in a long parade that starts at about 8:30 in the morning and lasts all day turning eventually into a party.

Tourists and locals can enjoy watching traditional dances performed by the students in folkloric outfits: Suri Sikuris, Salaque, Tinku, Doctorcitos and the Morenada, Diablada and Caporales.

Usually this event is on the last Saturday of July. This year it will be held on August 3rd.

Because National Independence Day is on August 6th, the month of July and August are celebratory months, the streets are decorated with the colors of the department of La Paz (green and red), giving it almost a Christmas-y feel.

July and August may be winter months and the coldest of the year but the constant blue sky and warming sun make it a very enjoyable time to walk around La Paz and explore its surroundings.

Enjoy the sunny days and stunning views of the mountains around during which is arguably, the best time to visit La Paz.

View of Illimani from Mirador Killi Killi
View of Illimani from Mirador Killi Killi

 

Featured

La Paz to Uyuni | A complete guide

Updated: 02 July 2019

Here you will find a complete guide which will provide all the information you need to book your transport to Uyuni, what to do you when you arrive in Uyuni, how to get around, and how to plan for your salts flat tour, as well as information for after your tour.

If you’re traveling through South America, you surely do not want to miss these two destinations: Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flats on Earth with 12,000 km2 of salt extending in all visible directions.

This guide will cover the following:

  1. How to get to Uyuni from La Paz
  2. What to do in Uyuni
  3. How to book your Uyuni salt flats tour
  4. How to choose the right tour for you
  5. Other useful general information

alone vicuna in the desert Sud-Lipez
A vicuna – Photo: Lesly Derksen via Unsplash

1. How to get to Uyuni

There are 3 ways to travel from La Paz to Uyuni:

  1. Making a direct trip by bus.
  2. Going by bus from La Paz to Oruro and then from Oruro to Uyuni by train.
  3. By plane (direct flight).

Bus from La Paz to Uyuni

There are many La Paz to Uyuni bus options. Tickets Bolivia works with Panasur, Trans Omar, Cruz del Norte and Trans Titicaca, all trustworthy and reliable companies that offer clients good quality services. Their schedules are the following. All these buses are night bus:

Company Bus class Route Time of departure and arrival Prices in US Dollars
Trans Omar Semi lie-flat/Lie-flat 3 rows Direct service 20:00/6:00 (+1 day( $14.60/21.90
Panasur Lie-flat Direct service 20:00/6:00 (+1 day) $14.60/21.90
Cruz del Norte Semi lie-flat/Lie-flat Direct service 20:30/6:30 (+1 day) $14.60/21.90
Trans Titicaca Lie flat Direct service 22:00/7:00 (+1 day) $29.93

All the buses leave from the main bus terminal of La Paz, located between Avenida Peru and Avenida Uruguay. The bus station is located here: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_la_paz.php

Uyuni has no proper bus terminal, but it has a street where buses depart from and arrive at. Here is the map and street address: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_uyuni.php

Tips:

  • These companies don’t offer food or refreshment during the trip. Sometimes they will take sellers on board offering drinks or food, this is a common custom for buses in Bolivia. Sometimes they will also stop to pick passengers or packages along the way.
  • Buses should come with heating and blankets as the journey gets cold at night on the altiplano but it is better to always come prepared. It will also be very cold (whatever the time of year) when arriving in Uyuni at 5:30-6:00 so better have warm layers.
  • There are other bus companies doing this route, another very good company that offers a more tourist bus experience is Todo Turismo with buses leaving at 21:00 every day and tickets costing about 37 us$.

Train from La Paz to Uyuni (via Oruro)

With this option, passengers have to travel first from La Paz to Oruro by bus (the cost is around 5 US$) and then take the train to Uyuni. 

1- Buses depart from La Paz to Oruro every 30 minutes from the bus terminal of La Paz (see map above). The trip lasts around four hours and the buses arrive at the bus terminal of Oruro, located on Gregorio Reynolds Av. The cost of the bus should be about 30-35 bolivianos. Here is the map: https://ticketsbolivia.com.bo/googlemaps/terminal_oruro.php

2 -Once you are in Oruro, you must take a taxi to the train station, located on Avenida Velasco Galvarro.

The trains that travel from Oruro to Uyuni are Wara Wara del Sur and Expreso del Sur, they are both owned by Ferroviaria Andina and people can choose between two different classes: 2nd class and Executive.

Wara Wara del Sur leaves on Wednesdays and Sundays at 19:00, arriving in Uyuni at 02:20 in the morning. Expreso del Sur leaves on Tuesdays and Fridays at 14:00, arriving in Uyuni at 21:20. 

This option allows the traveler to enjoy the trip by train and to travel during the day so to enjoy the views of the altiplano. It is a longer journey but it also allows passengers to rest the night before their tour. The trains also have a restaurant wagon where they can purchase drink and food during their journey. 

giorgia-romiti-Ni0fXNmEPJ4-unsplash
Flamingos, Bolivia – Photo: Giorgia Romiti via Unsplash

Flights from La Paz to Uyuni

There are two Bolivian airlines doing this route with the following departure times:

  • BoA – Boliviana de Aviacion : 8:40
  • Amaszonas: 06:30, 09:50, 19:15, 20:30

The flight lasts about an hour and departure are in the mornings and the evenings. The prices start at about 95 US$ and up to 170 US$ for one way. Flying has the advantage of being the fastest option. Flights are scheduled early and later in the day so travelers can catch their tour the same day and return the same day after the tour ends. See below more information on the Uyuni tours. 

2. What to do in Uyuni

Buses arrive early in the morning – the first buses usually arrive at around 5:30 but it can be earlier. Passengers have time to charge their phones, eat something and buy whatever is needed before the tour, or book a tour if they haven’t done it. Agencies open at around 7:00 and tours leave at around 10:00. Until then there are options of coffee shops with Wi-Fi and hot drinks/food open from 5:00 to accommodate early arrivals.

The train arrives later at night (Trains arrive either at 21:20 or 2:20 in the morning) so it is recommended to book accommodation before hand. The train station is located in the center of Uyuni so you can easily book a hotel nearby.

The airport is located very near the town, most tour agencies will pick up passengers at the airport directly before the tour and drop them off there after. Otherwise there will be ways of transportation available to take you to your accommodation.

Here are some good food options if you are in Uyuni and are looking for a place to eat while you wait for your next bus/train/flight:

Breakfast Nonis: Opens early in the morning so you can go straight here after the long bus ride and warm with a hot drink and some simple food. The WiFi works well and there are plugs to charge your phone.

Minuteman Revolutionary Pizza: Located inside a hotel in the center of Uyuni, this pizza place is the perfect stop after your tour while waiting for your bus. It has a good selection of pizzas which also happen to be very good.

Lliphi: This is another very good option to wait during the afternoon. This restaurant/cafe-bistro has food, music, drinks and board games which will keep you occupied while you wait.

Tika: A more upscale option, this restaurant has a nice atmosphere and good-quality dishes.

Extreme Fun Pub: Like its name, this is a fun place meet fellow travelers if you happen to spend the night in Uyuni and are looking for a party and good drinks.

Landrover in the desert, Bolivi
Photo: Peter Conlan via Unsplash

3. How to book your Uyuni salt flats tour

Tours can be booked online, in La Paz or directly in Uyuni when arriving in the morning. When in Uyuni, from as early as 5:00, tour agents will come forward trying to sell you a tour. It’s best to have an idea of which tour agencies you want to go to and go there directly to inquire for availability and prices.

But first, should you book your tour in advance? You can book your tour online or in La Paz or any travel agency in the country. If you want to have your trip planned and not worry about it, it is the best option. It is also recommended to book ahead if traveling in a large group. (Cars can carry up to 6 passengers – not including the driver). If you are travelling solo or with one other person, you can easily find space directly in Uyuni as agencies will be trying to fill their cars and bargain the prices due to the high competition.

In the case that you haven’t booked a tour yet, there are over 100 tour agencies and it can be overwhelming to have to choose between all the choices. Here are some tips to help you choose which company to travel with in Uyuni:

  • Do some research about the tour agencies online, TripAdvisor is a reliable source of information as well as other traveler’s forums. When you have found some options go around and check for prices, tour descriptions and availability, compare the different operators before making a decision. If you are in Uyuni, tours will leave around 10:00 so there is plenty of time to choose. Don’t feel rushed to decide on the spot.
  • The average price for a shared 3-day tour with a Spanish-speaking driver is about 750-800 bolivianos (115 US$). It is not recommended to go for a cheaper option as this could mean unsafe travel conditions. If you are paying for a more expensive tour make sure to know what are the added extras (usually English-speaking driver and private rooms). Paying more could just mean slightly better food and a bottle of wine in the evening so make sure to know exactly what you are paying for and decide if it’s worth it.
  • You will need to have water, good sunglasses, a hat, warm clothing, a sleeping bag which can usually be rented with your tour agent.
  • Car can carry 7 people maximum (including the driver). Do not pick a tour agency that says otherwise and who is willing take more people.
  • Bring cash with you as ATMs don’t always work in Uyuni and there is no place to exchange money. Tour agencies will accept US dollars and Bolivianos but the exchange rate may not be as good as in La Paz.

4. How to choose the right tour for you

There are about 4 different options for your Uyuni tour.

1 – One-day tour

First, and a very popular option is the one-day tour that can come with variations depending on the season with sunrise or sunset and even stargazing options. I would recommend this option only if your time/budget is limited and you absolutely have no other option. Tours will start at around 10:00 in the morning and return right after sunset. Most tours will take you to the train cemetery, Colchani, and then head to the salar for lunch. The afternoon is dedicated to taking the traditional fun pictures and a visit to the Tunupa volcano where there are good viewpoints and archaeological sites to explore.

2 – Three-day tour

The most popular option is the three-day tour. The tours follow the same route with small variations. On the first day you will go to the salt flats and spend most of the afternoon there before heading to your accommodation right after sunset. The first night is spent in a salt hostel at the edge of the salar with amenities varying depending on the tour booked.

The second is a lot of driving towards the National Reserve Eduardo Abaroa, you will see active volcanoes, lagoons and beautiful landscapes. The highlight of that day is the Laguna Colorada where tours stop the longest. This is usually the last stop of the day and accommodation the second is usually more rustic and at an higher altitude (around 4.700 meters above sea level) making it the coldest night of the trip.

On the third day you will most likely head before down to the geysers and then go to the hot springs where you can bathe, have breakfast and rest before the last stop of the tour. At Laguna Verde located very near the border with Chile the groups split; those wanting to continue to Chile will cross the border and the others will return to Uyuni. The rest of the day is mostly drive with stops for lunch and special sights. The cars take a different route to go back. Tours return to Uyuni at around 16:30-17:00.

3 – Two-day and four-day tours

These options are not always offered by agencies as a shared tour. If you are traveling in a group of 6, you can easily arrange a private tour and select what you want to see and do.

If you can’t afford a private tour, some companies do offer these as shared tours. You can find some of these options here. If you are interested in these options it is better to do some research beforehand and book it before getting to Uyuni as you may not be able to find what you want on the day.

Also please note that there are 4-day tours from Tupiza (instead of Uyuni) which are also a good alternative for those who want a slightly different and more complete experience. These tours are slightly more expensive since they can only accommodate groups of 5 per car. The tour comes with a driver/guide and a cook. Also because they are less popular, fewer agencies operate them but they are of generally good quality. They also have the advantage to hit all the touristic stops at a different time than the tours coming from Uyuni or San Pedro de Atacama, which means that you can enjoy them with significantly less people.

5. Other useful general information

  • The high season is in December-January and July-August. Prices can be higher due to the high affluence of tourists during these months.
  • Temperatures get really cold during the tour, especially if you do the 3-day tour on the second night. July and August are winter month and temperatures can drop to -20°C or -4°F. Tours can rent you a sleeping bag but bring warm layers.
  • You will be affected by the altitude, especially for those who recently arrived in Bolivia and didn’t adjust properly. On the second and third day, tours go up to 5,000 meters above sea level. This affects the body on different levels, starting with headaches and trouble digesting. It is all completely normal but to avoid getting sick during the tour it is recommended to eat light, drink a lot and avoid alcohol.
  • Bring protection from the sun, sunglasses are indispensable but also protect your head and skin.
  • Five liters of water are recommended per person for a three-day tour.
  • You can start the tour from Uyuni, Tupiza or San Pedro de Atacama. Tours from San Pedro de Atacama follow the same itinerary as the tours from Uyuni, except in the reverse order: the last day is spent on the salt flats and transfer is possible to Uyuni.
  • During the rainy season (November to April/May), parts of the salt flats can be flooded causing changes to the itinerary as it is impossible to access some sites. However, the rainy season has the advantage to have the mirror effect happen where the sky reflects on the inundated white surface.

We hope the information is useful. You can buy bus tickets online and with plenty of time beforehand in order to plan your trip at www.ticketsbolivia.com. If you have any doubts, please contact us at info@ticketsbolivia.com.