Bolivia: Trek the Cordillera de Apolobamba Medicine Trail – 12 days

Discover the hidden treasures of Bolivia’s Apolobamba Range, a remote and awe-inspiring region nestled in the western reaches of the country, just north of Lake Titicaca and straddling the Peruvian border. This captivating journey takes you far from the typical tourist routes, allowing you to explore pristine landscapes that remain untouched by the crowds.

While accommodations near our prime locations may be limited, this presents a unique opportunity to experience the region in its purest form, free from the hustle and bustle of tourist crowds. The Apolobamba Range is a true gem, offering a diverse array of stunning locations that await your discovery.

Ensuring your comfort and safety, we prioritize acclimatization to the high altitudes of the region. We spend a couple of nights in La Paz, followed by a couple more around Lake Titicaca, allowing everyone to adapt gradually to the altitude. During this time, you’ll have the chance to explore unparalleled photo locations in and around La Paz and Lake Titicaca, setting the stage for excellent photographic opportunities.

Once acclimatized, our journey takes us to the plains of Ulla Ulla, venturing deep into the heart of the Apolobamba Range for a couple of nights. We then continue northward to the rarely visited northern Apolobamba Range, immersing ourselves in this pristine alpine zone for an additional night.

As we bid farewell to the Apolobamba Range, we head south for one last night on the Ulla Ulla plains, nestled beside a serene lake before departing the region. Our route towards La Paz includes a stop in Sorata, a charming town at the base of Mt. Illampu, offering some of the most breathtaking vistas in the Cordillera Real.

Our journey takes us to an oasis for a night’s stay, where you’ll enjoy milder temperatures, comfortable accommodations, and delectable cuisine. On the final day, we traverse the Cordillera Real, visiting iconic peaks like Mt. Condoriri and Mt. Huayna Potosi, renowned for their stunning beauty.

Our adventure culminates in La Paz, where we celebrate with a memorable farewell dinner.  Throughout this journey, we position you in the right places to capture remarkable images, while we handle all the logistics.

The Apolobamba region is a living testament to Bolivia’s Andean heritage, preserving the timeless beauty of centuries past.

The itinerary outlines our day-to-day exploration, and the images you’ll capture will showcase the breathtaking allure and authentic essence of Bolivia. Our aim is to ensure you return with images that fill your memories with unforgettable moments.

Due to altitude and rainy season, this trip is most enjoyable during the shoulder and dry seasons, from April to November. Please share your preferred dates, and we’ll arrange a custom departure for you and your group. Get ready to embark on a photographic adventure that promises to leave a lasting impression!

Tour Length
12 Days
12 Nights
Start / End City
Arrival: La Paz, Bolivia
Departure: La Paz, Bolivia
Best Season

April to November

Group Size Limit

10 Guests

Transportation

4x4 vehicles

Accommodations

Hotels & Hostels

Challenge Level

Level 4 – Challenging

Highlights

  • La Paz, Bolivia – the world’s highest Capital city, hiding between the Andes and Altiplano
  • Andes Mountains – the world’s longest chain with many peaks over 6,000 m (20,000 ft)
  • Lake Titicaca – the world’s highest navigable lake in Bolivia and Peru at 3,810 m (12,500 ft)
  • Bolivia’s Altiplano – 500×170 km (310×105 mi) at av. height of 4,000 m (13,000 ft)
  • The remote Apolobamba range where the ancient cultures of medicine men still thrive
  • Native Aymara and Quechua people that are part of the intricate social fabric of Bolivia
  • Visit Inca ruins that are the roots of the most expansive empire in South America
  • Visit colonial cities and ruins from the Spanish empire that controlled the region for 300 years
  • Unique flora and fauna of the Andes; condor, vicuña, llama, alpaca, Suri, Queñua tree
  • 4×4 vehicle overland adventure – taking you to remote and breathtaking landscapes

Prices

Our tour prices are based on a tiered pricing modelMore guests = lower price, per person.  That means the prices go down on a per-person basis as more people book onto a specific tour departure.  Prices are based on double occupancy / twin share basis.  All prices are in U$ Dollars.  

Contact us for guidance on a quote for your group or private trip.

Lowest7-10 travelers$ 4,695 / per person
Average4-6 travelers$ 5,545 / per person
Optimum2-3 travelers$ 6,395 / per person
Highest1 solo traveler$ 7,685 / for 1 person
  • Single Supplement Fees are quoted per tour.  Contact us for details.
  • Deposit: $ 700.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee, included in the final price).
  • International airfare is NOT included in price.
  • For airline tickets, contact Geo Travel at 210-225-7903

Daily Itinerary

The sky-high capital city of La Paz (av. height of 11,500') lies in a deep canyon below the Bolivian Andes Mountains.

Day 1: Arrival in La Paz – Afternoon City Tour

Depending on your international flight schedule you will arrive very early in the morning (between 2-6 AM) at El Alto International Airport. The airport is in the city of El Alto which is on the edge of the Altiplano at 13,200 ft / 4023 m above La Paz (downtown La Paz is at 12,000 ft). You are now at high altitude; so, you need to be aware of the effects of altitude on your body; you may feel light-headed and short of breath, but that’s normal. Once we drop down 3,000 ft / 900 m in elevation to your hotel (10,200 ft / 3,100 m), you should feel much better.

Upon arrival, you go through Bolivian Immigration for your tourist visa (issued upon arrival) then Customs (Aduana). Your guide will be waiting for you at the general passenger meeting point, just look for the sign from Sergio Photo Tours. We will take your luggage to our private vehicle for transport to the hotel. We’ll have bottled water in the vehicle for you, which helps with the acclimatization process.

Private vehicle transport to your hotel

We drive from the airport to the lowest elevation in the city of La Paz which sits at 10,200 ft / 3,100 m. We’ll be heading down a winding mountain road with breathtaking views of the valley below. We head to Hotel Mitru Sur (5*) or similar hotel, located in Calacoto-Achumani neighborhood. You’ll check in and rest until lunch time (noon) at the hotel.

The best way to acclimatize to altitude, is to move slowly, drink plenty of water and rest when you are tired. Acclimatization time is a very personal affair, some do it quickly, and others take more time. It can take a few hours or a few days. Listen to your body. We design all high-altitude itineraries with acclimatization time built in.

La Paz city tour

At 2 pm we’ll begin a 4-hour city tour of this fascinating city deep in the heart of the Andes; visiting open air markets, colonial neighborhoods, the witches’ market and take in the vast canyon of La Paz from breathtaking viewpoints. We return to your hotel so you can rest before dinner.

Hotel & dinner

After the city tour concludes you can freshen up and rest before dinner. We will get to know each other better over dinner and talk about the rest of the trip in detail. Now would be a good time to make sure everyone is set with all their clothing and equipment questions and anything else they need to do. Once we leave La Paz, we are not coming back until the end of the trip. We recommend a light dinner, avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime. During the day you may want to enjoy a Mate de Coca (coca tea), a local herbal tea that helps with acclimatization, but refrain from it at night. Anise and chamomile teas help with digestion as well.

Keep drinking water, it’s very important for acclimatization.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included: L, D

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Day 2: La Paz – Kollana – Cordillera Real – 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 (21,122 ft. / 6,440 m) sentinel that looms over La Paz. The geographical ruggedness of this region is stunning, and you will see a great deal of canyons, multi-colored cliffs, deep 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 together at a local restaurant.

Hotel: Hotel Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included: B, L, D

Colorful tapestry of agricultural fields next to Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.

Day 3: La Paz – Lake Titicaca – Copacabana

After breakfast we depart north to the portside town of Copacabana on the shores of mystical Lake Titicaca. There will be countless photo ops along the route so we want to be prepared to shoot quickly if an opportunity arises. As we bypass the smaller part of the lake and cross the Altiplano we drop down into the Strait of Tiquina where the vehicle will cross on a barge to the Peninsula of Copacabana. Once across we continue the journey high above the lake with spectacular views of the Cordillera Real (Royal Mountain Range) rising above Lake Titicaca and the Islands of the Moon and Sun before arriving in Copacabana. Lunch upon arrival. There are a lot of pilgrims that come to Copacabana for religious blessings, specifically of their cars, so there may be unique opportunities to shoot as they happen in front of the cathedral. We will check into Hotel La Cupula then climb up to the Calvario, high above the town and overlooking Lake Titicaca to get a better sense of the relationship between the lake, the mountains and this pilgrimage site. The views from this promontory are vast and you will get a chance to catch the sunset this evening and if you are an early-riser, the sunrise next morning. Dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Hotel Rosario del Lago.

Hotel: Rosario del Lago (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 4: Copacabana – Island of the Sun – Copacabana

Today is dedicated to getting an early start so we can shoot the sunrise before having breakfast. After breakfast we depart via 4×4 for about an hour to the portside town of Yampupata then board a motorized boat to the Island of the Sun. The boat trip is approximately 1.5 hours to the northernmost bay on the Island of the Sun. From a small port we do a short climb to the area known as the Chincana Inca ruins where we will visit where, according to legend, the first the Inca was first born and see the ruins where the virgins were kept for the Inca rulers. The views are pretty spectacular from the ruins and one can get sense of how large Lake Titicaca really is, with Peru in the near distance. We will hike back to Challapampa for about 45 minutes and arrive at the town where we will have lunch. Afterwards, we will take the boat back to Yampupata where our vehicle will be waiting. The people on the peninsula still cling to a basic way of life so there are many photo ops of people tending to their crops, grazing animals and fishermen pretty much everywhere you look. The road heads high above Lake Titicaca and then drops into the village of Sampaya where most of the houses are built of stone walls and straw roofs, which is very typical of the Altiplano and Andes regions. We want to be in the area for sunset as the views are truly spectacular and in some spots we can see the sun set in the west over Peru and see the last rays of the sun hit the Cordillera Real to the east with blazing colors! We will return to Copacabana after sunset. Dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Hotel Rosario del Lago.

Hotel: Rosario del Lago (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 5: Copacabana – Ulla-Ulla Wildlife Reserve

For those that like sunrises don’t miss this one in the morning – the views early in the morning and in the calmness of the quiet streets of Copacabana are a perfect time to catch fleeting moments of life in a developing world. This is a special time of the day, take advantage of it. After breakfast we depart to the Apolobamba Range. The drive takes us back across the peninsula of Copacabana and the Straits of Tiquina towards the Apolobamba Range and Ulla-Ulla Wildlife Preserve. We will have lunch en route. We should arrive in Ulla-Ulla in the late afternoon. Dinner and rest. This is our first night of camping as there are no other options in the area.

Overnight tent camping

Meals included: B, L, D

Day 6: Ulla-Ulla Wildlife Reserve – Sunchulli Valley

Sunrise should light up the Cordillera Apolobamba to the east and create a nice silhouette, so an early start is recommended. Breakfast at an appointed time. We take advantage of the morning light to create images of the Ulla Ulla plains with the Cordillera Apolobamba as a strong backdrop. We pack-up and head into the heart of the range and drive to the mining town of Ilo-Ilo then head to the Sunchulli Valley. This is one of the most beautiful and impressive valleys in the region so we will spend a couple of nights here. After choosing our camp site we will head off to take advantage of the afternoon light that will light-up the valleys and glacier-covered peaks above our heads! The photo ops in this valley are numerous and you will be pulled in all directions. We suggest choose a few good view points and work them more. Dinner at an appropriate time.

Overnight tent camping

Meals included: B, L, D

A high-altitude bog lies at 15,750'/4,800m and is across the way from Mt. Sunchuli (17,200'/5,300m) and reflects the peaks of the Apolobamba Range in Bolivia during winter.

Day 7: Sunchulli Valley

A sunrise shoot before breakfast. We’re here for the day so we should walk to the end of the valley and see what nature has in store for us. Picnic lunch. The afternoon provides great photo ops of the glacier-covered peaks as well as the green puna wetlands. We have plenty of options so we should have lots of great images by the end of the day. Dinner at an appropriate time.

Overnight tent camping

Meals included: B, L, D

Early morning clouds envelop the high peaks and deep valleys in Bolivia's Apolobamba Range during winter.

Day 8: Sunchulli Valley – Ulla-Ulla – Pelechuco

We have one last sunrise photo op today so let’s take advantage of it. After breakfast we pack up and drive out of Sunchuli and head back to the plains of Ulla Ulla then head north and back down into the northen end of the Apolobamba Range to the east. We are going to gain a lot of altitude coming out Sunchulli then loose as much when dropping into the valley near the town of Pelechuco. We will spend time shooting the valley as there are numerous massive glacier-covered peaks in the area as well as a gnarly whitewater river that flows east into the Amazon basin. Dinner and rest. Overnight at Aguas Blancas Hostel for the night.

Hostel: Aguas Blancas (2*)

Meals included: B, L, D

Day 9: Pelechuco – Northern Apolobamba Range

After breakfast we head north deeper into the Northern Apolobamba Range, a place where very few tourists go so we expect to have a location to ourselves. We drive towards Puina and then find a place to camp and get out there to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the Andes. Lunch en route. We should be in a good place to shoot the sunset this afternoon. Dinner at an appropriate time.

Overnight tent camping

Meals included: B, L, D

The glacier-covered summit of Mt. Akhamani (18,589'/5,666m) rises above the puna and an alpine lake in the Apolobamba Range in Bolivia.

Day 10: Northern Apolobamba Range – Lago Nube

We never want to miss the sunrise so an early start is planned. After breakfast we head back towards Pelechuco then head out the valley onto the plains of Ulla Ulla. Along the way we should see vicunas and other wildlife as well as lakes and the rugged peaks of the southern Apolobamba Range. Lunch en route. Our destination is Lake Nube where we expect to have a great location for the sunset. Whenever there is a body of water, it offers many more options for making beautiful photographs. Dinner at an appropriate time.

Overnight tent camping

Meals included: B, L, D

Day 11: Lago Nube - Lake Titicaca - Sorata

A sunrise start for those that are keen. After breakfast we pack-up and head south out of the Ulla-Ulla plains and bid farewell to the Apolobamba Range. We drop out the highlands and then hug the shores of Lake Titicaca until we arrive in the town of Achacachi, where we get gas and keep moving. Lunch en route. Our destination is the pass above Sorata with impressive views of the Northern Cordillera Real – specifically Mt. Illampu and Mt. Ancohuma – both of which dominate the skyline with summits over 20,000’ and deep canyons above terraced fields as far as the eye can see. We hope to catch the sunset at this point and are hoping the weather cooperates. After sunset we drop into the deep canyon to the town of Sorata. Our hostel is 10-minutes from the main plaza and is a little slice of paradise in the region. We check-in and have dinner at the hostel.

Hostel: Altai Oasis (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 12: Sorata – Huayna Potosi – La Paz

A leisurely breakfast is in order as the hostel is such a nice place to just hang out and enjoy life. After a hearty breakfast we climb out of the canyon onto the Altiplano and head south, once again hugging the shores of Lake Titicaca before turning east into the heart of the Cordillera Real. Our destination is the village of Tuni and then the west face of Mt. Huayna Potosi (6,088m/19,985’), which is an impressive 3,000 ft face with rock and hanging glaciers that rise to the blue Andean sky above our heads. We hope to catch the sunset in the area before continuing onto La Paz after sunset. We arrive at Hotel Oberland in the early evening. Dinner together to celebrate a fantastic photo tour of the Bolivian highlands.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included: B, L, D

The sky-high city of El Alto, Bolivia (13,200') sprawls over the Altiplano just above a deep canyon where the city of La Paz (11,500') sits below the Andes Mountains.

Day 13: La Paz - Airport transfer day

Based on your flight schedule we will coordinate a departure time from the hotel. The ride from the hotel to the airport takes 45 minutes. Domestic flights require 1 hour arrival before departure and international flights require 3 hours arrival before departure. We will coordinate your hotel departure time when you arrive back in La Paz.

Hotel: none

Meals included: none.

End of our services.

Included

  • airport Transfers IN and OUT of your arrival city
  • private vehicle and driver
  • bi-lingual photographer guide
  • all hotel / hostel /estancia accommodations for all nights (based on double occupancy)
  • all daily meals as denoted on the itinerary as ‘B, L, D’ (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • all entry fees and permits to protected areas: national parks, islands and museums
  • domestic airfare within the destination country (if there is a domestic flight in the itinerary, it’s included)
  • unlimited bottled water per person per day
  • snacks during the whole trip
  • more than 25 years of tourism experience

Not Included

  • international airfare to destination country
  • visa requirement and fees
  • personal expenses of any kind (liquor, laundry, personal purchases, etc.)
  • telephone, email, mobile phone, Wi-Fi services
  • emergency evacuation expenses
  • personal travel or health insurance, doctor visits
  • gratuities for guides, drivers and other personnel

 

We, of course, would do whatever is necessary in case of medical emergency and evacuate to the closest hospital or clinic to make sure you receive medical care.