There are countless of locations in the Bolivian highlands that merit a visit. In our opinion one of the most impressive and least-visited regions in Bolivia is the remote Apolobamba Range in western Bolivia, north of Lake Titicaca, straddling the Peruvian border.
The Apolobamba is a long way from the tourist route thus we cannot count on suitable accommodations near our prime locations, so we will spend some of the tour days camping, but that is a blessing as the locations we are headed to should be in great shape and not overrun with tourists. The most important aspect of being in the region is that the range is absolutely spectacular and has a great variety of beautiful locations we will visit.
We take acclimatization seriously, so our plan is to spend a couple of nights in La Paz and a couple around Lake Titicaca, making sure everyone is adapting to the altitude properly. The photo locations we are familiar with around La Paz and Lake Titicaca are second-to-none and we have daily trips to locations that should provide excellent photo-ops.
Once acclimatized we head to the plains of Ulla Ulla and into the heart of the Apolobamba range for a couple of nights. We continue north to the northern Apolobamba Range, which is rarely visited by visitors, and spend one more night in this fantastic alpine zone.
We depart the Apolobamba, heading south for one last night on the Ulla Ulla plains next to a lake before leaving the region. Working our way towards La Paz we like to visit a special place called Sorata, a small town at the foot of Mt. Illampu which has some of the most spectacular views in the Cordillera Real.
We spend one night at this oasis and enjoy warmer temperatures, great accommodations and food. Our last day is a journey across the Cordillera Real visiting Mt. Condoriri and Mt. Huayna Potosi – two of the most beautiful and iconic mountains in all of Bolivia.
Our journey ends in La Paz with a dinner celebration at Hotel Oberland. This is a journey where we put you at the right place so you can make great images, while we take care of the logistics.
Day 1: Arrival in La Paz – Afternoon City Tour
Arrival in La Paz, Bolivia. After clearing immigration and customs you will be transferred to Hotel Oberland and you have the morning free to rest and acclimatize. Lunch at the hotel. Afterwards we have a city tour to see the impressive setting where La Paz sits. We’ll have a brief meeting afterwards to check plans and prepare for the trip. Dinner on your own. To acclimatize better, we recommend plenty of rest, eating lightly and drinking lots of water and mate de coca (coca tea). Avoid alcohol or caffeine at night. Overnight at Hotel Oberland (3*) (L)
Day 2: La Paz – Kollana – Cordillera Real – La Paz
After an early breakfast we head into the nearby mountains to continue our acclimatization while still making photos of the impressive Cordillera Real. We drive on dirt roads up and out of the canyon where La Paz sits into another set of canyons closer to the Andes. There are a few key places where we will have an opportunity to shoot vast and rugged landscapes only a few miles from downtown La Paz. We return to the hotel for a late lunch. In the afternoon we will get together and download the images from the morning and talk about the workflow, digital capture, processing, etc. as well as vision, framing and how to make better images. There is much to cover so we want to make sure everyone is up to speed on the technology and how to best deal with their particular digital asset management needs. Dinner on your own. Overnight at Hotel Oberland (3*). (B,L)
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 (3*). (B,L,D)
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 (3*). (B,L,D)
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. (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. (B,L,D)
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. (B,L,D)
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. (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. (B,L,D)
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. (B,L,D)
Day 11: Lago Nube – 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. Overnight at Hostal Altai Oasis. (B,L,D)
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. Overnight at Hotel Oberland (3*) (B,L,D)
Day 13: La Paz – Airport – Home
We provide a complimentary shuttle service to the airport for those departing today.
7-10 people: $ 3,595.00/per person
2-3 people: $ 4,395.00/per person
1 person: $ 6,300.00