Coke Smith Photography & Travelogue

Amazing Bolivia: High Andes and Amazona!

A Cholita seen in a remote village near Lake Titicaca.


There is little doubt that Bolivia is one of my favorite countries in all of South America!  I truly loved exploring the high Andes regions as well as the humid lowland jungles in Madidi and the Bolivian Amazona.  The Altiplano is another world-class destination that is awe inspiring!

The below itinerary represents the one program I personally designed and was able to participate in during the summer of 1996.



DAY 1: LA PAZ: Upon arrival in La Paz, the group is met at the airport and transferred to hotel.Rest of the day free for relaxation or exploration of the city. Hotel Plaza 5* or Presidente 5*.

DAY 2: LAKE TITIKAKA/TIWANAKU: The group departs at 08:00 for a visit to the ruins of Tiwanaku (semisubterranean temple, Kalasasaya, Door of the Sun, Akapana pyramid). We then carry on to Copacabana via Desaguadero. The group enjoys lunch on the shores of Lake Titikaka allowing for arrival at Copacabana in the afternoon. We then visit to the sanctuary and the Calvary station. We then have the unique experience of meeting with a Yatiri (Aymara wise man, natural medicine doctor and spiritual leader) for a ceremony of purification of our souls and a salute to the Sun God while the sun sets over the Great Sacred Lake. This a very fascinating cultural experience. Overnight in Hotel Rosario.

DAY 3: ISLAND OF THE SUN: We will leave early in the morning to the Island of the Sun by using a little road bordering the lake. On our arrival in Yampupata we will embark on a peaceful fishing boat with a native guide. We then visit the Island of the Sun, the birthplace of the Inca civilization and sacred source and stairways of Yumani and Palace of Pilkokaina. The group then returns to Copacabana early in the afternoon where there will be some free time. We carry on to La Paz through the strait of Tiquina. We will have plenty of time to stop on several occasions to photograph the spectacular sights from the natural viewpoints. And on the way, we get an opportunity to meet the famous totora reed boat builders and visit their small museum in Huatajata. Arrival in La Paz scheduled in the afternoon. Hotel Plaza 5* or Presidente 5*.

DAY 4: UYUNI: The group is transferred to airport for our early morning flight. We are met and assisted in Potosí and prepared for immediate departure to Uyuni (5 hours) for arrival in the afternoon. We have the rest of the afternoon free. Accommodation in local hotel.

DAY 5: UYUNI SALT FLATS: Today we begin an unforgettable trip through 12,000 km¨ (4,500 square miles) of fantastic landscapes and wide open high desert environments. The group visits the Isla Pescado in the center of the Salar desert which is famous for its particular fauna ( (including many species of rodents and hundreds of birds) and flora (giant cacti being the most conspicuous). We will stop there for lunch. We then continue exploring the salt flats in the afternoon. By sunset we will reach a hotel entirely made of pure salt, in the middle of the desert! Accommodation for the night in this very simple refuge.

DAY 6: UYUNI: The group will return trip to Uyuni and Potosí with box lunch en route. Overnight in hotel in Potosí.

DAY 7: YUNGAS: The group is transferred to the airport for our early morning flight. We are met in La Paz and immediately transferred to the Yungas, which is only 3 hours away from La Paz across the Andean range where we will find the humid forest of the Yungas on the edge of the Amazon basin. Our itinerary will take us through impressive transandean roads until we reach the small town of Coroico, an important center of production of citrus fruit and coca leaves. Overnight in Coroico.

DAY 8: CARANAVI/AMAZON BASIN: Our next destination is Caranavi (4 to 5 hours) with several stops on our way in order to observe the fascinating and prolific flora and fauna of the area. A number of birds can be seen along this journey. Arrival in the afternoon. Accommodation in hotel.

DAY 9: AMAZON BASIN: We carry on to Rurrenabaque, the main gateway to the Amazon basin of Bolivia. This is another 4 to 5-hour trip during which we will have many opportunities to stop for better views and birdwatching. Arrival in the afternoon. Accommodation in hotel.

DAY 10: NATIONAL PARK MADIDI: The group embarks on our five to six-hour boat ride up the Beni and Tuichi rivers toward the core of the national park which is contiguous with the Tambopata-Candamo reserve of Peru. We will spend 2 nights in Chalalan, the only lodge available in the park.

DAY 11: NATIONAL PARK MADIDI: Today we will explore the area around Madidi where over 300 species of birds have been documented. Many mammals can be seen also despite the dense vegetation. Overnight at the lodge.

DAY 12: RURRENABAQUE: Today we have our return trip (down river) to Rurrenabaque for more wildlife viewing. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 13: LA PAZ: Early departure for our flight back to La Paz. After we are transferred to the hotel, we have the rest of the day free. Hotel Plaza 5* or Presidente 5*.

DAY 14: LA PAZ: Today is a free day for optional activities. Hotel Plaza 5* or Presidente 5*.

DAY 15: TOUR ENDS: Transfer to airport for your international flight.



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 Here are some images from my trip to Bolivia!



Lake Titicaca is one of the most spectacular places in South America.  I tried to find the famous Lake Titicaca frogs but was there during the wrong season evidently.  Next time.




The ancient agricultural lands and terraces near Lake Titicaca are spectacular in the foreground of the snow-capped Andes.



At over 12,000 feet in elevation, La Paz is the highest major city in the world.  It took me a couple days just to get used to the elevation. Coco leaves helped a bit but it did take me a couple days to even sleep well.  I guess the non-stop barking of all the feral dogs didn't help much either.



A Brown Agouti seen in the compound of Madidi.  This was a phenomenal rainforest ecosystem that I hope to explore more thoroughly someday.



South American Coati were very common in Madidi as well. 




This Ocelot was more of a pet near the main compound at Madidi.  I did catch glimpses of wild ones during our night walks however.



A Cholita taking in the scenery near the outskirts of La Paz.




One of the many local markets we passed during our road trip in Bolivia.



The badlands desert formations on the way to the Altiplano.



Instead of taking the "Death Highway" to Bolivia's Amazona region, we flew.  The scenery of the surrounding Andes during the flight was absolutely stunning!




The Andean Goose is one of the few species that makes their homes at such high altittudes.



We saw many Andean Condors during our stay there but we came across some in the high desert perched right along the side of the road that allowed me to catch some close-up images.  The winds were strong that day which is why I think they were so close (they generally require strong winds in lower elevations to take flight). 




We were exploring some of the Pantanal-like wetlands near Rurrenabaque in northeastern sector of Bolivia when we caught these lazy Crabeating Foxes lounging in the early morning sunlight.

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