Remote and beautiful – Sajama National Park tour offers off-the beaten track.

Sajama National Park provides an excellent opportunity to discover a little visited part of southern Bolivia.

Trek in the shadow of Bolivia’s highest peak – Nevado Sajama (6,542m/21,463ft) – with this tour which is just 5 hours from La Paz.

Snow-capped volcanoes fringe the vast altiplano and high altitude lakes lie only a hike away in the mountains. You have the option to climb the non-technical 6,050 metre peak of Acotango.

Geysers and hot springs await and you can be sure to see a variety of typical Andean wildlife, such as llama, vicuna, alpaca, flamingos and viscachas amongst many.

 

More on Sajama National Park tour

Add a splash of culture by visiting the fascinating Andean Sistine Chapel and explore the village of Sajama and its picturesque little church when you stay in this remote community.

We have included the options of trekking and camping or alternatively enjoy several day walks, returning to your hotel in the evening.

For intrepid mountain climbers why not add the non-technical volcano climb of Acotango, at just over 6,000 m this is a challenge but achievable by fit and acclimatised explorers. We provide a local guide for this.

Either way you are up close to nature in this remote mountain environment.

We use simple hotel accommodation, but we can tailor this tour to be exclusively camping or hotel accommodation or a mix, whatever you prefer.

The colours of the national park are a beautiful mix of white, greens, yellows and browns and its geysers are set in a peaceful location, surrounded by mountains.

If you camp at one of the beautiful, coloured lagoons, we are most likely to be the only human souls there – bird life is prolific.



Trip Highlights

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  • Hike off the beaten track in the stunning Sajama national park mountain area on the border with Chile.

  • See altiplano wildlife - high mountain lakes have a wide array of water birds. Vicuña run wild, condors soar.

  • Soak tired limbs in community-run hot springs that overlook the high mountains.

  • Bespoke tour - sleep in comfy bed or camping in remote mountain areas.

  • Add a 6,000m trekking peak, a 2 or 3 day trek, or day walks. There are hikes for all.

  • The locals are llama and alpaca herders and are happy to chat about their lives and sell their hand knitted gloves, socks and jumpers and weavings to visitors.

What a stunning part of the Andes, for wilderness, wild life (flamingos, vicunas, viscachas), and vast open spaces, at over 4,000 metres this is not to be missed.

K. Jarvis, Sajama tour

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Full Itinerary

Day 1: Depart La Paz, Sistine Chapel, arrive Sajama village (4,000m), hotel (L,D)

We leave La Paz in our 4×4, crossing entire southern part of the Bolivian highlands.

We can enjoy great views of the mountain ranges to the south of La Paz and after a few hours pass beautiful rock formations.

After 3 hours we stop at the famous Sistine Chapel of the highlands, located in the village of Curaguara of Carangas.

Accompanied by a local guide we explore some of the local sites and discover their magic.

Afterwards we continue (2 hrs) to Sajama village (4,000m/13,123ft) where we spend the night in comfortable accommodation amid beautiful surroundings.

Day 2: Trek to Laguna Chiarkhota (5,100m), camping (B,L,D)

We leave the village of Sajama and head to Casilla, a small abandoned church well worth seeing.

From here we enter a valley with abundant wildlife such as llamas, alpacas, vicunas and the occasional group of rhea (ostrich) or an Andean puma if we are lucky. The trail starts to climb following a river with crystal-clear water to reach the beautiful Laguna Chiarkhota (5,100m/16,732ft), where we will set up our camp. It’s more than likely that we’ll be  the only ones to enjoy this location.

Mules carry our loads and our cook will prepare a delicious meal (5 hrs walking).

Alternatively we run this as a day walk and return to the village of Sajama and our basic hotel.

Day 3: Trek to Laguna Kasiri Khota (4,900m), visit geysers, return to Sajama, hotel (B,L,D)

After breakfast we trek through some marshland at the edge of this peaceful lagoon.

This trail takes us towards the border with Chile, and following a small path we reach Laguna Kasiri Khota (4,900m/16,076ft). From here we descend to some beautiful geysers where we can enjoy the heat coming from the water holes and take in our surroundings.

It’s a fascinating spectacle against a lovely background of mountain scenery.

We continue the descent to the village of Sajama. Accommodation at our hotel. (6 hrs walking)

Day 4: Trek to Sajama basecamp (4,800m), return to La Paz (B,L)

Today we cross open land and head towards the  base camp of Sajama (4,800m/15,748ft),with yesterday’s mountain ranges behind us and views of the lonely Sajama ahead of us.

Sajama is the highest mountain in Bolivia (6,542m/21,463ft) and once we reach basecamp we can enjoy views of its snowcapped peak. The ascent to basecamp is a straight forward walk of a couple of hours and a nice way to get up close to this mighty mountain.

Please note, we can arrange add ons to climb Sajama.

In the afternoon we return to La Paz. (4 hrs walking, 4-5 hours driving)


Prices From $1,255 / £1,064 per person

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What's Included?

English speaking guide, cook, food, (if camping then mules, tents and all necessary camping gear except sleeping bag) 3 nights simple hotel accommodation, national park entrance fees, private transport, all meals listed (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner), soft drinks during meals.

What's Not Included?

Flights, sleeping bag (can be hired), insurance, tips, personal items


Accommodation

This is a bespoke itinerary, and you can choose to camp, stay in hotels or a mixture of both.

When camping, we have a dining tent, toilet tent and you sleep in 2-man, high mountain tents.

Hotel accommodation is simple, with private bathrooms.

Tour Staff

This is a private trip with an experienced English-speaking mountain trek guide.

Our local Bolivian trekking guide, driver and cook accompany you throughout.

If trekking, local horsemen will support the walk, arranging transportation of all equipment.


Meals

Vegetarians and many other dietary requirements are catered for without problems. Please let us know in advance of any requirements you have.

We travel with our own cook and provisions so that we can control the variety and quality of food in this remote area.

You wake early, usually around 07.00. Breakfast is served in a dining tent, and consists of hot drinks, porridge, toast, jams and bread, and your guide will explain the day’s plans.

Lunch is usually around 13.00 and can feature soups, meats, salads and fish, with vegetarian options and hot drinks too.

Dinner is served around 19.30, and will feature pasta, quinoa, mashed potatoes, meat, fish or vegetarian options, followed by hot drinks and a pudding.

The campsites are comfortable and around 17.00 hot drinks, popcorn and other snacks are served to help you recover energy.

Activity Level

The National Park is a 5-hour drive from La Paz.

The village of Sajama is a small remote community and tourism to this part of Bolivia is still relatively small, so we do ask that you bring a little flexibility and a sense for adventure to fully enjoy this part of the world.

In order to get the most out of the tour you should be in good physical condition. It is an active itinerary with daily elements of walking included.

The highest point in the programme is around 5,100m/16,732ft, making it imperative to be well acclimatised (we recommend several nights in La Paz or at altitude beforehand) before joining this trip.

The trekking options are strenuous as they involve several days of 6 to 8 hours of walking at high altitudes. This requires a good acclimatisation and a good level of fitness.

If you’d like to see the park but feel you would prefer less walking please get in touch and we can design a less active alternative for you.

If you would like to add more walks or would like to extend your trip by climbing Acotango, Parinacota or Sajama mountain, we can arrange this, please ask.

 

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Practical Information

An introduction to Bolivia

Land-locked Bolivia is a country of dramatic landscapes and fascinating native cultures and traditions.

The Altiplano or “High Plain”, averaging 3,800m, is its most populous region. The vast, luminous plateau is flanked to east and west by parallel Andean ranges.

La Paz, the world’s highest capital, lies in a deep canyon at the edge of the Altiplano, and at the foot of Illimani (6,400m). It is a striking city for its dramatic setting and its strong Indian character.

Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake. It was sacred to the Incas; according to legend, their founding emperor-gods rose from these waters to give birth to their empire. Just south of the lake stands the sacred pre-Inca site of Tiahuanaco.

Geography of Bolivia

On the south-western Altiplano are the Uyuni Salt Flats, the largest in the world. Here, the shimmering white salt pan and deep blue sky combine to create a truly magical spectacle.

The stunning Cordillera Real is a mountain range dominated by huge snow peaks, including Illimani and Illampu (6,380m). The Real divides the northern Altiplano from the tropical forests to the east. The Cordillera Real’s eastern slopes are characterized by the deep, sub-tropical Yungas gorges.

Further south, the tropical Chapare is the agricultural heart of Bolivia. East of this band of high forests and plantations lies Bolivia’s Oriente, a vast swathe of Amazonian jungle and savanna accounting for 2/3 of the country and featuring some of the last untouched wilderness on earth.

In the north-eastern Department of Beni, some 50% of the country’s mammals and birds reside. Below, and in no special order, we outline some of the top places to go and things to do.

Weather in Bolivia

Bolivia lies within the tropics, between latitudes 10º and 22º south. The climate, as varied as its geography, is affected by latitude and, especially, by altitude.

The best time to travel is the winter (dry season) between May and Oct when, typically, weather systems over the Andes are stable, and overall you can expect bright sunny days and cold clear nights. Most of the rain falls from Dec to March. Climate can be divided into these distinct zones:

 

The Andes and the Altiplano

There is relatively little precipitation on the Altiplano, especially in the dry season – most rainfall is from Dec to March. However, there is periodical, localised rain on high peaks and valleys all year round.

The further south and west you go on the Altiplano, the drier are the conditions; around Uyuni, semi-arid conditions prevail. The Andean sun’s rays are very strong.

Temperature-wise, the Andes and Altiplano experience significant fluctuations over a single day. At 4,000m, the pre-dawn temperature can drop to -15ºC, while noon temperatures at the same location can reach 20ºC.

Southerly cold winds mean the southern Altiplano is not only drier, but also noticeably colder and windier than the north (pre-dawn temperatures at Uyuni in July regularly drop to -20ºC).

On treks in the Cordillera Real in the dry season, expect a range of conditions within a single day: cold/freezing nights at camps above 4,000m (where pre-dawn temperatures sometimes reach -15ºC); warm, spring-like mornings and afternoons; and cold evenings. Conditions are generally dry, but note that mountain weather is fickle and localised, and precipitation is not unusual in the dry season.

Expect temperatures to swing between sun and shade, sheltered and exposed ground and with altitude gain and loss. A quick-setting sun means temperatures drop fast.

The city of La Paz (3,630m) is relatively sheltered. Average high/low temperatures range from 1-17ºC in June and July (coldest months) to 6-19ºC in Nov and Dec (warmest months). In June and July, it rarely rains more than 1 or 2 days per month, while in January there are on average 15 wet days.

 

The tropical lowlands & yunga (Amazon)

Year-round, weather conditions in the Amazon basin are hot and humid and always with the chance of rain.

There is a  ‘cooler’, drier winter season between May and October. During this ‘dry season’, the average daytime high temperature is between 25-31°C and the average nighttime low is between 16-22°C.

In the dry season, heavy downpours typically occur every few days.

Note that around 80% of annual average rainfall – approx 2,000 mm in Bolivia’s northern lowlands – occurs in the wet season, Nov-April.

On rare occasions, between May and September, cold fronts from Argentina – surazos – can sweep into southwest Amazonia and push temperatures down to 9°C. (Surazos usually last between 1 and 3 days).

The Yungas shares the same dry/wet months but varies from quite wet to very wet depending on whether it is the ‘dry’ or rainy season. Average temperature is 24°C.

Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.

 

Overview

When planning for the varied climatic conditions encountered, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system.  It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.

To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers. Layers should have the following qualities:

 

  1. Breathability (able to wick away the humidity produced by sweat):
  2. Isolation (able to keep in the warm air our body produces); and
  3. Impermeability (able to impede the passing of wind and water).

 

First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.

Mid layers: These isolating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.

Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

We also carry an extensive first aid kit & oxygen on all trips, but these are generally for emergencies only.

Below is a more detailed kit list.

 

Detailed kit list

  • 2 pairs synthetic inner socks (e.g. polypropylene, thermastat, coolmax) and 2 pairs thick loop-stitch/wool socks for cold.
  • Trekking boots – should be well broken-in, waterproof and provide good ankle support.
  • Trainers/sandals for city-wear, evenings at lower camps & river crossings.
  • Base layer leggings (1 pair).
  • Thick fleece leggings (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Goretex-type over-trousers (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Trekking trousers (2 pairs).
  • Shorts – wear sparingly in early stages at altitude, as sun burns.
  • Thermal base layer shirts (2).
  • Microfleece mid-layer shirt (1).
  • Shirt/t-shirt 1 or 2 for lower altitudes. Long-sleeved, collared shirt protects against sun
  • Fleece jacket or similar (1).
  • Warm jacket (down or synthetic). For camp and upper slopes.
  • Waterproof Goretex-type jacket.
  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Warm hat, fleece or wool. (N.B. Up to 30% of body heat can be lost through the head).
  • Sunglasses with UV filter.
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna – to protect neck from strong sun.
  • Light inner gloves
  • Warm gloves, e.g. fleece, and outer waterproof gloves or mittens (1 pair)
  • Mittens allow you to keep the fingers together, and better conserve heat (though they also make it difficult to perform certain tasks).
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Large rucksack or suitcase.
  • Pair of telescopic trekking poles (can be rented).
  • Duffel bag or large rucksack for extra clothing, carried by horse/mule/porter while you are trekking.
  • Sleeping bag (3-4 season, can be rented).
  • Water bottle (2 litres approx.) & purification tablets.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Toilet paper (1)
  • Sunscreen (factor 30+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags – ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!). Print & slide film is available locally. Polarising filter is recommended for SLR cameras.
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

All other non-personal trekking camping gear e.g. tents, cutlery etc is provided.

 

Miscellaneous others

  • Money belt.
  • Passport.
  • U.S. dollars cash, mixed-denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • ATM cash/credit card.
  • Any inoculation certificates.
  • Personal & medical insurance certificates.
  • Presents e.g. Postcards from home.
  • Comfortable clothes for travel, smart clothes for night life.

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.


Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest

The gateway to the Bolivian Amazon lies at the lively town of Rurrenabaque.

Motorised canoes will take you  into the rich and verdant realms of the Madidi National Park, a hub of ecotourism in the Bolivian Amazon basin. 

On a network of paths and waterways you can immerse yourself in the hot and humid tropical paradise that is the rainforest.

Wildlife such as howler monkeys and pink river dolphins, as well as a colourful indigenous culture, are a magnet for those who like to experience not only the Andean climates of Bolivia but to venture further into the depths of this fascinating country. 

Condoriri and the Cordillera Real, Bolivia

The Cordillera Real of Bolivia is a range of awe-inspiring snowy peaks just south of La Paz.

The towering peaks of this mountain range, dominated by Illimani (6,400m/20,997ft), Illampu (6,368m/20,892ft) and Ancohuma (6,427m/21,086ft), form a magnificent barrier which separates the Altiplano from Bolivia’s extensive rainforest.

The range is criss-crossed by ancient pilgrimage and trading routes and gives avid trekkers plenty of options to escape civilisation into the incredibly dramatic high Bolivian altitudes.

In the Condoriri Range you still won’t meet many fellow hikers but will find yourself in the company of majestic peaks,  high altitude passes with stunning views, grazing herds of llamas and alpacas and soaring condors.

La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz is a capital like no other, set in high Andean climates and surrounded by the magnificent Andean Cordillera Real mountains.

Here you can sit at a cafe and watch the local ladies in their bowler hats and colourful traditional costumes. Immerse yourself in the fascinating culture of its indigenous population.

Take a cable car ride on the Teleferico to El Alto, the enormous satellite city spread across the Bolivian Altiplano high above La Paz.

Marvel at the views and its bustling streets.  

Visit the craft markets, full of colourful weavings and woolly jumpers, there are souvenirs to suit every taste.

Don’t forget to explore and haggle at the intriguing Witches’ market, home to all sorts of potions.

La Paz really is full of life.  

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca is home to the lively lake side town of Copacabana.

Stay for a few days to explore the lake shore and the islands. Copacabana is likely to be your entry point if coming overland from Puno in Peru and heading for La Paz.

Pass the 12 stations of the Cross as you hike up to the nearby hill for views over the lake to the Islands of the Sun and the Moon with a beautiful mountain backdrop, the high ice-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real shimmering in the distance.

Take a one day or overnight trip by boat to the islands,  Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, where you can learn something of traditional island life as you wander along the ancient networks of paths.

Sajama, Bolivia’s highest peak

Sajama National park offers fabulous off the beaten track trekking and some easy Andean peaks amid amazing natural beauty.

A few hours from La Paz by four wheel drive brings you to Sajama National Park.

In this beautiful remote high mountain area you have the opportunity to explore a little visited part of southern Bolivia, right on the border with Chile, in the shadow of Bolivia’s highest peak – Nevado Sajama (6,542m/21,463ft).

Snow-capped volcanoes fringe the vast altiplano and lagoons lie only a walk away in the mountains.

Geysers and hot springs await and you can be sure to see a variety of typical Andean wildlife, such as llama, vicuna, alpaca, Andean flamingos and viscachas.

Torotoro National Park, Bolivia

Torotoro National Park is a jewel for those seeking to escape the crowds – offering caves, canyons and fossilised dinosaur footprints.

The stunning Torotoro National Park is still an off the beaten track destination in Bolivia and well worth a visit.

Its highlights include some of the best preserved dinosaur footprints in South America, as well as stunning geological formations from an era long gone.

There are day walks across volcanic landscapes and you’ll pass by remote Andean villages, giving an insight into true Andean culture.

Uyuni and the Salt lakes, Bolivia

The dazzling, white  Salt Flats of Uyuni stretch as far as the eye can see. The salt flat is dotted with small islands where only cacti grow. 

The sheer expanse of the flats (nearly 11,000 sq km) will leave your mind boggled, and that’s before you’ve even ventured further into the surrounding high desert of the Bolivian Altiplano.

It is there that you will find desert landscapes that transport you into another world.

The desert is home to beautiful lagoons of many hues, home to flocks of elegant flamingos.

In the world of little water there are hot springs to soak in, weird other worldly stone formations and spouting geysers.

All of this set against a backdrop of snow covered volcanoes and vast open skies. 

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