Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.
Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group. All accommodation is based on twin share. If you are a solo traveller you will share with another solo traveller of the same sex. Single supplements are available on some trips. If you are interested in booking a single supplement please contact us to check availability.
Imaynalla! Welcome to Bolivia.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
At around 3,600 m, La Paz feels like the top of the world. It's not far from it and vies with Tibet for the title of highest capital in the world. Although Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, La Paz is the centre of commerce, finance and industry. Despite the abundance of colonial architecture, La Paz's indigenous roots run deep, and the atmosphere in the market-filled streets is both modern and traditional.
La Paz is renowned for its many markets, including the Mercado de Hechiceria or Witches' Market. Browse through the weird and wonderful stalls which sell everything from potions to incantations made from herbs, seeds and unidentified bits and pieces to cure any ailment. If this is all too much for you, try the more conventional markets where you'll find ponchos, gloves, hats and many other products made of alpaca wool, leather and other traditional materials.
Visit the Coca Museum and learn about this infamous plant that has been an essential part of life in the Andes for centuries.
Our hotel in La Paz is located in the Rosario district, which is very central. It's only about 2 minutes walk from the Witches' Market and close to restaurants and shops.
Late in the afternoon of our last day in La Paz, we jump on an overnight bus to Sucre (approx 12-13hrs). On this overnight bus you can expect your seat to recline to a more comfortable position than you would expect on a plane. Buses normally have a toilet at the back which, with a bit of luck will work - however the bus will make one or two toilet stops on the way. Temperatures overnight can be very cold so ensure you take warm clothing with you.
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!Before your trip: Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.During your trip: While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly.
DEATH ROAD BIKING TO COROICO:
Please note that our leaders are not able to organize this activity for you due to safety concerns. Injuries are very common and there have been a number of fatal accidents.
Accommodation: Hotel Sagarnaga or similar (1 nt), Overnight Bus (1 nt)
Bolivia's official capital, Sucre was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991. Most of the town's colonial buildings have been whitewashed, earning its nickname - the 'White City'. For great views of the city head up to Recoleta, an old convent on top of the hill.
Head to the Plaza 25 de Mayo to mingle with Sucre's well-heeled residents and have a look at the beautiful interior of the Iglesia de la Merced.
For something completely different, compare shoe sizes with a dinosaur at Cal Orcko, where 60 million-year-old footprints have been discovered.
Accommodation: Sucre Hotel or similar (2 nts), La Casona Hotel or similar (1 nt)
A journey by local bus takes us to Potosi (approx 3-4 hrs).
The highest city of its kind in the world, Potosi has had a turbulent past, centred mostly around its mining successes and failures. During the Spanish colonial days, the extensive mining of Potosi's silver rich Cerro Rico was said to have kept Spain running for 300 years. During this time, Potosi briefly celebrated life as one of the richest cities in the world. In the 1800s, the supply of silver declined as did the market price and the city started to suffer. Working conditions in the mines were appalling and huge numbers of indigenous people died. African slaves were brought in to replace them and it's said that as many as 8 million people died in the mines during the Spanish era.
Accommodation: La Casona Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Travel by local bus from Potosi to Uyuni (between 5-7hs).
Arriving in Uyuni feels a bit like you've reached the end of the road, which in many ways is true. This remote small town sits on the edge of the high altiplano, a wilderness that extends for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. So it's hardly surprising that the town has a bit of a wild west feel about it. Uyuni is best known for its proximity to the Bolivian salt flats known locally as the Salar de Uyuni.
Uyuni is the starting point of our 3-day 4WD excursion into Salar de Uyuni. The first day is spent mostly on the salt lake itself. The massive salt plains of Bolivia are an incredible sight and offer plenty of opportunities for bizarre, perspective-defying photos. Endless blue skies meet endless white salt on what was once a prehistoric lake. From December to March there is a risk of the salt lake being flooded and the itinerary will be adapted to accommodate this.
The second day is spent driving through amazing landscapes. We stop by Laguna Colorado, a rich red lake vividly coloured by algae and rich minerals. One of the strangest sights in such arid and inhospitable land is be the abundant wildlife. Spot llamas, flamingos, vizcachas and foxes.Apart from providing geysers and snow-capped volcanoes, the volcanic landscape also gives us the chance to relax in the region's thermal baths. The third day is a very early (and freezing) start with more driving ahead.
Accommodation in Salar de Uyuni is basic. There are no showers and electricity is generated by solar panel so not enough to charge electronic devices. Salar de Uyuni is at high altitude and can experience extremely cold weather, particularly at night. In the rainy season, the itinerary may be altered depending on the accessibility of roads.
Be aware, this trip can be tough going. There will be long travel days in 4WDs on dusty washboard tracks, freezing temperatures, basic toilet facilities and multishare accommodation. However, without a doubt, this amazing journey will be one of the main highlights of your trip to South America.
Accommodation: Dormitory accommodation (2 nts), Samay Wasi or similar (1 nt)
Our 4x4 adventure through the Salt Flat region comes to an end in San Pedro de Atacama - Chile.
San Pedro is a small oasis town in the Atacama desert. It is a quirky little place with low-lying adobe buildings lining narrow streets which lead to a sleepy tree-lined plaza that is home of a pretty white-washed church and a fascinating small museum, home to some interesting mummies and various other Indian artefacts.
Accommodation: Hotel Don Raul or similar (2 nts)
Today is a long travel day as we leave San Pedro de Atacama behind and move on to Salta - Argentina (approx 12 hrs)
Salta's rich history, colonial architecture, surrounding natural attractions and friendly locals make this town of half a million people one of Argentina's main attractions. The central square, Plaza 9 de Julio, has been called the nicest plaza in all of Argentina, with its lush gardens, fountains, statues and beautiful white buildings including the Cabildo, Cathedral and Casa del Gobierno (Government House).
For the active, there's a hike to the top of Cerro San Bernardo, the massive green mountain that looms over Salta. There are 1070 steps to the top, starting at the monument to Don Martin de Guemes and passing the Stations of the Cross along the way. It's a rugged and tiring hike but the view from the top is spectacular and there's a cafe for a nice refreshing drink. If you're not so active, there's a gondola. This is an amazing place to watch the sunset.
There's also all manner of adventure activities available, such as rafting, bungee jumping and horse riding. Or you can stroll the streets, take a paddleboat on the lake or pop into one of the many museums.
In the afternoon/evening of our last day in Salta we travel by overnight bus to Mendoza (approx 18 hrs). We arrive at about midday the next day.The overnight bus on this leg of the trip is quite comfortable. You can expect the seat to recline to a more comfortable position than you would expect on a plane. These buses normally have a toilet that minimise the number of stops along the way.
Accommodation: Hotel Nuestro Sueño or similar (2 nts), Overnight Bus (1 nt)
Mendoza is Argentina's most important grape growing region, producing 70% of the country's wine. Malbec is the region's signature variety.
The city centre is beautifully landscaped and full of trees, squares and parks. During the day Peatonal Sarmiento (Sarmiento pedestrian street) is the place to be. This coffee shop-lined street joins the busy San Martin St with Plaza Independencia making it a must destination for all mendocinos coming to the city. Near Plaza Independencia is Mercado Central (Central Market) a great destination to try the regional specialities such as empanadas (meat pastries), cheese, ham, marinated olives and local wines. Most commercial activity in Mendoza breaks from 1pm to 4pm to allow for the traditional siesta.
At night, attentions shifts to Av. Aristides Villanueva. The many restaurants, bars and pubs make this area the epicentre of Mendoza's night life. If you're feeling adventurous, try one of the most popular drinks in town: Fernet with Coke - an acquired taste and not for the faint-hearted!
Spend a day tantalising the tastebuds. Tour the wineries and learn about the region's wine making history while sampling crisp whites and robust reds.
Accommodation: Urbana Suites Hotel or similar (3 nts)
Travel by local bus across the spectacular Andes to Chile and its capital, Santiago (approx 7-9hs depending on boarder crossing conditions).
Although Santiago covers a large area, the city centre is quite compact and easy to get around. The city's centre is roughly triangular in shape with the Plaza de Armas, the main plaza and home to the Cathedral, sitting in the centre. Panning out from here are wall-to-wall shops, restaurants and parks. For a more serene look at Chilean life, head out to Barrio Bella Vista, Santiago's 'Paris Quarter'.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour of Santiago visiting the Plaza de Armas in the city's historic centre, the Central Market with its colourful seafood restaurants and the Palacio de la Moneda, the seat of government and presidential residence.
Take a cable car up to Cerro San Cristobal. If the weather permits you'll have impressive views over the city and the peaks of the Andes.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation: Ecohostel or similar (2 nts)
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
Responsible tourism is at the heart of Imaginative Traveller. For 20 years we have taken customers to places around the world in social and environmentally responsible manner, ensuring everyone involved respects and maintains the natural and often delicate balance of the destination.
As travellers ourselves we are well aware of the impact that tourism can have and whilst economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, it should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment. It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit. We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
We believe giving something back is essential. We therefore work with our customers and the people we visit to ensure the benefits go directly to contribute to local cultures and environmental conservation. This is not only good the communities we visit but it also gives our travellers more enriched adventures.
For further information about responsible travel please click here.
At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.
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