ISTOCKPHOTO.COMISTOCKPHOTO.COMCRILLON TOURSFrom the altiplano to the jungle At the foot of Mount Illimani in a bowl denting the high, flat plains of the altiplano, squats La Paz which, with its indian markets flowing out on to the narrow streets and its quaint colonial squares, is alone worthy of a few days' exploration.Roads and air routes fan out in all directions, so it's easy to make excursions into the contrasting areas of the country. To follow are a couple of our favourites.The four day Choro Trek is mostly downhill from La Paz to the small subtropical town of Coroico. The walk starts at La Cumbre, the pass which slices through the barren mountains of the Cordillera Real and makes way for an Inca paved road descending through increasingly succulent vegetation, finally reaching citrus groves and coffee plantations. If you don't want to hike, you can visit this area?the Yungas?by road, a heart-stopping route carved out of the cliffs?you can even cycle down it, if you dare.The bio-diverse rainforest area of Madidi Rainforest Reserve is reached by a short flight from La Paz to tropical Rurrenabaque. A 5-hour canoe trip upstream on the Tuichi river delivers you to Chalalán Lodge, a small, friendly lakeside property developed with the local indigenous community. There's misty cloud forest, lowland rainforest and savannah grasslands. You may see, or hear, howler monkeys, toucans, macaws, hoatzins and caiman. Guided jungle walks, bird-watching and canoe trips are offered.Lake Titicaca, (see pp124-125) the sacred waters of which are shared with Peru, is just 2 hours' drive from La Paz. Many visitors enter Bolivia via the scenic boat and road route from Peru; comfortable catamarans and hydrofoils ply the route. posada del inca, sun island It's a steep climb up to this rustic farmhouse-style hotel at the highest point on craggy, vehicle free Sun Island. But it's worth the effort -you've come here to enjoy the views of shimmering lake and the citrus sunset splashed across the vast dome of a cobalt sky. You'll appreciate the serenity of this, the birthplace of the Sun God, inhabited by a few indigenous families cultivating potatoes and tending their sheep and llamas. At the hotel you'll receive warm hospitality and will be served wholesome country meals.132 Bolivia
CHRIS PARROTT.BOLIVIALa Paz.CoroicoSucre..Tarabuco.Uyuni.PotosíCalama..San Pedro de Atacama.SantiagoCHILEARGENTINABRAZILSARAH BEARDThe salt deserts of the south-west wilderness This is the earth's crust stripped down to its bare bones, stark, brutal and windswept. Scantily populated, with few roads or other signs of human interference, it is an area of outstanding beauty with yawning moon-white salt lakes, simmering volcanoes, hot springs and flamingo fringed lagoons. The isolated principal town, Uyuni, is a growing centre for visitor services. The primitive infrastructure means that it is hard to access the area independently. But there are an increasing range of options as the area opens up, by train and road. New hotels-ingeniously constructed with salt-have been built in isolated villages; making a stay of two to four nights? recommended to do justice to the area?a feasible option. Combine it with an exploration of historic towns in the south such as Potosí or Sucre; or continue over the border into Chile.020 8747 8315 / journeylatinamerica.co.uk bookings, consultant advice and additional information 133Highlights of Bolivia with Chile 17 days, 14 nightsLa Paz 2 nights, Coroico 1n, La Paz 1n, Sucre 2n, Tarabuco 1n, Potosí 2n, Uyuni 1n, San Pedro de Quemez or San Juan 1n, Villa Mar 1n, San Pedro de Atacama 1n, Santiago 1n.Day 1 Fly from the UK arriving the following day in La Paz. Day 2 At leisure to acclimatise. Day 3 Excursion to pre-Inca Tiwanaku Ruins which rise from the high tawny plain. Day 4 A spectacular and vertiginous drive out of La Paz over the high altitude La Cumbre pass, dropping 3,000m in 65km to the citrus orchards and banana plantations of subtropical Coroico. Day 5 Return to La Paz. Day 6 Fly to Sucre. Day 7 At leisure exploring this whitewashed colonial city. Day 8 Drive to the simple yet evocative Hacienda La Candelaria. Day 9 Visit the authentic market at Tarabuco, where the inhabitants still wear their hand-woven ponchos and head-dresses. Continue up a brome-fringed road to Potosí on the desolate altiplano. Day 10 Visit the primeval tunnels of the drift mines of Cerro Rico and tour Casa de la Moneda (the Imperial Mint Museum) and the imposing architecture which reflects the city's opulent past. Day 11 Drive to Uyuni over a 5,000m pass. Overnight in a salt hotel. Day 12 Expedition to the immense salt pan. Overnight in San Pedro de Quemez or San Juan. Day 13 Cross the dazzling flats within the shadow of Ollagüe volcano through valleys of wind-eroded rocks. Overnight in Villa Mar. Day 14 Drive to rust-red Laguna Colorada, where flamingos feed. En route to the jade-green waters of Laguna Verde you will view the steaming geysers and thermal springs of Polques, before crossing into Chile and the lunar landscapes and pre-Incan ruins of the Atacama Desert. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. Day 15 Fly from Calama to Santiago de Chile (2hrs). Day 16 Fly to the UK arriving day 17. Prices from £2,069pp based on two sharing, excluding transatlantic flights. Regular departures from the UK how about?» Visiting mystical Lake Titicaca from La Paz-full day, or overnight (p132). » A few days on Easter Island (p147). » The Choro Trek (p132).Below Laguna Cañapa en route to San Pedro de Atacama from Uyuni.