Including an overflight of the famous Salar de Uyuni!

Recalling El Tío, the underworld god of the mines,
a cavorting devil prances through the carnival dance of La Diablada.

In 2001 Rutahsa Adventures discovered a little-known secret: the wet season is THE time to visit Bolivia! The otherwise parched altiplano landscape is verdant and abloom with wildflowers, the skies are dramatic, and temperatures are pleasantly mild. Furthermore, an absolutely stellar attraction can be witnessed only in the rainy season: the amazing Salar de Uyuni acting as the world's largest mirror. And on top of this natural wonder, there is the fabulous folkloric carnival in Oruro!

We ran a wonderful Bolivia trip in 2001, and then improved it and took other groups of adventurers to Bolivia for Carnival in 2002, 2003 and 2005. In response to requests by numerous travelers for a Bolivia trip in 2006, Rutahsa Adventures is offering --possibly for the last time-- the following spectacular excursion in February, 2006. We will need 11 participants to make the trip go. As usual, participation will be limited to 16 travelers. If you are interested in visiting this little-known republic with so much to offer, please review the following itinerary carefully and let us know if you'd like to sign on to this trip.



DAY 1, Weds., Feb. 15: Morning: Land in Santa Cruz, Bolivia's major city in the Amazon lowlands. You will be met at the airport and taken into our lodgings at the four-star Hotel Caparuch to get settled in and rest up a bit. For a preview of the Hotel Caparuch, visit their website, then use your "back" button to return to this itinerary: Hotel Caparuch.

Afternoon: City tour of Santa Cruz, a bustling modern city, home to Bolivia's ranching, tropical agriculture, and petroleum industries. Our tour will include a visit to the botanical gardens of Parque Ivaga Guazu.

One advantage to starting our Bolivia itinerary here is that you don't have to worry about soroche (altitude sickness), which is a problem when starting a trip in La Paz. We'll ease into the Andean highlands by the back door!

DAY 2, Thurs., Feb. 16: After a buffet breakfast (included) at our hotel, we board our private bus to drive to the historic town of Concepción, passing through the smaller town of San Javier en route. Both San Javier and Concepción are famous for their beautiful Jesuit missions dating from the 1700s.

The missions are two of a chain of missions established by the Company of Jesus in the 18th century for the conversion of the Indians. The architecture is a fascinating mixture of indigenous and western, and the mission decorations are stunning. Our visit to these missions will be a first for Rutahsa!

Overnight in Concepción, at the Hotel Chiquitos. The Chiquitos features an orchid nursery that should be a delight to visit. (B,L,D)

DAY 3, Fri., Feb. 17: Return trip to Santa Cruz and the Hotel Caparuch. Free time after arrival back at our hotel. (B,L)

DAY 4, Sat., Feb. 18: AM: After another buffet breakfast at the Hotel Caparuch we board up and go to the airport for our short flight to Sucre, known as "La Ciudad Blanca" ("the White City"), due to the practice of whitewashing the colonial buildings in central Sucre. The city is universally acknowledged as Bolivia's most beautiful city.

We'll be picked up at the airport and taken to our home for the next two nights, the Hostal de Su Merced. This beautiful small hotel, in a charmingly renovated home, is where the president of the country stays when he visits Sucre, and is our favorite hotel in all Bolivia. Great location, friendly staff, and excellent food. Check it out: Hostal de Su Merced.

After lunch we'll have a guided tour of Sucre, the legal capital of Bolivia, and still home to the Supreme Court, although the rest of the government moved to La Paz years ago. Originally founded in 1538 as La Plata, Sucre was renamed in 1825 in honor of General Sucre, the first president of the newly independent Republic of Bolivia (which itself was named in honor of Simón Bolívar, the Great Liberator). The city is still largely colonial in architecture, has a lovely climate at 2790 m (9153 ft), and is a university town, all of which contribute to its delightful ambience.

Our city tour will include some of the important colonial sites, such as La Recoleta monastery, the Casa de la Libertad (Bolivia's "Independence Hall"), or perhaps the cathedral, or the colorful central market. There are also museums and shops to visit. A very worthwhile museum is the ASUR Museum of Indigenous Art, where, in addition to seeing a fine museum collection of textiles, outstanding textiles can be purchased, and you can witness the art of weaving on the backstrap loom. (B)

DAY 5, Sun., Feb. 19: Those who have fallen under Sucre's charms may opt to spend the full day here strolling about the pleasant town, sampling a nice variety of eateries, enjoying the central park, and having a restful day. But for the more energetic, we have an outing go to the famous indigenous market at Tarabuco, about a two hour drive through the mountains from Sucre.

Tarabuco market is not huge, but it fills several blocks of streets, and is a very good place to buy beautiful handwoven textiles, and to see lots of traditional native costumes. The indigenous people in this region are Quechua speakers, an inheritance from the Inka Empire. You can expect to see men in boldly striped ponchos, and carrying chuspas (woven bags in which personal items such as coca leaves are carried), and women wearing the traditional axsu (heavy overskirt). You will likely see a variety of headgear. Married men and women may both wear a helmet-shaped hat, directly modeled after the Spanish conquistador's helmet, whereas unmarried young women may wear a shako-like hat with a fringe, decorated with lots of spangles, and worn at a jaunty angle. This market is definitely a colorful scene!

On our way back to Sucre we will stop at Jatún Yampara, a poor village with a fledgling tourism project. The friendly people here will show us their crafts, their crops, and welcome us into their homes. We may even participate in a blessing ceremony at their shrine to Pachamama. You will be both interested and touched by these good people struggling to better their community. And our visit with them will help their project move along.

Back in Sucre, we can enjoy a stroll through the central plaza in the evening, and sup at a nice restaurant before retiring to the Su Merced for the night. (B,L)

DAY 6, Mon., Feb. 20: After breakfast we board our bus and head out and up, crossing mountains and deep river valleys as we climb up to the Andean city of Potosí, at 3977 m (13,047 ft), this will be a real high point in the trip. The road from Sucre is excellent, and we should arrive Potosí around midday. No activities are planned for the afternoon, as you will want to take it easy as you adjust to this very high altitude. Having spent the last two days at 9000 ft should make this transition easier, nonetheless, soroche is a real possibility if you overexert. Drink some coca tea, and take it easy!

The coat of arms of Potosí bears the legend "I am rich Potosí, the treasure of the world, the king of mountains, the envy of kings." According to legend, silver was discovered at Potosí in 1544 by an Indian, Diego Huallpa, who had climbed a mountain in search of lost llamas. After building a fire to warm himself, Diego noted molten silver streaming from a rock beside the fire. The Spaniards were quick to investigate rumors of an Indian with silver, took possession of the mountain peak-- soon to become known as Cerro Rico ("Rich Mountain"), and by 1545 the city of Potosí was founded. Within 25 years it was the largest city in the New World, with a population of 125,000. Riches poured out of the mountain into Spanish coffers, altering the financial structure of Europe. Potosí itself was awash in wealth; Spanish aristocrats in Potosí built themselves palaces and also dozens of baroque churches. But all this came at a terrible toll of human misery, as the mines were worked by enslaved Indians who died by the tens of thousands in the bowels of Cerro Rico.

Our lodgings in Potosí will be the Hostal Colonial (Frommer's favorite in Potosí), located just a block off the main square, within easy walking distance of the principal attractions. (B)

DAY 7, Tues., Feb. 21: This morning, after fortifying ourselves with a hearty breakfast, including some strong coffee or hot chocolate, we'll head for Cerro Rico, the mountain that made Potosí. This angry red peak, now stripped barren and plundered both inside and out, is still being worked by hundreds of miners. We will find out what it's all about by going underground into one of the working mines. This is a fascinating trip, and we recommend it highly, but note, it is not a trip for the faint of heart: expect some tight spots, some ladders to climb, some dust and water and mud. Expect to meet El Tío and make an offering to him for your safe return to the sunlit world!

First, we will stop at the miners' market to buy appropriate gifts for the miners and for El Tío: bags of coca leaves, strong black cigarettes, some soda waters and perhaps some raw liquor. You could even buy dynamite and blasting caps, if you fancy toting such items around on your person.

Next we'll suit up in hardhats, slickers and rubber boots, then drive up the mountain to the mine entrance. Here we'll be issued lamps...then it's duck our heads and into the underworld! Within the drifts we'll visit with miners working veins with hand tools, under conditions that are very 19th-century by modern mining standards, and which expose them to a variety of dangers, including the main miners' curse, silicosis. Dismal as these working conditions seem to us, this is still a far cry from the awful circumstances endured by the Indian slaves of colonial times.

Each of the many mines under Cerro Rico has a shrine to El Tío, the miners' god of the underworld, who must be placated if his mineral wealth is to be extracted and the miner to return safely to the world of sunlight above. This applies to visitors too, and we will save a portion of our gifts of coca and cigarettes to leave before the statue of El Tío before we exit the mine.

Back again in the sunshine and fresh air, we'll ponder the toil we witnessed underground as we take our lunch and get ready for an afternoon walking tour of some of the important colonial sites.

Wending our way through narrow streets overhung by balconied colonial homes, we will visit La Casa de la Moneda, a colonial mint turned into a splendid museum (the grinning mask of Bacchus is an unexplained anomaly-- but it has been there for many years). Next, depending on how long we spend at the Casa de la Moneda, we'll move on to another site, perhaps the Convento de Santa Teresa, with its museum, and/or the San Francisco Convent for the best rooftop view of Potosí.

One of the interesting things to note as you pass along the streets of Potosí is the variety of highly distinctive men's hat styles affected by the cholitas (Indian women who have adopted a highly stylized European mode of dress).

For supper, we might go as a group to the San Marcos Restaurant, an old mine mill converted into a restaurant cum mining museum. Quite a place.

Second night at Hostal Colonial. (B)

DAY 8, Weds., Feb. 22: Today we go by caravan-- in 4WD vehicles-- across mountains and valleys and windy plains following a good, all-weather gravel road from Potosi to the altiplano town Uyuni. Though drivable in 5 to 6 hours, we will take most of the day, allowing for photo stops for scenery, llamas and vicuñas, a stop at a nearly abandoned mining town, a picnic lunch en route, and wherever it strikes our fancies to stop.

The scenery is beautiful any time of year, but especially so in the wet season when the hillsides are green and flowered. This is one of our favorite drives, passing small rustic villages, through a lovely little canyon surrounded by weird rock formations, past sand dunes, lagoons (where we sometimes see flamingos), and many herds of llamas and alpacas, and where colorful strata have been twisted and thrust towards the sky in the geologic upheaval that formed the Andes.

Shortly before arriving at Uyuni, we'll visit the historic town of Pulacayo where we will see relics from its silver mining glory days, including abandoned steam locomotives and a train said to have been robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

At Uyuni, a windswept town in the middle of nowhere now, but once important as a major railway junction, we will take our lodgings at the Hotel Girasoles. (B,L)

DAY 9, Thurs., Feb. 23: A short distance from the town of Uyuni the great Salar de Uyuni lies gleaming, and we will board 4WD vehicles to visit this stunning natural phenomenon. According to conventional geologic concepts, what was once a great intermontane lake comparable to Lake Titikaka eventually evaporated away to form the remarkable salar: in the dry season it is some 10,582 sq km (4085 sq mi) of blinding snow-white salt overarched by a sky so big it looks like it needs some help staying up! But February is the wet season, and when the immense salt flat is covered with a thin layer of rainwater, it turns into the world's largest mirror. And that phenomenon is what we have come to see.

As we approach the salar it is not unusual to see vicuñas, the smallest of the four Andean camelids along the margins of the salt flat, and occasionally flocks of pink flamingoes flap slowly by over the erstwhile lake.

On the edge of the salar is one of the world's oddest constructions, the Palacio de Sal, built entirely of blocks of rock salt quarried directly from the salar! We'll stop here for a visit. Inside the Salt Palace everything is made of salt. The only exceptions: mattresses (thank goodness!), toilets (double thank goodness!!), stove and pool table. Truly an amazing, imaginative and unforgettable hotel. [On our 2001 Bolivia trip we stayed at this hotel, but in 2002 it was out of service due to local politics; in 2005 it was still in the process of being rebuilt at a new location. However, it's still worth a visit!]

Also located on the margin of the salar is Colchani, an entire village dedicated to the cottage-industry production of salt for the rest of Bolivia's consumption. Fresh salt is first scraped off the surface of the salar and piled in conical heaps. Then it is transported into Colchani where it is dried, then bagged and iodized by workers in small co-ops.

During the dry season it is an easy matter to drive at highway speeds out across the hard flat salt. Eighty kilometers out on the flat is cactus-covered Isla Pescado, once an isolated island of basalt far from the shores of a vast lake. This island is home to several species of cacti, a variety of birds, and a colony of vizcachas (imagine a short-eared rabbit with a squirrel's tail!).

Isolated by salt flats in the dry season, Isla Pescado can become a real island again during the wet season, when rains flood the salar to form a wide shallow lake. Incredible as it sounds, this does not always prevent visits to the island: if the water depth is less then 18 inches, intrepid drivers pilot their 4WD vehicles through 80 km of salt spray to deliver visitors to the island... but not at highway speeds...under these conditions it can take over three hours to reach Isla Pescado, but oh the vistas en route!

Imagine driving for miles across a gigantic mirror surface-- the sky and clouds reflected to perfection; volcanic cones soaring up in the distance also soar down into the depths; flocks of pink flamingoes flap slowly by overhead while their looking glass twins stroke in unison down below; rain falls down, rain falls up; when you drive across the salar you have the impression of flying, with clouds above and below. Or perhaps of being on another planet, the scene is so un-earthly. Or perhaps of having somehow fallen inside a gigantic kaleidoscope. And just like a kaleidoscope, the scene is constantly changing: the preceding six photos were all taken on the same day! It really beggars description-- you just have to see it to believe it. And for the best view of all, ride in the open!

It is precisely in hopes of experiencing this mind-boggling scene, as we were first privileged to do in Feb. 2001, that Rutahsa Adventures has scheduled our 2006 trip for the wet season again...

We'll comtemplate this bizarre and beautiful scenery as we eat our box lunch on Isla Pescado. Then we return to Uyuni, where, if time permits, we'll visit a railroad graveyard, where many an old steam engine has ended its days. Steam buffs will be saddened by the fate of these once powerful machines, but the sadness is relieved by the sardonic wit of an unknown desert graffiti artist. Second night at the Hotel Girasoles. (B,L)

DAY 10, Fri., Feb. 24: Today we have a truly special treat planned, and another first for Rutahsa Adventures: an overflight of the Salar de Uyuni in a classic DC-3!! The salar is spectacular on the ground, and must surely be equally so from the air-- we are anxious to see this for ourselves! Following the overflight of the amazing salar, we will continue on in our charter flight to Oruro. [Note: We tried to do this in 2005, but our flight was canceled due to weather conditions. This is always a possibility in the wet season, and obviously, safety trumps other considerations. Should that happen again, we will travel from Uyuni to Oruro in our unfailing 4WD steeds, seeing more altiplano scenery up close en route.]

Founded as a mining town in the 16th century, Oruro later became the main center of the Bolivian railway system, now sadly largely defunct. Today Oruro's main claim to fame is the Carnaval de Oruro, the most spectacular of all Bolivian festivals. It is a huge and famous event, yet one that remains purely Bolivian, virtually unaltered by tourism or other outside influences. Our hotel will be the Gran Hotel Sucre, just about three blocks from the main plaza, which should be a pretty busy place as the town makes the final preparations for the big event of the year to start tomorrow morning! (B)

DAY 11, Sat., Feb. 25: Carnival begins early with a spectacular entry procession called La Entrada, starting at 7 AM and passing along a 5-km route, ending at the Church of the Virgin of the Socavón. We will have grandstand seats on the main plaza. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of teams of dancers perform. Many dances feature elaborate costumes, some with grotesque masks, the most remarkable being La Diablada, and all with incredible color. Music is supplied by innumerable blaring brass bands, each trying to out-do the next. Some of the dances, such as La Diablada represent Aymara folk legends related to the dangerous lives of the Indian miners. Historical reality, such as the introduction in colonial times of a black population to work in the mines, is depicted in one of the most important of all carnival dances, La Morenada. Dances also graphically depict slavery. You may see dancers wearing authentic costumes that date back many generations, such as this elaborate feathered headdress witnessed a century and a half ago by the American diplomat-archeologist George Squier. Both history and today's reality are represented in dances like La Llamerada (the dance of the llama herders), and the dance of the tinkus which ends in a mock brawl, recalling an ancient Andean tradition in which neighboring communities fight an annual ceremonial battle (a custom still honored in a few Bolivian communities). There are also dancers costumed as dancing bears (representing another legend), there are live llamas, and even the cars get into the act! The parade goes on for hours, but we will have box lunches in our grandstand seats so you don't have to miss a thing (other than for the occasional necessary break).

La Entrada is just the beginning of a week of revelry and abandon. Tonight there will be lots of celebrating, live music, dancing, and happy inebriation. Foreigners are welcome to join in, but of course, some discretion is advised. Second night at Gran Hotel Sucre. (B,L)

DAY 12, Sun., Feb. 26: For early risers (or if you can't sleep due to the music), you can get up at 4 AM and make your way to the Church of the Socavón, where a sort of battle of the bands takes place for El Alba, the bringing in of the dawn with more music and revelry.

Today is the day of the Gran Corso del Carnaval, another spectacular parade of the same tireless dance groups, only today they make one concession to comfort, dancing mostly unmasked. Aside from watching the Gran Curso, you might want to visit the Church of the Socavón, where there is an underground mining museum accessed from inside the church, for a small fee. But after lunch we will head for a change of scenery...Sajama National Park near the border with Chile.

Sajama park is centered on the sacred mountain Volcán Sajama, which, at 6548 m (21,483 ft) is the highest peak in the Bolivian Cordillera Occidental. Although the five hour drive to the park is mainly on good paved road, the park itself is rugged, so we will be traveling in 4WD transport again. Our lodging for tonight and tomorrow will be the rustic Albergue Tomarapi, located in a picturesque, semi-abandoned village at the foot of snow-capped Sajama. Our rooms here are perfectly adequate, but dormitory style, sleeping 4 to 8 in a room; by this time on the trip we should be all well enough acquainted to share rooms! (B,D)

DAY 13, Mon., Feb. 27: Get up early today and enjoy the incredible sight of the towering snowy mass of Sajama as it catches the first rays of dawn and becomes bathed in fire. Then come back in to the warmth of the lodge for a hearty breakfast before starting out on a full day of four-wheel touring of the park's scenic wonders.

The park is a high arid region inhabited by herds of llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas. In addition there are vizcachas, suris (rheas, or "American ostriches"; we got lucky and saw four in 2005), flamingoes and other waterfowl. Among the noteworthy plants to be found in the park are the rare large keñua trees, and the strange dome-shaped yareta, which serves the natives as fuel. Other park attractions include hot springs and "geysers". And there are scattered villages peopled by herders eking out a living from this harsh but awesomely beautiful land.

Second night at Albergue Tomarapi. (B,L,D)

DAY 14, Tues., Feb. 28: After a final breakfast at the albergue, we'll mount our jeeps one last time to head in to the city of La Paz, about a four-hour drive. Upon arrival in the city we will go to our home in La Paz, the Hotel Rosario, a charming little hotel located right in the area of the great street market and the famous "Witches Market". The Rosario is one of our favorite hotels in Bolivia-- nice and cozy, very friendly and helpful staff, and good restaurant for breakfast and supper. Check it out: Hotel Rosario.

After settling in to our new digs we can go out for lunch nearby and get acquainted with this fascinating part of town-- a great place for shopping for souvenirs. We'll start to learn our way around to the incredible market complex where block after block of shops, booths, and street vendors offer an amazing and bewildering array of items ranging from wonderful woven goods of alpaca and llama wool, musical instruments, antiques, foodstuffs, hardware, in different market sections downhill and uphill from the Rosario. Most of the traveler-oriented shops are downhill, and most of the ordinary market goods are uphill. Both areas are worth visiting. (B)

DAY 15, Weds., Mar. 1: This morning we can enjoy an excellent breakfast at the Rosario, as we fuel up for the day's activities: a La Paz city tour, and visit to Valle de La Luna (Moon Valley).

La Paz, with a population approaching a million, is the de facto capital of Bolivia, which is to say that although the much smaller city of Sucre to the south is the legal capital of the republic, most of the government offices are located here in La Paz, and most government business is done here. We will get oriented in La Paz by visiting a small park overlooking much of the multihued city, then visit the Plaza Murillo with its government palaces and cathedral. Next we'll visit a museum in an attractive area of colonial buildings. And finally, we'll set out on foot to learn more about the "Witches Market" near our hotel. Here you will see all the items a well-supplied brujo (witch doctor) might need, including herbs, potions, and, of course the ever-essential dried llama fetuses. Our guide will explain the uses of some of these items.

In the afternoon we'll drive a short distance out of La Paz to the Valle de La Luna (Valley of the Moon), where a sort of badlands erosion has produced a grey and tan landscape of bizarre towers, knobs and spines. For a close-up view, a short hiking trail wends its way through the hoodoos. Weird and scenic.

For supper we'll visit a peña, a restaurant where Andean musicians sing and play folksongs featuring panpipes, charango, quena and other traditional instruments. This special supper, show and cultural experience is included in the tour cost (drinks extra).

Overnight again at the Hotel Rosario. (B,D)

DAY 16, Thurs., Mar. 2: Lake Titikaka is our destination today. We'll leave La Paz early in a chartered bus headed north to the small port town of Chua where we'll board the modern catamaran Consuelo that will transport us in style across the beautiful and grand lake to Isla del Sol (Sun Island). A buffet breakfast will be served after we board and get under way. During breakfast you can watch the scenery glide by from the comfort of the catamaran's spacious main salon lined with picture windows. Afterwards you may want to go up on the sun deck atop the vessel. Titikaka, famous as the world's highest regularly navigated lake at 3856 m (12,651 ft), is stunning, and you will be amazed at the extent of ancient agricultural terracing evident on the hillsides all around the lake.

Upon docking at Isla del Sol, the legendary birthplace of Manco Capac, the first Inka, and his sister-consort Mama Ocllo, we will transfer to a craft made of totora reeds for a short sail to a very well done visitor's complex owned and operated by the same company that operates the catamaran. Here we will see Inka stonework at a sacred spring, Inka terraces with many native crops and plants, perhaps see a demonstration of the Andean footplow, visit an excellent museum, enjoy crafts and dance demonstrations and a chance to see llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas up close.

Reboarding the Consuelo, we cruise around to the opposite end of the island. A fine lunch will be served as we cruise to the Aymara village of Challapampa. The villagers here welcome visitors with music and dancing. From the dock at Challapampa we will board rowboats and some of the wonderfully sturdy Aymara fishermen will row us to the end of the island for a visit to an Inka ruin near the spot where Inti (the Sun) is supposed to have been created by Viracocha, the Inka creator god. Here an Aymara kallawalla (shaman) will perform a blessing ceremony for our safe journey home once our Bolivia trip has ended. Afterwards, we will walk back along ancient trails to Challapampa, surrounded by the glories of Lake Titikaka at sunset.

Inasmuch as this is the week after carnival, it is possible that when we return to Challapampa the village will be turned out en masse and dancing in the streets with great spontaneous energy-- this is their fiesta, not a show for tourists (when it comes to holding their traditional party, they ignore our presence!).

Once back aboard our catamaran we will have supper in the salon, served by candlelight. After supper, if the weather is favorable, sitting and conversing in fresh air and moonlight on the upper deck will be a pleasant pastime before going to bed in our cabins below decks. Check out the Southern Cross! (B,L,D)

DAY 17, Fri., Mar. 3: The Consuelo gets under way around 7 AM, headed to the charming resort town of Copacabana. We will have another extensive buffet breakfast, settle our bar bills, then finalize our packing and set our bags out in the hallway to be taken ashore for us upon docking at "Copa". As we dock, note the unit of the Bolivian Navy here. An historic note: In the 1870s Bolivia lost its Pacific coast to Chile in the War of the Pacific, but Bolivians still cherish the dream of once again becoming a maritime nation. Be sure to note the impassioned slogan over the navy building.

At "Copa" we'll check into the Hotel Rosario del Lago, a sister hotel to the Rosario in La Paz. Hotel Rosario del Lago.

Copacabana is more than just a resort town. It is the site of Bolivia's most important religious shrine, an impressive Moorish-style cathedral built 1610-1620. Many miracles have been attributed to the Dark Virgin of Candelaria or Copacabana, a black wooden statue of Mary housed in this great church. Although many pilgrimages are made to Copacabana for many reasons, one of the more unusual (to us, that is) practices is for the owners of newly purchased automobiles to bring their vehicles here to be blessed by a priest and then showered with champagne! We will visit the shrine, of course.

Across the toy town from the massive church is El Calvario, where a series of steps that will leave you breathless leads up past the Stations of the Cross to a marvelous overlook. We recommend this spot for sunset over the glorious lake and the view of "Copa" bathed in a rosy glow. (B)

DAY 18, Sat., Mar. 4: After breakfast at the Rosario we board our bus again and head back towards La Paz by land, enjoying scenic altiplano vistas all along the way.

Before reaching La Paz we'll turn back towards the lake on a different highway to visit the impressive pre-Incan ruins of Tiwanaku. This site is famous for its monolithic gateways and giant idols. Tiwanaku was the capital of what many archeologists believe to have been the longest surviving empire of all the precolumbian Andean civilizations, flourishing for over a thousand years. Later Inka rulers visited Tiwanaku and are thought to have been inspired by its monumental ruins. We'll have a late lunch in a restaurant near the ruins.

Back in La Paz we'll settle in for one final night at the Hotel Rosario. (B,L)

DAY 19, Sun., Mar. 5: Time to head for the airport, board your flight home, taking with you a million memories of unforgettable wonders seen, new friends made, and the determination to return some day to Bolivia.

COST OF THE TRIP: The costs listed below are based on a minimum of eleven excursionists, in double occupancy rooms. Single room accommodations are available at an extra cost.

HOW TO GET ON BOARD: Let us know you are interested by e-mailing Dr. Ric Finch at Rutahsa Adventures. We will be happy to send you an application blank or to put you on our mailing list for trip up-dates, as you request.

Photos on this website by Janie and Ric Finch, @copyrighted.