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The Northwest: Cordillera Mountains and Subtropical Yungas

Stretching from sky-high peaks (the three Cordillera mountain ranges) down to semitropical lowlands (the Yungas), Bolivia's Northwest provides some of the most varied and spectacular trekking in the country, and indeed the continent. It’s not too far from the capital, but is still one of the best places for adventurous travelers to get off the beaten track.

Making the dramatic descent, trekkers will pass traditional Aymará villages, completely isolated from the outside world except by miles of tiny Inca trails. It is difficult to visit the region independently, but tours, either privately or in small groups, can be easily arranged through travel agencies in La Paz.

Mountain biking has also taken off in a big way, and is a quick, easy way to get down to the Yungas from the highlands. The 200km-long mountain range of the Cordillera Real offers some fantastic high altitude experience for experienced mountaineers and hikers alike, with more than 600 peaks over the 5,000m mark, of varying difficulty. The even more remote Cordillera Apolobamba, to the north of the Cordillera Real bordering Peru, has been penetrated by tourists only recently and there are still many areas that have yet to be discovered. It can be a difficult and often inhospitable area to visit, but as off-the-beaten-track travel goes, it’s almost unbeatable.

The Madidi National Park starts on the northern slopes of this mountain range, and is another good choice for trekkers. Although it can be difficult to access, nature enthusiasts will be well rewarded; the park encompasses high mountains and thick jungle, making it home to an incredibly diverse range of flora and fauna. Meanwhile, to the south of the Cordillera Real, the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz is the smallest of the Cordilleras, but as remote as the Apolobamba and offers similarly remote mountaineering possibilities.

In contrast, the Yungas, the area between the highlands and the Amazon basin is a well-established chillout spot for Bolivian and foreign tourists alike, thanks to its pleasant year-round climate. The most frequented town in the Yungas is Coroico, which has a good supply of tourist services, including several good eateries and hotels. Activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and trekking can easily be arranged from here.

The colonial town of Sorata is also a popular weekend getaway thanks to its pretty streets and impressive scenery, and makes a good base for hiking and mountaineering expeditions. There are many well-trodden walking trails in this area, that vary in difficulty and altitude, and take anything from a couple of hours to several days. Many tourists use Coroico or Sorata as a base camp for these treks.









01 Mar 2010

Popular Destinations in the Northwest

Mapiri

It is likely you will have arrived to Mapiri either via boat or the 6-day Mapiri Trail Trek, both adventurous and attractive ways to enter the town. While it’s a pleasant little pueblo, equipped ...
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Mapiri, Bolivia

Cordillera Quimsa Cruz

The Cordillera Quimsa Cruz is a largely undocumented mountain range not far from La Paz.  This is not to suggest that there isn’t much there. Indeed, once you start to explore this mountain ...
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Cordillera Quimsa Cruz, Bolivia

Yanacachi

The tiny hamlet of Yanacachi sits in the south Yungas, about 80 kilometers northeast of La Paz. Surrounded by rolling green hill, the village is one of the oldest in the area, and has the oldest ...
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Yanacachi, Bolivia

Chulumani

The delightful village of Chulumani is the capital of the south Yungas district, and is a laidback market community. Situated on a hill overlooking the subtropical surroundings, this ...
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Chulumani, Bolivia

Sorata

Words like paradise, oasis and haven pop up with regular occurrence when referring to Sorata and with good reason. Perched on the side of the semi-tropical foothills with the imposing snow covered ...
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Sorata, Bolivia

Coroico

Just two hours away from La Paz via the new highway (which is notably less scary than the old one, which had the charming nickname “the road of death”), Coroico is located in the Yungas ...
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Coroico, Bolivia

Cordillera Real

One of the highest mountain ranges in the world, the Cordillera Real is a royal treat for climbers. In fact, its very name translates to “The Royal Mountains”, an honor given to them by the ...
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Cordillera Real, Bolivia

Cordillera Apolobamba

From the Peruvian border on the east to the edge of Parque Nacional Madidi in the north, the Cordillera Apolobamba is the outlying continuation of Bolivia’s Cordillera Oriental. It is a mountain ...
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Cordillera Apolobamba, Bolivia

Charazani

Located at almost 10,500 feet (3,200 m), Charazani sits on a subsidiary summit between the Cordillera Apolobamba and Cordillera Muñecas. It is a small mountain town on the Mapiri River, 254 ...
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Charazani, Bolivia

Santa Rosa

While Santa Rosa is not exactly a tourist town, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself there in betweeen Sorata and Mapiri, because of the Mapiri Trail Trek or just inconsistent bus schedules. If ...
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Santa Rosa, Bolivia
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