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Bolivia Botanical Tours

Explore the botanical wonders of Bolivia,
Andes & Amazonia in the heart of South America

 

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Native plants of Bolivia: flora-oriented tours, hiking and photography in Bolivia.

Bolivia is a paradise for nature lovers. We arrange private tours to pristine, diverse and undisturbed habitats to experience wild flowers, local plants and botanical curiosities at their best.

Bolivia’s native flora is incredibly diverse, including about 18,000 species of vascular plants – the same number that occurs in the whole of Central America! Our tour offers the chance to visit some of Bolivia’s most spectacular habitats, from fern carpeted rainforests to tiny puna grassland plants. If you're looking for a destination that offers the ultimate in nature adventure possibilities for pros and amateurs alike, choose Bolivia, naturally!

We specialize in organized trips to exotic destinations to explore and picture different kinds of Bolivian flora including Orchids, Bromeliads, Heliconias, Aroids, Ferns, Cycads, Cacti and many other exotic tropical plants.

Bolivia’s rich plant diversity is, in large part, due to its wide array of ecoregions and vegetation types, ranging from Amazon moist forest, cerrado (savanna) and dry forest of the lowlands, through the puna and Polylepis forest of the Altiplano, to the paramos, yungas and dry valleys of the Andes; but also to the altitudinal range, from nearly 100 m in the eastern lowlands to an impressive 6,542 m for volcán Sajama in the Bolivian Andes!

The first botanical collections and publications dealing with Bolivia date back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The floristic inventory was given important impetus during the last 15 years and three major Bolivian botanical institutions built up plant collections including over 120,000 specimens. Presently, the flora is estimated at 17,000 vascular plants, 1,500 ferns and 1,200 bryophytes (nonvascular land plants) and there is a growing number of new records every year.

Vegetation includes high altitude bunch grass and scattered scrub, mountain forest, tropical rain forest, dry forest and thorn bush, grassland, savanna, woodland, palm and riverine forest, open scrub woodland, marshes, salt flats, high barren or snow-covered mountains.

Bolivia is one of the very last countries in South America to be documented botanically but the diversity of animal and plant life is arguably among the greatest in the world.

In 2014 a catalogue of the vascular flora of Bolivia was published by Jørgensen et al. under the auspices of the Missouri Botanical Garden, recording 15,345 species, of which 12,165 are native and 2,343 are endemic, while 694 are cultivated, 267 adventitious and 221 are naturalized. Endemic species of vascular plants add up to 2,343 species. The 286 families listed follow the APG III classification system. There are about 150 botanists in Bolivia dedicated to studying the country’s rich flora. On our tours also, we are likely to meet agronomists and foresters from the local Bolivian universities.

Where to Go — Even considering the harsh climatic conditions at high altitudes, Andean altiplano highlands of Bolivia feature 1,565 recorded species, while the Andean slopes are home to 9,253 described species, more than in the lowlands with 8,453 species (Jørgensen et al. 2014).

A breakdown of species numbers by altitudinal quota shows the decrease in species number with altitude above two thousand meters. This is why our Bolivia tour shall concentrate particularly on exploring along the foothills and slopes of the Andes (unless you have special interests / requirements, of course).

When to Go — Our botanical tours are available throughout the year. Spring and early summer are ideal times to enjoy blooming landscapes.

Wherever and whenever you decide to travel, you’ll be able to enjoy wonderful walking, and a flower holiday that’s a perfect fit for your passion.

Field Guides — All of our botanical tours and expeditions come with experienced leaders helped by botanists and keen gardeners with an interest in flowers and plants around Bolivia.

Our guides will take you to areas that are normally difficult to get to; the mountains are magnificent, but you will also enjoy exploring the rain forests of the upper Amazon river system, deserts and beautiful lakes.

A botanical trip with us follows an unhurried pace and spans a range of walking grades, from leisurely to moderate. Even though we will view and photograph the amazing plant diversity in Bolivia there are many opportunities to visit many World Heritage and historical sites as well.

Our prices vary according to group size, accommodation and activities. All our tours are bespoke and we’re happy to create a personal itinerary for your own dream holiday. Contact us for a wonderful botany experience in Bolivia.

WHERE?

• SANTA CRUZ - Far from the altiplano in the huge eastern lowland plains of Bolivia is Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city where the warmth of its people is only exceeded by the heat of its climate. Santa Cruz is rapidly becoming  the principal gateway to Bolivia: it is the center of the country´s economic growth, has the best international airport in the country, and is at a low altitude – only 416 m. (1,350 ft) above sea level. The rapid economic development has not affected the colonial character of the old backstreets nor the famous good humor of the city's inhabitants.

Santa Cruz (437m/1,434ft above sea level) is the best place to start a botanical trip to Bolivia - it lies in the eastern lowlands and allows a gradual acclimatization to increasingly high altitude while botanizing sites to the west en route to La Paz (over 3,000m/10,000ft) higher up.

• AROUND SANTA CRUZ - Santa Cruz displays outstanding biodiversity typical of the Upper Amazon Basin, as well as a number of cultural remains from past civilizations. Easy access from the bustling city to nearby parks: beautiful slices of paradise await, surrounded with exotic plants and animals; walk through self-guided ecological paths and exuberant forest as you look for butterflies and orchids; explore pre-Columbian remains at Samaipata archaeological site and World Heritage Site (UNESCO)...

Bolivia’s fastest growing city is surrounded by cerrado, chaco-like thorn scrub, gallery woodlands and wetlands. Hence the city environs are worth a look before heading west towards Cochabamba and much more exciting botany. Habitats here are surprisingly varied, including Yungas rainforests as well as polylepis woodlands and high Andean puna.

• AMBORO NATIONAL PARK - A three hour drive west from Santa Cruz will take us into one of the most pristine and, as of yet, unspoiled tropical habitats in the world. Amboro National Park occupies 1.7 million acres of pristine tropical habitat. The park encompasses three distinct ecosystems and has an amazing variety of untouched flora and fauna.

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• COCHABAMBA - Known as the city of "Eternal Spring", the name itself is derived from the Quechua words Cocha, or lagoon, and Pampa, or plane. The population of 900,000 makes Cochabamba the third largest city in Bolivia.

Explore around Cochabamba. Visit picturesque towns and Quechua villages, look for condors and exotic flora in the Tunari mountain range, home of Polylepis trees, llamas, vicuñas and the rare Spectacled Bear... Explore the Puna Highlands and Evergreen Montane Forest along the "Road to the Clouds" (Camino a las Nubes), formerly the main access road to the nearby lowlands, now converted in a trekking route...

• CARRASCO NATIONAL PARK - River tributaries flow from the highest cloud forests in the world to the immense Amazon basin. The park covers more than 620,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) fom an altitude of 4.700 m. down to 300 m. (15,000/900 ft). It is one of the richest ecosystems on the planet with an extraordinary variety of flora which includes dozens of palms, ferns, and other plants as well as extremely rare and protected animal species. From monkeys to rare orchids... Carrasco National Park has it all!

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• UYUNI SALT FLATS or Salar de Uyuni - A succession of stunning landscapes and unusual shapes that captivate the visitor at first sight. Covering nearly 11,000 square kilometers, it is the largest salt plain in the world, formed by the disappearance of an inland sea that covered most of the Altiplano about 13,000 years ago. Here the horizon seems to blend in with the sky and you can hardly tell where the salt lake actually ends.

Stretched between distant Andean peaks like a shimmering white carpet, the Salar de Uyuni is home to pink flamingos, 1,000-year-old cacti, rare hummingbirds and hotels built entirely from blocks of salt. Photographers flock here to capture the unique landscape. With the mountains and the sky as its only frontiers, it allows us to observe mirages and optical illusions due to solar radiation and the crystallized ground. In its interior, virgin, uninhabited islands are home to immense cacti, unusual flowers and strange fauna.

The Salar de Uyuni has impressive views. Admire the flat whiteness, fringed by the peaks of mountains on the horizon beneath a bright blue sky. Besides, the silence that you can experience in this region is captivating. Calm and tranquility, not easily found anywhere, characterizes this landscape. As many other parts of South America, this developing area has very little to offer in terms of commodity. However, if you have an adventurous spirit you will be overwhelmed by its natural beauty.

Salar de Uyuni is one of the highlights of your trip to Bolivia and shouldn't be missed as it is a unique place in the world with outstanding places for photographers at any time of year.

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• LA PAZ - A city for both enriching visits and adventurous discoveries. Lose yourself in streets brimming with life, where neighbors, artisans and sorcerers rub elbows amidst the daily agitation of typical markets. La Paz's outskirts also offer an array of spectacular sites, such as eerie rock sculptures created from ancient erosion at the Valley of the Moon. Bolivia is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and it is great to spend a few days in La Paz as the surrounding mountains are truly spectacular and mighty enticing.

• ROYAL CORDILLERA - When the Spanish conquerors (Conquistadores) arrived in the mid 16th century in that area of South America, they were so stunned by the beauty of the mountains that they called this range "Cordillera Real" (Real meaning Royal... and not "real"). In the ancient time, theses mountains were adored by the local Aymara civilization. Nowadays this range is one of the prime destination for hikers, climbers and nature enthusiasts from all over the world, for a good reason: altitude, accessible routes and rather good weather conditions throughout the year (apart from January to March when it may snow heavily). Cordillera Real also provide a splendid landscape for hiking and is ideal for acclimatizing. The range goes from almost Lago Titicaca (on its North West tip) down to the suburbs of La Paz (on its South East tip), and is about 150 kms long.

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• LAKE TITICACA - According to legend, the Sun, as well as the pre-Inca god, Viracocha, rose from its depths. Lake Titicaca is the religious center where the ancient Andean beliefs interact with the living faith of today’s Aymara people. In the middle of the lake, the Island of the Sun is the Sacred Place. We will spend time wandering among the ancient ruins hidden in the folds of the steeply terraced slopes of Pilkokaina, Stairway of Yumani...

Off the main tourist trail but well worth a visit, the smaller portion of the lake or Wiñay Marka is very close to the Andes mountain range and offers stunning views of the Cordillera Real. The lakeside and most of its islands are inhabited by rural farmers and fisherman who carry on centuries-old traditions. The coastline is ringed by fields of totora reeds that create habitat for large populations of water birds and fish.

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• RURRENABAQUE - North of La Paz, in the Upper Amazon Basin and on the foothills of the Andes, this lively tropical town of around 7,000 inhabitants, is a starting point for great rainforest and wildlife expeditions.

Vegetation heterogeneity forms the basis for the high species richness of the area around "Rurre". Together with the adjacent Bahuaja Sonene National Park in south-eastern Peru, the area forms a unique protected area system of more than 3.5 million ha and plays an important role in the establishment of biological corridors along the eastern Andean slope in Bolivia.

The indigenous communities are committed to the development of ecotourism in the area, aiming their efforts at the sustainable use of natural resources (flora and fauna). Ecotourism improves the living conditions of the local populations, by generating direct and indirect benefits, which in turn will also guarantee the sustainability of the territory and the Quechua-Tacana culture.

Climate is hot and humid all year round.

• MADIDI NATIONAL PARK - Madidi National Park encompasses 4.5 million acres (1.8 million hectares) of protected wilderness. Madidi protects some of the wildest and most pristine rainforest on earth, and life thrives in the park's many habitats, ranging from lowland tropical forests of the Amazon to snow-capped peaks of the High Andes.

Due to high habitat specialization, it is a globally critical hotspot of plant endemism. 1,875 species have been reported to date, but the area’s is believed to harbor no less than 5,000 (Kessler, 1993).

Explore this area on a canoe trip, following the Beni River through spectacular Bala Gorge before heading up the smaller Tiuchi River. Your lodge is owned and managed by an indigenous Quechua-Tacana community. With a lifetime of knowledge, the guides lead you in search of macaws, tapirs, monkeys, caimans and more. They also teach you how rainforest plants and trees are used for medicine, tools and food. Profits help finance small community projects and improve their livelihood.

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WHAT?

Botany - Nature & Wildlife Exploration - Photography - Easy Hiking - Conservation Projects - Community Projects - Side Excursions

WHEN?

Year-Round Departures (depart virtually any day of the week).

May - October is dry season.

Days 1 & 2 - Arrive Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Botanizing the Santa Cruz area. [LD]

Days 3 & 4 - Rainforests of Amboró National Park for numerous orchids, ferns and much more. [BLD]

Day 5 & 6 - Northwest of Santa Cruz and Rainforests of Carrasco National Park. [BLD]

Day 7 - Bountiful botany in the Bolivian Yungas. [BLD]

Days 8 & 9 - Explore Uyuni Salt Flats and the flora of the Bolivian Altiplano and high Puna. [BLD]

Day 10 - Botanising around La Paz. [BLD]

Days 11 & 12 - Lake Titicaca and Cordillera Real in the Royal Range of the Andes. [BLD]

Days 13 & 14 - The Amazon basin: Rurrenabaque and Madidi National Park on the foothills of the Andes. [BLD]

Day 15 - Back to La Paz for international flight. [B]

Meals Included: Breakfast [B], Lunch [L], Dinner [D]


Notes:


Vegetation of Bolivia includes:

  • High altitude bunch grass and scattered scrub
  • Mountain forest
  • Tropical rain forest
  • Dry forest and thorn bush
  • Grassland, savanna, woodland, palm, and riverine forest
  • Open scrub woodland
  • Marsh
  • Salt flats
  • High barren or snow-covered mountains

Vascular plant groups in Bolivia:

Groups
Families
Genera
Species
Ferns
33
126
1,145
Gymnosperms
  8*
20
43
Angiosperms
245
2,636
14,157

* including 4 introduced families


Ten top families of vascular plants in Bolivia:

Families
Species
Orchidaceae 
1,263
Asteraceae 
1,256
Fabaceae 
1,114
Poaceae 
962
Malvaceae 
445
Rubiaceae 
429
Cyperaceae  
348
Solanaceae
341
Melastomataceae 
325
Euphorbiaceae
322

Vegetation - Bolivia Botanical Tours

Depart any day! Custom dates and prices available.
Contact one of our travel consultants for details.

All levels of interest and expertise catered for. Although this trip is focused on botanical aspects, no prior knowledge about plants is necessary to enjoy the tour. Expect a series of leisurely day excursions with ample time to study botanical finds (focus on flora, but expert guidance also given on other wildlife.)

And all aspects of the natural world and local culture are included where appropriate. Our Bolivian guides and drivers have extensive knowledge of the plants, ecology, culture and history of Bolivia — they are also expert naturalists and speak good English.

Sample the best of botanical Bolivia with an exotic combination of landscapes, people, history and culture for a unique and truly inspiring experience.

Solutions for families, small and large groups – feel free to request a custom quote.

We organize tailor-made tours at competitive prices throughout Bolivia for individuals, couples or groups, off the usual tourist routes and accompanied by accredited local guides, to get you in direct contact with stunning Bolivian landscapes, the people and local culture.

Choose the duration of your Bolivia trip, the places you want to visit, type of accommodation, schedules, ways to get around and even your budget. Everything exactly as you prefer!

Contact us so that we can prepare a detailed tailor-made itinerary for you, based on your travel dates and personal conveniences.

If you are a group of 10 or more travelers, you can take advantage of the favorable conditions that Fremen Tours Bolivia has planned for you.

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