Bolivia - tours for people who don't like tours since 1984

Yungas Bolivia

East of La Paz

 

The Yungas

Your journey across the Bolivian Andes may lead you towards the north of La Paz (e.g. Condoriri Massif, Apolobamba Mountain Range...) or east into the subtropical valleys of the Yungas region.

In this page we'll discuss the Yungas Region.

For trips to the North Andean Region of La Paz, please refer to the Royal Cordillera page in this website.


From the glaciers to the tropical jungle, the journey to "Los Yungas" (Coroico - Nor Yungas, or Chulumani - Sud Yungas) and the Andean gateway to the Amazon Basin, includes a true geographic synthesis of the world at large. On the eastern slopes of the Andes, these subtropical towns are only four hours from La Paz, over one of the most breathtaking highways of South America.

During the voyage, the terrain progressively mutates as the climate mellows and the cloud forest with its ubiquitous ferns becomes ever more humid. The road increasingly narrows as it skirts the edge of steep and seemingly bottomless abysses, until the traveler arrives either at the North Yungas town of Coroico or the South Yungas town of Chulumani, the two main productive centers of the region. Their tropical climate, hilly terrain and abundance of natural fruit growth make them ideal sites for coffee, citrus and coca production.

Ask us for a full-day or an overnight excursion to Coroico or Chulumani. Overland connections to Rurrenabaque and Madidi National Park are also available via Coroico.

 
Across the Cordillera

Only 3 hours away from La Paz accross the Andean Range an overland expedition will take you from snow-capped mountains down to the cloud forests and to the humid, subtropical forests of the Yungas. These are the eastern foothills of the Andes, bordering with the Amazon basin. Your itinerary will take you through impressive trans-Andean roads until you reach the small towns of Coroico or Chulumani, both important production centers of coffee, banana, citrus and other subtropical fruit.

Ask for a full-day or an overnight excursion to Coroico or Chulumani. Overland connections to Rurrenabaque and Madidi National Park are also available via Coroico.

Mountain Biking – If you are looking for adventure and an adrenaline rush like no other then you need look no further than the ‘Worlds Most Dangerous Road’ mountain bike run. Starting at La Cumbre more than 4000m the run descends for 70 km to 1000m.

Zip lining, and other adventure tours such as canoeing, kayaking, and rafting activities downriver are also available.

Hikes & Treks – Should you choose to hike or trek accross the Andes, many pre-Columbian trails can be walked around La Paz. Some of them include the well preserved Takesi and Yunga Cruz trails, and the best known of the Yungas trails – the Choro trail. See below for details.

Many other hikes and treks are also available around La Paz.

Unique expeditions, exclusive hotels and tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

East of La Paz, the Cordillera Real drops precipitously into the Amazon lowlands, plunging down through a region of rugged, forest-covered mountains and deep subtropical valleys known as the Yungas. Blessed with fertile alluvial soils and watered by the plentiful rains which are formed when hot air from the Amazon basin hits the Andes, the warm valleys of the Yungas produce abundant crops of coffee, tropical fruit and coca for the markets of La Paz and the rest of the Altiplano; indeed, long before the Spanish conquest the peoples of the Andes maintained agricultural colonies here to supply the Altiplano with coca (most of the leaves going to the mines of Potosí) and other subtropical products. While still as legal as it was then, coca growing remains a political hot potato, particularly vis-à-vis the US, whose eradication policies have been resisted tooth and nail by the cocaleros, led, of course, by current president Evo Morales himself. Several of the sturdy stone roads which originally transported the leaves – and linked the Yungas outposts to the main population centres – today provide some of the most scenic, challenging hiking in the region.

Cotapata National Park

Around 20km north of La Paz, some 400 square kilometres of the north face of the Cordillera Real are protected by Cotapata National Park. Ranging in elevation from 6000m to 1000m, Cotapata embraces many of the astonishing range of different ecosystems and climatic zones formed as the Andes plunge down into the valleys of the upper Amazon Basin.

Within a remarkably short distance high mountain peaks, snowfields and puna grasslands give way to dense cloudforest, which in turn gradually blends into the humid montane forest that covers the lower slopes of the Andes in a thick green blanket. The cloudforest – also known as the ceja de selva, or "jungle's eyebrows" – is particularly striking, made up of low, gnarled trees covered in lichens and epiphytes which absorb moisture from the clouds that are formed when warm air from the Amazon lowlands hits the cold ridges of the Andes. It's also home to many unique bird species, as well as elusive mammals like the puma and spectacled bear.

The only way to visit Cotapata properly is by walking through the park along the pre-Hispanic Choro Trail (see below). Running almost entirely downhill, the 70-kilometre trail can be walked in three to four days.

Coroico

The peaceful little town of Coroico is rightly considered one of the most beautiful spots in the Yungas, perched on a steep mountain slope 600m or so above the river of the same name, with panoramic views across the forest-covered Andean foothills to the icy peaks of the Cordillera Real beyond. Founded in the colonial era as a gold-mining outpost, the town is still an important market centre for the surrounding agricultural communities, and in recent years has also become a popular destination for Paceños looking to escape the cold of the Altiplano.

Set at an altitude of 1760m, it enjoys a warm and pleasantly humid climate, and this, combined with the dramatic scenery and good facilities, makes it an excellent place to relax and recuperate. While travellers might not need the same time in Coroico they once did just to recover from reaching the town in the first place – whether making the journey down from the Altiplano by micro, following the old route by mountain bike or making the slower trek on foot down the Choro Trail – Coroico is still worth visiting just for the sheer thrill of getting there.

Cerro Uchumachi – There are some excellent hikes in the countryside around Coroico, the most popular being the climb up to the summit of Cerro Uchumachi, the hill that rises above the town, which takes about two hours there and back. Head uphill beyond the Hotel Esmeralda to get started. Another good hike is to the waterfalls (cascadas) that are Coroico's main water source – a three- to four-hour walk there and back. From El Calvario chapel follow the path to your left as you face uphill.

World's Most Dangerous Road (Death Road)

Few highways in the world have as intimidating a reputation as the original road linking La Paz with Coroico in the North Yungas. A rough, narrow track chiselled out of near-vertical mountainsides that descend more than 3500m over a distance of just 64km, it's still widely referred to as the world's most dangerous road, a title bestowed on it by the Inter-American Development Bank. Statistically, the sobriquet is difficult to dispute: dozens of vehicles have gone off the road each year, and with vertical drops of up to 1000m over the edge, annual fatalities have reached into the hundreds. A new multi-million-dollar bypass around the most perilous stretch was opened in December 2006, following a route which looms high over the old road on the opposite side of the valley and which tunnels intermittently through the mountainside.

What the statistics don't tell you is that the old route – and to a certain extent the bypass as well – is also amongst the most beautiful roads in the world. Starting amidst the icebound peaks of the Cordillera Real, it plunges down through the clouds into the humid valleys of the Yungas, winding along deep, narrow gorges where dense cloudforest clings to even the steepest slopes. So spectacular is the descent that travelling the old Yungas road by mountain bike is one of Bolivia's most popular tourist attractions, an exhilarating ride that's easy to organize as a day-trip with tour companies in La Paz (Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking has the best reputation). Though cycling down the most dangerous road in the world may sound like a crazy proposition, the re-routing of most traffic to the bypass means that – in theory, at least – it's now safer than it's ever been, especially if you go with a reputable tour company which has good guides and well-maintained bikes.

Trekking Across the Andes

Bolivia has villages and communities in some of the most far flung and seemingly inaccessible areas of the Andes. The era of the Inca and pre-Inca saw the creation of trails and routes of communication through many of the valleys and along many of the hillsides in and around La Paz.

click here to openTreks across the Andes – Takesi, Yunga Cruz, El Choro

These routes make for fascinating treks, since they not only give you the chance to enjoy breathtaking glacial landscapes giving way to barren mountain crags, and in turn to thick, virgin cloud forest, but also to visit communities, many of which for whom time stood still many years ago.

Takesi Trail

• The Takesi trail, an easy 3-day trek, is without doubt one of the best preserved pre-hispanic pavings of South America.

One of the best and most popular treks in Bolivia is the Takesi Trail, a fantastic two- to three-day, forty-kilometre hike starting near La Paz that crosses the Cordillera Real and plunges down into the steamy forested valleys of the Yungas, emerging at the village of Yanacachi, west of Chulumani on the road from La Paz. Also known as the Camino del Inca – the Inca Trail – the Takesi is one of the finest remaining pre-Columbian paved roads in Bolivia, and passes through an amazing variety of scenery. Relatively easy to follow and not too strenuous, it's an ideal hike for less experienced trekkers. It's also the fastest and easiest way to descend from the highlands to the Yungas on foot.

Yunga Cruz Trail

• The well preserved Yunga Cruz trail shows lush vegetation and wild landscapes as well as astonishing flora and fauna on a 4-day trek.

Connecting Chuñavi, at the foot of the mighty Mount Illimani, with Chulumani in the Yungas, the Yunga Cruz Trail (3–4 days) is at once the toughest, most scenic and most pristine of the three Inca trails which link the Altiplano with the tropical valleys. Instead of following a river, like most Bolivian trails, the path leads along the spine of a giant ridge nearly all the way, giving trekkers a condor's-eye view of the dramatic landscape. Water is scarce along much of the route and the weather unpredictable, with heavy rain a possibility even during the dry season: carry at least two one-litre water bottles per person and take waterproof clothing. Route-finding is fairly difficult, so ideally go with a guide, and take a machete, as stretches of the trail may be overgrown. The trail starts in Chuñavi, a small village on the northeast slopes of Mount Illimani, six hours by road from La Paz – a micro leaves several days a week from Calle Burgoa in the San Pedro neighbourhood in La Paz. Take a taxi to be sure of finding the right micro, and turn up early to ensure you get a ticket.

El Choro Trail

• The Choro trail goes downhill for almost 3,000 m (10,000 ft) on a 3- to 5-day trek combining historic features with natural beauty and changes in vegetation.

Follow in the footsteps of the Incas as you trek down a beautifully preserved stone path, which takes you from the barren La Cumbre (The Summit) at 4670 m (15,400ft) of altitude down into the subtropical foliage of the Yungas.

The Choro Trail is hundreds of years old and probably the best known of the Yungas trails. The path leads us above the clouds and through a zone of harsh contrasts, linking the Andes mountain range with the moist and warm, subtropical lands. It is a landscape full of contrasts, with eternal ice, forests and hills with exuberant vegetation.

Set in the Cotapata National Park, the 3-day to 5-day El Choro Trek is one of the most spectacular hikes on the continent. Starting at ‘La Cumbre’ (The Summit), this ancient Inca trail links the Andes with the warm cloud forest below, descending over 3,400 m (11,000ft) in total to the small town of Chairo. It’s a landscape full of contrasts and enchanting scenery, which will see you starting your trek in the snow-capped Andes, passing down through the clouds into the thickly forested valleys below, where heat and humidity begin to show their faces.

El Choro pre-Columbian trail is part of an ancient network of Inca roads, and used to be the major access route to the lowlands of the northern part of the La Paz department, where a lot of the staple crops consumed by La Paz and altiplano residents are produced. El Choro is also the only Inca trail to have been fully restored inside Cotapata National Park, and its 64 km can be explored on foot in three to four days. During this vertiginous 3km descent into the lower Yungas valley region, hikers can enjoy archeological riches (rock platforms, canals, ridges, bridges, retention walls, etc.) and experience an impressive succession of ecosystems, from the Puna grasslands to the Yungas rainforests.

You’ll see colourful birds, butterflies and plants as you make your descent, and be able to cool off in one of the many refreshing waterfalls which you’ll pass on the way. Lots of little quirks make it particularly special, from rickety old bridges over rocky rivers to Tamiji, the Japanese hermit who fell in love with the Yungas while travelling there almost 60 years and now runs a camp-site where he meticulously makes a note of everyone who passes through it.

 

The treks that we offer here are not the typical routes you will find in most guidebooks. Whether you plan to use them as a chance to acclimatize before heading for higher ground or just in order to get away from the tourist trail for a while, you had better stock up on camera battery...

 

The Yungas region is located east of La Paz, across the Royal Cordillera.

La Paz

Through our intimate, small-group tours and private expeditions in this area you will be able to visit sites most tourists, even seasoned travelers, never find.

Join us on a discovery of a lifetime in La Paz.

Check our selected excursions in this area:

ESSENTIAL LA PAZ — 4 days

La Paz & Lake Titicaca
{ short bolivia excursion - fully customizable }

The following packages also include this area
among other destinations.

ESSENTIAL BOLIVIA — 5 days

La Paz / Tiwanaku / Lake Titicaca / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

DISCOVER CULTURAL BOLIVIA — 8 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA's NATURE RESERVES — 8 days

La Paz / Sajama & Lauca National Parks / Rurrenabaque / Madidi & Pilon Lajas National Parks / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA CROSSING — 8 days

From Peru to La Paz via Lake Titicaca / Uyuni Salt Flats & Sud Lípez / to Northern Chile or Argentina
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

GENESIS OF THE ANDEAN CULTURE — 10 days

La Paz / Tiwanaku / Lake Titicaca / Puno / Cuzco / Machu Picchu
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

ARTS & CRAFTS OF BOLIVIA — 13 days

Santa Cruz / Cochabamba / Sucre / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA EXPLORER — 15 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / Sud Lípez / La Paz / Lake Titicaca
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA ANDES & AMAZONIA — 15 days

La Paz / Cochabamba / Trinidad / Santa Cruz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA SPECIAL DEPARTURES — 13 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / La Paz
{ special itinerary - small group travel }

Feel free to customize any travel package according to your own personal interests and the specific activities you expect...

Join us on one of our Natural History Tours or a Cultural Exploration into the heart of South America. Our programs are offered throughout the year, on a (very) small group basis and mostly in private.

You may also want to make an enquiry or design your own program of activities in this area.

Plan A Trip

Not the Bolivia Trip you're looking for?

Go back to our Trip Selection Page or design your own special itinerary using our Bolivia Travel Planner.

Bolivia Group Tour & Fixed Departures

Call us to help you plan the best active, outdoor exploration to meet your interests, time, budget and abilities. You will be accompanied by expert local guides specializing in each region.

Skype us now!

Speak to a member of our team. We'll answer your questions, provide advice, help you book your Bolivia Trip, and most of all we'll help you customize your tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

You may also check other Special Interest Travel and unusual tours or expeditions around Bolivia, including:

• La Paz, Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca
• Uyuni Salt Flats & Sud Lípez Red & Green Lagoons
• Colonial Cities of Sucre and Potosí
• Central, Inter-Andean Valleys of Cochabamba
• Santa Cruz - the Lowlands & Jesuit Missions
• Bolivian Rainforests & Amazon Basin
• Cuzco & Machu Picchu Extensions

Fremen Tours Bolivia - Destination Management Company

©1994-2018 FREMEN TOURS BOLIVIA - ANDES & AMAZONIA       sitemap