La Paz to Sajama

El Alto – Achiri – Charaña – Visviri – Tocora – Alcerreca – Paso Chungara/Tambo Quemado – Sajama


A route we greatly enjoyed from La Paz to Sajama National Park, via Lauca National Park in Chile. The first couple of days are quite flat and the scenery isn’t particularly interesting, but after Achiri it is a very nice cycle. The best scenery is on the Chilean section of the ride – the stunning Quebrada Allane and Abra Taapaca, and then the area around Lago Chungara on the way to the Bolivian border. Some sections of the road in Chile are very steep, but the views make it worth the effort. There is very little traffic from Achiri to the main road after Abra Taapaca, but there are villages every now and then, so we never carried a huge deal of water. We saw nowhere to buy food from Charaña to Tambo Quemado, so ensure you have enough for this stretch, which took us 3 days.

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Illimani from Viacha
The church in Berenguela
Climbing to Abra Pucamaya
Nearing Caquiaviri
Visviri
Climbing to Abra Chapoco
A cold morning in Villa Industrial
More sand, woohoo!
Gazing at Volcan Taapaca
Coronel Alcerreca
Quebrada Allane and Volcan Taapaca
Fording the river in Quebrada Allane
Climbing to Abra Taapaca
A slightly exaggerated sign at Abra Taapaca
Parinacota and Lago Chungara
Acotango and Lago Chungara
Parinacota and Pomerape
Cute church on the track to Sajama

Total dist. Stage dist. Description
0 km Autopista peaje (toll booth) – La Ceja, El Alto. At the top of the autopista.
1.8km Busy on main road to Oruro. Tarmac.
1.8 km Junction. Turn R to Viacha.
22.0km Less busy, quite wide road. Tarmac.
23.8km Viacha main square. Town with lots of internets, restaurants, an enormous cement factory, a good cake shop on the square but no accommodation (though a place was being built on the square).
29.8km Go through Viacha, then continue, still on tarmac, to a junction.
53.6km Junction. L to Corocoro, straight to Charaña.
33.8km Go straight at junction, then immediately after cross a small footbridge (GPS01) over a river. Tarmac ends after 1.9kms, then climb 3.9kms to 4,180m. About 16kms further on is Laura Lloka Lloka, a small village with a basic shop. Continue straight to Caquiaviri.
87.4km Caquiaviri (GPS02). Big village with basic accommodation, shops, restaurants.
23.0km Road quite flat, though overall descent.
110.4km Vichaya. Village and bridge over Rio Desaguadero. Looked big enough to have shops, but we didn’t investigate.
26.7km 8kms to Chocorosi (medium sized village, probably had shops); continue to Achiri.
137.1km Achiri (GPS03). Big village with shops and basic restaurants. No accommodation but if you ask around you should find something. Water is a big problem in the village (i.e. there isn’t any), so no toilets anywhere.
19.3km Reach small village of Pucamaya after 12kms. No shop. Then climb to pass.
156.4km Abra Pucamaya – 4,288m (GPS04).
8.4km Descend for 3.5kms to a stream crossing at 4,050m. Then climb for 3.7kms to next high point at 4,170m. Descend 1.2kms to Berenguela.
164.8km Berenguela. Small village with a very basic shop (and women selling alpaca steaks if you time your visit to coincide with the daily bus to La Paz).
28.9km Climb from the village for 1.2kms to high point at 4,230m. Then lots of ups and downs to stream crossing 18.9kms from Berenguela. For next 10kms there are more ups and downs.
193.7km Bridge over Rio Mauri.
19.4km Road is flatter.
213.1km Charaña (GPS05). Large village. Accommodation, restaurants, shops. If heading to Chile, both Bolivian and Chilean immigration are in Visviri.
4.8km Climb, then descend to Visviri.
217.9km Visviri (GPS06). Small village. Didn’t really look around, but saw no accommodation, shops or restaurants. Do Bolivian and Chilean immigration here.
1.8km Ok surface.
219.7km Junction (GPS07). Signposted. We went R to Tacora, straight/L on the main road goes to Parinacota.
13.2km Bad surface for 8.8kms (sandy, corrugated), until meet bigger track at a junction. Go straight for 1.2kms to another junction. Go L at this junction (less steep and roads soon meet up). Climb to a top at 4,160m. 1.8kms after last junction (11.8km from signposted junction), road splits again. R is less steep, but still 10-15%. Climb for 1.4kms to a high point.
232.9km High point at 4,310m.
5.9km Join Arica-Santa Cruz gas pipeline 3kms after high point. More steep descents and ascents, with overall climb to a pass.
238.8km Abra Chapoco – 4,397m (GPS08) – we turned R/north (downhill) to General Lagos on the main track.
23.0km Descend 4.6kms to Estancia General Lagos (no facilities, but inhabited), road is then quite flat for 8.4kms to the small village of Chislluma (didn’t see any facilities). From Chislluma it is 3.7kms to Ancara a tiny village where we saw no residents. From Ancara it is 6.1 flattish kms to Tacora.
261.8km Tacora (GPS09). Small village. No accommodation or restaurants. Didn’t see any shops. Friendly caretaker let us stay the night in the village hall.
29.0km Descend 2kms to Villa Industrial (no facilities, 1 family in residence), then 2.5kms to Surapalca II (tiny, no facilities). 4.1kms to Humapalca (small, saw no facilities). There is a junction in Humapalca – L to Ancolacane, straight to Alcerreca. We went straight. In 1.6kms more have to wade a stream, then 13.3kms to another junction, where the road from Ancolacane rejoins. Then 5.5kms to the junction just before Alcerreca.
290.8km Junction just before Alcerreca – 3,930m (GPS10). L to carry on to Abra Taapaca, R to Alcerreca (0.6kms away – water available from Carabineros but no other facilities).
8.2km Descend to river at bottom of Quebrada Allane. Stunning scenery.
299.0km Ford the big river at the base of Quebrada Allane (3,600m – low point of the whole route). Would be impossible/suicidal to ford if the river is high.
21.4km Long climb out of Quebrada Allane then up to the pass. About 3 kms before the pass stay right (signposted Putre) at a junction.
320.4km Abra Taapaca – (4,802m – GPS11) and the top of a beautiful climb. Two ‘5,250msnm’ signs mark the pass!
15.4km Descend to main Arica – Bolivia highway.
335.8km Junction with main highway – 4,210m (GPS12). R to Putre. We went L for the lovely climb to Bolivia.
29.4km Climb to Guarderia Las Cuevas (4,490m and 9.5kms from the junction). Continue climbing to 4,580m then descend to the Carabineros (4,400m, 23.5kms from junction). In 3kms more come to Chucuyu, a tiny village with restaurants, then climb to a junction (L to Parinacota (4kms), Visviri (90kms)) 29.4kms from where you join the main road.
365.2km Junction to Parinacota, Visviri.
25.5km Climb to 4,670m in 6.4kms, then descend to Interpretation Centre at Lago Chungara in a further 5.9kms. Customs/immigration post for those entering Chile is a further 6.1kms, then comes the climb to Paso Chungara/Tambo Quemado. Fantastic views of altiplano lakes and 6,000m volcanoes.
390.7km Paso Chungara/Tambo Quemado – 4,686m (GPS13).
7.9km Descend at speed to the village of Tambo Quemado. Chilean and Bolivian immigration are both just before the village.
398.6km Tambo Quemado village. Accommodation, restaurants, shops.
9.3km Descend to the Rio Sajama (4,140m), then continue 0.4kms to a small junction just before an army post.
407.9km Junction (GPS14) – turn L. This isn’t the main road to Sajama (this turns off after Lagunas in a few kms time), but the surface on this smaller track is much better and less sandy than the main way.
11.3km Follow track to Sajama village.
419.2km Sajama village (GPS15). Tourist facilities – accommodation, restaurants, shops, internet, plus mountain guides available to hire for the volcanoes in the national park. We thought Ignacio Pacaje was good.
Details
Time taken – 6 ½ days and amount climbed – 5,300m 6 hours: El Alto – Caquiaviri (780m climb).
4 hours: Caquiaviri – Achiri (270m climb).
8 hours: Achiri – Charaña (headwind) (1,250m climb).
5 hours: Charaña – Tacora (headwind) (630m climb).
3 hours: Tacora – River in Quebrada Allane (130m climb).
4 hours: River – Abra Taapaca (headwind) (1,200m climb).
1 hour: Abra Taapaca – Main road (50m climb).
4 hours: Main road – Tambo Quemado village (tailwind) (870m climb).
1 hour: Tambo Quemado – Sajama (120m climb).
Traffic Lots to Viacha. Plenty from Viacha to Achiri, but little from Achiri to Charaña. 2 cars in 2 days from Visviri to Abra Taapaca and the main road. Lots from there to the turn off to Sajama.
When we cycled Mid August 2010.
Difficulty 3/4
How much we had to push on this route Not at all

GPS Point Description Lat/Long/Altitude
GPS01 Footbridge near jn 16.8581 S, 68.4262 W, 3,970m.
GPS02 Caquiaviri 17.0220 S, 68.6045 W, 3,950m.
GPS03 Achiri 17.2124 S, 69.0005 W, 3,890m.
GPS04 Abra Pucamaya 17.2624 S, 69.1590 W, 4,288m.
GPS05 Charaña 17.5940 S, 69.4456 W, 4,060m.
GPS06 Visviri 17.5950 S, 69.4774 W, 4,090m.
GPS07 Junction 17.5963 S, 69.4917 W, 4,090m.
GPS08 Abra Chapoco 17.6906 S, 69.6114 W, 4,397m.
GPS09 Tacora 17.7733 S, 69.7241 W, 4,090m.
GPS10 Junction before Alcerreca 17.9871 S, 69.6604 W, 3,930m.
GPS11 Abra Taapaca 18.0972 S, 69.5421 W, 4,802m.
GPS12 Junction with main highway 18.1773 S, 69.5024 W, 4,210m.
GPS13 Paso Chungara/Tambo Quemado 18.2847 S, 69.0748 W, 4,686m.
GPS14 Junction – turn L 18.2208 S, 68.9437 W, 4,140m.
GPS15 Sajama 18.1348 S, 68.9759 W, 4,250m.



View La Paz – Sajama (via Chile) in a larger map
Nearby routes:   Sabaya to Sajama           Chachacomani to Panduro           South Yungas         North Yungas           Chacaltaya

3 Responses to “La Paz to Sajama”

  1. vaughn fetzer 10/01/2015 at 21:26 # Reply

    Hello, thanks very much for your route descriptions! I biked most of the route from La Paz to Sajama in early January 2015 and have a few notes to share:

    -It definitely is possible to bike this route in the rainy season if my experience is typical, but you have to be prepared for rain, possible snow, and the usual gusty afternoon winds at all times. My days often started off sunny or only slightly overcast, but by early/mid afternoon heavy clouds accumulated on many days. Thunderstorms were common, and I saw hail. In other words, the weather slows you down. While there was plenty of good weather at times and not much mud to deal with, sometimes your daily distances are quite short.

    -Until I passed Charana, it was difficult to find places to wild camp that were not close to areas used for herding. This wasn’t a problem, but it did ensure that I usually received an early morning visit from curious and friendly visitors.

    -At the bridge over Rio Mauri you likely will find a police checkpoint, and they may try to swindle you if it’s staffed by the same officers I spoke with.

    -For me the bad road surface (horrible corrugations, loose sand and gravel) occurred during most of the distance between Rio
    Mauri and Charana.

    -The road surface after Visviri was OK. It looks like a lot of new construction is taking place in Visviri, so you might find food and accommodation options there now. It might be worth asking about this if you’re considering spending the night in Charana, since it’s so close (30 minutes).

    -Between Visviri and the Arica-La Paz highway I usually saw 4-5 vehicles, or more, per day, some of them tourists. It also appears as if a once or twice per week flota serves the area. You will see new signs at all of the settlements advertising visitor services (which are minimal). It appears the government wants to increase tourism in the area.

    -I had a bit of trouble initially locating Abra Chapoco. It really isn’t a pass at all – it’s more of a high point on a road which is located on the shoulder of a mountain, so if you’re looking for a saddle or col you will not see anything resembling this. Prior to this turn or pass you will bike along the pipeline for awhile, then away from it, and then back by it again. The turn is located at a sort of three-way intersection, and is right next to a rusted green sign for Estancia Chapoco (to the left of the road as you’re traveling from La Paz). The main route turns right at this intersection, toward Estancia General Lagos; it is possible to continue straight (paralleling the pipeline), but it’s obvious this is the lesser traveled route. You also will probably notice a faint track leading off to the left toward Estancia Chapoco. I don’t know if my GPS is calibrated incorrectly, but the coordinates I got for this point are S 17 degrees 41.445′ W 069 degrees 36.696′. After turning right at this point, I soon encountered Estancia General as noted in the route description. A sign for this location says “Estancia G Lagos.” Keep in mind estancia means ranch; what you’ll see here is a few buildings rather than a settlement.

    -There is good camping along the banks of the river at Quebrada Allane, and agua potable available at a structure located just across the river. I discovered horrible gnats or no-see-ums in this location during the morning I was packing to leave after the sun appeared. If it’s not cold enough at night to kill any insects which might be around, it would be wise to leave this location quite early in the morning.

  2. Laurent & Elise 07/08/2015 at 16:16 # Reply

    We made this route in tandem from El Alto to Tambo Quemado in July 2015 in 6,5 days.

    For those who come from LaPaz and don’t want to climb from La Paz to El Alto by the busy autopista (500m climb), there is a fast and unexpensive way to bring all your stuff at the top (El Alto). Take a collectivo in front of the Cathedral San Francisco (many of them are again empty here) and ask them to hire all the collectivo. Like this, it’s very easy to carry your bag and stuff because there is enough space inside the collectivo (even for our tandem, it was OK) and it cost only 20 Bs for both of us, the tandem and the bags.

    General comments:
    – No ATM along all the route, the only possibility if you really need is to make the detour to reach Putre (not so far but you need to go down and climb to come back). Be careful. It seems however that this ATM doesn’t work with all credit cards.
    – At the bridge over Rio Mauri : no problem for us for the police checkpoint, they just ask for passeports (we gave them only the copy telling the original was at LaPaz to avoid problems).
    – For the immigration in Visviri : No fee (which is strange because bolivian people said us that they need to pay 15BS for crossing the border). Normally, you can’t bring fruits, vegetables and meat from Bolivia to Chili (to keep in mind when you stock for the three days). But for us, they didn’t check our bag and even didn’t ask if we had (according other blogs, jam and honey can’t cross the border neither).
    – For the immigration near Tambo Quemado : things apparently changed. If you enter Bolivia, you need to make Chile immigration at Chungara (don’t forget because they won’t stop you and you will need to come back from Tambo Quemado) and Bolivian immigration at Tambo Quemado. If you enter Chili, you need to make Chile and Bolivian immigration at Chungara. If you exit Bolivia, there is no fee at the border.

    About the facilities in the villages:

    Laura Lloka Lloka:
    – No water but you can buy bottles at the tienda if necessary

    Caquiaveri:
    – Severals shops. Also possible to buy gasoline.
    – Very basic accommodation. We were on the first pension on the left (named La Florida): no toilet, no bathroom. Price for double room was 30 Bs after negociation.
    – There is one bank who can change ONLY Dollars in Bolivianos but NO ATM.
    Vichaya:
    – At least 3 shops around the main plaza
    – At least 3 restaurants around the main plaza
    – NO Alojamiento but you should find something if you ask around.

    Chocorosi:
    – At least 3 shops (quite well furnished with some fruits and veg)
    – At least 1 restaurant
    – NO Alojamiento but you should find something if you ask around

    Achiri:
    – Some shops but we didn’t succeed in finding bread (normally possible)
    – Always NO Alojamiento

    Pucamaya:
    – Very small village so don’t expect much
    – Water source in the garden of the first house on the left
    – No accommodation (one school but we didn’t ask if it was possible)

    Berenguela:
    – No shop (the tienda is now closed because there are not enough clients!!)
    – No restaurants
    – Water source on the right just before the white building (which is located before the church)

    Small village (km 177,3):
    – No shop
    – Severals water sources

    Charana:
    – Many tienda, if you look in each, you will find all the necessary for the next 3 days
    – Internet available near the main place, correct speed (4BS/hr)

    Visviri:
    – Shop, at least one (but we don’t know if it’s enough furnished to assure the next 3 days). Don’t forget it’s really less expensive on the bolivian side (Charana). It is always a solution to have some fresh fruits or veg (that you can’t bring from Bolivia)
    – At least 2 restaurants
    – At least one hospedaje (same thing than for food, probably better to stay at Charana for the price)

    Chislluma:
    – Small village
    – We didn’t see any shops.
    – Water
    – Residents proposed us a local without light, without bed, without electricity and without toilets for 5000 pesos. Too expensive for the prestation so we continued.

    Tacora :
    – No shops.
    – Friendly resident let us to use a local for the night

    Panicopat:
    – This town is 4km out of the route, the easiest way to go there is to take left just after village Chucuyu (there is a sign “Panicopat”). This will save you a climb and some kilometers by comparison with if you take the left at the km 365,2 of this roadbook.
    – No shops
    – One Hostal which also serves meals. Building is extremely cold so I’m not sure if I recommend it and shower is not really hot (expect some cuts). Price : 10 000 pesos/pers including dinner (not a cyclist ration!).

    Tambo Quemado:
    – At least 3 hostals
    – Shops well furnished but we haven’t seen many fruits and vegetables (ask at restaurants to get them)
    – Restaurants
    – NO Internet
    – If you need to change money, the rate is really not good if you ask in the street. Better to go directly in the immigration office and to ask at the many truck drivers who wait there if someone is interested

    About the water:
    – We never carried more than a total of 6 liter (for both of us) but we always tried to keep a maximum of the bottle full. We just took 2 liter more just after Quebrada Allane in order to make the 1200m ascension and a wild camping at the middle of the ascension and it was fine.
    – We took water in a river after Visviri, but it was salted so we cannot use it !
    – The water you get in the Chile side, in the village, is normally drinkable. No need to purify it.

    State of the track:
    – From the beginning of the dirt road to Pucamaya : Lot of wash board. Not so nice to ride but never that bad that pushing was required.
    – From Pucamaya to Rio Mauri : Surface is mainly quite good
    – Between Rio Mauri and Tacora : Bad surface, some sand and a lot of washboard even if you don’t need to push. We just pushed one or two times on the Chile side because it was too steep with the tandem.
    – Between Tacora and Colonel Alcerreca : Again lot of sand, some pushes
    – After Colonel Alcerra until asphalt : Quite good surface

    For those who want to continue on the Chile side with Salar de Surire: At least you stocked 8 days of food at Charana/Visviri, you will need to stock 5 days food arriving at Lago Chungara to make the route until Colchane (border) by salar de Surire. There is no real possibility to stock food on the Chile side (at least to go down until Putre). The best option is probably to cross the border until Tambo Quemado and come back at Lago Chungara to take the dirt road near the immigration buildings. You will find all the necessary at Tambo Quemado even if the city is not so nice (all the trucks stop there). An other possibility is to ask at the hostal at Panicopat but the choice will probably be limited.

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