La Paz to Achacachi

Irpavi (La Paz) – Hampaturi Dam – La Cumbre – Yolosa – Caranavi – Guanay – Mapiri – Consata – Sorata – Achacachi

We found this route through the north Yungas very tough. Leaving La Paz we took a great route from Irpavi up a small track past the Hampaturi dam, which joins the main road over La Cumbre near the pass. The old road to Yolosa is still known as the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road’, and while it is still dramatically beautiful, virtually no vehicles use it anymore so it isn’t particularly dangerous. Just make sure you don’t fall off it.

Until Guanay this route isn’t difficult, but here the road surface becomes much worse, the climbs become insanely steep, it’s very hot and there are plenty of bugs. Guanay to Consata is by far the hardest section of the route, but also the part where we enjoyed the verdant, jungley scenery most. After Consata the road surface is much better and though there is still plenty of climbing to do it is mostly on gentler gradients.

This loop is much harder than that in the south Yungas through Inquisivi and Chulumani and unless you are cycling it solely for the physical challenge, and only have time to cycle one of these loops, we don’t think the scenery on this north Yungas loop is worth the extra effort involved.

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Total dist. Stage dist. Description
0km Irpavi (3,400m). La Paz suburb 10kms downhill from the city centre.
16.6km Leave Irpavi heading upvalley. After 2.2kms the tarmac ends at a junction (GPS01). Go L, then L again at the football pitch in Chacani (2.2kms from junction). Descend to and cross river then stay on main track upvalley, through lots of settlements. 11.4kms from start of the ripio turn L (up) at a fork. The last part to the dam is very steep.
16.6km Hampaturi dam (GPS02), 4,230m. Turn L soon after reaching dam, on track that doubles back, making rising traverse.
8.2km Climb on better surface to high point (4,560m, 4.6kms from Hampaturi dam) overlooking a second dam. Descend to the main road.
24.8km Junction (4,360m – GPS03), join main paved road.
41.2km Turn R, climb to La Cumbre (4,671m – GPS04), after 8.2kms of tarmac. Descend 21.5kms to Unduavi (3,350m). Descend 11.5kms further to turn-off to old road to Yolosa (the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road’).
66.0km Junction with large signposts – go R onto old unpaved road to Yolosa.
36.2km Descend the spectacular road for 31.1kms to Yolosa (1,200m), settlement with shops, restaurants. Turn L (down) just after the bridge in Yolosa for Yolosita. R (up) for a 500m+ climb to Coroico. Remember to cycle on the LEFT HAND SIDE of the road from the beginning of the old road until Yolosita, and then from Santa Barbara (end of paving) to Caranavi.
102.2km Yolosita (1,070m), settlement with shops. Rejoin main, paved road.
70.3km Main road to Caranavi. 5.9kms to Sta Barbara paved, after which it’s horribly dusty due to all the trucks. Regular villages including Choro, 34kms from Yolosita.
172.5km Caranavi (600m). Big town. Lots of accommodation options, restaurants, shops. Begin driving on the right hand side of the road again when the paving starts at the entrance to town.
71.1km Go straight through Caranavi, then follow road along a river to Guanay. Still dusty and a reasonable amount of traffic. Small village of Santa Fe is 10.0kms from Caranavi and Alcoche – village with restaurants, shops – is a further 9.6kms on.
243.6km Guanay (410m). Town with accommodation, restaurants, shops.
18.8km Leave town on Mapiri road which leaves from the plaza (and has lots of white crosses by it to begin with). Climb 8.5kms to a small village (refreshments) at 1,025m. Make sure you have water with you for the climb as it’ll probably take a while and we saw none between Guanay and this small village. After the small village, climb to high point at 1,050m then descend to a stream.
262.4km Stream with pool (600m).
17.0km Climb to high point (1,050m) 5.6kms from stream. Then descend before ups and downs to Pahonal Vilaque.
279.4km Pahonal Vilaque (830m), village with shops and pensiones for food.
33.7km Descend steeply for 3.8kms to bridge over river (510m) then climb for 2.3kms to high point (730m). Descend more gently to Puente Dinamarca (550m) 3.3kms from high point. Climb again from here, though far less steeply than before to reach 920m, 4.8kms from Pte Dinamarca. Then follow some rising ladera (hillside traverse), reaching a high point some kms later at about 1,030m. 17.8kms from Pte Dinamarca begin descent to a river crossing.
312.1km River crossing (580m). No bridge where we crossed though a local told me there was one upstream (I couldn’t tell if he was joking). River is wide, but not deep when we crossed. Would be tricky/impossible to cross in wet season. Immediately after the river is the village of Chimate – pensiones for meals, and shops.
9.6km Climb in 3.7kms to a high point at 750m. Then descend again for 2.6kms to another river. Turn R on reaching the river and follow the road (under water even when we were there in dry season) a few hundred metres downstream to a ford (590m). Again, this would be tricky to cross in wet season. Climb, often steeply, for 3.3kms to Vilaque Grande.
321.7km Vilaque Grande (830m). Village with a few shops.
22.9km Climb to a small village, 5.4kms from Vilaque Grande. Ladera, then climbs and descents to the point (1,140m, 10.7kms from the small village) where the descent to Mapiri begins. Descend for 6.8kms to the centre of Mapiri.
344.6km Mapiri (640m). Town with accommodation options, restaurants, shops.
8.6km Turn L in Mapiri and in a few kms come to small village with a big and aggressive dog population. Descend to a bridge then a steep climb followed by a steep descent to Puente Tarapo.
353.2km Puente Tarapo (610m).
8.5km Climb (150m in 1.2kms) from the bridge, then more gently to Cañapampa (village with shops), 4.7kms from the bridge. Flatter section with high point (1,060m) before Sta Rosa.
361.7km Santa Rosa (1,030m). Town with accommodation, restaurants, shops.
19.0km Descend, through a few small villages, to Puente Vagante (690m – last low point of the route) 9kms from Sta Rosa. Little ups and downs to a small village 4kms from the bridge. Terrible surface. Another 6kms (flat) to Incachaca.
380.7km Incachaca (750m), small village with shops and restaurants.
23.4km Climb climb climb! Reach houses (1,195m) after 4.1kms, and the top of the steep part of the climb (1,265m) after 4.9kms. Ladera for 7.5kms to a point at 1,350m, before 11kms of descent on good surface to Consata.
404.1km Consata (1,020m), large village with accommodation, shops and restaurants.
18.2km Rising ladera to small village (1,220m) with no shop, 10.8kms from Consata. Then ups and downs to junction.
422.3km Junction (1,210m). R (down) to Pallayunga. Straight (up) for start of big climb towards Sorata.
23.7km Gradient is generally 5-8%, apart from insane section about 12kms from junction (around the 2,000m mark) that climbs over 150m in a kilometre! Pension (2,400m) for food 17.9kms from the junction, then village of Collabamba 4.9kms further on. 0.9kms from end of Collabamba is another junction.
446.0km Junction (2,790m). L (up) to Tacacoma, but for Sorata it’s quicker, with less climbing, to go R/ straight (down) via Chumisa.
13.9km Descend to 2,540m in 2.8kms. Climb 8.7kms to small village of Florida (3,040m) then a further 2.4kms to Chumisa.
459.9km Chumisa (3,190m). Big village with shop.
28.6km Climb 8.9kms to high point (3,670m), ignoring roads off L to Tacacoma. Gentle descent for 11.1kms on a good surface to Chacabaya (3,410m), small village with a very basic shop. Descend further 8.6kms to Quiabaya.
488.5km Quiabaya (2,970m). Large village with shops and restaurants.
43.2km Gentle descent to Avispaya (small village with shop), 15.3kms from Quiabaya. Descend further 8.8kms to low point (2,370m). Climb 6.2kms to another high point (2,680m), then descend 3.3kms to a junction (R to Gruta San Pedro, straight to Sorata) at 2,410m. Climb again to high point (2,660m) 4.0kms from junction. From there it is 5.6kms of small ups and downs to Sorata.
531.7km Sorata (2,700m). Touristy town with lots of accommodation options, restaurants, etc. Don’t remember seeing an ATM though.
54.0km Leave town from main square. Climb begins after 4kms. Tarmac begins 14.2kms from Sorata, at 3,160m. Climb to Abra Pacollo (4,240m – GPS05), 34.1kms from Sorata. Descend at speed to Achacachi, 19.9kms from the pass.
585.7km Achacachi (3,840m). Town with accommodation, restaurants, internet, shops.
Time taken – 10 days and amount climbed – 14,400m 5 hours: Irpavi – La Cumbre (1,570m climb).
3 hours: La Cumbre – Yolosa (120m climb).
8 hours: Yolosa – Caranavi (730m climb).
7 hours: Caranavi – Guanay (950m climb).
14 hours: Guanay – Mapiri (3,330m climb).
7 hours: Mapiri – Consata (1,860m climb).
16 hours: Consata – Sorata (4,200m climb).
5 hours: Sorata – Achacachi (1,640m climb).
Traffic Virtually none on some parts of the route (between suburbs of La Paz and joining the main road before La Cumbre; on the old road to Yolosa; between Mapiri and Consata).
Guanay – Mapiri also doesn’t have much traffic.
However, lots of trucks and buses on the main road over La Cumbre and from Yolosita to Caranavi. Some traffic from Caranavi – Guanay, Consata – Achacachi.
When we cycled End of September 2010.
Difficulty 4
How much we had to push on this route 3kms (steep, bad surface)

GPS Point Description Lat/Long/Altitude
GPS01 Tarmac ends upvalley from Irpavi 16.4970 S, 68.0823 W, 3,520m.
GPS02 Hampaturi dam 16.4143 S, 68.0230 W, 4,230m.
GPS03 Rejoin main road 16.4113 S, 68.0501 W, 4,360m.
GPS04 La Cumbre 16.3431 S, 68.0389 W, 4,671m.
GPS05 Abra Pacollo 15.8926 S, 68.6526 W, 4,240m.

View La Paz – Achacachi in a larger map
Nearby routes:        La Paz to Sajama                 South Yungas                 Chacaltaya                 East shore of Titicaca

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