La Paz to Chacaltaya

La Paz – Chacaltaya Ski Station – La Paz

An amazing day of cycling from La Paz up to the old ski station at Chacaltaya. At 5,260m this may be the highest place a standard car can reach in the Americas. The views from the ski station are stunning – Huayna Potosi, Mururata and Illimani in the Cordillera Real, La Paz and El Alto to the south, and if you look hard enough a tiny bit of Lake Titicaca can be seen to the west. If you still have the energy when you make it to the ski station you can climb up on a path the 100m or so to the top of Cerro Chacaltaya. This is a long day trip on unloaded bikes, even for the acclimatized.

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Total dist. Stage dist. Description
0km La Paz, Plaza Murillo (3,700m).
12.4km Go through streets of La Paz to the autopista. Climb to toll booth at top of autopista. Loads of traffic, but a good 3m-wide hard shoulder to cycle in.
12.4km Toll booth at top of autopista (4,090m – GPS01).
0.3km Continue on main road to junction.
12.7km Turn R at junction onto main 3-lane highway to Lago Titicaca.
1.3km Continue on 3-lane highway to first major turn-off to the R.
14km Junction to Zongo/Chacaltaya ski station (GPS02). Turn R, heading for Huayna Potosi in the distance. Ask for Zongo or the ski station if you need to ask a local for directions.
6km From junction with 3-lane highway continue heading straight for Huayna Potosi. Go along street filled with market stalls (when we were there), and straight over at 2 roundabouts. 3.5km (17.5km total) from the junction at GPS02 the ripio begins (GPS03). After a further 2.5km arrive at a signposted junction.
20.0km Signposted junction (GPS04). Go straight on to Zongo.
7.9km Climb to another junction.
27.9km Junction (4,600m – GPS05). Go R and climb to Chacaltaya (L descends and goes to Zongo).
10.0km Road improves and climbs gently for 4.7kms to first zigzag. Then climb gets steeper as you pedal 5.3kms up zigzags to the ski station.
37.9km Chacaltaya ski station (5,260m – GPS06). Great views of El Alto and the Cordillera Real.
37.9km Descend to La Paz by the same route. To join the autopista going in the direction of La Paz you need to cross the bridge over the autopista and loop round.
75.8km La Paz.
Time taken – 1 day and amount
climbed 1,760m
3 hours: La Paz to Zongo/Chacaltaya jn (GPS05).
2 hours: Junction to Chacaltaya ski station.
3 hours: Chacaltaya ski station to La Paz.
Traffic Loads until you hit the ripio, then a few tourist vehicles per hour up to Chacaltaya.
When we cycled Early August 2010.
Difficulty 3
How much we had to push on this route Not at all

GPS Point Description Lat/Long/Altitude
GPS01 Top of autopista 16.5010 S, 68.1629 W, 4,090m.
GPS02 Junction to Zongo/Chacaltaya ski station 16.4995 S, 68.1747 W, 4,090m.
GPS03 Ripio begins 16.4707 S, 68.1681 W, 4,190m.
GPS04 Junction (go straight) 16.4349 S, 68.1615 W, 4,310m.
GPS05 Junction (R to Chacaltaya) 16.3965 S, 68.1731 W, 4,600m.
GPS06 Chacaltaya ski station 16.3539 S, 68.1318 W, 5,260m.

Nearby routes:        La Paz to Sajama                 South Yungas                 North Yungas

4 Responses to “La Paz to Chacaltaya”

  1. jason 08/04/2012 at 22:33 # Reply

    hey up,

    not an update, just wanted to say thanks really. I came across your blog i dont know when, anyway, i remember seeing the picture of the road for chacaltaya, and i was like i have got to ride this! loved the road, so thanks for sharing!

    also, i looked for the alfonso agarte road thing, but ended up on avenida chacaltaya which led me there, not sure if you made a mistake here, or you just went another way…

    anyway keep adventuring, im not as hard core as you guys, with all the off roading and high passes, but now and again it just has to be done…



    • Neil 11/04/2012 at 19:34 # Reply

      Hi Jason,
      Glad you enjoyed the road – it was definitely a Bolivian highlight for us!
      I’m pretty sure we did go via the road I’ve marked on the Google Map, though I can’t guarantee that the name Av. Alfonso Agarte, as it’s called on GM, is correct. I guess Av. Chacaltaya must be an alternative (though I can’t see where it is on GM).
      Thanks for the update, and yep, those high roads just have to be cycled!

  2. Tihomir 06/06/2013 at 00:31 # Reply

    I did this on June 5, 2013. It is an amazing day trip from La Paz. The views from the top of Chacaltaya are amazing and the ride is nice (if we don’t count the fumes from the traffic while biking on the autopista).
    To exit the autopista sooner, you can take the first street to the right at 16.4623 S, 68.1513 W, after the autopista makes a 180 degrees loop. Then you follow the streets through this OK neighbourhood, staying as much to the right as possible, as long as you are not going downhill or biking off the edge of the cliff. At one point the road will turn to ripio and a bit later the houses will end. A little further you will reach a school called Siete Lagunas (the lagunas are behind the school so you can’t see them). At the school you make a sharp left turn (16.4302 S, 68.1481 W) to join the road that google maps calls ruta 41. First there will be a turnoff to the right, which you might want to skip (however, it is possible to get to Chacaltaya on this road as well, see below). Then you take the second turnoff to the right, which is signposted to Zongo (GPS04).

    On the way back, I took a different route. After I came down from the switchbacky road on the mountain proper, I took a left at 16.3662 S, 68.1456 W. This road, which goes on the side of a yellow mountain, is not very good for a couple of km until you reach two lagunas. Then you turn right on an ok road and you bike until you reach ruta 41 at the turnoff nearer the school (16.4327 S, 68.1570 W).


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