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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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.
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.

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Nearby routes:   Sabaya to Sajama           Chachacomani to Panduro           South Yungas         North Yungas           Chacaltaya

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