This 9-day trip combines a trip to Oruro with visits to Tihuanaco and Lake Titicaca. Oruro’s Carnaval celebrations have made this mining town a colorful destination at the beginning of Lent for Bolivians and international travelers who come here for a pilgrimmage of dance, music, and storytelling. The folklore festival’s roots in Christian traditions and indigenous myths and deities makes this a unique cultural experience. Spend two nights in Oruro during the weekend prior to Ash Wednesday to witness the triumph of good over evil displayed in the form of dances and music. Each costume, each gesture, each character, color, and movement have a symbolism and meaning in this carnival.
Explore ruins of the ancient towns and islands on Lake Titicaca
Enjoy the Parade of Dancers along the main route
Visit the working silver mine in San Jose
Climb El Calvario for great views of Lake Titicaca and Copacabana
The trips starts early with a one-hour transfer from La Paz to Tihuanaco (also spelled Tiwanaku), ruins of an ancient city near the south shore of Lake Titicaca. Tihuanaco is believed to be the ceremonial center for a pre-Inca civilization settled in 600 BC and represents one of the greatest architectural achievements of pre-Inca South America. Little is known about this culture as it mysteriously disappeared around 1200 AD. Visit the archaeological site and the museum, and lunch is provided at a restaurant here.
In the afternoon, return to La Paz. Visit the Plaza Murillo, where the cathedral and the Government Palace are located. Then, continue to the famous colonial street “Calle Jaén” where interesting museums are clustered together. Following this, visit the typical “Mercado de las Brujas” or the Witches’ Market, located along narrow streets near the San Francisco Church, founded in 1549. This is a great area for traditional handicrafts and artwork.
The tour continues to Obrajes, Calacoto, and La Florida residential areas in the south and the well known Moon Valley, where erosion has given place to the most exotic and curious surface forms. Return to your hotel in the evening.
Early this morning, depart by private vehicle for a 4-hour drive to Oruro. Upon arriving, transfer to your hotel and check-in. With your private guide, explore Oruro, a mining town whose name means “where the sun is born”. Visit the church where you can see the Santuario de la Virgen del Socavon, the site believed to be the inspiration for one of the main stories told during the Oruro Carnival. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary’s image appeared before miners in a mine shaft. The mine is know as the Socavon de la Virgen (Grotto of the Virgin), and the church has been built on this site with the Virgin of Socavon becoming the patron saint of Oruro’s miners.
Today is the main parade with dance groups coming from all over the country and regaled in colorful, ornate costumes that compete in splendor with those found in Rio’s Carnaval. These costumes, the rhythm of the music, and the choreography all tell stories based on Christian symbols and stories as well as Uru and Inca legends from the pre-Columbian times. The most famous is La Diablada, or Dance of the Devils, a story of the underworld that originated among Bolivian miners and is now quite famous throughout the world.
The day is spent with your private guide to witness this spectacle and to learn the stories, both traditional and modern, involved with a festival described by UNESCO as “a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” You have a reserved seat along the main parade route as you watch the procession of an estimated 30,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians over the course of a twenty-hour celebration. Travelers have the flexibility to go back to the hotel at any point to relax and return energized to the parade.
To take into consideration a long night of watching the parade, breakfast is late, followed by a visit to the San Jose silver mine that has been working since 1589. Walk around the mine property, hear about its history, and witness the continued cultural and economic importance of this active mine. Travelers have the chance to enter the mine and “visit” Tio Supay, the deity who owns the mines and rules the underworld. The miners seek to pacify him through offerings in order to prevent accidents from occurring underground.
This afternoon, say goodbye to Oruro and return by bus to La Paz to overnight.
Early this morning, transfer by private vehicle with your guide to Copacabana. From here, board a boat and head toward Sun Island (1 hour ride). Sun Island is worshipped as the birthplace of Manco Kápac and Mama Ocllo, the first founders of the Inca empire. With your guide, tour the Pilkokaina Palace, the Inca’s Fountain, and the 200 stairs of Yumani. Have a traditional atapi lunch (a picnic with local dishes) and then an hour walk to the Estancia EcoLodge, your home for the evening. Enjoy dinner and the sunset on Lake Titicaca.
After breakfast, travel by boat to Moon Island where you will tour the Inca ruins of Inak Uyu on the northeast shore, which are believed to be the convent for the Virgins of the Sun. Return to Copacabana by boat and in the afternoon visit La Horca del Inca. Travelers interested in a workout can climb El Calvario and enjoy a spectacular view of Lake Titicaca and Copacabana.
This morning explore the picturesque town of Copacabana situated between two mountains on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Explore the cathedral with its dark Virgin of Candelaria statue and museum of European and local religious art, learning about the mystical spiritualism and religion traditions that take place here.
Return to La Paz in the mid-morning. Overnight in La Paz.
Day 9: Return home
With more time, extend your trip to the Madidi National Park in the Amazon or visit Santa Cruz and the Jesuit Missions.
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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!