Cordillera Apolobamba | Bolivia, 1996

aDistance :   115km approx.

Avg. Time :  4 days

Start / Finish :

  • Pelechuco – Charanzani
  • The hike can be done in either direction. I would recommend hiking from North to South, as this gives you the opportunity to take a well-earned post-trek bath in the thermal waters of Charanzani.
  • Since I did the hike in 1996, things have improved significantly in regards to transport options. According to the 2007 Bolivia Lonely Planet Guide,  there are three buses per week which go from La Paz to Pelechuco. Services to Charazani are more regular, with multiple daily departures making the eight hour journey from the capital.

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Season :  Late June to September.

Maps / Info :

  • Slim pickings back in 1996.
  • The IGM topographic map 1:100,000 Pelechuco 3041 (1999), covers the northern section of the hike. The southern part is blank due to “insufficient data.”

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  • The most recent edition of the Lonely Planet Bolivia guide has a brief description of the route.
  • If you would prefer to hire a guide, check the Trek Apolobomba website for details. A cheaper alternative would be to hire someone upon arriving at either Pelechuco or Charanzani.

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Route / Conditions :

  • A high-level walk which stays above 4000m in elevation for the majority of its course.
  • The route crosses three passes of more than 4700m, the highest of which is Sunchulli Pass at 5100m. I imagine the views would be fantastic in fine weather .
  • Although the Cordillera Apolobomba is remote, it is worth noting that a good portion of this hike is on dirt roads, built to access the area’s numerous mines.

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  • Despite the cooler temperatures, be sure to drink lots of water. You don’t want to be dehydrated at these altitudes.
  • I treated all water taken from the valley floors, but drank straight from the streams further up towards the passes.
  • For the most part the weather was overcast and rainy when I did this hike. During the occasional moment when the clouds lifted and the sun broke through, the views were superb.
  • Bring all supplies from La Paz, as Pelechuco doesn’t have much in the way of provisions.

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Sleeping :  Tent

Overview :

  • Doing this hike without the aid of a guide or a trekking company is definitely a challenge. However, if you manage to muddle your way through the rewards more than compensate for your efforts.
  • Recommended only for experienced trekkers with good route finding skills.
  • A decent grasp of the Spanish language is helpful.
  • The Cordillera Apolobomba is home to the Kallawaya people, the medicine men of the Bolivian Andes. I was lucky enough to spend some time with these amazing people. If you are similarly fortunate, please be respectful and refrain from taking photographs.
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The truck ride from Charanzani to La Paz almost ended badly, with the front carriage of the vehicle going off the side of the road.

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