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Colombia's Colonial Jewels & the Coffee Triangle 2014

Trip Extensions

Pre-trip: Bolivia: La Paz & Lake Titicaca

From the shores of Lake Titicaca to the blend of modern and ancient cultures in La Paz, countless discoveries await you in Bolivia. Journey here before you travel to Colombia and explore Andean landscapes, visit indigenous villages, and discover ancient ruins that pre-date the Inca Empire.

It's Included:
Airfare from La Paz to Bogotá
Accommodations for 4 nights in La Paz and 1 night in Copacabana
12 meals—6 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3 dinners
9 small group activities
Services of an expert local guide who speaks English and the native language
All transfers
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    Depart the U.S. today on your overnight flight to Bolivia. Please note: For travelers who choose to make their own air arrangements and arrive this evening, the hotel for the La Paz portion of our adventure will be available.

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    Arrive in La Paz very early in the morning today. An OAT representative will assist you in transferring from the airport to our hotel. You have the remainder of the morning to relax after your flight, as well as to begin adjusting to the altitude of La Paz, which—at around 12,000 feet above sea level—is one of the world’s highest cities. Lunch is on your own.

    In the afternoon, we’ll take an orientation walk in the vicinity of our hotel with our Trip Leader to begin getting acquainted with the city. We'll enjoy dinner at our hotel this evening.

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    This morning, we’ll explore downtown La Paz on a guided walking tour including Murillo Plaza and San Francisco Church. While Sucre is the official capital city of Bolivia, La Paz is the country’s second-largest city, and is often considered its de facto capital. We’ll learn more about its current status and get an introduction to its history as we stroll past buildings that range from colonial cathedrals to the skyscrapers of the present day.

    We get another perspective on La Paz when we stop at Killi Killi—a mirador, or scenic viewpoint, at the northern outskirts of La Paz that offers incredible city and mountain vistas. Weather permitting, we'll glimpse the three snowcapped peaks of towering Illimani, a peak named by the indigenous Aymara people who lived here before the Incas, and whose descendants still dwell in Bolivia. From here, we can also appreciate the unique bowl-shaped topography of La Paz, with brick buildings and workshops perched on the rim and a dense city center bustling below, surrounded by the landscape of the Altiplano. Next, we’ll visit some of the local mercados (markets), which are wonderful places to meet the people of La Paz—from well-dressed professionals to itinerant street vendors and Andean women in their traditional garments of brightly colored multi-layered skirts and bowler hats. We’ll also visit the Witches’ Market, where indigenous people sell plants, potions, and talismans used in ancient Aymara curandero (healing) rituals, and yatiri (witch doctors) offer their fortune-telling services.

    Following lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll head south of the city to discover the Valley of the Moon. This rugged and fantastical landscape features deep gullies, oddly shaped outcroppings, and spindly stone spires, all formed by centuries of erosion. We’ll take a short hike through the valley, returning to La Paz in the late afternoon. Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    After breakfast this morning, we depart La Paz for the village of Copacabana, set on the broad, blue banks of Lake Titicaca. During our ride, we’ll have another chance to view the Andean landscapes, as we cross through the mountains on our way to the lakeshore.

    We’ll stop en route to meet some of the indigenous people whose ancestors have lived around Lake Titicaca for millennia. They are known for their use of balsas, traditional boats handcrafted from totora, the marsh reeds that grow in the shallow water by the shore.  The vessels are primarily used for fishing and are sometimes affixed with sails, also made from reeds. We’ll witness the construction of these traditional boats during our travels today, and we’ll also get a chance to board a more modern boat ourselves, as we cross the Tiquina Strait to reach Copacabana.

    The name Copacabana is thought to derive from the Aymara word for “view of the lake,” and it’s a fitting name—the views across the lake to the snow-draped peaks of the Andean range are magical, and its easy to see why this site has been considered a sacred place for centuries. We’ll learn more about Copacabana’s spiritual heritage—and get a good look at Lake Titicaca—after we check into our hotel, when we set out on a walking tour of the village. In addition to the striking scenery, our tour includes the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, the religious heart of this centuries-old community, and an important pilgrimage site for Bolivians throughout the country.

    Following our tour, we’ll return to our hotel for an included dinner.

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    This morning, we cruise the historic waters of Lake Titicaca. The highest navigable lake on Earth, at 12,580 feet, Lake Titicaca covers more than 3,800 square miles. Beyond its clear water, many islands, and the Andes Mountains that rise behind it, the lake holds a cherished place in Inca and pre-Inca history. According to Andean legend, a pair of gods rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca to found the Inca empire, and the Indian people who live in the small settlements around the lake believe that the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) and Isla de la Luna (Island of the Moon) are the sites of this mythic moment of creation.

    We’ll delve into this ancient history today, as our boat ride takes us to the Island of the Sun. This rocky landmass is the largest island in Lake Titicaca, and while it has no motor vehicles or paved roads, it is home to a number of indigenous families who dwell amidst its patchwork of ancient agricultural terraces. We’ll have a chance to meet some of the local people as we visit the hilltop village of Yumani—from which we’ll enjoy views of the Island of the Moon—and we’ll also discover one of the island’s many ruins: the archaeological site of Pilko Kaina, an ancient Inca palace.

    We enjoy lunch during our explorations, then return to Copacabana by boat. This afternoon, we depart for La Paz, traveling overland and arriving in the city in time for dinner on your own.

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    After breakfast, we’ll drive to the site of Bolivia’s most important archaeological site: Tiwanaku, a ceremonial location on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca used by a pre-Inca civilization reaching back to 600 BC. The people of this ancient city were excellent artisans and left behind a series of mysterious monoliths, mostly in granite; as well as a pyramid, temple, and aqueducts. This was a well-planned city, seat of one of the Americas' most powerful and organized civilizations, and today it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    We’ll begin our discoveries of Tiwanaku at the site’s two museums, the Lytic Museum—which houses several large stone objects, including a monolith representing Pachamama, or Mother Earth—and the Ceramic Museum, home to the surviving art and artifacts of the lost culture of this ancient city. Then, we explore the monumental ruins of Tiwanaku. We pause for an included lunch, then continue our discoveries at the Pumapunku temple complex, the massive stone slabs of which provide a vantage point for looking out over the surrounding plains.

    Later this afternoon, we return to La Paz, where we enjoy a little time for independent exploration before gathering together for an included dinner.

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    • Meals included:

    After an early breakfast this morning, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Bogotá, where we begin our discovery of Colombia's Colonial Jewels & the Coffee Triangle.