A Guide to Mountain Climbing in Bolivia
Landlocked Bolivia is a treasure trove of dazzling landscapes, ranging from the tropical rainforests of the Amazon to the high-altitude salt flats of Uyuni. Bolivia remains one of South America’s lesser-visited countries, but anyone travelling here will soon fall in love with its breathtaking views, fascinating culture, and – for keen climbers – its towering mountains and volcanoes. Climbing in Bolivia is incredible, with several peaks that exceed heights of 6,000m and cater to a range of difficulty levels.
When and where to go mountain climbing in Bolivia
The Cordillera Real, or ‘Royal Mountain Range’, extends from La Paz over 78 miles with 600 peaks boasting heights of over 5,000m. There are so many options for climbers here, from beginners to experts, and the views are simply breathtaking too. Then, down in the southwest region of Bolivia, there are volcanoes to climb within the lesser-visited Sajama National Park, including the highest peak in the nation, Sajama Volcano. Generally, the best time to go mountain climbing in Bolivia is between the months of May to September, when conditions are optimal.
If you are thinking of embarking on a mountain climb in Bolivia, be sure to spend plenty of time acclimatising beforehand. Altitude sickness is extremely unpleasant and can be dangerous, so after arriving in Bolivia we highly recommend enjoying several days getting used to the high altitude while simultaneously soaking up the culture here. Read our Travel Guide to La Paz or check out some of our Favourite Bolivian Landscapes to incorporate these into your trip.
Climbing Pequeño Alpamayo (17,618 ft / 5,370 m)
The beautiful, pyramid-shaped peak of snow-capped Pequeño Alpamayo is a breathtaking sight, and is easier to climb than you would expect. The mountain is located in the Cordillera Real and can be completed within three or four days, which is why many experts use it as a warm-up climb before embarking on more difficult peaks in the region. However, don’t be fooled in thinking that Pequeño Alpamayo is a walk in the park, as there are still icy crests to conquer before reaching the summit, navigating sharp ridges on the way to the top where you are rewarded with captivating views.
Climbing Chachacomani (19,928 ft / 6,074 m)
The more than 6,000m-tall peak of Chachacomani is a relatively recent addition to Bolivia’s mountain climbing options, given that locals have only just started opening it up to tourists. As a result, Chachacomani – nestled in the middle of the Cordillera Real near La Paz – is more off the beaten track compared to its neighbours, yet it isn’t too technical, so intermediate climbers can enjoy this under-the-radar mountain. If you do, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the altiplano, Lake Titicaca and even the Amazon during your climb.
Climbing Huayna Potosí (19,973 ft / 6,088 m)
Although it’s a towering mountain at 6,088m above sea level, Huayna Potosí is the most popular climb in Bolivia thanks to its ravishing views and the fact that beginners can accomplish it. In fact, it is thought to be one of the best 6,000m+ climbs for beginners in the world. Of course, that doesn’t exactly make it ‘easy’, but to conquer a stunning peak at this altitude is an amazing experience for anyone keen to flex their new mountaineering skills. The route usually takes just two to three days, beginning with a 1-hour 30-minute drive from La Paz nearby, and encompasses views of Lake Titicaca and the Altiplano, no less.
Climbing Illimani (21,122 ft / 6,438 m)
Illimani is the tallest and southernmost mountain in the Cordillera Real Range, grazing the sky at 6,438m above sea level and gazing down on the city of La Paz. Given its height and technicality, only intermediate climbers can embark on Illimani, considered to the Mother of the Cordillera Real. Rather than just one jagged peak, Illimani flaunts five – three of which are more than 6,000m high. A challenging four-day expedition will see you conquering this snow-covered, classic summit in Bolivia.
Climbing Parinacota (20807 ft / 6342 m)
Down in the southwestern border of Bolivia and Chile, Parinacota Volcano rises from the Sajama National Park, a land brimming with geysers, Queñoa forests, alpacas and adobe churches. The volcano is one of a pair, with its nearby counterpart being Pomerape (6,282m). Together they are beautiful twin peaks called the Nevados de Payachatas. Their majesty is unrivalled, and so it’s no wonder that ancient civilisations considered them to be mighty gods. In terms of the climb itself, Parinacota is safe as it’s a dormant volcano, with terrain that comprises a combination of scree and snow, generally ascending at a gradient of 40 degrees so beginners can enjoy this climb too.
Climbing Sajama (21,463 ft / 6,542 m)
Also lying in Sajama National Park, this dormant volcano lends its name to the reserve and is actually the highest peak in Bolivia, at 6,542m. This climb is challenging although not super technical, so those of an intermediate level can tackle it over the course of four or five days. You will need to trek over ice to reach the summit, a conical shape which rewards you with stunning, far-reaching views of the national park. On the way, you might be able to spot animals such as Vicuñas, Alpacas and Andean Cats, then wallow in the waters of a natural hot spring once you return to basecamp!
Want to start planning your trip to Bolivia? Handpick the boutique hotels and activities you want, adjust the durations depending on how long you want to stay in each place, and have fun in the process! Surtrek is always at hand to help out. Call us on 1 866 978 7398 (Canada and USA) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) to talk to an expert, and Discover Your South America with Surtrek!