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Bolivia for $1,070
Amazon Cloud Forests, Andean Heights
South America's answer to Nepal, Bolivia (map) is isolated, undeveloped, and crisscrossed by high-altitude trekking routes.
Its rugged terrainfrom the steamy Amazon Basin to 20,000-foot [6,096-meter] Andean peakshas kept highway builders at bay, leaving vast tracts of forest undisturbed and more than 95 percent of the country's roads unpaved. Five-hundred-year-old Inca trails remain the best links between many isolated communities.
For travelers, the colorful village of Sorata, located in the foothills of the Cordillera Real beneath 20,867-foot [6,360-meter] Nevado Illampu, is the perfect base. Some of Bolivia's best treks and climbs begin right in town, where guides and supplies are easy to find and pricesas they are everywhere in the countryare incredibly low.
All prices in U.S. dollars.
Where to Go
While your body adjusts, you can make the 8-mile [13-kilometer] day hike to the Gruta de San Pedro, a deep cave with a swimmable lake, or rent a mountain bike from Café Illampu (about $7 a day) to explore the surrounding hills.
After a few days, most travelers are ready to set out on a longer trek. The best of the many options is the Mapiri Trail. A challenging eight-day walk, it crosses half a dozen 13,000- to 15,000-foot [3,962- to 4572-meter] passes before descending northward from open grasslands into the Amazon Basin cloud forest.
The trail was blazed a century ago by German quinine traders; since then, the forest has swallowed up most signs of humanity, and the lower reaches seem the exclusive domain of maddening swarms of flies, bees, ants, and wasps. Hikers emerge from the void into the tiny village of Mapiri, at an elevation of 2,500 feet [762 meters], where jeeps, buses, and river canoes can take them back to civilization.
Guides from the local Asociación Guías Turísticas Sorata lead hikes on the Mapiri Trail ($125 for small groups); contact the organization through the Residencial Sorata (see Lodging and Food).
How to Go
Hotwire (www.hotwire.com) and Travelocity.com (www.travelocity.com) have consistent bargains, as do consolidators Mena Tours & Travel (
For travel within Bolivia, buses are usually the fastest and cheapest option. The four-hour trip to Sorata from La Paz costs $2. From Mapiri, the three-hour canoe ride to the gold-mining town of Guanay is $6.50. Buses leave from there for La Paz, $8 and 12 hours away.
Lodging and Food
The most interesting lodging in Sorata is the Residencial Sorata ($10 to $14;
Mapiri and Guanay both have bare-bones guest houses, or alojamientos, which charge about $2.50 a person. Restaurant mealseven in the traveler-oriented eateries of Soratacost about $2 to $3.
Your guide can help you purchase food for the Mapiri trek (he or she is eating it, too); expect to spend $15 per hiker, plus $8 if you need to rent a stove.
Visas and Vaccinations
Photograph by Aaron Teasdale; map by Seve Walkowiak