Our first visit will be to Mt Chacaltaya, once the world's highest ski resort, and then it's on to our second excursion, the Valley of the Moon. Once a clay mountain, the erosion of the years reduced it to stalagmite-like surreal geological structures boasting a striking range of colors from beige to red and dark violet.
The adventure begins when we drop by your hotel or hostel in La Paz around 8:00-8:30am and set off for El Alto, which was once a suburb of La Paz and is now a city in its own right, through the high plains known as the altiplano and to Andean Cordillera Real, the Royal Range. You'll feel the temperature falling as we continue ascend the steep road which winds up to Chacaltaya, about 5,577ft higher than La Paz, and be able to see grazing llamas and alpacas. We'll arrive at the refuge at around 10:30am and you'll have time to put on some extra layers for the cold. (You are recommended to bring warm layers as a precaution due to the temperature.)
What is now the refuge on Mt Chacaltaya was once the world's highest ski resort until glacial recession forced its closure. The snowy peak is still popular today because it boasts panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, including imposing Illimani and Huayna Potosí, as well as the cities of El Alto and La Paz. With views like those usually limited to mountaineers after days of climbing, you'll see as far and wide as Lake Titicaca. The refuge already boasts awe-inspiring views, but for a truly wondrous perspective we'll climb another 656ft to the summit. It's only a half hour hike, but the altitude will make it slightly strenuous. At Chacaltaya summit at 17559ft we'll look out over the magnificent Andes and the mysterious charm of the plateau. After ample time for photos and appreciating the vistas, we'll return to the refuge for hot drinks.
Afterwards we'll return to the city of La Paz, from where we'll continue south to the village of Mallasa for a brief walking tour of the Valley of the Moon, so named for its surreal geological structures carved by time and wind over the millennia. After exploring this lunar landscape we'll return to La Paz where you'll be dropped back off at your hotel or hostel at around 3:30pm.
*Total approximately 30 bolivianos. (Last updated: 4/16/12)
This tour involves altitudes up to 5300m (17388 ft), so acclimatization is essential to more than 3000m is essential. As a precaution against altitude sickness, you're recommended to spend several days in La Paz prior to visiting Mt Chacaltaya.