THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN TUPIZA, BOLIVIA
1. Hike Into The Cordillera De Chicas
You can head into the Cordillera De Chicas to experience one of the most unique looking landscapes in Bolivia.
The area around the town is full of dramatic red hills which jut ruggedly skyward as if they had been forced out of the ground. Known as the wild west of Bolivia, this is apparently where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid famously met their end.
How To Get There
Simply put ‘Puerta Del Diablo’ into your google maps and follow the directions. This will take you outside the town and onto a dirt road leading to the mountains. It should take no longer than 10 minutes.
We followed this simple route:
- Puerta Del Diablo
- Valley de los Machos
- Canyon Del Inca
This is a 4-6-hour trek depending on how deep into the canyon you want to go.
Your first stop – Puerto del Diablo, is a vast rock formation spiking out of the ground that looks like it fell from the sky. We climbed it and took some amazing photos.
Your second sight is Valley de Los Machos. As you enter the valley, the red rocks close in on you and their shapes become even weirder.
Your third and final stop is the entrance to Canyon Del Inca. You will see a small blue sign letting you know you’ve arrived, but the path will end. You can go further into the canyon, but it required some climbing. We went for it and didn’t regret it, the tight walls of the canyon and the rock formations make it feel like you are trekking on Mars.
You can’t make it out the other side as it goes for miles, so once you have reached a point in the canyon where you don’t feel comfortable climbing, head back. We flew our drone to see how far it goes and it’s a long way, so turn around once you’ve had enough adventure.
Safety – There’s a stray dog pack that roams around Tupiza. We didn’t have any issues ourselves but did encounter the large pack roaming while we were on top of a Puerta Del Diablo taking photos. Grab a stick or rock on your way to scare them off.
- Guided Tour – there are lots of tour companies in town selling trekking trips. We wouldn’t recommend paying as it’s incredibly easy to explore by yourself
- Horseback riding – if you prefer, then you can explore the Cordillera by horseback. Tupiza Natural Adventure run tours that follow the same route we outlined above ($22 – 3 hours) or extend it by visiting Canon Del Duende ($37 – 5 hours) and Quebrada Seca ($51 – 7 hours)
2. Start Your Salt Flats Tour
If you’ve travelled to Tupiza from Argentina, then starting your Uyuni Salt Flats Tour from Tupiza is a convenient option.
Ruta Verde offers a 4-day/3-night tour.
Day 1 you explore parts of Tupiza and the Bolivian countryside such as Quebrada de Palala. Then on the morning of the second day, you will head out onto the Altiplano, which is part of the Uyuni Salt Flats tour you do on traditional tours.
- Pros – convenient as it saves you travelling to Uyuni to start the tour, reach parts of the salt flat/altiplano earlier than other tours, so you experience it empty. Visit the Salt Flats at sunrise on the last day
- Cons – likely more expensive as it’s an extra day*. You will also get better deals in Uyuni. The first two days will require long drives so you’ll have to spend longer in the car
* Prices range from 1,200-1,400 BOB ($170-$200) for a four-day tour from Tupiza as opposed to 700-1,000 BOB ($US 100-150) for a three-day trip from Uyuni.
3. Climb To Cerro De La Cruz
If you are looking to get a good view of the town and mountains, then head to one of the trails that lead up to Cerro Corazón de Jesús and Cerro De La Cruz.
It takes a couple of hours to walk each path. Perfect for visiting in the late evening to catch the sunset.
Star Cerro De La Cruz in your maps and follow the directions.
After crossing the bridge leaving town, you’ll see a hill with a white cross on top of it. Walk-in this direction until you reach a small white church. From here you can follow the path up to the top. Little white cross signs marked into the cliffs will let you know you are going in the right direction.
TUPIZA TOWN GUIDE
Is Tupiza Worth Visiting?
Tupiza is undoubtedly off the beaten track in Bolivia. There are three reasons why we think it’s worth visiting:
- Great town to stop off and break up a long journey before heading into North Argentina, or vice versa if you are coming from Argentina and heading to Uyuni
- You can start a Uyuni tour from here if you want which will either finish in Atacama or Uyuni
- The deep red colour of the rocks surrounding the town where you hike is a unique and interesting sight.
If you are heading into Northern Argentina from Bolivia, then Tupiza is an excellent stopping off point before crossing the border.
The town is a 1-hour drive away from Villazon which is the border town. From here you can take a bus to Humahuaca which is the nearest town where you can see Argentina’s very own Rainbow Mountain! Or you can carry on further to Jujuy or Salta.
- Humahuaca Town Guide – Argentina
- How To Visit ‘El Hornocal’, Argentina’s Very Own Rainbow Mountain
If you are coming the opposite way, then it also makes sense to stop here and book onto a Salt Flats Tour instead of going all the way to Uyuni.
The tours are a day longer, and you will spend the first day seeing sights in and around Tupiza before heading towards the Altiplano. We cover Uyuni tours in more detail further in these posts:
- Is A Salt Flats Tour Worth It? 6 Reasons Why You Can’t Miss Bolivia’s Best Tour
- Uyuni 1-Day vs 3-Day Tour
Finally, if you love getting out into nature and seeing some weird and wonderful geology, then hiking in Tupiza is definitely for you.
The jagged mountains, narrow canyons and deep red colour of the rocks are strangely wonderful. The paths are easy and only a 10 minute walk from town.
How Many Days Do You Need In Tupiza?
2 days / 1 night is all you need in Tupiza, but this depends on your arrival time and schedule. As we ended up arriving late on our first night from Uyuni, we stayed for two nights.
Just make sure you have one full day and night to go trekking in the valley and canyon.
- Day 1 – Late arrival from Uyuni
- Day 2 – Full day trekking in the Cordillera De Chicas
- Day 3 – Early morning bus to Villazon
Where To Stay In Tupiza
As mentioned, Tupiza isn’t a popular foreign tourist destination yet, so there aren’t any backpacker hostels.
However, you will find a good range of budget to mid-range hotels which are all relatively cheap. We stayed at La Torre Hotel, which had clean rooms and hot showers, with a free continental breakfast of eggs, bread, cereal and yoghurt.
HOW TO GET TO TUPIZA
How To Get To Tupiza From Uyuni
Buses from Uyuni leave daily, with one morning bus and one evening bus taking 4-6 hours.
You can find most of the bus companies on the corner of Cabrera St. and Arce Av. Buses arrive and depart from this spot. Due to the lack of infrastructure, there is no formal bus timetable so best to arrive the day before and check times.
How To Get To Villazon From Tupiza
Mini-buses leave from Tupiza daily and start from 6AM in the morning.
Once each mini-bus is filled (7 people max) it will leave so there are no specific times. If you are looking to book a direct time, then larger bus companies also depart from the station later in the day. You can check these times out and book directly in the station.
Mini-bus costs 20 BOBS with a 1 BOB fee to Villazon and takes an hour and 15 minutes.
We didn’t get dropped off completely at the border and had to walk a few blocks (10 minutes), have google maps ready just in case.
Tupiza is at an altitude of 2,850m (9,350 ft).
If you are coming from North Argentina which is relatively flat, then take a couple of days to acclimatise. Avoid the trek up to Cerro de La Cruz as its steep and strenuous but hiking into the canyon should be fine as it is flat.
If you are heading onto a Uyuni tour next, then it’s also best to take a couple of extra days. You will climb from 3,000m to 4,000m in the space of a day and might be affected by altitude sickness which would ruin your tour.