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Tupiza. Travel Guide of Tupiza City, Bolivia

Welcome to our Travel Guide of Tupiza City. You will find here a comprehensive information over Tupiza, including Tupiza hotels, Tupiza history, Tupiza climate, around Tupiza, activities in Tupiza, festivals and events, travel companies and hostels.

Tupiza Travel Guide.

1. History of Tupiza.

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

The pace of things in tranquil Tupiza seems a few beats slower than in other Bolivian towns, which makes it a top spot to hang out in for a while. Set in spectacular countryside, the capital of Sud Chichas lies in the valley of the Río Tupiza, surrounded by rugged scenery – weird eroded rainbowcolored rocks cut by tortuous, gravelly quebradas (ravines, usually dry) whose slopes are studded with cactus.

The climate is mild year-round, with most of the rain falling between November and March. From June to August, days are hot, dry and clear, but at nighttime the temperatures can drop to below freezing.

Economically, the town depends on agriculture and mining. A refinery south of town provides employment, and the only antimony of the country (a flame-retardant metallic element) smelter operates sporadically.

Tupiza and its surroundings have much to offer the traveler. Explore the surrounding hills and canyons on horseback or on foot, or just take a few days out to read novels in the pretty central square or by the hotel pool. Tupiza is also an excellent place to embark on a tour of the Southwest Circuit to Uyuni, a four-day route that is attracting growing numbers of travelers.

The tribe that originally inhabited the region called themselves Chichas and left archaeological evidence of their existence.

Despite this, little is known of their culture or language, and it is assumed they were ethnically separate from the tribes in neighboring areas of southern Bolivia and northern Argentina.

Officially, Tupiza was founded on June 4, 1574, by Captain Luis de Fuentes (who was also the founder of Tarija). From inception of Tupiza through the War of Independence, its Spanish population grew steadily, lured by the favorable climate and suitable agricultural lands. Later, the discovery of minerals attracted even more settlers. More recently, campesinos have drifted in from the countryside and many unemployed miners have settled.

2. Basic Information About Tupiza.

Emergency Police at main plaza.

Immigration No immigration office, for visa extensions go to Villazon.

Internet Access There are several internet places on the plaza, as does Entel (corner Avaroa and Santa Cruz), where you can also make calls. The dial-up connection in Tupiza is painfully slow most of the time.

Laundry All accommodations can do a load of washing for you. There is a laundry (Mon-Sat) on Florida.

Medical Services Main hospital is available on town.

Money You can change cash or get cash advances at Banco de Crédito or Prodem on the plaza. Another place for cash is the Latin America Cambio (Avaroa # 160), which accepts several currencies but not at the best rates. You can change travelers checks here.

Post and Telephone Entel has a office for calls and internet conecctions.

Tourist Information There is no tourist office although there is talk of an info kiosk opening at the bus terminal. The hotels and agencies are your main source of information.

Electricity 220V.

3. Weather in Tupiza.

By Bolivian standards, Potosí is chilly (particularly at night) and it's one of the few big cities where you'll see snow. What little rain there is falls mostly in summer and, although the temperature range throughout the day can be great, it varies little from month to month.

Temperature in Tupiza, Bolivia Rainfall in Tupiza, Bolivia

4. The City of Tupiza.

a) Surroundings.

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

The main attraction of Tupiza is the surrounding countryside, best seen on foot or horseback.

The short hike up Cerro Corazón de Jesús, flanked by the Stations of the Cross, is a pleasant morning or evening outing when the low sun brings out the fiery reds of the surrounding countryside.

b) Markets

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

The permanent Mercado Negro, where you will encounter a mishmash of consumer goods, occupies an entire block between Santa Cruz and Chichas. Lively street markets convene Thursday and Saturday mornings near the train station. A kilometer south of town, the Mercado Campesino features more of the same on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

The central Mercado de Ferias has lots of produce stalls and comedores upstairs.

c) Museo Municipal

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

The municipal museum of Tupiza (Sucre, near plaza, 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00 Mon-Fri) houses a mixture of historical and cultural artifacts in two rooms, including an antique cart, old photographs, archaeological relics, pre-Columbian items, cold weapons and historic farming implements.

5. Around Tupiza.

a) Surroundings

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

Much of appeal of Tupiza lies in the surrounding landscape, a visually stunning wilderness of quebradas, thirsty riverbeds and thriving cactus that will have you whistling a Morricone theme tune in no time.

It is great hiking country and also perfect for exploration on horseback or 4WD – several Tupiza operators offer these excursions.

If you are hiking without a guide, it is not easy to get lost, but take a map anyway – you can get them from various tour agencies. Carry at least 3L of water per day in this dry desert climate. It is wise to wear shoes that can withstand assault by prickly desert vegetation, and to carry a compass or GPS if you are venturing away from the tracks. Flash flooding is also a danger, particularly in the summer months; avoid camping in the quebradas or entering the canyons, especially if it looks like rain.

Just northwest of Tupiza is Quebrada de Palala, a broad wash lined with some very impressive red formations known as fins. During the rainy season it becomes a tributary of the Río Tupiza, but in the winter months it serves as a highway into the back country and part of the salt route from the Salar de Uyuni to Tarija. Beyond the dramatic red rocks, the wash rises very gently into hills colored greenish-blue and violet by lead and other mineral deposits.

To get here, head north on Av La Paz of Tupiza from Plazuela El Mundo past the giant slide; 2km ahead, along the railroad line, you will see the mouth of the quebrada. About 5km further along, the route passes some obvious fin formations and continues up the broad quebrada into increasingly lonely country, past scrub brush and cacti stands.

b) Canyons

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

Two canyons, El Cañón del Duende and El Cañón del Inca are part of most itineraries.

The first can be reached from Tupiza on a great half-day stroll; ask any of the agencies for a map and directions. You can also enter the canyon on foot for a scenic twentyminute hike through its towering red rock formations.

c) El Sillar

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

El Sillar (The Saddle), 15km from Tupiza, is where a road straddles a narrow ridge between two peaks and two valleys.

Throughout this area, rugged amphitheaters have been gouged out of the mountainsides and eroded into spires that resemble a stone forest. The road continues on to San Vicente (right), of Butch and Sundance fame. This entire route is part of a centuries-old trade route. From May to early July you may see a trickle of llama, alpaca and donkey trains (nowadays more likely camiones) humping salt blocks 300km from the Salar de Uyuni to trade in Tarija.

d) Quebrada Palmira

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

Between Tupiza and Quebrada Seca lies Quebrada Palmira, a wonderful, normally dry wash flanked by tall and precarious fin formations. The right fork of the wash is rather comically known as Valle de los Machos (Valley of Males) or Valle de los Penes (Valley of Penises). The names stem from the clusters of exceptionally phallic pedestal formations.

Another scenic sight near Tupiza is El Angosto, a spectacular tunnel of a road carved into the mountain – great for photographs.

e) Huaca Huañusca and San Vicente

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

November 4, 1908, Robert LeRoy Parker (Butch Cassidy) and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) pulled off the last robbery of their careers when they politely and peacefully relieved Carlos Peró of the Aramayo company payroll, which amounted to 90,000 USD, at the foot of a hill called Huaca Huañusca (Dead Cow). The name was apparently applied because of the resemblance to the hill to a fallen bovine. From an obvious pass on the ridge, a walking track descends the steep slopes to the west for about 2km to the river, where there is a small meadow, a tiny cave and some rugged rock outcrops where the bandits probably holed up while waiting for the payroll to pass. Several Tupiza agencies offer jeep trips to Huaca Huañusca.

San Vicente is a remote one-mule village that would not even rate a mention were it not the legendary spot where the outlaws met their untimely demise. The mine in San Vicente is now closed and the place has declined to little more than a ghost town.

Most of those remaining are military people, mine security guards and their families.

To be honest, even hardcore Butch and Sundance fans are sometimes a little disappointed by the place, a dusty spot with a tiny museum and little tourist infrastructure. The museum is often closed, with the key-holder often difficult to track down. Bring your imagination: you can still see the adobe house where the bandits holed up and eventually died, the cemetery where they were buried and the sign welcoming visitors to the town.

There is no regular public transportation between Tupiza and San Vicente; occasionally, a camión departs for San Vicente early on Thursday morning from Plazuela El Mundo of Tupiza. The easiest way to go is with an agency from Tupiza. While the one-day trips to San Vicente and back are a long, expensive slog, some of the agencies offer a more interesting two-day excursion, taking in Huaca Huañusca en route.

Butch and Sundance (real names Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh) came to southern Bolivia in August 1908 and took up residence with the Briton AG Francis, who was transporting a gold dredge on the Río San Juan del Oro. While casing banks to finance their retirement, the outlaws learned of an even sweeter target: a poorly guarded 480,000 USD minecompany payroll to be hauled by mule from Tupiza to Quechisla.

On November 3, 1908, manager Carlos Peró picked up a packet of cash from Aramayo, Francke and Compañía in Tupiza and headed north with his 10-year-old son and a servant, but they were discreetly tailed by Butch and Sundance. The party of Pero overnighted in Salo, then set off again at dawn. As the trio ascended the hill called Huaca Huañusca, the bandits watched from above with binoculars. In a rugged spot on the far side of the hill, they relieved Peró of a handsome mule and the remittance, which turned out to be a mere 90,000 USD – the prized payroll had been slated for shipment the following week.

Dispirited, Butch and Sundance returned to headquarters of Francis at Tomahuaico. The following day, Francis guided them to Estarca, where the three of them spent the night. On the morning of November 6, the bandits bade farewell to Francis and headed west to San Vicente.

Meanwhile, Peró had sounded the alarm, and posses were scouring southern Bolivia. A fourman contingent from Uyuni reached San Vicente that afternoon. Butch and Sundance arrived at dusk, rented a room from Bonifacio Casasola and sent him to fetch supper. The posse came to investigate and had scarcely entered the courtyard when Butch shot and killed a soldier. During the brief gunfight that ensued, Sundance was badly wounded. Realizing that escape was impossible, Butch ended misery of Sundance with a shot between the eyes, then fired a bullet into his own temple.

At the inquest, Carlos Peró identified the corpses as those of the men who had robbed him.

Although buried as desconocidos (unknowns) in the cemetery, the outlaws fit descriptions of Butch and Sundance, and a mountain of circumstantial evidence points to their having met their doom in San Vicente. For example, Santiago Lowe, well-known alias of Butch, was recently found among the hotel guest list published in the Tupiza newspaper just a few days before the Aramayo holdup, which confirms eyewitness accounts that he was there. Nonetheless, rumors of their return to the USA have made their fate one of the great mysteries of the American West.

In 1991 a team led by forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow attempted to settle the question by excavating the grave of the bandits. No one in the village had any knowledge of its location, except one elderly – and as it turned out, imaginative – gentleman, who led them to a specific tombstone.

The sole occupant of the grave turned out to be a German miner named Gustav Zimmer.

6. Tours and Activities in Tupiza

a) Hiking, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking and Jeep Tours

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

Tupiza Travel Guide, Bolivia

All agencies offer horseback riding; there are jaunts of three, five or seven hours, or even two or four days.

Also on offer by all the agencies is the triathlon, an active full-day tour of the surrounding area by jeep, horse and mountain bike.

7. Festivals and Events.

January 1: New Year 's Day.

January 6: Twelfth Night. Transference of the agrarian command.

February or March (changeable date): Carnival.

April (Changeable date): Easter.

Palm Sunday: The Saturday before Easter. People enter temples with branches which the clergy bless.
Holy Thursday: It is a tradition of the people to visit 12 temples of the city, one for each apostle, in this day.
Good Friday: Procession of the Holy Sepulchre.

June (Changeable date):

July 25: Rural Feast of Apostle Santiago.

September 21: Day of Spring. Youth and Students of Bolivia.

First Sunday in October: Feast of the Virgin of Merced.

November 1: Todos Santos (All Saints Day).

This is a pre-columbian tradition when the people go to visit the Tombs prepared at home by the relatives of the deceased and where the friends are offered the same food and drink liked by him.

November 2: Difuntos (Day of the Deceased)

The tombs are dismantled and the people celebrate in the memory of the deceased.

November 3: Alma Cacharpaya (Soul of the Calypsobreakers)

Those in charge of dismantling the tombs show up in the home of the deceased with an orchestra so that the soul of the deceased will be happy.

November 10: Anniversary of Potosi.

There are civic parades and in the evening, there are vervains in the main streets.

December 24 and 25: Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

8. Travel Companies and Tour Operators in Tupiza.

Alexandro Adventure Travel (T. 6944752, Arraya s/n) This friendly and experienced agency offers great service, good jeeps and English-speaking guides who are excited to show travelers off-the-beaten path spots (such as the viewpoint and village of Palquiza and a hike inside Canyon del Duende). They specialize in volcano climbs (Tunupa, Uturuncu or Licancabur), usually tacked onto a standard four-day salar tour.

El Grano de Oro Tours (T. 6944763, Arraya # 492) This family-run agency offers personal service and good local knowledge. The father of the owner has a working farm 12km from Tupiza.

La Torre Tours (T. 6942633, Chichas # 220) Run by a friendly couple, this agency offers more personalized tours of surroundings of Tupiza and into the salar.

9. Hotels and Hostels in Tupiza.

Hotel Mitru (Chichas # 187, Website).

Hotel La Torre (Chicchas # 220, Website).

Hotel Valle Hermoso (Pedro Arraya s/n, Website).

10. Restaurants and Bars in Tupiza.

Alamos (Avaroa and Santa Cruz) A green light outside marks this popular saloon-style spot where locals and tourists mingle in the funky two-floor space with a Mexican vibe and lots of knick-knacks. The menu features mainly meat dishes, like pique macho (beef chunks and sausages over french fries with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and spicy locoto peppers), and comes in huge tasty portions.v

Il Bambino (Florida and Santa Cruz) This friendly corner eatery offers excellent salteñas in the morning, and is a popular spot with locals for its filling almuerzos at high noon.

Confitería Los Helechos (Avaroa s/n) Attached to the Mitru Anexo, this spacious spot offers tasty breakfasts, a salad bar, sandwiches, burgers and vegetarian dishes, as well as refreshing juices. The atmosphere is sedate, apart from the TV blasting, and the service on the slow side.

11. Getting There and Away.

Bus All road routes into Tupiza are quite scenic, and arriving by day will always present a dramatic introducion to the city.

  • Sucre-Tupiza-Sucre: Daily departures at 18:00.
  • La Paz-Tupiza-La Paz: (750 Km paved and unpaved road) Daily departures at 20:00 and 21:00, 16 hours trip.
  • Villazon-Tupiza-Villazon (Border with Argentina): (120 Km unpaved road) Daily departures from 7:00-17:00.
  • Oruro-Tupiza-Oruro: (600 Km paved and unpaved road) Daily departures at 20:00.
  • Cochabamba-Tupiza-Cochabamba: (760 Km paved and unpaved road) Daily departures at 19:30.

Train Trains to Villazon (south) and Oruro (north) passing by Uyuni.

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