Sajama National Park
Sajama national park is adjacent to Lauca National park in Chile, and include Andian Range and Navajo Sajama, the highest peak in Bolivia. Between these high peaks is the altiplanos where llamas, alpacas and vicunas gaze. The scenery is spectacular and its dry climate provides unobstructed view of these high mountain peaks all around. It is easily accessible as main highway linking La Paz and Arica, Chile passes the edge of the park. However, relatively unknown and limited public transportation inside the park means you can enjoy this prestine landscape all by yourself.
Created on 2 August 1939 and ratified on 5 November 1945 in order to protect and conserve Quenua forest, which is at the highest in the world from 4300 to 5200 m above sea level.
Vast altiplano with the western Andes range and majestic 6,542m high Nevado Sajama, along with volcano Nevado Parinacota and Nevado Pomerapi.
Flora and fauna
The Sajama village is at 4,250m sea level. Usually very dry and hardly see any cloud. The temprature can be extremely cold at night but get warm during the day.
Trans Sajama runs once daily shared van from Patacamaya to the village of Sajama (Bs. 25). It leaves north side of town in front of 'Restaurante Capitol' at around 1 pm. However, the van actually shows up around 10am, when people also start gathering, and it leaves once full. It is best to arrive early and get the front seat, which is much more comfortable and with great view. Return to Patacamaya from the village is at 6am (4am on Sunday). The ride is about three hours.
Patacamaya is in main corridor between La Paz and Oruro (and beyond), so you can catch any bus heading to/from La Paz and Oruro and ask the driver to drop you off at Patacamaya. There is also frequent direct shared minivan to/from La Paz (Bs. 10), which is fast and comfortable (quite new 8 passenger van with nice seats) and may be even cheaper than Oruro bus, as they probably try to charge you all the way to Oruro. Much slower (almost 3 hours) local bus to Patacamaya also leaves from Cementario area of La Paz (Bs.7).
Alternatively, you can catch a bus running several times a day between La Paz and Arica and get off at the entrance to the park. The village is 12km from the main highway. Transportation may be arranged from nearby border town of Tambo Quemado, where you find Trans Sajama office.
30 bolivianos payable at the entrance to the village. Also another 30 bolivianos if you want to soak yourself in the hotspring.
There are road access to the most of the major sites. Unless you hire or have your own transportation, walking is the primary. Hitchhiking is possible but traffic is scarece and you cannot count on.
Aguas Termales The hotspring is 1.5hr walk from the village. You need to pay Bs.30 for the use. There are three pools with different water temperature. Go north on the main road for 3-4 km and then turn left, cross the river and arrive at the springs.
Day hikes are: Geysers and Agua Termales 5 to 6 hours loop, no trail between Geysers and Aguas Termales but you can walk straight between on altiplano. You won't get lost as the village is almost always visible. The "geysers" are not technically geysers but hot water pools. If you have seen - or are planning to see the "geysers" in Sol de Mañana or Tatio in Chile (or even better, real geysers in Iceland, Yellowstone or New Zealand) - you might want to prioritize other sights and activities in the area.
Laguna Huanakota is 3 hours walk from the village and stop at the Agua Termales on the way. You may be able to hitchhike as there are a few traffic on the road.
Lago de alturas is two day hike.
Climbing Nevado Sajama or volcanos, Nevado Pomarapi or Parinacota. You can hire a local guide or arrange a tour from La Paz. It is also possible to hike to the face of the main cone of Sajama without a guide. There is a well visible trail towards Base camp North, following a valley, starting from a farm around 3-4 km to the north of Sajama village on the road. Allow 2-3 hours, if well acclimatized, to come to the face of the volcano (one way). Take extra care if there is snow on the trail. Alternatively, you can follow a valley to the northeast of Sajama village, first up the (dry) bed of a stream. There is a path that becomes visible once you gain some altitude, then you will lose it again. This takes also 2-3 hours. In both cases you will easily reach an altitude of around 4800-5000 m. Going further is more technical and will require more experience and probably a guide, staying overnight etc.
There is a small peak right to the east of the village with an obvious trail. Going up takes about an hour and you get nice views of the area, including some of the Sajama Lines . There is also a camping spot at the top.
Several stores selling dry goods (with premium price at about 1.5x) and local handcrafts in the village.
More than one restaurant or food stalls opens for lunch and supper.
Several basic alojamientos (from Bs. 35) and hostals (Bs. 85) in the village. Most of them are seasonal but the person at the entrance gate will direct you to the ones open and find the owner of the property.
The lodge at the hot spring (described as "yellow hotel" in some travel blog) is not operating as of September 2012.
It is possible to camp at the hot springs.
The entire park is well above 4000m sea level, and therefore altitude sickness is concern, especially if you are coming from Arica. The bus will go up to the 4600m path from the sea level in 4 hours or so and your body will have hard time adjusting to.