Tupiza is a small town in the Potosí Department of Bolivia, close to the border with Argentina.
Tupiza has connections to Villazón on the Argentinian border and north to Uyuni and Oruro. Ask at the train station for the latest departure times.
Bus schedules tend to change regularly. There are daily buses to Villazón that stop in Tupiza. There are also vans going to and from Villazón, leaving as soon as they fill up, costing 20 bolivianos (Feb 2017). Buses direct to La Paz leave daily in the evening, some stopping at Potosí and Oruro on the way.
The beautiful surroundings of Tupiza are full of quebradas, cañones and valles. It's excellent for exploring by foot, but it's also possible to go on horseback, mountain bike or by jeep. Most tour agencies have simple maps (not to scale) if you want to set out on your own. You can buy a map to scale at the post office, near the Plaza. Some places of interest are:
- El Cañon
- El Angosto
- Entre Rios
- Cerro Elefante
- Mirador Christo
- Puerta del Diablo
- Valle de los Machos
- Cerro la Cruz
There are great horseback riding tours of the surrounding landscape, which looks a lot like the American southwest we see in Westerns. Most tour agencies charge similarly: 70Bs per hour, or 85Bs for a 1 person trip (prices July 2014). It's relatively easy to join a group for a short trip of 3 or maybe 5 hours though. Ask for leather leggings.
If you´d like to be a little more independent or economical, hiking or biking along the same trails as the horses is also an option.
There are also many tour-operators doing the 4 day-trip to the Salar de Uyuni or smaller local tours. Doing a tour from Tupiza means that you will be able to see more of the province's beautiful lakes and rock formations than those that start in Uyuni. There are less tourists who go from the south so competition is less fierce and tour operators don't undercut each other as much as they do in Uyuni, for now that means that quality of tours are still good coming from the south. Operators also don't try to stuff their cars quite as full as Uyuni's people might, usually cars only take 4-5 passengers per vehicle. Going the opposite way also means you reach most sites at a different time of day as the crowd (some, not all!) 4 passengers per jeep is the norm from Tupiza. 4-day tours usually cost 1200-1250 bolivianos per person(Feb 2017). If you have 5 people in the jeep, you can try asking for a discount down to 1100. Some small operators often try to charge more than the established agencies, stating that they are a "family business". They might also lie to you that if you ask a lower price, they would lower their service quality just for you. Shop around before you agree on a tour and don't fall for it!
Some of the tour agencies:
- El Grano de Oro, Avenida Pedro Arraya 492, Tupiza, ☎ +591-2694-4763 ([email protected]), . Offers different tours including a 4 day jeep tour to Salar de Uyuni. Experienced drivers, excellent food and the only tour operator from Tupiza which drove through the flooded salt flat which was a big plus (April 2012). Negative point is that they use very old jeeps which cause some discomfort, as you aren't able to open (all) the windows and bad insulation means some dust will enter the jeep. Bs1000 five people sharing with Spanish driver (as per website May 2016). edit
- Natural Adventure, Suipacha 3, Tupiza (in Hostal Bien Te Fue. From the bus station head left, to the south. On the corner of calle Beni & Suipacha, opposite side of the road.), ☎ +5912-694-3777 Cell: +591-6808-2818, use cell no. for whatsapp ([email protected]), . Bs1300 five people sharing with Spanish driver (as per website May 2016). edit
- La Torre Tours, Regimento Chivas 220, Tupiza, ☎ +591-2694-2633, . Offers tours to Salar de Uyuni, amongst others. edit
- Tupiza Tours, Avenida Chichas 187, Tupiza (in Hotel Mitru), ☎ +591-2694-3003, . Offers horse riding trips and 4-day Salar de Uyuni tours. edit
- Valle Hermoso, Avenida Pedro Arraya 478, Tupiza, . Offers excellent 4 days Salar de Uyuni jeep tours and horseback riding trips. edit
Tupiza has a biweekly local market stretching down from just outside the train station. Mainly consists of electronics, cheap clothes, and random knick-knacks. There are also many food kiosks and vendors past the main strip. Interesting drink and jello vendors, as well as vitamin quinoa juice.
There are two ATMs at the Plaza Independencia as of May 2016: Banco Union and Banco Fie. There is also a Prodem (a bank) at the Plaza Independica, which reportedly provides cash advance for creditcard (though a commission is charged).
- Pastipizza, moderate, bad service.
- Ristorante Italiana, Florida 272, for Italian food.
- Il Bambino, Florida y Santa Cruz, the 10 Bs. setlunches are incredible popular with the locals.
- Escargo, Calle Avaroa y Serrano, Tupiza. almuerzo. Daily (copious) set menu of 4 courses. 20Bs.. edit
- Market, upper level. Local food at local prices from 7Bs (negociable). edit
- El Alamo, Calle Avaroa (has a big sign with a cowboy on it). Mexican, Western and Bolivian food (some vegetarian meals are available as well). Fairly cheap, a lot of locals dine there as well. edit
- Milan Center. Upper class, touristy prices (~100 Bs for a pizza), bad service. edit
- Muxsa, Plaza Independencia (watch out for the sign). Very good coffee, best we found in the town. Reasonable prices. edit
On weekends there could be some local fiesta, -ask around.
- Diver...Gente, Florida (A block off the square). Lights of all colours are flashing, the DJ mostly trusts his DVDs. A bottle of booze 100 Bs. edit*
- Hotel Mitru, Av Regimento Chicas 187, 02-694-3001, is probably the best spot in town. Rooms vary from budget (Bs.70) to luxury (US$25 and up). There is a nice swimming pool. The staff is friendly and many of the rooms need renovation. But the included breakfast is fantastic - a large buffet spread of many things. There is WiFi in the rooms, but it can be slow at times. There is also one computer available - shared amongst 60 guests, so it's invariably always in use.
- Valle Hermoso, Avenida Pedro Arraya nº478 , run two HI hostels (and a travel agency). Cheap, clean and well maintained doubles and dorms.
- Tupiza Hostal, Calle Florida No.10, ☎ 6945240. Close to both the bus station and train terminal, as well as the main square. Has a lovely courtyard with a fig tree, and a kitchen - though not very well equipped, this seemed to be one of the few hostels with a usable kitchen in town. Friendly staff (father and little son), and interesting gringo visitors. The door is watched 24/7 although at night the doorman is asleep, so ring persistently and/or call ahead if arriving on the 4am train. Rooms are clean, and blankets are provided. 40Bs. per night. edit
- La Torre Hotel, Av. Chichas 220, ☎ 591-2-6942633, . checkin: 09:00 a.m.; checkout: 11:30 a.m.. This is very nice hotel, staff is very friendly. 80 Bs per person for a double room with private bathroom and a plentiful breakfast. edit
- Hostal Bien Te Fue, Suipacha 3. Opposite the bus terminal. Clean rooms and bathrooms, a bit cold at night. Informal restaurant downstairs. Dorm bed 35B or 45B with breakfast of coffee and crepes (prices July 2014). 35 Bs. per night. edit
Be responsible when deciding on your trip, getting Altitude sickness is risk. Going to Uyuni by tour, you start at 3097 meters above sea level, climbing 1000m the first day and another 1000m the second day. It would be better to spend a few day making sure that you have acclimatized to the altitude before rushing out and doing your trip. If you feel dizzy, can hardly breathe or get a headache, don't ignore your symptoms!
There are several tour agents offering the 4 day trip to the Salar de Uyuni finishing in Uyuni.
Furthermore there usually are daily busses to
- Villazon (1-2 hours, 15 Bs.)
- Potosi (6-7 hours, 40-50 Bs.)
- Uyuni (5-6 hours, 50 Bs.). Terrible ride, badly maintained dirt road most of the way (Feb 2017)
- La Paz (Bolivia) (80Bs)
And more destinations. Ask around at the bus station for those. Not all buses leave daily because there aren't enough people to fill the bus.
There are trains to both Villazon and Uyuni every other day. Last but not least, you can take a (shared) taxi to Villazon (3 hours, Bs. 25) or Uyuni (5-6 hours).