Sleepy, sunny Tupiza, Bolivia was our next stop in Bolivia and the town from which we decided to begin our Bolivian salt flat tour. But, before we started the tour, we were excited to explore what many have described as Bolivia’s version of the American southwest. While we did encounter red rock mountains, canyons, and a desert environment, Tupiza was still distinctly different from what I remember of the southwest. For starters, Tupiza is actually still in the Andes Mountains and has an elevation near 3,000 meters. This made for interesting mountain biking & hiking – I guess a month walking around at altitude did not do much for our physical condition.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed ourselves as we got lost mountain biking on what seemed like the only road out of town. Once we found the path, after asking 3 different people for directions, we ended up in a little canyon where we practiced bouldering before barreling back down the mountain into town. We also enjoyed hiking to the top of Cerro Cruz, which was topped with a giant white cross, hence the name, and is a great spot to survey the town and surrounding area. Looking in the opposite direction of town, we discovered Elephant Hill (see below).
In the end, Tupiza did turn out to be a bit like the American southwest and was a fun place to get outdoors, but the town itself was quite uninspiring. Perhaps this is why most travelers only spend a night in town, either as a quick stopover before crossing into Argentina by way of Villazon or for just enough time to book a trip to one of Bolivia’s highlights- the Salar de Uyuni.