Cordillera Real Trek

Cordillera Real Trekking

Bolivia’s Cordillera Real (Royal Range) contains 7 peaks over 6000 meters and over 600 peaks over 5000 meters all packed within a range that stretches a mere 78 miles in length. Despite the immensity of trekking possibilities, Bolivia’s premier mountain range remains one of South America’s best kept trekking secrets. This trek itinerary is specially designed to take in a variety of the best scenery along the length of the range.

This expedition to Bolivia provides the opportunity to experience the beauty of stark high altitude landscapes and panoramic views of glaciated peaks along with authentic Andean culture. As tourism infrastructure in Bolivia is delayed behind that of other neighboring Andean countries, travel here is well-suited to the adventurous traveler. However, the intrepid visitor to Bolivia will find endlessly fascinating cultural depth, authenticity and natural beauty.

The goal of the Cordillera Real trek is to complete a hiking traverse alongside the most heavily glaciated part of the range, beginning from the scenic hill town of Sorata and rounding around the immense Ancohuma/Illampu massif, and finally continuing along the western side of the Cordillera Real range. The route meanders under the glaciers of five 6000 meter plus peaks.

These harsh hills and idyllic valleys have been the home of Aymara llama herders for hundreds of years and more recently to miner’s settlements. Trekking here provides a fascinating perspective on life in a harsh but spectacular corner of the globe. In order to gain a better understanding of the Bolivian high plains and as a part of our acclimatization plan, we will spend a couple of days with local communities on the shores of Lake Titicaca prior to beginning our trek.

Our epic trek is a high altitude adventure, with camps generally between 12,000 ft to 15,000 ft with passes in the 15,000 ft to 16,000 ft range. The trip is physically demanding but requires no technical experience. Mules carry the camp gear, food, and all trekker gear except day pack supplies. The trek is steep in parts but we generally travel unhurried.

Aymara People and the Altiplano

The Bolivian Altiplano, where the Andes reach their widest point, is one of the world’s greatest high altitude plateaus. Bolivia is a land of geographical extremes and superlatives made all the more fascinating by the rich authentic cultural background found in daily life. A nation landlocked in the heart of South America, over sixty percent of Bolivia’s population is of indigenous descent, more than in any other country in South America. The altiplano, or high altitude plateau, we will explore during our expedition is the land of the Aymara people. The Aymara trace their culture, language, and descendency from the advanced pre-Incan Tiwanaku civilization. Today, the Aymara in the countryside raise alpaca and llama while living off potatoes, barley, and quinoa, which are grown in the altiplano.

Cordillera Real Frequently Asked Questions

What is the physical conditioning level needed for this trek?

Trekker must be in very good to excellent physical condition. Review cardio training on the training page. We strongly recommend following the advice of our guide to acclimatize properly.

Will I be sharing a tent or lodging with other trekkers?

Trekkers share a tent (two climbers per tent) along the expedition. The trip price includes hotel nights in La Paz at double occupancy. Single accommodations (hotels only) are available for an extra fee.

How much will my pack weigh?

During the trek we will only be carrying gear and supplies for the day. At no point do we carry camping gear or equipment for overnight. During the trek packs will normally weigh 10 lbs and no more than 15 lbs.

What gear will I need?

Please review the gear list.

How does your gear rental system work?

All rental gear will be mailed to the trekker prior to the climb. Those requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form online. Trekkers are expected to clean all rental gear and return it to us by mail following the expedition.

Any further advice on gear and using your gear list?

While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the gear list may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The gear lists are created by the guides to assist in having trekkers be prepared to enjoy the hikes in any conditions.

While it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do offer a wide variety of equipment in our Gear Shop, that has been hand-picked by our staff of mountaineering experts. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes.

How is drinking water treated?

All water will be boiled while the group is in the mountains. Doing so for several minutes will kill anything that can live at the altitude the camps are located.

What will the meals on the expedition be like?

Meals in the mountains will be prepared by our chef who will trek with us. We try to make meals and breakfast as varied and nutritious as possible and include vegetables and fruits as much as possible. Our chef is also mindful of meals that are tasty and nutritious at high altitude and that compensate for the increase in caloric need that high altitude trekking involves.

Are there any innoculation requirements?

You should be up to date on routine vaccinations, however there are currently no specific vaccination requirements for entry to Bolivia for tourism purposes. (CDC webiste on Boliva please see above website for up to date travel health info and recommendations).

What is the best air route to my destination?

There are currently no direct flights from the U.S. to La Paz. Most U.S. airlines operate in conjunction with South American carriers that commonly make stops in Lima or Bogota before arrival in La Paz.

When should I book my flight? Do I need to use your Travel Agent?

Fares are generally less expensive when booked early. You may use our Travel Agent (Charles Mulvehill 1-800-727-2157) or book flights yourself. Please note that flights booked online are often difficult to change. Please send us a copy of your flight schedule as early as possible as this allows us to book pick ups and hotels.

Where do I meet my guides?

Your guide or an Alpine Ascents representative will meet you at the airport. Look for a large Alpine Ascents sign.

What if I arrive early or depart late? Can you arrange extra night lodging? Is there a single room option for this expedition?

We are happy to make arrangements such as personalized tours, extra hotels rooms, airport pick ups and arrange for private rooms. Please indicate that you would like a private room on your application and we will contact you with information on single room supplement costs (for hotels only).

Are there any entry or Visa requirements?

If you are a U.S. citizen seeking to enter Bolivia as a tourist, you must have an entry visa. You must apply for a tourist visa with a Bolivian consulate in the U.S. prior to arrival. Visas on arrival are no longer issued to U.S. citizens. The current visa cost is $160. Alpine Ascents will provide further information to registered trekkers.

Is there any communication while we are on the mountain?

Regular updates are posted on our website from our team while in the mountains.

Can I contact the others on the trek? How about the guide?

You can always contact the office and the office will put you in touch with the lead guide. Additionally the guide will contact you, generally about 1 month before your trip departure. Thirty days prior to departure, we mail a list of other team members to you.

How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?

Most trekkers prefer to bring about $1000 and have credit cards, however $500 should easily cover any extra expenses.

How much should I tip my guide and staff?

Guides are permitted to accept and greatly appreciate tips. Contact our office for specific guidelines for your trip.

How do I register for this expedition?

Simply book on line or call our offices with a credit card handy.

What paperwork do I need to send in?

Each trekker should submit an application and flight information.

When is the money due for this expedition? What kind of payment do you accept?

We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, personal checks and Alpine Ascents gift certificates. To reserve a space the deposit is $700.00 and balances are due 120 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of trip.

What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?

Our guides and local staff will make the necessary efforts to obtain the necessary transportation and reservations to get you home as quickly as possible if for any reason you need to depart early.

Reading List

This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to with reviews.

Bolivia : A Climbers Guide
by Yossi Brain, Mountaineers Books
The Ancient Kingdoms of Peru
by Nigel Davies, Penguin USA (paper)

Our guides were incredibly personable and easy to get along with. They always had a smile on their faces and kind words to share with us. It was so uplifting to come into camp at the end of the day to see them singing and dancing and cheering us on. It was excellent for our […]


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