Urmiri/Sapahaqui circuit

by Lawrence Rubey

A wonderful circuit to drive for great arid scenery and valle birding. It is close to La Paz, making it a perfect half day trip. However, public transportation is limited so you will need your own car. After turn toward Urmiri from the main road (0.0 km) , the dirt road to Urmiri begins climbing to over 4300 meters before descending. This stretch of road is mostly barren Altiplano vegetation, but is not as overgrazed as in some areas. Look for Common Miner and Black-billed Shrike Tyrant. Once you begin descending, there are beautiful views of inter-Andean valleys and the snow-capped cordillera off in the distance. Sierra Finches (Plumbeous, Ash-throated and Band-tailed) are worth watching for. Below 3900 meters, the vegetation begins picking up. At 22.5 km from the La Paz-Oruro road, reach a large sign. For the detour to the Urmiri hot spring take the right fork. Descend on a very steep, winding, narrow road for 4 km. The slopes are full of reddish-purple aloes and cactus. Arrive (26 km) at the Urmiri Hot Springs (a dead end). Ornamental plantings around the resort are good for hummingbirds (watch for Red-tailed Comet).

To continue on to Sapahaqui, re-trace your route 4 km. back to the large white sign and continue on the left fork. Descend into the river valley and reach Sapahaqui in about 12 km. Continue on from Sapahaqui to rejoin the La Paz-Oruro road near the El Alto tranca.

Logistics: Leave La Paz on the road to Oruro. Turn left (northeast) for Urmiri at the small town of Tholar, about 32.8 km past the El Alto tranca (at the 70 kilometer post when coming from La Paz). Signs advertising the Urmiri Hot Springs mark this turn. Urmiri (at an altitude of 3200m) is 102 kilometers from La Paz. Sapahaqui (at 2900m) is 110 kilometers from La Paz. For accommodation, Hotel Gloria Urmiri is located at the hot springs. It has 25 simple rooms and meals for about $15 per person, including access to the hot spring and swimming pool. For reservations, contact the main office in the Hotel Gloria in La Paz, Calle Potosí, No. 909. tel: 370010, 370017 and 370018. E-mail: gloriatr@datacom-bo.net.

GPS reading at Urmiri hot springs: S 16 56.413' W 67 56.253'