Like for many, the big draw of Bolivia is visiting the breathtaking Salar de Uyuni. But don’t let the salt flats be all you see of this South American gem, however short on time you are. As keen hikers, we know South America has a wealth of exceptional treks, but whilst researching for our trip we came across very little on hiking in Bolivia. Often, we suppose, taking a backseat to neighbouring Peru. However as our experience proved, Bolivia has some unbelievable peaks with a fraction of hikers trekking them. You really do feel like you have the whole mountain range to yourself.
Pico Austria | 1 day Hiking Guide
With views to rival the best of them, here’s our guide to hiking Pico Austria and the Cordillera Real, Bolivia. Just on the outskirts of the city, this makes for a truly breathtaking day hike from La Paz.
Lying east of La Paz is the Cordillera Real mountain range in the Bolivian Andes. It contains a wealth of multi and one day hikes, neither of which will leave you disappointed. The summit of Pico Austria sits at 5,350m above sea level- almost the same as Everest Base Camp. The hike starts at around 4,400m above sea level and so has potential to feel tough from the get go if you are not properly acclimatized.
Altitude & Acclimatisation in the Cordillera Real
Acclimatisation is key! La Paz sits at 3,500m above sea level. It is suggested anything above 2,000-2,500m above sea level and the body will need to acclimatise to the change in altitude. You may feel side effects. With that being said, it is important to take time to rest and adjust. Do not jump straight into any physically demanding activities, especially those like mountain hiking that will take you even higher above sea level. Coca leaves, chewed or drank as tea, are said to ease the symptoms of altitude sickness and can be easily purchased. Our hostel even provided them at breakfast. We spent 3 days in La Paz (off the back of 8 days acclimatising in the Atacama, and then Uyuni) before attempting any hike.
Hiking in the Cordillera Real
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 10km
- Time: 5-5.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 800m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: La Paz Accommodation.
Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated this trail
Climbing Pico Austria
Approaching the start we are stopped by a friendly local running out of a small stone farm house, clip board in hand. This was to pay the National Park fee of 20Bs/person ($3USD). A small price to pay for such secluded beauty. With not another soul insight, and our ‘private’ tour guide ready, we began the ascent up to Pico Austria. The pace is slow and steady to allow the body to adjust as best it can to the increasing altitude. Ultimately providing you take the hike easy, you’ll find it’s not too difficult climbing Pico Austria.
The first section of the hike takes you gradually up towards Laguna Chiarkhota at 4,670m above sea level. From here the trail slowly climbs up Paso Austria (the mountain pass) to finally ascend the Pico Austria summit.
Once at the summit the views are simply breathtaking. As our guide amusingly snuggled down for a quick nap, Dan and I enjoyed the exclusive mountain top. A real sense of accomplishment, together. On a clear day you can see the whole of neighbouring Condoriri and the wider Condoriri Massif (a group of mountains shaped like a condor- often seen flying in these parts). You can also see across west to Lake Titicaca. However be warned, the weather can and does change rapidly. We had some cloud with pockets of blue sky, to full on white out with snow in the space of just a few minutes. Luckily we’d had a good half hour to enjoy our mountain top perch before a swift descent ensued. In total the hike to reach the Pico Austria summit takes a steady 3.5hrs, with a return of just under 2hrs.
Hiking Pico Austria Recap
Despite being a surprise addition to our La Paz itinerary, with not actually planning on hiking in Bolivia at all, hiking Pico Austria turned out to be one of the most rewarding treks we’ve ever done. We’re sure you’ll feel the same should you choose to embark on this adventure too.
Choosing the Right Tour Company
Hike with a guide. During our stay in La Paz we had not planned to do any hiking. We’d earmarked a couple of days to rest and acclimatise, then a couple more to visit Moon Valley and Death Road. After that we’d head across the border into Peru to hit the high altitude hiking trails there. However the Atacama and Uyuni proved to be great introductions to the higher altitudes. Adjusting to life at 3,500m above sea level was more straightforward than we’d imagined. So we set about looking for an enjoyable day hike from La Paz, feeling like we’d be giving ourselves a further head start on acclimatising for Peru.
We quickly came across the Pico Austria trek. We’d recommend hiking Pico Austria with a guide since there is no public transport to the start of the trail, and any taxi or private transfer you find will likely charge more than the tour itself. This is because they will either wait for you to return or you will need to arrange a time for them to collect you. Be sure to shop around on finding the best tour price though. Of the four tour offices we visited, one quoted 450Bs, two at 350Bs and one at 300Bs ($43USD/person). Also please note online prices are much more expensive at around $75USD/person, so always best to book direct in La Paz.
We opted for Bolivia Myl (contact +59173225515)- the cheaper option, since all offered pretty much the same package. Although the pricier options would happily have reduced their cost if booking immediately for the following day. Due to the hiking trails around La Paz still being relatively unknown, it turned out we were to be the only people booked onto our tour. Not only that though, we would soon be the only ones atop Mount Austria!
Return to La Paz
Snacks and lunch included, the bananas handed to us along the trek were always a welcome site. However, being presented with a loaf of bread, block of cheese and mushy avocado to work with during the car journey home was somewhat amusing. Still, it left us supplies for the coming days!
Getting to & from La Paz
Flight or bus, either works. We arrived in La Paz from Uyuni on the overnight bus. The 10 hour trip with Todo Tourismo cost $33USD/person. Leaving Uyuni at 8.30pm it arrived into La Paz at 6.30am the following morning. Perhaps a little on the pricey side it was more importantly comfortable, safe and on time.
Stay safe with the ‘Hop’ buses. We booked the Bolivia Hop bus from La Paz- Copacabana- Cusco (Peru) for $39USD/person. This included the use of a discount code at the time of booking (original price was $49USD/person).
Stay in the hustle and bustle. We stayed at York B&B and booked a private room with private bathroom through booking.com. We spent $60USD/ 2 people for 4 nights ($b 207) there, with a basic breakfast included. The hostel has wifi, although it tended to work best in the reception area and not our room. Its location was fantastic though, very close to all the tour offices and Gringo Alley.
As lunch and snacks were provided within this tour, we only took additional snacks. There are many supermarkets throughout La Paz, so finding groceries is not a problem. For our wider stay in La Paz we found the Hipermaxi’s tended to have good stock of most things. The bread wasn’t the best in La Paz, so our advice would be to buy premium, it’ll be worth it. Trust us, budget bread is not worth the cost saving.
- Transport: $b 496/person ($72USD)
- Accommodation: $b 207/person ($30USD)
- Food: $b207/person ($30USD)
- Tour: $b 300/person ($43USD)
= $b 1,210/person ($175USD)
Five Gear Essentials for Hiking Pico Austria
If you’re planning on hiking Pico Austria, which we hope you are, then here are a few essentials we recommend and you may want to consider. For a more comprehensive packing list, please check out the Ultimate Packing Checklist. It’s a great general summary of everything you’d need for a trip. For even more information check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With.
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots–
- Long sleeved shirt (or base layer).
- Karrimor 1L Clear Water Bottle x 2 – it’s a good idea to carry plenty of water when hiking, especially for high altitude when you should sip often.
- The North Face Venture 2 waterproof/windproof Jacket–
- Coca Leaf Tea- said to reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness, keep some to hand just incase a a great herbal remedy.
To be fully prepared, consider downloading a GPS guided map before you set out. We recommend Wikiloc. For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during the hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Smart packing: As with most hiking, pack for every eventuality. High altitude hikes feel cold very quickly once you’ve reached the summit.
- Pace: Slow and steady wins the race, and all that. Consequently hiking Pico Austria, Bolivia is not a trail to race up.
- Weather: Most tour companies will check the weather forecast for you in regards as to when to book your hike. Although the weather can change quickly, it would be wise to check ahead of time also.
Feel free to book mark this post to access more easily for when you do embark on this epic hike.
Disclaimer: please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. If you use these links, we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Specifically, we participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. It’s an affiliate program that provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees. This occurs through advertising and linking to amazon.com (and other linked Amazon websites). Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you. So if you are booking a trip online or buying some gear, using our links will help support Travel Made Me Do It. This helps us keep the website alive.