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Termas Manasaya, Sajama pt. 3

Soaking in the Atmosphere

(This is part 3 of my guide to the Sajama National Park.  For the other posts in the series, see the Exploring Bolivia Page.)

One of my best memories of Bolivia from 25 years ago is sitting in a creek feeling the hot water wash away the cold of the night.  I had slept that night in a semi-truck trailer out near Tata Sajama on a trip from La Paz to Arica.

Vicuñas Are Common in the Park

Of course, I was excited to go back and try to find this wild hot stream again.  And like so many of my old memories, the re-encounter was both fun and disappointing.  The fun comes from finding the place and enjoying it, but it was a little bittersweet to see how it is being developed.  Still, taken as it is and without old memories to confront, it is a very worthwhile stop.

Vicuñas Necking

In these posts I’m ignoring the fact that, at some point, you are going to want to break off your travel and sleep for a while.  While there are also some places to overnight in Sajama, the best options, to my mind, are the Albergue Comunitario de Tomarapi and your own tent.  Personally, I prefer the latter, but the former is also a very nice alternative.

Either way, the Termas Manasaya can make a nice stop at the end of a long day of travel, to get the grime off, or a nice start for a day of explorations.  You may find it so pleasant that you do both.

Tatyana and the Twins

To get to the Termas from Sajama, continue along the main road out of town to the north.  Only about a mile out of Sajama, you will see a cute little church on your left, which might be worth a short visit.  Keep your eyes out for vicuñas, too.  You can see them pretty much anywhere inside the park.  Vicuñas are the wild relatives of the alpaca, which is descended from the vicuña.  They produce the finest wool of any of the camelids, but they don’t produce a lot, and since they have not been domesticated, they have to be captured every few years, if the wool is to be sheared from them.  Both facts help to account for the high cost of vicuña fabric.

The turn-off to the hot springs is almost 2.5 miles out of Sajama on the left.  You will be able to see a few buildings off in the distance, which make up the complex.  From the turn, it is 1.5 miles to a small parking lot on the right.  Although there is a toll booth at the parking lot, the charge for using the facility is usually made by a cholita at the spring, itself.

Views of Tata Sajama From Everywhere in the Park Are Magnificent

The walk is short and pleasant, about a third of a mile across the bofedal.  In rainy season, though, you might need boots.  The stream has been dug out and dammed, in order to make a larger pool.  The water come in crystal clear, but it is easy to dredge up the muck from the floor of the pool, so if there are a few people in the pool, the water is going to turn dingy pretty fast.  Still, it is warm (hot in the upper portion) and feels great.  And soaking in that hot water while watching the clouds pass Tata Sajama is a great experience.

On to Tomarapi

(click to enlarge)

While you could return to the main road to continue on to Tomarapi and the Albergue, in almost ten miles more, the more interesting route is to continue on the road past the hot spring, which makes a loop back to the road at about four miles.

Ruins of the Casilla Capilla

The termas loop road follows the Lauca river on its right bank, instead of its left, crossing numerous bofedales, and passing the ruins of what must once have been a beautiful, little church at Casillas.  It comes back to the main road at Laguna Huaña Khota

Laguna Huaña Khota (Aymara: dry lagoon) is nothing special, but it still warrants a close, if short, examination.  Lots of birds stop over here, and you will probably see Andean Geese, a variety of other waterfowl, and, perhaps, flamingos.

It’s just a few miles further to Tomarapi.  For easy routing, take a look at the .gdb file in either your GPS or Google Earth.


For the next installment of the Guide to Sajama National Park see, Albergue and Capilla Tomarapi, Sajama pt. 4.

For more photos of this area, go to my photo site.


Pingback from Larry Memmott's Blog » Sajama and the “Geysers” – Sajama National Park, part 2
Time November 18, 2012 at 1:14 am

[…] The next post on the Sajama National Park is Termas Manasaya, Sajama pt. 3. […]

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