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THE VALLEY OF THE "YUNGAS"

LA PAZ

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LA PAZ

THE VALLEY OF THE "YUNGAS"


This region lies almost three hours away from La Paz. It is considered to be a transition area, since it appears when one descends from La Cumbre, more specifically on the offshoots of the Real Cordillera and is the start of the lowlands or Bolivian Amazon, showing the resulting transition of flora and fauna, higher temperatures with lower altitudes, and a gradual change to the characteristically humid conditions in tropical areas. The landscape shows a mix of green slopes, cliffs, rivers, waterfalls and lush vegetation. The valley is divided into two parts, the northern area (Nor Yungas) and the southern one (Sud Yungas). Nor Yungas is three hours away from La Paz on the road that takes one through Coroico and Caranavi, reaching the exuberant localities of Rurrenabaque and Santa Rosa, on the banks of the Ichilo river, enormously rich in fauna resources. This is a semi-tropical valley with exuberant vegetation and beautiful scenery in the Uchumani area. It offers multiple attractions such as: Hostelries, Restaurants, Lodging places, Hotels, etc. On the Coroico river one may practice canoeing, a non-traditional sport here, and rubber rafting. From Coroico one descends to the hotter region of the Department, where there are towns at 700 meters above sea level, such as San Pedro and Puerto Leon; others at 600 m, such as Caranavi, Alcoche, Puerto Ballivian and Teoponte, and Puerto Linares at 400 m. Sud Yungas, with Chulumani, due to their proximity to La Paz has become one of the areas of greatest interest for city dwellers who seek the close contact with nature and the wild that cannot be found in the cement and neon environment of the city. The route, through the rural villages of Sud Yungas attracts those who desire to enjoy excursions, walks, swimming or camping. The main towns in this area are Yanacachi and Chulumani.

Some basic facts about this area are:

Location
In the north of the Department of La Paz, approximately three hours away from the city, bordering on the Department of Beni, in the Amazonian plains area of Bolivia.

When to go
All year round.

Attractions
The greatest attractions of this area are its landscapes, the trekking trails, canoeing and mountain biking.

How to get there
From La Paz there is a public bus service to the main cities and provinces in the region; many travel agencies offer tours of the area.

Activities
Wildlife watching, landscape viewing, eco-tourism, hiking, trekking, canoeing, mountain-bike, photography and adventure sports.

Climate
Tropical humid type.

Services
Lodging, food and transport, all at basic service levels.

Surroundings
Caranavi, Rurrenabaque, Santa Rosa.

Yungas describes a particular type of ecosystem, also known as cloud forest. This ecosystem forms a narrow belt some 5,500 km long on the east of the Andes Cordillera from Venezuela to Northwest Argentina, occupying the humid mountainsides at between 400 and 3,000 meters above sea level.

The term Yungas, meaning "hot earth" in the local language, designates the set of Bolivia's tropical mountain forest-covered valleys that form one of the regions that best identifies the country's natural and cultural diversity, since it not only represents the upper limit of the central and eastern Andes wet forests, but also an important cultural boundary.

The inhabitants of the Yungas are mainly of the Aymara ethnos from the Andean high plateau, with an admixture of European-blooded criollos (creoles), half-breeds and blacks. This region differs from the mountain areas of eastern Bolivia in having abundant and regular rainfall all year round, leading to the formation of the evergreen tropical forests that are its main feature. It therefore makes a contrast with the cold and arid Andean high plateau and the Amazonian lowlands.

In an environment with a subtropical climate, the low, warm valley habitat of the Yungas contains a palm, bamboo and epiphyte jungle that forms the great ecosystem in which the chinchona and coca are grown, currently originating a major area of coca and marihuana plantations and processing facilities, although coca bushes have been grown in the area since pre-Hispanic times.

Median annual temperatures between 16 and 22 °Celsius, with a humid, rainy climate all year round lead to a wide range of agricultural produce (rice, bananas, citric fruits, tea, coffee and cocoa), that provides inputs for the food and agriculture industry in all its branches (beverages, textiles, tobacco). As these are wet mountainside areas, the traditional farming methods are based on maintaining the vegetation cover and compensating for low yields through stability (intensive rotation, tree and grass growing, alternating different crops, perennial plantations and shade trees). Notwithstanding the foregoing, currently these areas are undergoing deforestation to introduce subsistence agriculture and the production of harvests of such crops as coca, coffee and tea.

This area is considered to be a major reserve for conservation of flora and fauna in the region, due to which conservation and protection activities have been undertaken, and handled in co-ordination with the local entities and communities; within the activities proposed is that of encouraging ecological and controlled tourism.
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