Travel Photography Workshop and Tour in Peru and Bolivia
Joining world-renowned travel photographers Brendan van Son and Tiffany Wüest, this photography-focused tour and workshop will take you to some of South America’s most impressive locations. Starting in the ancient city of Cuzco, the trip will visit places like Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Potosi, and the Salar de Uyuni before concluding in La Paz.
Arrival in Cusco
Participants will arrive in Cusco on their own time. In the late afternoon of day 1, we’ll meet at the hotel for a welcome drink and to get to know one and other. Then, we’ll head off to dinner and sample some of Peru’s most famous dishes like ceviche, avocado relleno, and alpaca steak. Of course, we’ll be sure to snap some photos of the dinning experience as well.
We have one free day in Cusco. Participants will be free to explore the city on their own or join us on a city walk. There will also be some one-on-one time in place where you’ll be able to show us some of your work and have a bit of a critique session. Then, in the evening we’ll be taking some architecture photography from locations in an around the Plaza de Armas.
The Sacred Valley
The voyage into the Sacred Valley is perhaps the most exciting day of the tour. We’ll head towards the town of Aguas Calientes visiting a llama farm, the ancient ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo before catching the train to the foot of the wonder that is Machu Picchu.
We’re up before sunrise to make sure we get a good spot at Machu Picchu to watch the sunrise. After watching, and photographing, the fog lift from the ancient city, we’ll have the rest of the morning to wander around the ruins. In the late afternoon, we’ll catch the train back to Cusco.
We’ll catch the bus to the town of Puno which is on the shores of Lake Titicaca – the world’s highest navigable lake. Arriving in town in the afternoon, we’ll take time to explore the street markets, or perhaps hike up the steps of the city to watch the sunset over Puno and the lake in the distance.
Lake Titicaca Homestay
We’ll take a private boat tour of Lake Titicaca in the morning. During the tour, we’ll visit the historic island of Taquille where many of the ancient Quechua traditions are still very much in tact. After lunch on the island at a local restaurant, we’ll take our boat over to Amantani Island where we’ll meet our families. We’ll have a chance for a glance into their way of life on the island, and maybe even have ourselves a game of football with the locals, and a bit of a dance party in the evening. The landscapes of Amantani Island are amazing as well, there certainly won’t be a lack of things to shoot. If we’re lucky and get some clear skies, we might even get the chance to shoot some star photography.
To La Paz
After visiting the Uros (Reed) Islands in the morning, we’ll arrive back in Puno and catch a private bus/van into Bolivia. We’ll arrive in the capital during the late evening and hopefully be able to time our arrival with a nice sunset light shinning down on the magnificent view that is the city of La Paz. The capital of Bolivia is the highest capital city on earth, and it’s absolutely breathtaking both literally and figuratively.
Free Day in La Paz
On this day, participants will have a couple different options. You can hit the “death road” via mountain bike in what must be the greatest bike ride on the planet. Or, if you’re up for a more tranquil time, you can also chose to explore the city, various museums, and interesting street markets.
To Potosi via Sucre
We catch our first flight of the trip in the morning. We’ll fly to the city of Sucre which is actually the country’s administrative capital. After a quick lunch in town, and a walk through the plaza, we’ll catch a private bus to the city of Potosi. Potosi was once one of the richest cities in the Americas and home to one of the most productive silver mines in the world. These days, it’s glory is more or less lost, and the city is fading. However, the crumbling facade of the city has real charm and character, and is a photographer’s urban paradise.
Exploring Potosi - Mines and a Crater
Today we have the chance to explore Potosi a little bit more in depth. If fact, we can even go into the mine and have the chance to meet and photograph a miner hard at work in the dangerous tunnels of Cerro Rico. Then, in the afternoon we have the option to soak away our weary bones and muscles in a volcanic crater just outside of town.
Getting to Uyuni and a Railroad Cemetery
It’s about 4 hours via private transport to the city of Uyuni which finds itself on the edge of one of the biggest salt flats in the world. At sunset, we’ll go to a place locally known as the train cemetery for some interesting evening images. Then, we’ll head back into town and grab a couple slices of what might well be the best pizza in South America.
The Salt Flats
Today, we’ll explore the wondrous Salar de Uyuni via jeep. We’ll check out the salt production techniques, visit the salt hotel, mess around with some perspective photography, and find a great spot to shoot the sunset light before heading back to Uyuni for the night.
Back to La Paz
It’s back to La Paz via air plane. Once we get back to La Paz there will be some free time for some one-on-one image evaluations for those people who want them, or they can explore the city a bit more. In the evening, we’ll have a going away party at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, we’ll say our goodbyes and participants will be taken to the airport and their flights back home.
What is included in the price?
- Accommodation – Based on Double Occupancy
- Airport Pickup and Dropoffs
- Professional Photography Instruction by Brendan and Tiffany
- All Breakfasts
- Entrance Tickets on Included Activities
- Included Activities = Sacred Valley Tour, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca Homestay, Potosi Mine Tour, and Salar de Uyuni Tour
What's Not Included
- Flights to Cusco and From La Paz
- Food and Beverages aside from Breakfast
- Optional Activities: Potosi Crater Hot Springs, Death Road Mountain Biking, Museums on free days in Cusco and La Paz
Is my Gear Good Enough?
Yes, it is. Even if you pack along a smartphone like the Nokia 1020, we’ll be able to help show you how to shoot some incredible images, and take you to the location where it’s impossible to take a bad photo. That being said, if you want to get the best out of your trip, I’d recommend taking gear you’re comfortable with. Also, think about the limitations your gear might have.
What Camera Should I Bring?
Obviously, that’s up to you. We know well enough it’s possible to take great photos even on a point and shoot. However, to get the most out of the trip we recommend bringing along a DSLR or a mirrorless camera with interchanging lenses. Brendan for example shoots a full-frame Canon 6D and Tiffany uses the Canon crop-sensor 7D Mark II.
What Lenses Should I Bring?
Again, that’s up to you. Peru and Bolivia are diverse places meaning you’ll probably run through a lot of different focal lengths. Our guess is that you’d want at least a wide angle zoom and a telephoto zoom. For example, if you were to pack a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm you’d be set in most situations. A set like a 16-35mm, 50mm, and 70-200mm would also be great. If you are considering bringing a 300mm lens or longer, you might be packing a bit too much, although you would likely use it in the Colca Canyon with the condors.
What Photo Accessories Should I Bring?
As with basically all the questions so far, that’s up to you. What you definitely need to bring though – no matter whether you’re shooting a smartphone or a DSLR – is a sturdy tripod. We’ll be shooting a lot of long exposures and low light situations, where the extra stabilization is simply necessary. Additionally, you will likely want a couple filters to make the most out of the landscapes and a gradient ND filter, and a polarizer will definitely come in handy. If you love taking portraits, I’d recommend a flash and a reflector.
Can I Rent Photography Gear?
From us, no. However, we can recommend that you rent lenses or camera bodies from Borrowlenses.com. If you’re worried about renting a piece of equipment and not being familiar with it, don’t worry. We’re professionals and are here to guide you through the process of not only taking cool photos but also making sure you know how to work your gear.
Should I Bring a Laptop?
That all depends on how much editing you want to do on the road. Remember that we’re offering photo editing sessions and critiques along the way. Thus, if you want some help during those sessions, it really helps if you have your own laptop as well as a photo editing software like Lightroom or Photoshop installed on it. Moreover, having a laptop is a good thing to have when it comes to backing up your images.
How Fit Should I be?
This is a fairly minimum activity level tour. This tour has been done with passengers of all fitness levels, they all get by. That said, to really enjoy the tour you should at least be prepared for a bit of high-altitude hiking.
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
Yes. If you do not have travel insurance you will not be able to join the tour. Your travel insurance details will be verified at the start of the tour.
Will there be any 1-on-1 Sessions?
Yes. On 2 or 3 occasions we’ll be offering 1-on-1 photo editing and critique sessions with photographers. Moreover, out in the field we won’t be giving full instruction to the entire group, although a pre-shoot discussion will take place. Instead, once we get out in the field, we’ll be available to help photographers in a 1-on-1 capacity with any questions they might be having.
What’s the Type of Accommodation?
Our accommodation in Peru and Bolivia is of the 3-star variety, perhaps with a bonus of a 4-star mixed in here and there. The one exception will be on Lake Titicaca, where you’ll be staying with a local family in their much more traditional home.
What Type of Transportation?
Transportation will be a mix of private and public. We’ll be on private buses from Puno to La Paz, Sucre to Potosi, and Potosi to Uyuni. We’ll be in a public bus from Cusco to La Paz. We’ll also be taking 2 flights: La Paz to Sucre, and Uyuni to La Paz.
What is the Food like?
Peruvian food is delicious and in our humble opinion, it’s one of the most underrated foods on the planet. Along the coast, dishes like ceviche and other fish dishes are popular. In the highlands, you’ll find a lot of potato-based meals. The food is not too spicy, with the exception of food in Arequipa that is sometimes made with the incredibly spicy rocotto pepper.
Bolivian food is a bit more bland. It’s based a lot on potatoes and can be fairly starch heavy. That said, there are lots of foreign food options in Bolivia as well.
What Meals are Included?
All your breakfasts along the way are included. This generally means continental breakfast at the hotel but might also mean a bakery or boxed breakfast for an early morning photo shoot. You’ll have to cover your own lunches, dinners, and snacks. The price of dinner in Peru is relatively cheap. Expect to pay between $7-15 for a nice meal at a nice restaurant.
Will I see Sunrise at Machu Picchu?
That’s up to you, really. The issue is that Machu Picchu doesn’t open until sunrise, which means it’ll depend on how far back in the line at the entrance you are. The earlier you get up, the better off you’ll be. That said, the way Machu Picchu works, in the mist, is that you often get the best light later in the morning around 8am. Moreover, since there are terraced steps to the site, you’ll not have much of an issue setting up your tripod somewhere with a clean view. The good news is that even if you catch the bus up to Machu Picchu in the morning, you’ll likely still get to the site before the hikers that went on the Inca Trail.
How Big are the Group Sizes?
Our maximum group size is 12 people. Since there are two instructors along the tour, we will often break into 2 groups of 6, if necessary, to keep out of each others way.
The minimum group size is 3 people.
What Languages are Instructions Available in?
Together, we speak 4 different languages fluently. Thus, we can give instructions in English, German, French, and Spanish. However, the primary language of instruction is going to be English.
Do I Need to Speak Spanish?
No, not at all. Brendan speaks fluent Spanish and will guide you where necessary. Moreover, there shouldn’t be any situations where you find yourself in desperate need to communicate, as there will always be someone around who can help you out with that. That being said, if you can learn a little bit of Spanish, it’ll really help with the communication between yourself and the locals.
What Medication do I Need?
We are not doctors, so we can’t advise you on this matter. Our recommendation is that you visit your travel doctor before going on this trip. Based on personal experience in Peru, you’ll likely want to carry something for the potential of altitude sickness. You’ll also want to carry something to fend off a potential stomach bug. But, as we mentioned, consult your travel doctor.
How do I deal with Altitude?
Altitude can be issue for some in Peru and Bolivia and we’ll be visiting some places up near 4000m above sea level. In fact, La Paz itself is around 4000m. And, the truth is, some people deal with it well and others don’t. Moreover, it seems to have little to do with your fitness level or age, we have seen it affect all sorts of people. Again, we have to advise you to talk to your travel doctor. If you happen to have some issues along the way, do as the locals do and chew on some coca leaves and if you do run into problems, we assure you that the medical facilities in Peru are very good and the people are very adept at dealing with these things.
Can you Arrange our Flights?
Yes, this can be done. Please refer to the sales page. To make this happen, we’d require full payment for the tour upfront. Then, we’ll be in contact with you via email to work out optional services such as flight booking and pre-tour bookings. If you want us to book a flight for you we’d find the cheapest available fare for you from your destination and quote you that price plus a $50 booking charge.
Can I Pay for an Upgrade?
Upfront, no. We simply can’t have our group scattered all over the place. We’ve decided on 3-star accommodation because it offers extremely comfortable accommodation while still meaning that the trip is affordable to a wide range of people.
What is the Single Supplement?
Our prices are based on the idea that everyone will be sharing a double room. Thus, as a single traveller, you’ll be paired with another participant, if possible, for the accommodation during the trip. However, if you are a single traveller and want to ensure private accommodation for the trip, you’ll need to pay the single supplement cost, which for this tour is $300. The option for the single supplement will be given in our information given once the tour is booked.
Who will I be Paired with as a Single Traveller?
If you’re a single traveller, we will only pair you with a member of your same sex. We’ll never ask for a solo male and solo female traveller to pair up.
Peru and Bolivia Tipping Policy
In Peru, tipping is expected in restaurants. Generally a fair tip is between 5-15% depending on the service. There is no need to tip taxi drivers as most prices are negotiated anyways. Tour guides do receive tips. However, the tour leader will cover their tips.
Tour begins in Cusco July 13th and ends in La Paz on July 26.
Meet your guide
Brendan van Son and Tiffany Wüest are professional travel photographers. Brendan is from Canada and has over 5 years on the road experience as a travel photographer. And, before he started out in the industry taking photos professionally he worked as a guide and tour leader in both Canada and Latin America. Tiffany, has worked in the tourism industry for over 4 years. In that period, she has travelled to some 40+ countries.