Some 55km north of Achacachi, enclosed in a deep, fertile valley at the foot of the mighty 6400m Illampu massif, SORATA has a beautiful setting. Hemmed in by steep mountain slopes and often shrouded in cloud, it has a Shangri-la feel – early Spanish explorers even compared the valley to the Garden of Eden. At an altitude of 2695m, it is significantly warmer than La Paz, but is still cool at night compared to the Yungas. Though there’s little to do in Sorata, it’s a pleasant place to hang out while preparing for or recovering from some hard trekking or climbing, as well as a good base for less strenuous walks in the surrounding countryside.
During the colonial era Sorata was an important trade and gold-mining centre with a large Spanish population. In 1781, at the time of the Great Rebellion, it was successfully besieged by supporters of neo-Inca rebel Tupac Amaru, who dammed rivers above the town and then released a torrent that swept it away. Sorata later enjoyed considerable prosperity as one of the main routes into the Yungas from the Altiplano, generating fortunes for the German merchants who dominated the town in the nineteenth century. Sorata was back in the headlines in 2003, when local solidarity with the El Alto-centred “gas war” resulted in several deaths. Its popularity was understandably dented, and today it is still struggling to regain its former appeal. Many businesses (including restaurants) close on Tuesdays.