The Hill of the Skull

12 November 2023

The Hill of the Skull by Jeremy Bassetti Jeremy Bassetti
The Hill of the Skull by Jeremy Bassetti

Journey to the heart of the Bolivian Andes in this spellbinding book, where a professor’s unexpected encounter with a shaman on a sacred mountain sparks a transformative pilgrimage of the heart and mind.

In August 2022, I traveled to a town in the Bolivian Andes to do research on a pilgrimage to a sacred mountain called Cerro Calvario — the Hill of the Skull. I wanted to keep some distance between me and my work. But after an urgent email from the mother of a dying friend, and an encounter with a shaman, the Hill turned me into a pilgrim.

The Hill of the Skull is a photographic memoir of my visit to the sacred hill during a yearly pilgrimage and festival called the Festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña.

But the book is more than just an artifact of my experience; it provides a rare glimpse into the little-known world of the pilgrims, shamans, landscapes, traditions, and ceremonies around the sacred hill.

Book specs

Where to buy The Hill of the Skull


Select prints from The Hill of the Skull are also available, individually or bundled at a discount.

Square prints are 6 x 6 in (15.25 x 15.25 cm) in size and have an image size of 3.67 x 5.5 in (9.4 x 14 cm). They come without a mat or a frame, but they look great on the wall:

The Hill of the Skull Square Prints by Jeremy Bassetti
The Hill of the Skull Square Prints by Jeremy Bassetti

Advance praise

A perfectly self-contained and beautifully written travel book in miniature; in The Hill of the Skull, Jeremy Bassetti turns the lens both outwards and inwards, capturing the voices, the stories of those he meets along the way with sensitivity and respect, and also revealing the vulnerable, uncertain figure of the traveler himself.” — Tim Hannigan, author of The Travel Writing Tribe and The Granite Kingdom

In the best tradition of travel writing, The Hill of the Skull is a journey into landscapes both outer and inner — beautifully vivid and succinct. It hits a perfect note.” — Nick Hunt, author of Red Smoking Mirror and Outlandish

An evocative account of a visit to a sacred mountain in the Bolivian Andes – a part of the world that is often overlooked – The Hill of the Skull is written with honesty and awareness, sensitivity and flair. As he illuminates the rituals, beliefs, fears and hopes swirling around the festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña, author Jeremy Bassetti deftly weaves in personal details, while centering the pilgrims and shamans, costume designers and caretakers he meets. Illustrated by beautiful photography, it is a meditative and powerful piece of travel writing.” — Shafik Meghji, author of Crossed off the Map: Travels in Bolivia

A wonderfully appealing tale, thanks to a narrator blessed with humility, a generosity of spirit and impressive powers of observation trained on ritual, the esoteric and the human condition.” — Jini Reddy, author of Wanderland: A Search for Magic in the Landscape

Clear, dispassionate and honest but with his senses wide open to catch the fleeting magic of our world.” — Barnaby Rogerson, publisher Eland Books

Jeremy Bassetti’s fascination with the Hill of the Skull is our good fortune, for he brings to it knowledge, compassion, and a keen eye for detail. Plus, through his thoughtful attentiveness, he reveals the universal inside the unfamiliar.” — Thomas Swick, author of The Joys of Travel

Jeremy Bassetti has imbued the ancient idea of pilgrimage with a thrilling modern interiority, restoring to travel a sense of wonder and awe that the sameness and rapacity of tourism too often leaves us bereft of.” — Aatish Taseer, author of The Twice Born


The book’s title font and illustrations are digitized from the early 17th-century manuscript of Guamán Poma, an Quechua-speaking Inca nobleman who wrote about and illustrated the peoples, traditions, and histories of his native Andes. In his manuscript, known as the Nueva corónica y buen gobierno, Poma also exposed the poor treatment of the Andean peoples by the Spanish during the conquest of Peru.