Despite being one of South America’s most budget-friendly nations, Bolivia still finds itself stuck under the mainstream travel radar. Although landlocked and surrounded by the neighbouring Brazil, Argentina and Chile it doesn’t affect the countless things to see in this country. With diverse terrain and a number of microclimates, Bolivia can brag on being different. Bolivia’s notable varieties are swarming high altitude city life, abundances of wildlife teeming in the jungle, mountains that get lost in the skies and some of the most unique natural lakes and salt fields in the world. Yet, tourism isn’t a massive priority for the Bolivian government that fundamentally leaves the country in a rawer state and complex to get around. At the same time, this provides travellers with a more immersive and fulfilling experience. Put it this way, when you enter Bolivia you really feel deep within the roots of South America.
Typically, when we hear the words South America we think adventure. Bolivia epitomises that sentiment. If you’re thinking of venturing into the environs of this nation then make sure you spend some quality time here. It’s fair to say Bolivia holds its own when it comes down to top attractions across South America.
Let’s take a look at Bolivia’s top highlights:
Bolivia’s administrative capital is the highest in the world, situated more than 3,500m above sea level. If you’re flying into Bolivia, you’ll probably be arriving here first. Panoramic views are a certainty here with snow-capped mountains the typical stunning backdrop.
Within the city, many travellers head to Sagarnaga Street, La Paz’s most lit up strip. Here there are lots of hostels, cafes, markets, stores and more. Not far from here is the famed Witches Market that is full of weird ritualistic paraphernalia such as dried frogs and Llama foetuses. Another spooky spot that is worth checking out is Cementerio General La Paz (cemetery); a fascinating place to wander around. Around 10km away from downtown La Paz is the ‘Valley of the Moon’ that is home to strange geological formations, lunar landscapes, large canyons and great spires. For nightlife, make sure you head to the artsy neighbourhood of Sopocachi. This area is home to some of the best nightlife in La Paz, including Hallwrights, one of the highest wine bars of its kind in the world!
Hot Tip: Although a bit out of the way, 72km from La Paz are the pre-Colombian Tiwanaku pyramids ruins that are some of the oldest and highest urban areas ever created. Tiwanaku is a UNESCO heritage site, so if you have time make sure you take a trip there!
Without question, the Amazon rainforest is the heart of South America. The heart is so big that it is spread over 2.1 million square miles and between 9 countries, Bolivia being one of them. To venture into the Amazon, heading to Rurrenbaque to embark on a Pampas tour is a great way to make the most of your time there. Either by a one-hour chartered flight or a rattling overnight bus, by doing a Pampas Tour you get to go looking for anacondas, caimans, howler monkeys, capybaras and more. In some of the river waters, you’ll encounter friendly pink dolphins but angry, feisty piranhas. Watch your fingers!
Alternatively, taking the Jungle tour, you’ll go on a variety of jungle walks including the nocturnal walk, which consists of spotting a variety of monkeys, birds and insects that are alive at night.
Salt Flats, Uyuni
Regularly voted as one of the most unique and best natural attractions in the world, the Salar de Uyuni (salt flats) are iconic when travelling Bolivia. Stunning isn’t the word; these flat salt infused plains are otherworldly and unlike anything else on our planet. Around 12 hours bus ride from La Paz, the town of Uyuni is all about visiting the salt flats, from day trips to three-day excursions. Once you reach the salt flats, walking around them you almost feel like your walking on a treadmill, nothing get’s closer to you, spanning for miles on end. It really feels like the end of the world.
If you don’t know already, you can create optical illusions when taking photos at the Salt Flats, so have fun!
Hot Tip: Prior to visiting the salt flats, make sure you visit the eerie train cemetery. Lots of old, rustic trains reside here and make great for a climbing apparatus and a few photos!
Death Road (North Yungas Road)
One of the most talked about experiences in South America, ‘ The World’s Most Dangerous Road’ is a must do. In-between La Paz and Corocio, riding ‘Death Road’ typically involves taking a mountain bike from Le Cumbre Pass. The rocky and rugged terrain at either side of your path, the journey goes deep into jungle-clad mountainsides. The path gets extremely narrow coupled with rocky and uneven surfaces. This is no one-way road either, with vehicles passing each way daily. It is estimated over a decade ago that between 200-300 people died annually, which brought on the name Death Road. From start to finish the total distance is 56km!
Don’t let this put you off but we have to admit this excursion isn’t without controversy. Our advice is whatever you put into this ride is what you’ll get out of it. That means, it’s up to you how fast or slow you go!
Located in the Andes between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest body of water that can be travelled on. It covers over 8,000m and is the largest lake in South America. According to legend, it is the birthplace of the Incas. Now, you can visit lakeside towns such as Copacabana, which deserve at least a couple of days in. A popular spot here is Isla del Sol with rolling hills and wildlife such as donkeys, llamas and pigs. Make sure you hike up the top. Alternatively, hike up to Cerro Colvario for the best sunset views of Copacabana. Lake Titicaca is a perfect place to take a break because of it‘s serene vibe and relaxing nature.
Even higher up than La Paz, and at 4,000m above sea level makes Potosi one of the world’s highest cities. Potosi isn’t famous for its height though, but more for its silver. The Cerro Rico mines have produced tens of thousands of tons of silver, and is one of the richest mines in all of world history. You can visit the mines as part of a tour that shows the treacherous conditions that haven’t changed much since the colonial eras. You can randomly set off your own sticks of dynamite on request, too! Potosi was a wealthy city that is evident in the creations of the Church of Lorenzo, Casa de la Moneda as well as many colonial mansions proceeded by narrow, wealthy streets. Potosi is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Nicknamed the ‘White City’, Sucre is closely associated with Potosi due to the silver mine rush, often used as a retreat for the wealthy. The reason being is the relaxed and tranquilness atmosphere Sucre creates that still exists today. Still, that doesn’t mean Sucre is without as there are plenty of cultural attractions to partake in here. The Dinosaur Park and Footprints (Parque Cretacico) is a must-see, with perfectly preserved dinosaur footprints dating back millions of years. There is even a 347m trail that once was made by a baby T-Rex that is now called ‘Johnny Walker’. Other notable attractions are Casa de la Libertad and La Glorieta Castle. For outdoor adventures, do a day trek to the Maragua Crater. This is a place of stunning views, lush Bolivian flora and fauna and home to the real-life imprinted dinosaur footprints.
Hot Tip: Sucre has a reputation of being difficult to leave. Coupled with the laid back vibes, many travellers tend to volunteer here and/or take Spanish lessons.
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