Following on from our post about Ecuador, today we bring you Bolivia! This landlocked country in the center of South America does not have the same volume of tourists that its neighbors Peru and Brazil enjoy, but has just as much to offer as those two countries. For such a small country Bolivia has an abundance of ecosystems, cities, and landscapes to enjoy, from the bewildering La Paz and the immense salt flats at Uyuni, to the jungle to the east and the highland towns of Sucre and Potosi. It does not have quite the same infrastructure as Peru, and is not as obviously set up for tourists, but don’t let that put you off, as to dismiss Bolivia, is to dismiss the chance to explore some real wonders of South America!
Upon arrival to Bolivia, your first stop is likely to be La Paz. While Sucre is the official capital city of the country, La Paz is the de facto capital, as it has a much larger population and is the seat of government. The first thing you will be struck by is the altitude as the city sits in a mountain canyon at an elevation of 3,632m. This setting allows you to enjoy some spectacular views over the mountains surrounding the city, but does mean that you may struggle to climb the stairs! Once you get used to breathing and acclimatize, you will be endlessly surprised and overwhelmed by all that the city has to offer. It is the definition of bustle and the crowds that flock the narrow streets bring life, color, and lots of noise to the place! The street life itself is the main attraction, and you will want to just wander the fascinating streets and markets, taking it all in and soaking up the atmosphere. As well as the street life, there are countless examples of fantastic colonial architecture and churches, museums, and markets to be explored, and the sprawling Witches Market is a particular favorite. It is a strange and beguiling place to visit, and you are sure to be captivated by the smells, colors, and sounds you see all around!
Moving further towards the central highlands of the country, the cities of Potosí and Sucre are two of the most interesting places to visit. The constitutional capital Sucre is a real architectural marvel, showcasing beautiful whitewashed colonial buildings and churches. Known as the ‘White City’, all the buildings have a beautiful white coating which must be painted once a year to maintain their character. It does not have the same frenetic nature as La Paz, and you can enjoy the tranquil streets and markets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in relative peace. Potosí is the other city in this Andean region that is a must visit, and is a place steeped in history. Once the most important town in the Spanish Latin American Empire, Potosí has since fallen on harder times, but retains some of its old sense of grandeur and importance. Sitting at 4,100m it is the highest city in the world and is situated at the foot of the Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain), famed for its mineral wealth, in particular silver, which the Spanish conquerors exploited and exported back home. Consequently Potosí became a very large mining town, with a population equivalent to contemporary London mining and exporting under terrible conditions, and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the museums and the mining tours, and find out what the people of this region went through all those years ago.
Moving away from the highland towns and cities, the Salar de Uyuni is probably the most famous attraction that Bolivia has to offer. This beautiful salt flat is the world’s largest at 4,085 square miles and is a place that will really take your breath away. Here you will experience all manner of unique landscapes and exotic wildlife and it sometimes feels like you are at the end of the earth. Or perhaps on another planet! The best way to see the flats is with your guided jeep on an at least 3 day trip, enabling you to experience all the wild attractions. Not only will you be able to see the salt flats themselves, but the area is also replete with lagoons, hot springs, volcanic geysers, and huge rock formations, and you will come away with some breathtaking photographs. It is hard to put into words the beauty of Uyuni, so come and see for yourself!
The other natural wonder you won’t want to miss is Lake Titicaca, which is on the Peruvian border and is shared with that country. The Lake is regarded as the birth place of the Incan Civilization, and is one of the most sacred places for the indigenous people of both Peru and Bolivia. It is recognized as the world’s highest navigable lake at an altitude of 3,820m, so once again climbing stairs may be an issue in this part of the world! While most people enjoy the attractions of the Peruvian side, the Bolivian half of the lake is in some ways more impressive and has just as much to offer. This area is home to several small island communities, and these are one of the principal attractions of a visit here. The Sun and Moon islands are two of the most important examples and coming here is the perfect chance to get to know the culture and history of this part of Bolivia. The beautiful landscapes offer incredible photo opportunities and it is not to be missed!
Bolivia is a place of incredible natural wonders and beautiful UNESCO cities that is ripe for exploration. It does not have quite the same infrastructure as Ecuador or Peru, but what it lacks in quality 5 star hotels and restaurants, it more than makes up for in attractions, and the Salt Flats of Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, and the cities of La Paz, Sucre, and Potosí, are really worth a visit!