The most traditional and perhaps most varied in South America, Bolivia is a country of superlatives.
Did You Know
- The world´s highest international airport – El Alto is on the outskirts of the capital, La Paz.
- The world´s slowest animal is the sloth which you can see around Santa Cruz.
- The world´s biggest salt flat is the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Che Guevara all died in Bolivia
Yes, it has a beach but the swimming is freezing! It is however the jumping off point for the mystical Islands of the Sun and the Moon – the birthplace of Inca civilizations, stunningly beautiful in the sun, peaceful, traditional and lapped by the magnificent Lake Titikaka. Back in the town; get to the intricately designed church of the Virgin of Copacabana on a Sunday to see hundreds of Bolivians bringing their brightly decorated cars and truck to the church to be blessed. Between 900 and 500AD the Tiwanaku civilization built boats to transport 55, 000kg of stone slabs across Lake Titikaka to build their magnificent city of Tiwanaku. These huge stone structures are found high on the altiplano between Copacabana and La Paz.
This city wins most awards for being high up but is special in so many ways. Coming by land across the empty altiplano you come to a huge bustling bowl, with many inhabitants living in the section called El Alto at the rim. Here you can see bowler hatted ladies browsing for the pieces of root and bone needed to keep mother earth happy, and in the next street the government offices of this mixed up country. There are fine museums, including one dedicated to the coca leaf, but the most rewarding aspect of La Paz is just wandering in around and taking in the setting and the chaos of the city.
Surrounding La Paz are 600m plus snow capped peaks of the Cordillera Real and some great hiking, but head north east to the Yungas and you’re in warm lush coffee and coca growing region, the famous ‘dangerous road’ and a bumpy route to the jungle.
The biggest brashest and most booming of Bolivia’s cities. With warmer temperatures and a more exuberant population, this city shows another side of Bolivia. Reasons to come here are the nearby Jesuit missions, the Amboto cloud forest and access to the Amazon in the remote Noel Kempt Mercado Park. You’ll also have a really good chance of seeing the slowest animal on earth – the sloth. Take the “route of Che’ to the various shrines and buildings connected to his dramatic deaths at the hands of … who knows exactly?
Salar de Uyuni
There are 64 million tons of salt here – the biggest deposit on earth. It is spread across miles of stark altiplano creating a totally otherworldly effect that is truly unique. When it rains the floor turns into a giant mirror, but at any time the colors here are truly striking. Take a tour to see the regions volcanoes and turquoise lakes, flamingoes and otherworldly geysers.
Bolivia’s calmly traditional colonial city is a jewel of laid-back charm. The law decrees that central buildings should all be whitewashed and this combined with cobblestone streets, broad plazas and friendly people make it a great place to rest up for a few days. For a different day out, visit a nearby quarry where hundreds of giant dinosaur footprints have been discovered.
In the 17th Century this was the biggest and richest city in the world. The source of Spain’s wealth is the silver mine. At a dizzying 4,090m (13400ft) Potosi is a dramatic and tragic city. The Spaniards left behind enough impressive buildings to make it a UNESCO World Heritage site but the big draw is the fascinating visits to the mine. Still worked under harsh conditions, take a donation of some dynamite to the miners, and enter the tunnels to give a cigarette or some alcohol to El Tio – the protector of the miners.