A country of great beauty, stunning landscapes, and unique attractions. A country with the highest capital city in the world, the largest salt flats in the world, mountains, jungles, lakes, and everything else in between.
Stretching from the majestic icebound peaks and bleak high-altitude deserts of the Andes to the exuberant rainforests and vast savannahs of the Amazon basin, Bolivia embraces an astonishing range of landscapes and climates. This mystical terrain boasts scores of breathtaking attractions including stark otherworldly salt pans, ancient Inca trails and towering volcanic peaks. Landlocked at the remote heart of South America, Bolivia rewards the adventurous travellers and encompasses everything that outsiders find most exotic and mysterious about the continent.
Here are the top 11 reasons to travel to Bolivia:
1. La Paz
The highest capital city in the world, sitting at about 13,400 feet (4100 meters), is a great introduction to the diversity of Bolivia.
La Paz, a picturesque city set in a valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks, offers anything a traveler could want. This bustling metropolis provides top notch cuisine, from Indian to Middle Eastern to local, accommodations of all shapes, sizes, and prices, a rousing night life, and activities for everyone.
Giant markets (even a witch market), crazy traffic, impressive architecture, ornate churches, and the Presidential Palace await you in La Paz. If big, urban cities appeal to you, look no further. There aren’t many major cities in the world where a room can cost $5US and a top notch meal can be had for under $10US, so consider beginning your Bolivian trip here.
2. The most dangerous road in the world
On every adrenalin seeker’s list is to mountain bike 64km from La Cumbre to Coroico. This path was named Death Road when it was the most dangerous in the world and more than 200 people died each year.
While it has since been improved resulting in many less deaths, it is still important to listen to all of the instructions as it can be scary for less experienced drivers to race downhill through the windy mountain road. It begins in a very windy and cold region and eventually ends in the Yungas jungle.
3. You’ll Get High
In terms of altitude, Bolivia is a very high country. For example, at 11,975 feet, La Paz is the world’s highest de facto capital city. You’ll get to take part in some of the planet’s highest activities. Visit the world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca, at 12,464 feet, relax at the world’s highest beer spa in La Paz and take a cable car up to the tallest Jesus statue in the world, Christ de la Concordia, at 112.2 feet tall.
4. There Is An Undiscovered Wine Region
While most travelers are aware of the delicious vinos to be had in Argentina and Chile, Tarija in Bolivia features an undiscovered wine region. Surprisingly enjoyable, what makes these grapes unique is they’re grown around 6,000 feet in elevation. Head to La Valle de la Concepción, or Conception Valley, which features boutique vineyards and bodegas to partake in wine tasting. Don’t expect upscale and precise wine creations like in the more popular places like Napa and Mendoza. Bolivian vino is simpler and less structured, nothing too complex but drinkable and fitting with the country’s seemingly unpretentious, “anything goes” philosophy.
5. The Pampas
If seeing wildlife is your goal, then the Pampas tour is for you. Picture slowly puttering down the river in a dug-out canoe, with literally hundreds of alligators, crocodiles, turtles, monkeys, pink dolphins, capybaras, and an abundant species of birds all around. Envision piranha fishing, swimming with the dolphins, hiking around the jungle in search of the largest snake in the world, the anaconda.
Wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys and the cacophony of jungle sounds. A truly unique place in the world that permits travelers to get up close and personal with a myriad of wildlife, a Pampas tour is something that will be etched in your memory forever.
If you’re fortunate enough to travel around South America and are going to both Peru and Bolivia, Copacabana is a can’t miss destination. Sitting on one side of the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia, sits the charming and quaint town of Copacabana.
The radiant blue-turquoise lake is what people come to Copacabana for, and options abound for exploring it. Hiking trails along the shore is a great way to see the lake for different perspectives, with white capped mountains in the background. Kayaking or paddle-boating your way around the bay gets travellers up close and personal with the lake.
A boat trip to one of the islands in the middle of the lake is one of the most popular ways to experience Lake Titicaca. And while the town itself doesn’t offer much in the way of entertainment, that’s all right because the lake is the highlight here, and it’s the only entertainment you’ll need.
7. The largest salt flats in the world
Salar de Uyuni is the most photographed site in Bolivia and is what draws many people to the country.
An area that seems to be from space, the salt flats are at an altitude of nearly 12,000ft and nearly 5000 sq miles in area.
Photos from these salt flats have Dali-like appearances as there is no horizon perspective in the bright salt landscape. There is no bad time to visit, during the rainy season from November to March a small layer of water creates a gorgeous reflection.
8. There Is A Vibrant Culture
Indigenous culture is visible in Bolivia, and visitors can witness locals in time-honored dress, taste traditional foods and learn about ancient customs. Even in the big cities like La Paz, you’ll see locals dressed in a traditional pollera skirt and bowler hat. Visitors can sample cuisine that has been influenced by the Andes region, with ingredients like corn, potatoes and quinoa, as well as the arrival of the Spaniards, with staples like rice, chicken and pork. Cultural festivals, like the indigenous Carnaval in Oruro, Alasitas in La Paz and La Virgen de las Nieves in Italque and Copacabana are still celebrated. You’ll also encounter rituals done for Pachamama, or “Mother Earth,” who provides life, food and safety for the people. For example, when toasting with a drink, locals will usually pour a bit on the floor in honor of Pachamama. Moreover, you can head to the “Witches’ Market” in La Paz and purchase a mummified llama fetus. When locals buy a new home, they offer the item to Pachamama by burying it under the foundation for good luck.
9. Visible History Still Exists Today
Through architecture, storytelling, ruins and colonial towns you’ll be able to learn much about Bolivia’s history. One of the most famous historical cities in Bolivia is Potosi. Founded in 1545, the city held an abundance of silver and was once the wealthiest city in all the Americas. Sadly, Potosi’s isn’t the happiest of stories, as many indigenous people died in the mines working in unimaginable working conditions, which are still visible today. Exploring Potosi, you’ll take in colonial architecture, grand churches, industrial monuments, artificial lakes, a complex aqueduct system and patrician houses. This, combined with the fact it’s such a prime example of a silver mine in modern times, has put Potosi on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
10. The beautiful white city
One of the prettiest cities in South America is Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia. This ‘white city’, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site is celebrated for its Spanish colonial architecture. The Andalusian influence is apparent as the narrow streets that house the immaculately preserved buildings are mapped as a grid.
Many also consider this the most developed city and considered ‘liveable’ for expats and long-term travellers who want to learn Spanish as it has reliable infrastructure.
11. The path of a revolutionary
Ernesto ‘Che”Guevara is undoubtedly one of the most important revolutionary figures in Latin American history. Today his face continues to be prominent on t-shirts for both locals and tourists as it symbolises the liberation of the working class.
While Che is from Argentina, he was captured by forces in the Bolivian Andes mountains while attempting to liberate Bolivia. He was taken to a small village and shortly thereafter shot. Today many consider this a pilgrimage route and unique travel destination and there have been efforts to help the region develop the area in hopes to help the local economy.
"No other South American Country offers as much variety in climate, geography, culture, and has so few tourists. An undiscovered jewel." ~Tim Warren, Northern CA
- Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest major lake- Sucre, the constitutional capital - La Paz, the old colonial capital of Bolivia- Uyuni desert
Brazil forms its eastern border; its other neighbors are Peru and Chile in the west and Argentina and Paraguay in the south. The western part, enclosed by two chains of the Andes, is a great plateau—the Altiplano, with an average altitude of 12,000 ft (3,658 m). Almost half the population lives on the plateau, which contains Oruro, Potosí, and La Paz. La Paz is the highest administrative capital city in the world. The Oriente, a lowland region ranging from rain forests to grasslands, comprises the northern and eastern two-thirds of the country. Lake Titicaca, is the highest commercially navigable body of water in the world.
Spanish is the main and official language of Bolivia. However, there are some 39 other living languages used in the country spoken by people in different regions. Some 50% of the population have an indigenous language as their mother tongue.
Ascending to a town like La Paz will mean rugging up all year round, with maximum temperatures only reaching 20°C (68°F). Visit the Bolivian lowlands, however, and you'll be peeling off the layers, with average monthly highs centring around 30°C (86°F). In both cases, the rain is generally less in the middle months, especially July. November to March at low altitudes are very wet seasons.
Generally, in order to enjoy Bolivian cuisine, it is wise to spend the first two days eating lightly and avoiding alcoholic beverages, at least in La Paz. Once the body has become acclimated to the altitude, one can have a great variety of dishes, especially those featuring meats and poultry. If what you are looking for is local dishes, then "empanadas salteсas" (a type of meat pie), the "plato paceсo" and a big variety of tuberous vegetables and sauces are just a sampling of true Bolivian cuisine. Occasionally, one might find llama, alpaca and vicuсa and lamb dishes listed. In the lake and river regions, fish dishes are popular. Be sure to try the local beverages, "coca mate" and "chicha" (maize liquor). Bolivia is also known for its fantastic frog legs from Lake Titicaca; these are even exported to France.
The Andean region probably has been inhabited for some 20,000 years. Having started in the second century B.C., the Tiwanakan culture developed at the southern end of Lake Titicaca. This culture, centered around and named for the great city of Tiwanaku, developed advanced architectural and agricultural techniques, which can nowaday still be discovered. During most of the Spanish colonial period, this territory was called "Upper Peru" or "Charcas". As Spanish royal authority weakened during the Napoleonic wars, sentiment against colonial rule grew. Independence was proclaimed in 1809, but 16 years of struggle followed before the establishment of the republic, named for Simon Bolivar, on August 6, 1825.
An estimated 95% of Bolivians are Roman Catholic. The remaining 5% are Protestant. Religion was traditionally the domain of women in Bolivian society.
Since pre-Columbian times, Bolivia had a great cultural and intellectual life. Architecture, ceramics, temples and other symbols scattered throughout the country give testimony to a culture with an advanced social organization. Many Bolivian artists have been inspired by indigenous artwork. The Aimara people's culture eventually fused with the Incas' and later, with that of the Spaniards. The result: a rich culture quite varied in the areas of sculpture, painting, literature and architecture. The culture maintains the best of the colonial period; at the beginning of this century it decided to recuperate and incorporate the art of its indigenous predecessors.
Dance and music are the most popular cultural expressions found in Bolivia. Through them, the people feel free and happy, especially during carnival. The mixture of indigenous and Spanish cultures gave birth to dances in honor of Our Lady of Copacabana, called El Gran Sicuri.In the Oruro carnival, the diabladas, or devil-dancers, are known for their masks and costumes. The dancers are generally accompanied by guitar, harp, flute, or a small guitar called a charango.Bolivian celebrations bring together folklore and national traditions.
The thick forests of Bolivia are untouched and unspoiled and they are one of the best places to encounter South American wildlife. Alpacas, llamas and alpacas are domesticated and can be found everywhere in Bolivia. Other animals who can be found in the southwestern Andes are foxes, hue mules and wolves. One third of bird species in the world can be found in Bolivia. Flamingos, Rheas, condors, vultures are commonly seen on the highlands and plains of the Altiplano. Some animals who live in the remote valleys of the Cordillera include pumas, jaguar, javeli, tapirs and giant ant-eaters. There is also a huge variety of lizards, parrots, monkeys, snakes, butterflies, amphibians, fish and bugs. Other creatures include dolphins, otters, armadillos and sloths.
The Bolivian Boliviano is the national currency of Bolivia. 1 USD is worth 6.96 Bolivian Boliviano (February 2015).