Jul 06

Experiencing Bolivia: South America’s Often-Overlooked Gem

by in Bolivia

La Paz Bolivia

As a travel destination, Bolivia is usually rather overshadowed by its neighbours including Brazil and Peru, but for the adventurous traveller this country of stunning and diverse natural beauty offers plenty to tempt, from South America’s largest lake to the otherworldly landscapes of the famous Bolivian salt flats.

Lake Titicaca

For a truly breathtaking sight, the 8,400 square kilometre Lake Titicaca has to take some beating. This vast expanse of water is the largest in South America, and at an altitude of 3,800m it’s the highest lake in the Americas. Simply enjoy the views over the lake of the white-topped mountains in the distance, explore the many ruins and villages around the shore, or visit the town of Copacabana for a few days of sleepy relaxation and excellent local fish restaurants.

City of La Paz

Perched high in the mountains, Bolivia’s main financial and commercial centre offers a unique cityscape, with its buildings clinging to the sides of a huge canyon and sweeping downwards at almost dizzying degrees. The altitude means that life is taken slowly here, and if you’ve just arrived in Bolivia then La Paz is an ideal way to acclimatise while exploring this beautiful and quirky city. Be warned though, the night-life can get rather lively!

The Salt Flats, or ‘Salar de Uyuni’

The Bolivian salt flats in the south west of the country are visible from space, while the visitor who gets a little closer will be rewarded with a surreal landscape of whiteness as far as you can see in all directions. The experience is strange enough at any time of year, but if you visit in the November to March rainy season, the entire flats are covered with a thin layer of water giving the impression you can walk on the surface of a huge lake, with the reflections of the clouds and sky on the water making for a genuinely spectacular experience

Extreme Biking

Adrenaline seekers should make a bee-line for the North Yungas Road about an hour outside La Paz. Dubbed The World’s Most Dangerous Road (or even more disconcertingly, the Death Road), this is a narrow track cut into the side of the mountains, twisting around 50km of downhill hairpins and blind corners with dizzying sheer drops at the side. When it was in full daily use, this road claimed around 200 lives a year. A safer vehicle route has now been built elsewhere, leaving the Death Road largely for intrepid mountain bikers to speed down, presumably in total confidence that their holiday insurance is fully up to date.

Sajama National Park

For a final glimpse of the real Bolivia, Sajama high up in the Andes is a stronghold of the indigenous pre-Hispanic population, with historic cave paintings and ceremonial ruins helping to keep this culture very much alive. The park is also a beautiful example of Bolivian landscapes, with the country’s highest mountain Volcan Sajama looming magnificently at a height of 6542m, and the whole area filled with breathtaking natural rock formations and verdant vegetation.

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