For those looking for a South American adventure away from the crowds along Rio’s beaches or the much visited Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, Bolivia offers a wealth of natural and cultural attractions. A trip around Bolivia offers the chance to see some of the world’s most remarkable scenery, in a country where you’ll quite likely have many of the major sights to yourself. Here are just a few of the major highlights:
1. La Paz – at almost 12,000 feet above sea level La Paz is the world’s highest capital city. You will probably arrive here and it’s a good place to take it easy and acclimatise to the altitude. Take in the colonial buildings of the city (many in various stages of dilapidation and the impressive museums along Jaen Street.
2. Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flats make for a unique experience. Though almost wildlife is almost entirely absent, you can find innumerable colonies of pink flamingoes who come here in November to breed. The other-worldly landscapes make for some memorable photographs, with all sense of space and perspective lost amid the endless flat plains.
3. Red and Green Lagoons – as part of your visit to Uyuni you’ll get the chance to see two strikingly different natural pools. Their contrasting colours are evidence of the volcanic nature of the surrounding landscape.
4. Madidi National Park – if you’re looking for diversity Madidi offers it in spades. What other national park can boast both mountain glaciers and tropical rainforest? Madidi is part of the wider Manu Biosphere that stretches across the Peruvian border. Stay in the Chalalan Jungle Lodge, where money raised from your stay goes to the local Quechua community. Tourism revenues have already financed a health clinic here.
5. Tiwanaku – in the west of Bolivia near the shores of Lake Titicaca, this important ancient site is said to have been inhabited for over 3500 years. Now granted UNESCO World Heritage status, the ruins at Tiwanaku are part of what was once a major regional capital.
6. Lake Titicaca – the largest lake in South America receives far fewer visitors on its Bolivian side than along its Peruvian border, yet many argue that the Bolivian end of the lake is the most attractive. Popular places to stay onshore are around Copacabana, while a visit to Isla del Sol allows the exploration of the Inca ruins on the island.
7. Sucre – this is the constitutional capital of Bolivia and the country’s largest city. Sucre is worth visiting for its attractive colonial-era buildings. Visit in March to witness the colourful Pujllay festival in nearby Tarabuco.
8. Potosi Mines – not a trip to consider if you’re claustrophobic, a visit into the belly of the Bolivian earth at Potosi won’t be an experience you forget quickly. Local cooperatives run tours that offer a rare chance to see at first hand the shocking conditions in which miners work.
9. Amazon Jungle – a chance to relax on the river and take in the incredible diversity of the area’s natural treasures. Look out for caymans, pink river dolphins, macaws and various monkeys.
10. World’s Most Dangerous Road – this particular stretch of Bolivian highway (known as the North Yungas Road) has featured on Top Gear and Ice Road Truckers and its reputation attracts thrill-seekers from around the world who follow its tight curves around the edge of the mountains. Thankfully traffic is lighter on the road as a new safer bypass has recently been completed, but the old road is becoming increasingly popular as a mountain bike route.