The 19 Best Things To Do In Bolivia (With Tips)

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Thanks to being so uncooked and unspoiled and having so many epic actions, Bolivia is definitely one among my favourite locations!

But to inform the reality, Bolivia isn’t for everybody…

It’s fairly a poor nation that suffers from a harsh Andean local weather. It’s somewhat missing in direct worldwide flights, the web is horrible, and the poor high quality of the roads usually makes overland journey sluggish.

Still with me?

All that may not precisely scream “holiday” to the typical vacationer. Since it’s much less developed there simply isn’t a lot mainstream tourism in Bolivia — in actual fact, it’s the least-visited nation in South America after solely Venezuela and Guyana.

La Paz

BUT… if you’re a backpacker or impartial traveller seeking to discover, you’ll absolutely end up in journey heaven. The unimaginable landscapes and many desirable and thrilling issues to do in Bolivia make it an outstanding vacation spot for those who journey for the expertise.

There are sufficient issues to do in Bolivia to maintain you busy for a lot of weeks. But for those who don’t have limitless time, I’d say that Uyuni, Atacama, and the capital La Paz are absolutely the must-sees.

To encourage you, I’ll share all the largest highlights in Bolivia, whereas additionally together with some sensible ideas alongside the way in which that will help you plan your journey…

 

1. See the unimaginable salt flats of Uyuni

This is definitely essentially the most epic expertise in Bolivia!

Seriously, you shouldn’t even take into consideration visiting Bolivia with out taking a minimum of a 1-day journey to the salt flats. Better but, I strongly suggest reserving a 3-day expedition so you’ll be able to have the total expertise that additionally consists of the Atacama desert.

Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat — a panorama created by the remnants of what was once large lakes throughout prehistoric instances. The layers of salt create the impression of a snowy panorama, which sparkles within the solar and stretches so far as the attention can see.

It’s a surreal place to go to, making you are feeling vaguely such as you’re on a polar mission. At evening, you’ll be able to see the entire Milky Way above you.

Just seeing this seemingly infinite panorama is unimaginable in itself, although there are additionally many small sights in and across the salt flats that may preserve you busy for days.

For instance, there’s the “train graveyard”, stuffed with the rusting remnants of deserted trains that have been as soon as used within the tin mining business.

Within the salt flats are additionally a number of islands dwelling to petrified corals (remnants from prehistoric instances when this space was submerged) in addition to tall large cacti which can be as much as 300 years previous.

The landscapes are genuinely STUNNING and also you’ll usually really feel such as you’re on one other planet.

How to see the salt flats

It’s typical for travellers to take an organized tour with jeeps. I’m usually requested if you are able to do it by yourself and not using a tour and the reply is “not really”, except you might have a 4-wheel drive automobile and know precisely what you’re doing. It’s a really distant space and also you’ll must be offroading almost on a regular basis. It’s due to this fact greatest to get some professionals to take you to the salt flats.

Various firms provide whirlwind 1-day excursions (and these appear to be the most well-liked), however I extremely suggest this 3-day tour. This will embrace the salt flats, in addition to the Atacama desert which has quite a few fascinating websites resembling lagoons with pink flamingos and volcanic craters.

Most excursions go away from the city referred to as Uyuni. It’s a protracted bus journey from La Paz (about 12 hours), so that you may wish to break up the journey and get there from Potosí (7 hours).

 

2. Explore the otherworldly Atacama desert

Near the salt flats within the south of Bolivia is Atacama, referred to as the driest place on Earth. Yes, Atacama is even drier than the Sahara.

Because it’s so dry and has so few microorganisms discovered within the soil, NASA makes use of the desert to coach for Mars missions, because the situations are the closest that we’ve on Earth to the purple planet.

Atacama may simply be essentially the most distant and rugged place I’ve been. Though for those who’re anticipating the desert to be empty, it’s removed from it. Although getting there can take a good bit of driving, there are fascinating sights unfold all around the large plateau.

For occasion, there are a lot of wonderful historical rock formations and different geological options to see. During my journey I additionally noticed all types of wildlife, together with herds of untamed vicuñas (animals that look a bit like llamas)

Atacama can also be dwelling to a number of species of pink flamingos which congregate round stunning colored lagoons. The microbial and mineral make-up of those lagoons provides every a singular character. One of them even appears to be like vibrant purple throughout sure instances of the day.

Even these unusual moss-like vegetation are distinctive, being among the many oldest residing organisms on the planet. (This fascinating TED discuss explains extra about it.)

The greatest technique to expertise Atacama is on the aforementioned 3-day tour which additionally consists of the salt flats. I usually attempt to do issues with out excursions if potential, however on this case, it’s a should given the distances concerned and the remoteness.

It sometimes prices round $250 USD or so, which can seem to be so much contemplating the final costs in Bolivia, however you’ll primarily be becoming a member of a small expedition that features 4-wheel-drive autos, meals, provides, and lodging within the desert — and the expertise is just priceless.

There are many geysers and geothermal steam vents in Atacama as properly. When strolling at sundown across the panorama with sulphuric gasses and boiling water effervescent as much as the floor, I felt like I used to be in an alien world.

This is an expertise NOT to overlook!

 

3. Stay in a salt lodge

One extra distinctive expertise that’s value mentioning on the Salt Flats is the possibility to remain in a lodge constructed solely from blocks of salt.

Just as you might have ice lodges within the polar areas, you even have salt lodges in Bolivia! Besides being an fascinating novelty, these lodges provide a uncommon probability so as to add a luxurious expertise in Boliva.

If you’re on a backpacker price range you then’ll absolutely skip this, as nightly charges vary from round USD $200 to $400.

But for those who ever needed to sleep in a salt-domed bed room with home windows to a surprising dawn, then a number of salt lodges provide such premium stays close to the city of Uyuni. These embrace the Hotel de Sal Luna Salada and the Hotel Palacio do Sal.

 

4. Discover La Paz, the world’s highest capital

La Paz is the highest-elevation capital on the earth, sitting at a mean of round 3,650 m (11,975 ft) above sea stage. To provide you with an thought, La Paz is positioned at a better top than the height of Mt. Fuji in Japan.

There actually is not any metropolis prefer it anyplace else.

I ought to point out that La Paz has a really rugged really feel and the altitude could make simply strolling up some stairs an actual slog for those who haven’t but adjusted to the skinny air.

At first look, La Paz may appear a bit tough, but it surely’s extremely value staying. That’s not only for the epic views of the distant snow-capped peaks, but in addition as a result of there are such a lot of fascinating issues to be taught and enjoyable actions in La Paz.

It’s an awesome thought to go on one of many La Paz free strolling excursions organized by varied teams (they’re really not free however donation-based). It is bound to present you a greater appreciation of the historical past in addition to some loopy tales about Bolivia’s uncooked politics and society.

The capital can also be a little bit of a backpacker social gathering hub, with a number of of the hostels in La Paz attracting a younger and party-hungry crowd. The free pictures distributed in a number of the bars can flip issues somewhat wild, so if you’re searching for affordable sleeping hours, then you might want to avoid the Loki or Wild Rover hostels specifically. (Or for those who wish to social gathering, you now know the place to go!)

Some of the next issues to do in Bolivia are both in- or close to La Paz, so it’s an awesome base to spend a minimum of a couple of days.

 

5. Learn about Bolivians’ fascinating superstitions

Something you’ll undoubtedly wish to do in La Paz is to take a look at the witches’ market. It’s stuffed with little retailers and stalls promoting all method of unusual objects and substances that tie into varied superstitious beliefs.

Perhaps essentially the most unsettling are the dried llama foetuses (sourced from pure miscarriages, apparently) that are historically used to bless the grounds earlier than a brand new constructing is constructed. Try to go along with an area information for those who can as they’ll be capable to clarify extra about all the bizarre merchandise being bought.

Many folks in Bolivia keep varied indigenous beliefs, traditions, and superstitions. An fascinating technique to see this for your self is to go to a fortune teller.

Some of the fortune tellers learn tarot playing cards, whereas others will learn tea or coca leaves. I went with a gaggle of backpackers to go to a person in a shack on the sting of El Alto overlooking the town, who learn every of us our future.

I’m unsure how critically we have been taking his prophesies — some started asking in regards to the winners of future World Cups — but it surely was a really atmospheric expertise and an opportunity to have a really memorable native interplay.

6. See a Cholita Wrestling match

Another fascinating exercise in La Paz is to look at Cholita Wrestling, a spectacle that’s much like WWE or Lucha Libre wrestling, however with a little bit of a twist.

In this Bolivian type of wrestling, it’s girls carrying conventional bowler hats who’re doing a lot of the combating.

It will get fairly loopy at instances as t he fights will typically even transfer out of the ring and into the viewers space. It’s all a part of the present and it might appear fairly uncommon at first, although it really began as a girls’s empowerment motion and a marketing campaign towards home abuse.

Shows are each Sunday and you should buy tickets in varied locations on the town, via your lodging, or you’ll be able to reserve your spot on-line.

 

7. Mountain bike down “Death Road”

The North Yungas Road between La Paz and Coroico as soon as earned the unlucky moniker of “world’s most dangerous road”.

Yungas Road was as soon as the primary artery via which all of the vehicles and vans would come to the capital. When previous documentary footage of vans passing one another at hair’s size alongside the mightily steep cliffs, it’s not shocking that so many individuals died in accidents on this highway via the years.

These days the highway is closed off to (most) motorized visitors and is just one-way (downhill), which allowed it to grow to be a little bit of a vacationer attraction. Mountain biking down this highway is an exciting expertise and, fortunately, not almost as harmful as you may assume.

You’ll begin all the way in which on the prime of the mountain round 4,650 metres altitude the place you’ll be very grateful for having gloves and thermal jackets. You’ll find yourself means on the backside of the valley the place it’s tropically sizzling.

It’s a tremendous expertise and tremendous enjoyable! Numerous tour companies provide mountain bike excursions, which embrace a pick-up in La Paz and take virtually a full day. I went with Barracuda Biking however you may as well ebook it on-line right here, during which case you’ll go along with Vertigo Biking.

How harmful is Death Road actually?

These days, it’s secure sufficient to cycle down! A brand new highway was constructed years in the past making the Death Road almost freed from visitors at this time. The drop-offs down the cliffs will certainly make your coronary heart beat sooner at instances, however there are actually some guard railings and your information will repeatedly transient you in regards to the upcoming turns. It’s a wild journey for positive, however the highway actually earned its identify again within the day when it was filled with visitors in each instructions. Don’t fear, it’s now secure sufficient to make use of as a cycle route (when guided).

 

8. Rappel down an workplace constructing

Billed because the “world’s highest abseiling” (due to the elevation, not the peak), that is however an exciting expertise. The firm Urban Rush Bolivia (run by a number of New Zealanders) allows you to rappel 50 meters (164 ft) down a 17-story constructing within the coronary heart of the town.

You can both rappel down the traditional means, or go face-down for an adrenaline-pumping expertise. The value for one leap is 22 USD and it’s 30 USD for 2 jumps. You first get a apply run at a 2-meter-high wall.

You may even select your costume, resembling Captain America, Spiderman or Santa Claus!

 

9. Wander across the Valley of the Moon

This geological formation about 10 kilometres from La Paz makes for an fascinating afternoon tour if in case you have some hours to spare.

Erosion of the sandstone right here has created hundreds of pointy spires, which create fairly an otherwordly panorama. It’s appropriately named the Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon. There is a strolling path that passes via the assorted rock formations.

The entry ticket is 15BOB for foreigners and 3BOB for locals. It’s about 45 minutes by native bus from the town centre (see location on Google Maps).

 

10. Visit the markets in La Paz

The markets in La Paz are at all times abuzz with exercise and moreover being locations for locals to purchase produce and items, you may as well discover glorious avenue meals and fascinating unique fruits to attempt.

There is a central market in La Paz, but it surely’s even higher to go to the 16 de Julio market in El Alto which takes place each Thursday and Sunday.

El Alto is the even greater part of the town up on the plateau overlooking the middle. The market is alleged to be one of many largest on the earth, and it’s the place you should buy nearly something.

I visited with an area information which added a number of worth as he may level out conventional meals and weird objects being bought. If you resolve to go by your self, bear in mind that pickpocketing is rife, so watch your belongings intently.

It’s simple to get to El Alto utilizing the cable automotive, identified in Spanish because the Teleférico (purple line).

 

11. See the biggest lake in South America

Lake Titicaca is positioned on the border between Bolivia and Peru. It is just not solely the biggest lake in South America, however the world’s highest navigable lake.

This lakeside city of Copacabana makes for an awesome stopover for those who’re travelling between Bolivia and Peru. There are a number of locations alongside the lake the place you can keep, although I discovered Copacabana way more inviting than Puno and Juliaca.

Fun reality: the seaside in Rio de Janeiro derived its identify from Copacabana in Bolivia, although don’t count on white sand seashores or costly lodges. This lakeside city may be very small and primary, catering primarily to backpackers.

From Copacabana, you’ll be able to take a ship to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, two rustic and sleepy islands within the lake which have been historical holy websites for the Inca. You can even make a visit to the Uro Islands, that are floating islands product of reed. This is a well-liked day journey that’s grow to be fairly touristy, although it’s additionally potential to sleep in a homestay for an evening, which gives higher alternatives to get to know the locals.

 

12. Take a breath in charming Sucre

Of all the key cities in Bolivia, Sucre is arguably the prettiest and most enjoyable. At an elevation of two,790 m (9153 ft) it’s undoubtedly a mountain metropolis, however in comparison with La Paz you’ll be able to breathe somewhat simpler right here.

Sucre is Bolivia’s former capital and its centre is a UNESCO World Heritage web site. In distinction to the rugged cities elsewhere in Bolivia, Sucre is vibrant and fairly with a lot of white colonial-era buildings. Sucre additionally enjoys a beautiful spring-like local weather.

There’s so much to do in and round Sucre, together with motorcycle excursions, tandem paragliding, many single- and multi-day treks (resembling treks to the close by Maragua Crater) in addition to many church buildings and museums to go to.

Most folks will in all probability wish to keep a couple of days, although on my first backpacking journey via Bolivia I bought caught right here for a number of weeks, taking Spanish lessons and simply having fun with the vibe.

It’s really an awesome place to take Spanish classes as they’re attractively priced, the town is nice, and the Bolivian accent is gentle, making it simpler for foreigners to grasp.

 

13. Visit the mining city of Potosí

The city of Potosí is known for its Cerro Rico mountain, the place the silver deposits are a number of the richest on the earth.

Cerro Rico these days is sort of a huge Swiss cheese with hundreds of mine shafts operating via it. Around 10,000 folks nonetheless work within the mines regardless of completely terrible situations. Most miners die younger due to well being points.

It’s potential to head into the mines on a tour. Typically you’ll be anticipated to deliver some items for the miners, like cigarettes or provides they’ll use (you’ll be taken to a miner provide store upfront the place you should buy these items). These excursions are sizzling, sweaty, and security is just not solely assured, however they do appear to present you an interesting peek into the lives of the Bolivan miners.

Prior to going to Potosí I noticed the documentary The Devil’s Miner that was exhibiting in a pub in Sucre, after which I misplaced my urge for food for touring the mines primarily based on the working situations and moral concerns. But you actually ought to make up your individual thoughts as as to whether to go to the mines.

Others who went stated they got here again having gained a singular perspective. Koala Tours is alleged to be among the many better of the tour organizations as they make use of former miners as tour guides.

The mines usually are not the one causes to go to Potosí. With its slim streets, colonial mansions and lots of church buildings, the city of Potosí itself is a UNESCO World Heritage web site.

More issues to do in Bolivia

In transient, a couple of extra locations to go to in Bolivia, a few of that are a bit extra off the crushed path:

  • Visit Cochabamba. This is a superb metropolis for seeing genuine Bolivian tradition, the place you may as well take the gondola as much as the Cristo de la Concordia, a giant white christ statue on prime of a hill. Cochabamba doesn’t have as many typical vacationer sights as La Paz or Sucre, but it surely’s an awesome metropolis to spend a while in.
  • Go caving in Uma Jalanta. A couple of hours north of Cochabamba you’ll discover Toro Toro National Park, inside which is the massive Uma Jalanta you can discover whereas guided by the native park rangers.
  • Trek the opposite ‘Inca Trail’. While the Inca Trail in Peru resulting in Machu Picchu will get all of the selfies, there are different historical Inca trails via the Andes. From La Paz, you are able to do a multi-day Inca path trek via the rugged mountains and verdant cloud forests. The Takesi Trek is among the hottest and native tour firms provide guided 2-day and 3-day treks beginning in La Paz.
  • Go into the jungles in Rurrenabaque. This jungle city in northern Bolivia is the gateway to the Madidi National Park. Here we are able to see all types of mammals and bugs, together with Tarantulas, Howler Monkeys and Jaguars
  • Visit Santa Cruz de la Sierra. This metropolis is at a decrease elevation and near the Amazon. It’s an awesome base from the place you’ll be able to discover the jungle forests and nationwide parks. The vibe is a bit totally different on this metropolis; the folks in Santa Cruz take into account themselves extra ‘sophisticated’ and nearer to Brazilians and Paraguayans, although different Bolivians apparently take into account them a bit snobby. If you’re heading east in the direction of the border, Santa Cruz makes for a very good cease alongside the way in which.
  • Climb the Huayna Potosi. This mountain is about 30 km north of La Paz and reaches 6088 metres. While climbing as much as the height isn’t precisely a cakewalk, it’s nonetheless stated to be one of many simpler peaks of this altitude. If you ever needed to face on prime of the world far above the clouds, that is the right place to do it.

Now that you already know a number of the greatest issues to do in Bolivia, I hope you are feeling impressed to find one of the thrilling locations in South America!

For extra journey tips about the way to get round, the way to plan your itinerary, and different sensible issues, don’t miss our in-depth information to backpacking Bolivia.


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Posted OCT 17, 2023

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