I’ve now been traveling around South America for 5 weeks, and I can say with certainty, that Bolivia is the most underrated country yet.
Let’s be honest – Bolivia is grossly overshadowed by it’s neighbors of Colombia, Peru, Brazil and almost every other country in South America. How often do you hear people talking about Bolivia?
I don’t even know where to begin explaining how incredible my 12 days were in this country… I guess I’ll just start with some photos:
During my trip around Bolivia, I partnered with my friends Sergio and Oscar, from Explore Bolivia and Eberttours Company Logistics and Services, who planned some awesome adventures around the country.
We started out trip in Copacabana for a few days, which is a town on the border of Peru. The 2 days I spent there was more of a relaxing getaway than anything else, to get some work done and eat some fresh trout (from Lake Titicaca). The highlight for me in Copacabana was hiking up the mountain to get this stunning views of Titicaca and the city.
After Copacabana, we took a 4 hour shared mini van (for $3USD) to La Paz – the biggest and most developed city in Bolivia. My friends at Explore Bolivia hooked us up at the best hotel in town – The Real Plaza Hotel – and I highly recommend them if you want a luxury experience in La Paz. Great location, delicious restaurant and friendly staff will make you feel at home.
In La Paz, the top 3 highlights were:
– Visiting the “Valley of the Moon” – which is a crazy rock formation of sandstone that was created by rain
– Wandering around the cheap artisan markets – the cheapest markets in S.A.
– Taking the world’s most extensive cable car system to get around town (it’s an amazing public transportation system that costs just $0.40 per ride).
After La Paz, we took a bizarre journey on Death Road – the so-called most dangerous road on earth. It’s a 40 km road that starts at 4,700 meters high (15,500 ft) in La Paz, and goes down the Yungas valley to 1,200 meters (4,000 ft) in a town called Coroico.
Death Road is no joke – it’s as wide as a truck, running alongside cliffs that drop up to 2,000 ft straight into the valley (although most drops are a few hundred feet). There is no railing system and the road is completely made of dirt…. if you make a wrong turn, then you could die.
Apparently, about 300 people die every year on Death road, largely due to the bad weather conditions and heavy trucks heading uphill causing other vehicles to go in reverse, but nonetheless it was an awesome experience. At one point, I really was scared because the car in front of us kept spitting a cloud of dirt on our face and we couldn’t see in front of us) – but our driver, Oscar, is the best driver in Bolivia and he kept us alive!
After we survived 4 hours on Death Road, we spent the night in a small village called Chulumani, which is a town of about 5,000 people. We stayed the night at a great resort called San Bartolome Plaza Resort, which is the best property around.
It was a humble experience to see how the people live their lives in such small towns, with no materialistic goods, and a sense of happiness in their eyes.
After Chulumani, we went back to La Paz (for 1 night), and then continued on to the highlight of my trip – The Uyuni Salt Flats.
The Uyuni Salt Flats is a must for anyone visiting Bolivia or South America.
It’s about a 6 hour drive, straight south from La Paz, into the south western part of the country. When you arrive, you will be stunned from the moment you lay your eyes on the beast.
I’m talking about the largest salt flat on earth, spreading some 12,000 square kilometers of PURE SALT. We drove the jeep across the flats for miles and miles, and the landscape kept on getting more and more impressive.
The best part at Uyuni was driving about 1 hour in the middle of the salt flats to a mysterious island, called Isla Incahuasi, which is covered in cacti, fossils and corals. The island used to be a reef at the bottom of the ocean several thousand years ago. The giant cacti reminded me of home, in Arizona, but in fact, I was in a land far far away!
In Uyuni, we stayed the night at La Magia de Uyuni, which had heaters, hot water and a damn fine restaurant serving pizza!
After the Salt Flats, we returned back to La Paz to enjoy the weekend!
Travel Tips for Visiting Bolivia
– The elevation is very high (ranges from 3,500 to 4,200 meters) which means two things. The first is that is gets very cold at night, so make sure you have a big jacket! The second is the high altitude means less oxygen, so it’s much harder to breathe if your body isn’t used to being so high. To prevent altitude sickness, drink lots of water and drink coca tea!
– The next one is mostly for American citizens – be prepared to pay $160 in cash for your visa on arrival at the border. The immigration officers aren’t the friendliest of people, and you will need printed copies of your hotel and departing flight or bus, as well as a 2X2 passport photo for your visa.
– SIM cards are very difficult to get and deal with if you are not a Bolivian citizen. Trust me, it took me hours and hours of going to the Entel office and trying to figure it out. Just don’t get a SIM and use wifi wherever possible.
– Drink bottled water – Sink water isn’t the cleanest and may get you sick (happened to me in Peru). Bottled water is always safer.
And that’s pretty much a wrap of our trip! Please contact me if you have any questions about visiting Bolivia, and have a great time!