Bolivia – Amazon, Andes, the great Andean Plain, Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni
Bolivia is a country that can included in your trip to South America, in conjunction with Brazil, with other neighbouring countries, especially Peru, Argentina and Chile, or as a stand-alone tour.
Bolivia is a wonderful country to visit, rich and varied in ecotourism highlights, with a history, culture and language distinctly different to its neighbours, and some of the most amazing sights in South America. As much of the country is at altitude, then care must be taken with planning your itinerary and this is where we can help. Visitors must take care with the altitude, and Bolivia as a whole is one of the most challenging countries for travelling in South America. The infrastructure of the country can be somewhat lacking in modern facilities with regards to road conditions, and hygiene standards perhaps not quite what visitors may expect. Many people consider Bolivia as a Backpacker Destination although as long as you are prepared to face these challenges with a smile, accept that road journeys can face delays, and that Bolivians have to face these issues every day, then Bolivia can be as rewarding as any country in South America for anybody. The scenery is as remarkable as anywhere on the planet, the people are usually friendly, the food can be as tasty as it is interesting, and the wildlife also greatly varies. Bolivia is also the cheapest country to visit in South America!
The places that Brazil Adventure Tours would recommend including in a trip to Bolivia depend on where else would feature in your itinerary. Coming from Brazil, the best options are to arrive in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in the eastern Bolivian lowlands. This can be done by road or train via Corumba in the Southern Pantanal, or by flight usually from Campo Grande or even Sao Paulo. From Santa Cruz, the journey up to the High Andean Plain can be done more slowly to allow acclimatisation, via Samaipata and the excellent Amboro National Park; Sucre and its Dinosaur Footprints; and Potosi and its eye-opening Silver Mine Tours. Another option is to take the road up through the jungle-covered lower slopes of The Andes via Cochabamba.
From Argentina, the overland trip from Salta in the north-west via Humahuaca, Villazon and Tupiza is a delight of desert landscapes and rock formations.
From Chile, the passage to Bolivia is via the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth. From Calama and San Pedro de Atacama, the journey takes you between snow-capped volcanoes to the south-west corner of Bolivia.
All of these possibilities have you, eventually, in the area around Salar de Uyuni on the High Andean Plain, possibly the most amazing place in Bolivia and the one destination that we would recommend to include above all others if you have the time. The largest salt flats in the world, Uyuni’s wide open white landscapes and endless clear blue skies provide some of the most memorable photo opportunities you will ever find. In the wet season of January to April, this includes a flat surface water that makes one of the largest mirrors on earth. The whole area is otherworldly, not just the salt flats, with green and red lagoons, smoking volcanoes, rocky landscapes that appear to have inspired Dali paintings, and bubbling geysers and thermal springs – very welcome after touring Salar de Uyuni at over 4,000m up.
From Salar de Uyuni, you can cross the plain to La Paz, the crazy and capital city with its colonial history, colourful Andean street markets, and relatively easy access to nearby Andean summits. La Paz is also a gateway to the Amazon Basin, and you can make this descent in just one day... by mountain bike! The legendary Death Road Mountain Bike Route is perhaps not quite as dangerous as it was, due to the construction of a new road, but with a sheer cliff on one side for most of the descent to Coroico on the edge of the Amazon Jungle, the ride is still adrenaline-inducing and a day that will be remembered forever. Provided you descend safely and sensibly, and with the right guides of course, this is one activity in Bolivia that we can highly recommend.
The most common way into Bolivia is from cousin Peru. (Bolivians and Peruvians don’t seem to like each other, for reasons we don’t understand considering that both these Andean peoples seem to be very likeable, gentle souls). The main border crossing between them is at Lake Titicaca, whose waters are shared between them. The world’s highest navigable lake is famous of course, and one of those places that is worth every good word said about it. The deep blue waters surrounded by snow-capped Andean peaks, the breathtaking colours of sunrise and sunset, the culture of the islands, Isla del Sol and Isla de La Luna, will leave you with a tale to tell. Local legend has it that the Inca People were born on the Sun Island and the lifestyle on these wonderful islands often appears to have changed little since. Bolivia’s finest Inca ruins at Tiwanaku also lie between Titicaca and La Paz.
The final entry point into Bolivia is the least travelled by foreign tourists. From Porto Velho in Brazil, you travel via Guaruja-Mirim and Riberalta in northern Bolivia before crossing half the country to eventually arrive in La Paz. This journey is on the dirt and mud roads of the Bolivian Amazon, with perhaps only Rurrenabaque to break the journey and enjoy the Madidi National Park, with its incredible variety of wildlife from the Andean slopes to the Amazon Rainforest. This route into Bolivia is definitely not for the faint-hearted though –and at Brazil Adventure Tours, we have the memories and the photographs to prove it!
Bolivia is a country that many people don’t consider when visiting South America, principally because it is more of a challenge than its neighbours. We certainly think more people should though, it is such a diverse, interesting country that anyone who enjoys travelling should put on their list to visit.
Suitable Destination For: Those who like adventure, natural scenery, new cultures, and don’t mind a challenge in visiting them.
Best Time to Visit: The Andean and Amazon wet season runs from late December to early April usually, although this is also the most photogenic time in Uyuni. The dry season gives the most amazing clear blue skies in the mountains and better travel conditions – very important in Bolivia especially!
Essential Sights & Activities: La Paz; Lake Titicaca; Salar de Uyuni; the Potosi Mines; Sucre and its dinosaur footprints; Andean Mountains; Amazon Rainforest; The Death Road Mountain Bike Ride.