South America: Things to do in Bolivia
As part of my 76 days South America tour, I’ll be doing a quick overview of the highlights in each of the countries I’ll be visiting!
Bolivia is one of the highest and most remote countries in the World. Even it’s “administrative” capital at La Paz is 3650m above sea level! With incredible salt flats that are visible from space and a large indigenous population, there is a range of unique things to do in Bolivia for the curious traveler.
Here are 7 breathtaking things to do in Bolivia:
1) Reflect at the Salar De Uyuni
Nothing can quite describe the out of World experience one gets from visiting Salar De Uyuni. The World’s largest salt flats spans 12,000 sq km and is so clear that it seemingly blends the sky and ground to reflect one dreamy landscape. During the drier season, the ground looks like an endless sheet of hexagonal tiles due to the crystalline nature of salt.
There’s a salt hotel at the edge of the flats and even possibilities of basic home stays with peasant families.
2) Visit Laguna Colorada
photo credit: Matt Walker
Another outer worldly landscape, the red lagoon’s standout colour is a result of algae and red sediments in the shallow salt lake. Thousands of pink flamingos also flock to feed on the algae, which adds on to the surrealism of the place.
Laguna Colorada isn’t too far from Salar de Uyuni and is usually visited together!
3) Souvenir hunting at the Witches Market in La Paz
photo credit: Anna/Scott
Dried llama fetuses, figurines, aphrodisiac concoctions, exotic animal parts and folk remedies line the streets to provide raw materials required for the witch doctor’s rituals. These days there is also a lively tourist area with charms and potions that bring you luck for any occasion.
The market is pretty small and explorable so it’s definitely worth a quick stop if you are passing La Paz.
4) Explore the Cerro Rico silver mines in Potosi
Tour the silver mines that once held the riches for Bolivia and attracted their Spanish colonists. Surprisingly, the mines have changed little since the past and can be a claustrophobic hair raising affair for some.
At 4200m above sea level, it is probably wise to acclimatise to the altitude before attempting to visit any of the mines. They say that chewing on coca leaves help!
5) Cycle on the Death Road
The Yungas road that runs from La Paz to Bolivia’s Amazon basin has been called the World’s most dangerous road. With precarious drops and sharp turns around the narrow paths, adrenaline junkies have embraced the 64km gravity assisted downhill cycle.
There are reputable and responsible companies organizing cycling tours daily so it should still be pretty safe for a competent mountain cyclist.
6) Wander around colonial Sucre
The official capital of Bolivia is a beautiful historical city with white washed colonial buildings. Wander around to take in the rich history of Bolivia or chill at one of the many chocolate shops around. The city has a very relaxed atmosphere and is also a good base for visiting nearby indigenous Andean villages (Tarabuco) and prehistoric dinosaur sites (Cal Orko).
7) Catch your breath at Lake Titicaca
Bordering both Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca the largest high altitude lake in the World at 3812m above sea level. There are plenty of ancient legends stemming from the lake and the Incans are believed to have originated from this area. Ancient ruins and villages can also be found around the lake, prominently at Tiwanaku and Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun).
Inspired? Drop a comment below if you have suggestions for other amazing things to do in Bolivia!