Often dubbed the most quintessentially South American country, Bolivia suffered few changes during the Spanish Conquest – thanks in part to its harsh mountain landscapes and thick jungle which prevented large scale immigration by Europeans – and the native Indians have held onto many of their traditions, with some remote villages remaining virtually untouched for centuries.
The high altitude of most Andean tourist sites – its two biggest attractions, including La Paz, the world’s highest capital city, and Lake Titicaca, are both higher than the top of Europe’s tallest mountain – makes it a tough place to travel, but the spectacular scenery more than makes up for this and keeps a steady stream of tourists, including many adventure travellers, trickling in.
Bolivia is also the poorest country in South America, and the tourism infrastructure is not as developed as some of its richer neighbours. However, with a bit of patience and a willingness to rough it a bit, Bolivia can be a very rewarding and affordable country to visit.
Some places not to miss on your trip to Bolivia:
La Paz: By day the world’s highest capital is a bustling metropolis of Indian markets and honking cars, by nightfall thousands of lights illuminate the city, stretched out in its narrow canyon of Andean mountains.
Lake Titicaca: Spend a few days island-hopping on the world’s highest navigable lake, with its backdrop of snow-capped Andean peaks. Don’t miss Isla del Sol, which legend dictates is the birthplace of the Incas, and is dotted with tiny, picturesque villages.
The World’s Most Dangerous Road: Hire a mountain bike and a guide and career down the hair-raisingly narrow road from La Paz to Coroico in its sub-tropical valley thousands of metres below. The frequent avalanches, waterfalls pouring onto the road and thousand-metre drops make it a good choice for adrenaline-junkies, and not for the faint-hearted.
The Salares: The salt planes of the south west are home to an array of birdlife, including flamingos, which feed on the bright red and green soda lakes.
Potosí and Sucre: These Spanish cities are two of the country’s most charming visitor destinations, with some good examples of Colonial architecture. Potosí was once the richest city in Latin America, thanks to the discovery silver mines in the 16th century.
Parque National Madidi: The size of El Salvador, Madidi is one of the most biodiverse national parks on the planet, with more than 1,000 bird species and five breeds of big cat inhabiting its landscape, which stretches from airless 6,000m peaks down to steamy jungle.