Bolivia has amply earned its place among the destinations favoured by globetrotters. We put on our backpacks and fly to the little jewel that is Bolivia !
The must-sees on the city side
1) The Paz
The capital of Bolivia, located at some 3,800 metres above sea level, is the highest capital in the world. It is located in the Altiplano, one of the highest populated regions in the world, in the heart of the Andes Cordillera, where traditions are still very much alive. You will find many craft markets, but the one not to be missed is the famous "Witches' Market"! The stalls are full of strange objects and plants, full of superstitions and traditions, including fetuses of mummified llamas (yes, I confess...)! In the beliefs of the indigenous peoples, these foetuses would bring blessings to a new home if buried underneath... The beautifully preserved and colourful Jaén pedestrian street, along which you will have the opportunity to visit several museums.
Plaza Murillo, in the heart of the city, is lined with numerous statues and colonial buildings.
The Mirador Kili Kili (you'll find all the possible spellings for this Mirador ! Killi Killi, K'illi K'illi, in short, this is the one!) will give you a breathtaking view of La Paz.
The Valley of the Moon is located about ten kilometres from the centre. She's a must see! The landscapes created by erosion are magical.
For the most reckless, there is of course the famous Death Road! The road of the Yungas (of its real name) was originally built to connect La Paz with the village of Coroico. Many fatal accidents occurred there, partly because the road was too narrow for two vehicles to pass each other. For example, one of the vehicles may have tipped over when reversing, especially when the terrain had been made slippery by rain....
Today it is reserved for cyclists, who, if they remain careful, do not risk their lives!
The ruins of Tiwanaku, a true archaeological site, are also worth a visit. They are located about 70 kilometres from La Paz.
Nicknamed "the white city", Sucre is a must in Bolivia. It is even the second capital of Bolivia, the "constitutional" capital. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of those cities where people love to stroll and admire the architecture. The mountainous environment makes it even more splendid. Everything seems harmonious and the city offers many opportunities for discovery. One of the best known monuments is La Casa de la Libertad, the historic place where Bolivia's declaration of independence was signed.
La Recoleta, located on the heights of Sucre, offers an incredible view of the city.
Once back down, we take a break at the Mercado Central to taste a good fresh fruit juice, the Bolivar Park is also very nice, as well as... the cemetery of the city! And yes! The cemetery atmosphere in South America is not the same as here. The culture and beliefs around death are very different.
In any case, one thing is sure, you don't hesitate to wander through the white city and get lost in its alleys!
For hikers, treks to the Maragua crater are offered starting from Sucre.
This mining town, located at about 4,000 meters above sea level (so be careful if you are prone to altitude sickness and think about insuring yourself for destinations above 3,000 meters), was developed at the foot of the Cerro Rico mountain, which is its guardian. The Spaniards founded it, after discovering important silver mines, and forced the local population to work there.
The mines are still in operation today, and it is possible to visit them. The working conditions of the miners are far from easy, and during the visits it is possible to offer gifts to the workers, as well as offerings to the god of the mine, El Tio. Let's be honest, we're not that keen on the "go see the miners at work" aspect... So let's be careful how we approach the visit.
In addition, the architecture of the city is splendid and presents several colonial buildings. The Casa de la Moneda is a must in Potosí. That's where the silver from the city's mines was minted.
Potosí is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architectural and historical value.
4) Santa Cruz de la Sierra
It's nice to walk around this city. Modern in some aspects, but still steeped in history, as evidenced by the Metropolitan Cathedral in Piazza del 24 Septiembre, the Basilica San Lorenzo and several museums.
120 kilometres from Santa Cruz, is the Fort of Samaipata, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This archaeological site was very important in pre-Columbian times. It was probably an Incan spiritual place.
From Samaipata, you will be able to discover the Amboró National Park. This park is a huge nature reserve, which will delight nature lovers with its flora and fauna.
The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, located in the Department of Santa Cruz, are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Yes, once again, there are only treasures in Bolivia).
And finally, for the fans of Che (Guevara), an excursion will allow you to visit mythical places of its history.
5) Uyuni and the famous salt desert
We stay high with Uyuni, at 3,670 meters above sea level. One of the emblematic places of the region is without a doubt the Salar d'Uyuni, an immense salt desert which extends over approximately 11,000 km²!
It would have formed following the disappearance of a prehistoric lake. This Bolivian wonder is breathtaking. The desert is home to several villages and is dotted with "lakes" (called Los Ojos de Agua), as well as islands, such as the island of Incahuasi, known for its giant cacti. The latter offers a breathtaking view of the Tunupa volcano and the salar.
It is possible to go up this volcano, at least part of it, to reach a viewpoint located at about 4,700 metres above sea level. (Basically, don't plan to make this climb on the run...)
6) The South of Lipez
This desert region is another small splendour of Bolivia!
Located in the south of the country, on the border with Chile, it offers many incredible landscapes. The weather conditions are harsh, making it mainly uninhabited. (Except for herds of llamas and flamingos of several species).
Among the curiosities not to be missed are the geysers, which can reach 200 degrees, as well as lagoons with multicoloured reflections created by the presence of algae and minerals: the Laguna Colorada, the Laguna Verde (visible from space!) and the Laguna Blanca.
You can also discover the deserts of Siloli (and its famous "stone tree") and Dalí (named after its peculiar colours).
Tupiza is located near the border with Argentina and offers landscapes worthy of the Far West!
Glowing canyons, huge cacti, mountains...
It's almost like the United States! The region can be explored in many ways, on horseback, mountain bike, or simply on foot.
The city can be the starting point to the South Lipez and the Salar de Uyuni. (Most of the time, tourists do this route in the opposite direction, so it allows you to be a little calmer by doing it this way).
8) Lake Titicaca
We will tell you about it in the article on Peru. This immense lake, the highest navigable lake in the world, straddles the border between these two splendid countries, and can be reached from the village of Copacabana, located on the edge of the lake.
This must-see in Bolivia is dotted with numerous islands, some of which are inhabited by traditional peoples.
Among the best known are the Isla de la Luna and the Isla del Sol, which is said to be the cradle of Inca civilization !
9) Madidi National Park
This magnificent park is located in the region of La Paz, in the heart of the Amazonian forest (which actually covers a huge part of the Bolivian territory!). Madidi is considered the best preserved park in the Amazon. The access is by boat from Rurrenabaque.
The diversity of flora and fauna is breathtaking. It is one of the most important biospheres on the planet. The guides will make you discover this treasure and all the jewels it conceals (pink dolphins, jaguars, crocodiles, monkeys, piranhas... but also tarantulas and other adorable little beasts...).
The park is home to many indigenous communities and is an extraordinary experience in the middle of the Amazon jungle !
10) Sajama National Park
This last stage is definitely one of the things to see in Bolivia!
The park, in the heart of the Andes Cordillera, has the big advantage of not being invaded by tourists.
The landscapes are breathtaking, so much they still seem wild. The village of Sajama is almost at the foot of the volcano of the same name. The latter is the highest peak in the country and reaches an altitude of 6,548 metres.
Might as well tell you that the view from its snowy peaks is magnificent. Two other volcanoes tower over the park: Parinacota volcano (6,348 metres) and Pomerape volcano (6,282 metres).
Hikers will be able to have a good time, as it is possible to climb it, but with caution, given the altitude! If you are planning this kind of trekking, make sure you know what you are doing, and do it at the end of your stay, when your body has already acclimatized and is well on its way!