Bolivia: 5 places you must experience on your trip is written by Katrine Øland Frandsen
To Bolivia with backpack
I visited Bolivia on my backpacking trip around South America. The country is located in the middle of the continent and borders five other countries: Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay og Brazil. I arrived in La Paz by bus from Peru. But what should you actually see in a country that has no coastline and is located in the middle of it Andes Mountains? Here are my five suggestions, places you must experience on your trip to Bolivia.
1. Wrestling in La Paz
Fortunately, it is the somewhat smaller city of Sucre that is Bolivia's constitutional capital, but otherwise La Paz is seen as the country's capital. The city is the world's highest situated city and lies 3.640 meters above sea level havets assault - and most will probably experience shortness of breath. The heights will make you feel like you are floating halfway between the clouds and the pavement. Due to its location in the thinner air layers, the city's temperature rarely rises above 20 degrees.
What do you do when you have been out of breath from strolling around the Bolivian markets? You take in and experience others being breathless. ‘Cholitas wrestling’ has been popular since the 1950s and it was one of those activities I found incredibly entertaining. There are both male and female wrestlers in traditional clothes and they wrestle with each other. A recommendable evening entertainment when visiting La Paz in Bolivia.
2. A walk along Death Road
If you do not already have shortness of breath and need more action on your trip to Bolivia – you can visit the world-famous 'Death Road'. The name Death Road derives from the notoriously high death toll there. The road was carved into the Cordillera Oriental mountain range by prison inmates from Paraguay during the 'Chaco War' in the 1930s. The road stretches 69 km from La Paz to Coroico and connects the big city with the Amazon rainforest.
A bike ride through the heights of Death Road is the most popular activity in La Paz. So if you are a fan of heights and bikes, you can take a day trip by bike to Death Road. I have only heard good things about the trip, but since I personally suffer from fear of heights and rocky terrain, I chose to avoid Death Road. However, I experienced Death Road in a different way…
3. The Amazon River in Bolivia
You may not think about it at first Amazon, when one hears the name Bolivia. But my visit to the Amazon is my absolute coolest experience from Bolivia - and clearly the one I would recommend everyone to take on. Besides that I would recommend this trip, so I I also guide you on how to get there. That was not the way I did it myself.
Via a local travel agency you can book an excursion to the Amazon; I chose a 3-day trip. The offices can be found on every street corner, and most accommodations can also help you book your tour. That part is easy enough. You can choose a flight of a few hours there or a 20 hour bus ride. I chose one of each. My best advice is to skip the bus ride and fly instead - you pay more, but it's all worth it.
The bus trip to the Amazon is something of a challenge and is probably my most nerve-wracking journey ever. I wake up at night while the rest of the passengers are evacuating themselves. The bus is stuck in a puddle of mud and tilts rather obliquely over the mountain edge. That's how I experienced what I had otherwise tried to avoid: Death Road. Choose the flight unless you are into extreme experiences.
This 3-day excursion is – despite the transport to get there – my favorite so far. The trip takes place primarily on a boat, where you sail around Amazon River, and there isn't an animal you don't meet on the road. We encountered everything from the crocodile-like caimans in front of our lodge to snakes, bats, curious monkeys jumping aboard the boat and the playful pink dolphins we swam with. One of the pink dolphins even bit my foot, and I have the world's coolest scar on my toe.
Salar de Uyuni - the world's largest salt flats
When the dinosaurs roamed our planet, there was a saltwater lake in the middle of the South American continent. Due to movements in the earth's plates, the lake contracted and evaporated. Today, the site is known as Salar de Uyuni and is the world's largest salt flat at more than 10.000 km2; an area the size of Zealand times one and a half. The salt flats of Bolivia border Chile and you can get there from Sucre.
Stepping out on the giant plain is something of a different experience. At first glance, one can probably not avoid comparing it with snow. The next impression is probably one's amazement that it's completely flat to where the eye reaches. A guided tour takes you to local markets and rock formations in the Rocky Valley.
The guide also helps you to take some fun 'trick pictures', where you seem bigger or smaller than a eg a plastic dinosaur or a pickles box. If it is wet and the sun is reflected, the salt flats may look like a lake.
Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol
Titicaca is South America's largest lake and is shared by Peru and Bolivia. It is said that the Bolivian side of the lake is the most beautiful. If you go to the big city Copacabana you will experience a cozy atmosphere by the lake - there are plenty of local restaurants and bars. In summer, the temperatures allow you to jump into the water or rent a boat.
One of the main attractions on Lake Titicaca is the sacred Inca island of Isla del Sol. You can sail to Isla del Sol from Copacabana. According to an Inca legend, Isla del Sol is the birthplace of one of the gods of the Incas; namely the Sun God - hence the name of the island. It is said that the sun god created his own son and daughter, and they became the first Incas to travel north and find what became the Inca Empire at Machu Picchu in Peru.
In my opinion, Bolivia has a lot to offer: Polite locals, culture, history, wildlife and scenic surroundings. It is a developing country, and there are, among other things, several cable cars in the city of La Paz, so it is easier for the locals and tourists to get around.
Have a good trip to Bolivia!
You must experience that on your trip to Bolivia
- Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat
- Death Road
- Amazon River
- Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol
- Santa Cruz
- La Paz