Bolivia Travel Guide
Formerly known as Alto Peru, the nation of Bolivia is well known for being one of the highest countries on Earth, with only places like Tibet and Nepal rivaling it in terms of thin air, dramatic mountain scenery, and endlessly interesting people.
From the mind-bending photo opportunities that Salar de Uyuni presents, to the indigenous cultures that call the shores of Lake Titicaca their home, there is much to see and experience in this intriguing nation.
Currency: Bolivian Boliviano
Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
What To Do
Your first days in Bolivia will likely be occupied by the process of getting acclimatized to the high altitude; when you start feeling better though, do take some time to check out Valle de Luna.
Located only 10 kilometers from the urban center of La Paz, this geological formation actually isn’t a valley in the literal sense but it is a complex of badlands where sandstone has been eroded by millions of years of wind and water action to form one of the more bizarre sights that you will see you during your time in the Andes.
Some of these rocky outcrops have been carved into sculptures by local artists, making for an enjoyable walk in the thin air of Bolivia’s Altiplano.
When the time comes to leave Bolivia’s largest city, make your way to Sucre. While many people think that La Paz is Bolivia’s capital (the fact that many administrative functions are located there only adds to the confusion), it is actually Sucre that has that honour.
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, there is no shortage of colonial buildings in this picture perfect city. Between all the gorgeous cathedrals, museums, and mansions, you might find yourself lingering here longer than you originally planned.
The owners of those magnificent mansions made the majority of their fortune from the silver mines of Potosi, which is located at a breath-stealing elevation of 13,400 feet above sea level.
Upon visiting the city today, you’ll find the silver mines are still in operation, despite the fact that the most profitable seams have long been pulled from the ground.
Visitors can arrange guided tours of the mines that workers still toil in on a daily basis; however, know that this is an active work site that you’ll be heading into.
Many of the mine’s tunnels are frighteningly claustrophobic, so be sure to take this into account before you make a decision whether you want to experience this attraction or not.
If you decide to enter the country via Lake Titicaca, one of the first points of interest that you will come across heading eastward will be the ruin complex of Tiwanaku.
Experts estimate that this site was in its heyday over 2,000 years ago, but since then, the elements, vandalism, and quarrying has taken its toll, leaving the ruins in a sorry state when they were discovered by professional archaeologists.
Highlights of this attraction includes The Gate of the Moon, one of the few parts of the excavated temple complex that has stood tall over the years.
For many people coming to Bolivia, a visit to Salar de Uyuni is one of the most anticipated items on their itinerary. This salt flat has the pitch of a pancake, and it is often covered in a sheen of water during the rainy season, setting the table for some of the most mindblowing photos that you will ever take.
With a lack of topographical difference throughout the area, forced perspective photographs are incredibly easy to shoot, which will explain all the goofy poses that the companions on your tour will be making on your visit to this special place.
Fans of adrenaline sports will definitely want to take a crack at cycling the Death Road during their time in Bolivia, which is named for its narrow clearances, hairpin curves, frequent poor weather, and relatively heavy traffic (which has lightened in recent years due to the opening of a much safer highway nearby).
Upwards of 300 people per year used to die on it, with crosses marking many of the places where people met their end. The scenery along this dangerous route is stunning, but realize that this is part of the risk; pay attention to your surroundings at all times when challenging this scary highway.
What to Eat
If you find yourself hungry between meals, or you simply need a quick start to your day in Bolivia, head into a bakery and reach for some Saltenas.
A local variant of an empanada, these pastry pockets contain chicken, beef, or pork that have been mixed with sweet and spicy sauce. Additionally, Saltenas can contain eggs, olives, raisins, or peas among other ingredients.
Those that are looking to get lunch on the streets will want to try some Salchipapas at some point in their trip. This mix of cut up sausages and french fried potatoes will be the quick hunger fix that you are looking for during a long day of sightseeing in Bolivia, as its mix of savory flavors will satisfy and satiate you.
Want to see how tough you are when it comes to eating Bolivian cuisine? Consider Pique Macho to be the ultimate test of your ability to endure high levels of spiciness, as this dish of Steak strips, french fries, onions, eggs, and hot peppers will certainly be up to the task … will you?