Bolivia may not be as popular as its neighbors like Brazil and Peru, but it still has an array of awe-inspiring sights that will leave you wondering why you haven’t visited sooner! Peer out into the reflective, mirror-like Salar de Uyuni, explore the budding city of La Paz, and embrace your wild side for a trip down Death Road!
Set your sights on La Paz as you descend into Bolivia. This city is often referred to as a reflection of modern Bolivia and is home to fascinating and significant cultural sights and entertaining activities. Make Sagarnaga the first spot on your itinerary— this street is considered one of the main tourist areas of La Paz. Here you’ll be able to shop for souvenirs and other goods, stroll past numerous hotels and restaurants and even pop into quaint, cute cafes.
Next, aim higher as you hop into a teleférico! This cable car allows both tourists and locals alike to experience a convenient, traffic-free public transportation system. It’s quite an efficient way to get around, plus it boasts some of the best views of the city. It’s important to note that La Paz is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, so the views from up high can be astounding.
Since you already rode to the top via los teleféricos, continue your determined ascent by climbing one of the city’s famous mountains. Rock climbing is a popular activity in La Paz, and to experience it to its fullest, you should trek to Aranjuez Valley, one of the more well-known spots for the adrenaline-rushing activity. The mountains in this area have a selection of established routes to pick from and you can have fun racing your friends and family to the top!
After that, aim for the stars and race up to Valle de La Luna, or Valley of the Moon. This popular tourist attraction is only a few miles from La Paz’s city center, and it’s a wondrous sight. The maze of canyons and spires is a significant geological site because of its uncanny look—it appears to be made out of the texture of the moon! Don’t worry though, you’re not in space, you’re just in Bolivia! Breathe in the fresh air and marvel at these unique formations made out of clay and limestone, which were formed thanks to erosion by wind and rain.
When you’re ready to take a breather after all of that exploring on foot, don’t hesitate to catch a show that’s popular amongst tourists and locals alike. Cholita wrestling is a show featuring Bolivian women battling each other (and even their male peers) in a fighting style inspired by America’s WWF and Mexico’s lucha libre. The show acts as a form of empowerment for the women who are simultaneously taking back ownership of the once-derogatory term cholita, while also taking a stance against sexism and domestic abuse.
Now that you’ve toured around the city of La Paz, it’s time to wonder at some of Bolivia’s most well-known tourist attractions and natural sights. The most famous of them all is Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. If you check it out when it’s dry, the blue sky seems even more vivid against the white ground, but if you head over when there’s some water, the ground perfectly mirrors the sky, making it seem as if you’re walking amongst the clouds! One cool aspect of the area is the Hotel Palacio de Sal, a hotel completely made out of salt—even the chairs and tables inside! There’s also plenty of salt sculptures throughout for you to appreciate and take pictures of. It’s quite the attraction! palaciodesal.com.bo
Nearby the marvelous salt flat are two more natural wonders: Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde. Laguna Colorada is a gorgeous red-hued salt lake filled with numerous pink flamingos and other animals such as llamas, Andean foxes, cats, and pumas. The lake gets its red tint due to the red algae that lies within it and it’s a sight that photographers all over the world aspire to capture on their visit to Bolivia.
Similarly, Laguna Verde is a lake tinted blue-green that stands a couple of miles from Volcán Licancabur, a stratovolcano. The combination of the luminescent lake and the cone-shaped striking volcano makes this landscape a unique one. The lake’s color comes from the minerals that it contains like lead, sulfur, arsenic and calcium carbonates, which make it a less-than-ideal place to swim, but a great sight for pictures.
Those aren’t the only two lakes worthy of being seen in Bolivia. Take a trip to Lake Titicaca, the second largest lake in South America and the “highest navigable lake” in the world. 41 islands rise from the grand lake’s waters, including one of the most famous, Isla del Sol. This island is considered sacred due to its ancient Incan roots, in fact over 80 ruins from the Inca civilization can be discovered here. The island can be seen on foot through numerous hiking trails, and to start, you should begin at The Inca Steps, which lead you directly into the village of Yumani. More than 200 steps were built by the Incas to lead into the village, and right beside it is The Fountain of the Inca, a natural water source that was believed to be their own Fountain of Youth—those who drank from it would supposedly stay young forever. Another great attraction on the island besides the archaeological ruins is the Museo del Oro, or the Gold Museum. It’s located in the town of Cha’llapampa and displays artifacts that have been found on or around Isla del Sol like pottery, stone boxes, and solid gold and silver figurines.
Turns out, you don’t have to go to Brazil to discover the Amazon river. Head over to Madidi National Park, which lies right on the famed river. This park is one of the most diverse ecological hot spots on the planet and one of the largest protected areas in all of Bolivia. Over 20,000 plant species as well as thousands of species of fish, lizards, mammals and more exist in this dense, vast rainforest. In fact, while wandering through some of the trails, you can expect to see animals like jaguars, sloths, pumas, spectacled bears, pink river dolphins, and many more. The huge national park is also home to 46 indigenous communities from six different tribes, and many of them still follow ancient Amazonian rituals and traditions. If you’re interested in getting a closer look at how these local native people live day-to-day, don’t hesitate to book one of the tours of the villages. You’ll be able to experience firsthand the hardworking lifestyles and values of these native people.
Your adventure won’t stop there—Bolivia’s national parks offer differing landscapes and so much to see! Take a trip to the wild side at Torotoro National Park, which has been regarded as Bolivia’s very own Jurassic Park. Upon arriving, you’ll immediately see why. The park is famous for its huge dinosaur foot prints, winding underground caves, dense forests, and unique rock formations. Begin at Torotoro Canyon, where you can spot dinosaur footprints up to 19 inches long! Then, you can peer over the lookout into the canyon, where you’ll be able to take in sweeping views of the natural formations. Then make sure to save time for the Ciudad de Itas, a collection of animal shaped rocks and caves. Here you will descend underground and gape at the towering stalactites and stalagmites, and even catch glimpses of some traces of the indigenous people who once lived here.
The last and final destination to end your trip in Bolivia is Death Road, or North Yungas Road. This road earned its scary nickname due to the position of the thin road on a steep cliffside, making it a dangerous road to go down indeed. The sometimes-unpaved road also has no guardrails, which was one of the main causes that the death toll was once so high; in 1995, it was named “the world’s most dangerous road” due to the 200-300 deaths that would take place on it every year. However, since then, efforts have been made to deter traffic to an incredibly new safer road, and most of it has been cleared to allow for the famous bike tours that take place here. Cycling is the best way to see the alarming but picturesque road, so hop on a bike and head out there! The bike tour comes with all of the safety equipment you will need like a helmet, jacket, pants and gloves, along with a tour guide who will lead you down the safest path. Face your fears and you will be rewarded— the path offers stunning views of waterfalls, rivers, canyons, and more!
Now that you’ve faced your fears, conquered the jungle, and got glimpses of some of the most unique natural landscapes in the world, you can safely head back home with a head full of pleasant memories. Not many people can say they spotted jaguars along the Amazon River or made it back alive from Death Road, but you’ve got those bragging rights! Another adventure swiftly checked off the bucket list!
By Aaliyah Pasols