While travellers flock to Peru for their Machu Picchu moment, tango the night away in Buenos Aires and party till dawn in buzzing Rio, Bolivia can often get unfairly overlooked in favour of the big hitters next door.
This is definitely, definitely a mistake. Bolivia is bursting with fascinating cultures, brilliant wildlife, compelling history and some of the most stunning scenery on planet earth.
Here are 5 reasons to give Bolivia more than a second thought when planning your Latin American adventure:
Stand wistfully on the banks of Lake Titicaca.
Aside from the funny name Titicaca is full of attractions. Stay the night on the Isla Del Sol – an island with no cars and some fantastic walking routes that lead you from shore to shore through Inca ruins.
You can also visit the homes of the Uros – indigenous people who still live on man-made floating islands in the lake. On dry land the lakeside village of Copacabana (not that one) is a fantastic place kick back, lie on the beach, pig out on fresh fish and enjoy sunsets that are truly a sight to behold.
The Salt Flats
You know all those pictures you see of groups of people standing on white ground against a blue sky and pulling quite frankly hilarious poses of jumping out of a shoe and being picked up by their giant mate? No? Just us? Well this is where they take them.
At more than 4,000 square miles the Salar de Uyuni are the largest salt flats in the world and an undisputed highlight of any trip to Bolivia. We could pontificate for pages about the fantastic views, wild 4WD touring opportunities and fascinating non salt related sites (train cemetery anyone?) but we’ll let the picture speak for itself…
Walk on air at the Salt Flats of Salar de Uyuni.
The wild west of Latin America, Potosi and the surrounds are stuff of western legends. There’s a mountain here that’s reputedly made of silver (it’s not) and mining is still a major economic driver.
If you’re feeling brave you can descend into a working silver mine and observe working practices that have barely changed in centuries (be sure to take a gift for the miners). If you prefer the open air why not take a trekking trip into the wilds of the desert or visit the train reported held up by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid just a year before they were finally captured.
If you look carefully you can see Zorro peeking his head over the parapet (possibly).
Spot Wildlife in Pampas Amazonicas
Get back to nature and discover Bolivia’s wild side on a trip to the Pampas Amazonicas. Though less famous (and therefore less crowded) than its Peruvian and Brazilian neighbours, there is fantastic natural diversity in this part of Bolivia.
You can spot monkeys, crocs, hundreds of species of birds and even go swimming with dolphins! Just watch out for those crocs you saw earlier…
Chit chat with the moneys and crocs in the Bolivian jungle.
Take a minute to slow down and savour the experience
Bolivia is one of the cheapest countries in South America so take a break from your intense itinerary, stay longer, slow down and savour the experience. The pace of life here is best characterised by the saying mañana, mañana (tomorrow, tomorrow).
Lunch often takes three hours and involves 3 courses, office workers go home to eat and take a siesta (followed later by afternoon tea at 4 or 5), and the customary answer to “when does the bus leave” is “when it’s full.” Race around like a headless chicken and you’ll miss everything, which sometimes is actually nothing more than life passing by around you.