Just outside the Salar de Uyuni salt flats lies the quaint salt-processing village of Colchani. This tiny village of just over 600 people is home to Bolivia’s largest salt-processing cooperative. Years ago, the inhabitants of Colchani used to exploit salt to exchange with other indigenous communities. Every year packs of llamas would travel incredible distances (up to 560km to Tarija) carrying salt, returning with coca, maize and other goods not produced in the Altiplano. This has since changed with the improvement of transport infrastructure and the salt is now sold by the cooperative in Bolivia and Brazil. A visit to the Salt Museum is popular and this tiny yet picturesque space consists of salt bricks and a multitude of carved sculptures.
Copacabana is a Bolivian town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, known for religious festivals and red-roofed houses. It is a base for exploring Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna - islands with sacred Incan archaeological sites. Near Copacabana’s main square (Plaza 2 de Febrero) is the Catedral de la Virgen de la Candelaria which is a major pilgrimage site with Moorish domes. You will most likely visit Copacabana on the way to or from Peru on the bus.
Sitting in a valley in the Andes Mountains, La Paz is the city that touches the clouds. The de facto capital of Bolivia, and sitting in a caldera-shaped canyon between 3300 and 4100 metres above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. Breathlessness is part of everyday life in La Paz! Rich with 19th century churches, museums of artifacts from the pre-Conquest era, precarious overlooks, and colourful markets, La Paz is truly unique. The Witches’ Market, in the centre of the city, sells charms and potions for Aymara rituals, as well as souvenirs. All in all La Paz is a unique city where modern capitalism mixes with age old indigenous traditions. With activities ranging from the adrenaline pumping to the more cultural, it’s impossible to be bored when visiting the city in the sky!
Lake Titicaca, straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains, is one of South America's largest lakes and the world’s highest navigable body of water. Said to be the birthplace of the Incas, it’s home to numerous ruins. Its waters are famously still and brightly reflective. Around it is Titicaca National Reserve, sheltering rare aquatic wildlife such as giant frogs. From the Bolivian side you can explore tranquil sapphire and golden islands, as well as the floating reed islands inhabited by the indigenous Uros people.
Isla del Sol (Sun Island) is an island in the southern part of Lake Titicaca. There are no motor vehicles or paved roads on the island. This beautiful island is considered by many to be the legendary birthplace of the Inca Empire. Here you will see ancient agricultural terraces and many eucalyptus trees, the remains of a temple that the Inca Emperor used to visit and the fountain of eternal youth (yet to be verified), traditional communities and lots of llamas. You Can explore the island on foot and walk to the highest point of the island to enjoy an amazing sunset/sunset over Lake Titicaca or simply relax in the garden of your hotel.
The must see Salar de Uyuni in southwest Bolivia amidst the Andes is the world’s largest salt flat. It is the legacy of a prehistoric lake that went dry, leaving behind a desert like, nearly 11,000sqkm landscape of bright-white salt, rock formations and cacti-studded islands. Its otherworldly expanse can be observed from central Incahuasi Island. Although wildlife is rare in this unique ecosystem, it is home to many pink flamingos. Salar de Uyuni is accessible from La Paz (Bolivia) and also from Chile via San Pedro de Atacama Desert. The Salar de Uyuni is amazing at any time of year, but how your trip looks depends entirely on the season. Rainy season in Bolivia is when the Salar turns into the world’s largest mirror. Lasting from around December to March, this is the time you can snap amazing reflection photographs, where the horizon seems to completely disappear, and the sunsets are spectacular. At night, the stars can appear in double, reflected by the watery mirror on land. Dry season in Bolivia lasts from around April to October (southern winter so you can expect temperatures to drop to below freezing once the sun goes down) and during this time, the salt flats look less like a giant mirror. Night skies are guaranteed to be clearer in the dry season.
Travel to this landlocked country and discover majestic icebound peaks, high altitude desert of the Andes, the lush rainforest, and vast savannahs of the Amazon basin. Bolivia boasts a mixed legendary heritage that both grants the country its identity and engages it in a deeply rooted syncretism. The stunning sights to see is Lake Titicaca, the Uyuni salt flats, the Andes, and the Amazon.
Spend a few days in the fascinating city of La Paz, Bolivia’s de facto capital (Sucre is its official capital), which combines a dramatic high-altitude setting with a compelling blend of traditional indigenous and modern urban cultures. You will find the magical Lake Titicaca close by to La Paz, which is a massive azure lake that straddles the Peruvian border, and is a great base for trekking, climbing or mountain biking in the magnificent Cordillera Real.
You will find lovely churches, mansions, and monuments that are part of the country’s cultural heritage. Go and visit the cities of Sucre, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba and you are sure to come across a festival or two in some of these destinations because Bolivia is world famous for its dances and folklore.
When to Visit
Due to the altitude and topography in Bolivia, the climate varies more than it does between different seasons. There are however definite seasonal differences.
Summer (November to April) is the rainy season and is much more pronounced in the lowlands. Due to flooding roads in the Amazon become quite impossible. In comparison river transport is more frequent. The humidity, heat and mosquitoes are prevalent. It rains less in the highlands, particularly the Altiplano, and travelling is less restricted.
Winter (May to October) tends to be the best time to visit as this is the dry season in Bolivia. Tourist spots can be busier as this is classed as high season. In June and July, it is noticeably colder in the highlands. Days are slightly shorter, but mainly sunny with crystal clear skies. If you are interested in climbing and trekking this is the best time to visit as well as travelling to the hot and humid lowlands where temperatures are pleasantly lower. Rain does remain possible all year round.
The currency in Bolivia is the boliviano (B$), divided into 100 centavos. Note denominations are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200, coins are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centavos. You may find people still call the currency pesos (this was changed in 1987 to bolivianos). Most prices are shown in US dollars and many businesses accept either currency, otherwise it is usual to pay for everything in bolivianos.
Make sure you have pristine US dollar bills and do not accept torn or tatty looking notes as you will find it difficult to pass on. Counterfeit bolivianos and US dollars are less common than they used to be, but it still happens. Be extra vigilant.
ATM’s are widely available in the sizeable towns, however in smaller towns cash is recommended. Bring more than one card option with you and be sure to alert your home bank that you are travelling to Bolivia.
Credit cards are accepted in the larger towns and higher standard hotels and restaurants.
Do change bolivianos before you leave the country as they can be difficult to exchange outside of Bolivia.
Gentle haggling is usually accepted at markets, and some negotiation is common if arranging a service such as renting a taxi for a day. Use your judgment but arguing over a dollar or two probably is not worth it.
Visas and Vaccinations
You must have all visas (and vaccination) certificates that are necessary to enter or pass through Bolivia.
Visa requirements are subject to change so please check with a Visa Service Company in the country in which you are located or you can check details online instantly with companies such as CIBT Visas (https://cibtvisas.co.uk/. Visas can be obtained through the relevant embassy or consulate.
General Note: Some countries refuse admission to travellers not meeting their accepted standards of dress or appearance (even if they hold a visa). Entry may also be refused to certain countries if your passport bears stamps or visas (valid or expired) for Israel.
A useful general health advice website for travellers is http://www.who.int/ith/en/ and there are also advice sites in individual countries.
Please note it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct, current visa and vaccination information and that you act on it.