At 4800m up, Bolivia’s capital breaks all sorts of records – highest capital, highest international football stadium, highest golf course – all of which make it quite literally breathtaking. Its streets are an intoxicating mix of bustling Latin America capital and traditional highland, where taxicabs hoot at bowler-hatted ladies, and alpaca jerseys are sold on every street corner.
Salar de Uyuni
The world’s largest salt flats stretch out across the bone-dry altiplano on Bolivia’s border with Chile. Icy white and literally solid salt (hop out and lick the ground if you like) these vast salt flats will play tricks on the eyes as you motor across them. You’ll see flocks of pink flamingos feeding in the high-altitude lakes, and may be lucky enough to bathe in a steamy volcanic geiser bath, surrounded by snow. Be sure to stop off in a salt hotel!
The highest navigable lake in the world is as evocative as its name, its deep blue waters surrounded by Andean peaks. Life on its fringes has changed little over the past few centuries – fishing, alpaca herding and simple farming on terraces that predate the Incas. Stay with some locals and sample some of the local cuisine: quinoa and guinea pig.
Bolivia has a generous slice of the Amazon basin that includes rainforests cut by chocolate-brown rivers, as well as pampas, or grassland. A trip to one of the region’s lodges might give you the chance to see caiman, anaconda, piranhas and brightly coloured birdlife. Head to the sultry lowland town of Rurrenabaque to arrange your trip.
Markets and fiestas
In the highlands, towns come alive for market day, and a stroll around a weekly market shows Bolivian life in all its friendly, chaotic splendour.
From livestock to outlandish vegetables – Bolivia boasts a frightening array of potato species – through to knitted alpaca jerseys, hats and socks and richly-coloured textiles. The textile market at Tarabuco, near Sucre is especially worth a visit.
Fiestas are even more colourful and chaotic. A riotous – at times drunken – blend of western and indigenous religious rites accompanied by music, dancing and lots of firecrackers.
The world’s most dangerous road
Running from the highlands outside La Paz to the lowland town of Corioco, this road earns its name from the frightening number of accidents occurring on its 64km length.
Unsurprising given it includes a 3600m vertical drop along a single-lane gravel road plied by trucks, buses and more. It makes for an adrenaline-soaked daytrip, but be sure to go with a reputable company.
This graceful old colonial town was once Bolivia’s capital. Its within range of a number of great daytrips, but after a few days in the wilds of Bolivia, you might just as well enjoy hanging out in its cafes and bars.
Officially the world’s highest city – this chilly city is steeped in colonial history and indigenous culture. Wander through the colourful markets, sample fresh orange juice from local vendors and explore the colonial architecture.
Set in a highland landscape of richly-coloured mountains cut by narrow canyons, it’s no surprise that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid felt at home here. A great place to saddle up and head out for some Andean horsetrekking.