Bolivia is fascinating but somewhat less well-known country, sandwiched in between its many neighbours: Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. Just by taking a looking at the map it’s easy to see why it might have fewer visitors than its more popular neighbours, especially Argentina, Brazil and Peru,. One thing that immediately leaps out at you is the lack of a coast line, something it also has in common with Paraguay. The central, southern and eastern areas of the country are mostly situated at high altitudes, on what is known as the Altiplano. This part of the country is comprised of some very rugged countryside, which makes getting from A to B a slow process, through winding mountain roads and by means of a railway line, of which there is only one in the whole country. The views are spectacular, but if you are short on time or patience, you might want to think about flying.
The capital of Bolivia is renowned for being the highest in the world at around 4000m at its highest point. A fascinating and highly unusual city, situated in a long, elongated hollow or valley, set down in what is otherwise a sort of empty plain. Interestingly, the city itself is not visible as you approach by road, but then suddenly reveals itself as you drop down into the valley, a vast sprawling metropolis stretching up and down the sides of the valley, with majestic snowcapped peaks as a backdrop. One way to get around in La Paz is by means of the cable cars that you can see traversing the length and breadth of the city. This makes sense as a mode of transportation given the unusual geography and consequent issues getting about at street level.
This is a much more manageable city for several reasons and is positioned right in the centre of the country. First of all the altitude is a lot more forgiving, at around 2500m, still high up but nowhere near as problematic as La Paz. Secondly, the central location makes it ideal as a base for exploring the rest country, as everything is relatively within reach. It is also known as the city of eternal spring, for its great weather all year round.
Another fascinating city, only around one hour by plane from Cochabamba, this time located almost at sea level. This means that one is really in a tropical climate and surrounded by jungle, something which is immediately obvious when one steps out of the airport. Much more modern than many other cities in Bolivia and with a stunning main square and cathedral, you’ll want to include this on your list.
This is the historical old capital of Bolivia, a fascinating colonial city located a few hours to the east of Santa Cruz and known for its stunning Spanish style architecture, all painted in white.
Another few hours on to the east from Sucre is the mining town of Potosi, high in the Andes. Famous for its silver mine, which consists of a cone-shaped mountain towering high above the city, this place has been occupied continuously since Inca times. If you are feeling brave you can take the guided tour deep inside the mine!
Here you can find the famous ‘salar’, a vast dry salt lake, which is a very popular tourist destination. A stunning and dramatic landscape which can be reached by means of organised tours from the local town of Uyuni itself. Here, you can also find the aforementioned railway line which, is a great option for those planning to travel toward the north toward La Paz and Cochambamba.