South America is rich with unique cultures, varied landscapes, and rewarding destinations. Despite many millions of tourists visiting the continent each year, landlocked Bolivia still remains relatively untouched and off the well-worn tourist path. For travelers looking to see a lesser-visited (yet equally remarkable) destination with stunning nature, bustling cities, and ancient cultures, consider traveling to the underrated Andean country of Bolivia.
The diverse geography of Bolivia offers plenty of opportunities to go out for an exciting adventure. This country differs from other popular tourist destinations by providing you the chance to dive deep into the local culture, explore the great outdoors, and experience some of the most unique experiences available in the world.
The Bolivian Amazon may rest more than a thousand kilometers from the flow of the Amazon River itself, but the piece of the Amazon Rainforest that lies within Bolivia’s borders is some of the best you’ll find. Largely untouched, the Bolivian Amazon boasts a well-preserved natural environment with all of the nature and none of the tourists. Here reside jaguars, tapirs, giant anteaters, and a flurry of exotic birds flying through the lush rainforest canopy. Caimans and turtles lounge along the shores of the water as piranhas and pink dolphins swim past, the sounds of the wild poking through the tranquil jungle air.
The best way to explore the Bolivian Amazon is by cruising along the Amazonian tributaries, with routes that embark from the lively, tropical city of Trinidad, Bolivia. Cruises here explore the Rio Mamore and Rio Ibare, and nearby Llanos de Moxos region, the southernmost extension of the Amazon basin.
Perhaps Bolivia’s most photogenic destination, Salar de Uyuni is dreamy, in a word. These massive plains of salt are easily recognizable by the beautiful contrast of the deep blue sky and bright white ground, stretching infinitely in every direction. The cracks in the salt form in the shape of hexagons, naturally perfect in form. Most impressive is when the ground floods in the rainy season, constantly maintaining just a couple of inches of water above the salt. The water turns the salt flats into a massive mirror, reflecting the far off mountains and perfect sky, and the thin wet layer makes it appear as if visitors are walking on water.
Spend a day sailing across the salty stretch of land in an old Jeep, visit Cactus Island still standing in the middle, and walk on water as the sun sets in a hundred hues or pink, purple and blue. Those with more time should spend several days driving deeper into Uyuni’s impressive desert to be rewarded with flamingos, mountains, multi-colored lakes, and the best desert scenery you’ll find in all of Bolivia.
Bolivia’s de facto capital city, La Paz is a unique metropolis when compared to other major South American cities. Nestled high in the Andes, the chaotic tumble of terracotta pours down the hillsides, the classic downtown pooling in the center. The ominous Mount Illimani volcano and otherworldly rock formations of the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) perch on one side of the city, the highland residences of the El Alto neighborhood on another, and the popular teleferico – the world’s largest cable car system – strings over it all from above.
Wander the hilly cobblestoned roads with a guide, stopping by sights such as the San Francisco Church, guard-less San Pedro Prison, or historic government palace, and learn about their roles in Bolivia’s complicated past. Explore local haunts by climbing through the winding alleys of the eerie Witch Market, the local go-to for love potions or offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth), or barter with Bolivia’s beloved cholitas selling over 7,000 varieties of potatoes at the Mercado Rodriguez.
An idyllic destination, Lake Titicaca lies on the border of Peru and Bolivia with two of the lake’s main destinations resting within the Bolivian borders: Copacabana and Isla del Sol. Copacabana is the town on the beautiful shores of the awe-inspiring lake, the gateway for travelers to embark on a traditional boat ride across this massive expanse of water. Sail past floating villages, ride the gentle waves in woven reed boats, and observe life as it’s been for decades.
Those with time should sail towards the middle if the lake, where you can lose complete sight of the shore on Isla del Sol. Hiking trails weave across the island, through the swaying yellow reeds that stand out against the blue water below. Spend a night on the island in a charming bungalow and don’t miss the impossibly brilliant stars dancing over the island each night.
Do you love food and trying different local cuisine options? Cochabamba is a foodie’s dream come true destination in Bolivia. This gastronomic center is home to restaurants serving huge portions of Bolivia’s most exemplary and traditional cuisine. Cochabamba also has a pleasant year-round climate, huge cultural scene, and plenty of natural places to explore nearby.
Are you an outdoor adventurer? Or do you love seeing wildlife in a natural setting? If so, you must visit Kaa Iya National Park, a remote national park on the border of Bolivia and Paraguay. The biggest attraction at the park is being able to see the animals, especially the jaguars, in a natural wild setting. In addition to seeing big cats, Kaa Iya National Park is one of the best places in Bolivia for birding because the park has more than 300 species of birds. If you are an animal enthusiast, this is definitely one location you must visit when you travel to Bolivia.
Experience one of the lesser-known places to visit in Bolivia by planning a getaway to Ojos del Inca Laguna, which is about one hour from Potosi. This is a fun destination to experience a natural spring nestled in between the mountains. It is a must-see location, but because the springs are not safe to swim in, you can swim in one of the local pools filled with the same water as the natural spring. It does get frigid at the springs, so bring along a change of clothes or a warm cover-up.
Bolivia is home to many must-see destinations offering incredible natural settings and unique culture. Sucre, Bolivia’s capital city, is a breathtakingly beautiful metropolis and definitely a must-visit. While exploring the town, you will be immersed among parks and white stone architecture, making this the perfect backdrop for a picnic or leisurely stroll. Sucre is home to many beautiful churches, the National Library, and many restaurants serving authentic local cuisine.
Tarija is another lesser-visited destination tucked on the border of Bolivia, near Argentina and Paraguay. If you want to kick back and relax on your upcoming trip to Bolivia, you will want to make sure to visit Tarija. This town is the epicenter for the up-and-coming South American wine production industry, offering a laid-back vibe and welcoming environment for visitors. As you explore this town, you will encounter quaint street markets, restored museums, eccentric buildings, and relaxing waterfalls.
Torotoro is a dream destination that is the place to visit for a pleasant climate, vast caverns, breathtaking canyons, and circuits of prehistoric curiosities. This village is home to monumental rock formations for dinosaur enthusiasts, which contain fossils and footprints of dinosaurs from the cretaceous period in the Torotoro National Park. Not into dinosaurs? No problem. Torotoro is still a must-visit village, offering you the opportunity to explore underground caverns, massive canyons, a local museum, and rock paintings.
The Train Cemetery, a few kilometers outside of Uyuni, is a surreal sight and something unique to add to your vacation itinerary. This location was once used to transport cargo to the Pacific Ocean Ports and provides fantastic photo opportunities and memorable vacation experiences. The train graveyard also serves as a playground, meaning if you had your tetanus shots, you can climb all over the trains and capture fun photos.
In Bolivia, you’ll find enchanting cultures new and old, living in peaceful harmony with the untouched natural landscape. Whether you are looking for an outdoor adventure or to experience city life, this country has something for you to enjoy. From the white plains of Salar de Uyuni to the exotic greens and blue of the Amazon rainforest to the red-tiled roofs cascading through the Andes in La Paz, these must see places to visit in Bolivia are waiting for you to discover them.
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