touring | bolivia | '17 - an unexpected landscape behemoth
'an unknown natural wonder with epic landscapes'
when i arrived from peru crossing the border near copacabana, a lake side resort town where i spent a few hours visiting isla del sol before hoping on my bus (bolivia hop) and making the 4 hour journey to la paz i had limited expectation as i did not hear much of this vast country before.
at around 10pm we started to see glimpses of la paz. a sprawling metropolis built from mostly what it seemed like shanty homes and nearly all seemed to be unfinished. looking down from the main highway that hugs the edge of the mountain all i could see was total darkness except for the incandescent lights that adorned each home. i was staying this time as what is referred to as a party hostel, loki. its right in the city centre and the largest hostel that i have ever stayed in with 7 floors and a rooftop bar. the location is awesome and the rooftop bar converts into a restaurant during the day that has great views over the main city. now from first impressions of the city it is not the prettiest as people seem to have built whatever they want wherever they want but as you dig through the urban decay of most building you will come across some gems like the city hall and the beautiful colonial churches. i would recommend that you take the red hat free walking tour that happens twice daily. it take you through the history and culture of this city that has a lot of recent political issues.
world's deadliest road
my self and my newly acquainted friend taro, from japan decided to take on whats know as the world deadliest road on mountain bike. its a super popular tour and many companies make the trip. at its highest you are around 4500m above sea level at the starting point and finish around 2000m at the end point. its an exhilarating ride that takes around 5 hours but including the ride there and back you will be out from 7am in the morning and get back into the city around 7pm. for bolivian prices its expensive at around ($85) per person but its well worth it for the sights are spectacular. but beware that although all the companies take safety very seriously tourists has died in recent years and they have also had a lot of major injuries so only attempt to do the road if you have good biking skills. nervous riders should stay away.
food as always is a big part of the culture and as usual i went to find the best. the la paz food scene is not that great most of the food is super heavy and attention to good food, detail is not at the top of the priority list for this city as its one of the poorest countries in south america but on saying that i have two favourites. the first is a super simply avocado sandwich that can be found in the markets for around ($0.50) and the second is a new place that i came across called; hay pan. this was the most elegant place i found in la paz. its a wine bar serving bolivian style tapas along with some great wines all products that are from local bolivian producers. take the plate for 2 its around ($10) for a selection of most things on the menu, the goats cheese was a particular favourite of mine.
uyuni salt flats & national park
you can take the night bus to uyuni. it's the most economical and i believe best way to get there. you leave around 9pm and arrive in uyuni around 7.30am about 2 hours before all the tours leave so gives you plenty of time to find a company to take you. most people think that if you don’t speak spanish you need an english speaking tour but thats not true. the guide is basically a driver and while they do give you some history of the place its not worth paying more than double for an english speaking guide. me and taro decided to go for a company near the bus stop we paid around ($90) for a spanish speaking tour for 3 days 2 nights, if you take the english tour with red planet the most popular company its ($210) a big difference and in essence the same tour so its not worth it to pay double.
day 1, they take you on a tour of the salt flats that is the biggest salt flat area in the world or so i was told. here you’ll have multiple opportunities for amazing photos of this place. truly you can get some fantastic images. as the sun started to set we made of way to the first nights stay a hostel made from salt. it was a great experience and much warmer than i expected. a really cool experience.
day 2, you will leave the salt flats and make your way to the national park. while the tour is called the salt flats you actually spend most of your time in the national park. i have never heard of this park before but i can tell you that its one of the most beautiful and majestic places that i have every visited. its a place of amazing colours, mountains, lakes and flamencos. we spent the whole day in and out of the car visiting spectacular landscapes. i was in my element with my camera.
day 3, we woke at 4am to make our way towards the chilean border. the first stop was naturally occurring geysers at sunrise it made for a surreal experience. while it was very cold its was a
moment that i will never forget. the next stop for me was the most epic and spectacular place that we visited, laguna verde. its a mineral lake that has turned green set under a volcano. i think i made some of the best images of my life here. it was one of those places where your jaw drops when you experience the true beauty of the sight. we then made our way to the chilean border where our driver dropped us off to catch the bus to san pedro de atacama. the tour is truly amazing but don’t expect luxury this is a basic place with basic accommodation and food. you can always buy snacks along the way but you will pay more than in most western countries. but if you willing to overlook that then this will probably be one of the most amazing trips of your life.
all i can say is that i had very limited expectations and wow. its one if my favourite places in world. if your into epic landscapes then this is the country to visit.
my recommended places to visit
- la paz
- death road
- uyuni salt flat tour & national park
places to eat
- hay pan (la paz)
- markets for avocado sandwich
- local street stalls
how to get around
- bus (todo turismo) la paz to uyuni
- hop on and off service | peru & bolivia hop
-uber (super cheap here) (use code; carlm5078ue for a free ride)
where i stayed
- (la paz) loki hostel
- (uyuni) all accommodation is organised on the tour
length of stay
- i would say if you truly want to experience all of bolivia then at least 1 month. but if your tight for time they just plan ahead.
- they use boliviano, its a super cheap country.
- if you a european citizen and you travel often see my blog post on the curve card its the best travel card around i have saved hundreds of euros using it. download the app and enter my promo code to get a free card & €/£5. click here to see the post
country travel tips
atm: any is fine they all charge a small fee.
taxi: can be expensive here take an uber
sim card: tiro seems to be the best
uber: use code; carlm5078ue
airbnb: get $20usd off your booking here: www.airbnb.com/c/cmuies