Bolivia provides several budget-friendly options for those set out to explore something new and mostly unseen. The small, landlocked country, surrounded by some of the top tourist destinations in South America, like Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, is often overlooked by travellers. From the high peaks of the Andes, tangled and dense jungles of the Amazon, to the vast salt flats, Bolivia has a little bit of everything.
The largest salt flat in the world stretches far across across Bolivia’s remote southwest, at an elevation of 3,656 metres (11,995 feet). This seemingly endless white desert, comprising over 10,000km², can be seen from outer space. The salt is over 10 meters thick in the centre and it contains 50-70% of the world’s lithium reserves. Due to lack of conventional construction materials, many of hotels here are built with salt blocks. You can stay there overnight to see the Milky Way. In the wet season, during winter, the Uyuni is covered with a thin sheet of water. This shallow salt lake is still drivable and perfectly mirrors the sky, creating illusions of infinity.
In the middle of the Salar there is the Incahuasi Island, a hilly and rocky outcrop of land featuring gigantic cacti in different shapes. The place is the top of the remains of an ancient volcano, which was submerged when the area was part of a prehistoric lake, roughly 40,000 years ago. Another tourist attraction is the Train Graveyard, located 3 km (1.9 mi) outside Uyuni. The rail lines here were used by the mining companies to carry minerals.
Photo: Dorota Olender
How to get there:
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Where to stay:
In Uyuni, we encourage you to stay at 3* Hotel de Sal Casa Andina with excellent reviews. All rooms are built with salt blocks and feature details of Andean décor. Each room is fitted with a private bathroom, a seating area, a dining table, flat-screen TV with cable channels and heating. Bed linen and towels are included. Set in Uyuni’s city centre, this 3-star hotel offers accommodation with free WiFi and free private parking on site. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant and room service is available. The hotel also offers bike hire.
In La Paz you could stay at La Colina B&B with a good price and very good reviews. Only a 5-minute drive from El Calacoto district, La Colina Bed & Breakfast offers rooms with free Wi-Fi and a buffet breakfast each day. The Moon Valley is 5 km away and Camino del Inca is within walking distance. This B&B is 400 m lower in altitude than the city center, with a warmer and more enjoyable climate. Fully carpeted, rooms at La Colina feature DVD players and cable TV. They have large windows covered with floor-to-ceiling curtains. Guests can unwind in the garden or the terrace, or read a book in the lounge by the fireplace.
What to do:
Bolivia is a great option for every adventure seeker. It offers fun-filled festivals, like Oruro Carnaval. In La Paz you can go to the Cholita wrestling match at the Ceja de El Alto, featuring Bolivian women battling it out in traditional petticoats and braids.
Take a trip into the Amazon jungle to see wildlife galore, go jaguar watching at Kaa Iya National Park or sandboarding in Lomas de Arena. The best way to experience the national parks is through one of the many ecological and cultural tours providing an authentic and safe jungle experience. In the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park you can go birdwatching in the pristine rainforest, climb the red cliffs of Huanchaca Plateau or take a canoe trip along the Paraguá River.
Hike along the shore of Lake Titicaca , go kayaking, paddle-boating or take a boat trip to one of the islands in the middle of the lake. Take a dip in the hot thermal springs of Aguas Calientes.
Go to Cal Orcko – the largest site of dinosaur footprints ever found, located a 20-minute ride from the colonial city of Sucre.
Enjoy the drastic landscape of the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), situated about 10 km (6.2 mi) from La Paz in the small town of Mallasa. There are walking trails and tours through the valley. You can also explore the Valle de las Animas (Valley of the Souls) with its needle-like rock formations.
Visit Laguna Colorada, a fiery red lake with thousands of pink flamingos, or go to Laguna Verde, a blue-green salt lake found at the foot of the volcano Licancabur.
Visit Santa Cruz, located in the tropical region of the country. The most prosperous city in the entire country is home to Bolivia’s best nightlife and international cuisine.
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