It’s been 6 months since I was in Bolivia, but my trip to this South American country keeps popping into my head.
There was so much about it that stuck with me. It had such a unique culture, like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
Bolivia might not make appearances in any of the ‘top countries to visit this year’ lists that you might have seen circulating the internet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering.
If you’re looking for something different than the well-trodden tourist path – here’s my list of reasons why Bolivia should be next on your list.
1. You can drive through the world’s largest salt flats
I can’t even explain how massive and amazing these salt flats are. We booked an Uyuni tour through Red Planet Expeditions and spent hours driving into what was seemingly the middle of nowhere, then took some fun perspective photos and climbed up on an island of cactuses. An experience like this is something that you just can’t find anywhere else.
2. You can climb up on abandoned trains
If you don’t know it already – I have a thing for abandoned places. So you might understand why the train graveyard, which was part of the Uyuni tour, was one of the activities I was most excited for.
At this train graveyard, you can actually climb in, around, and on top of the old rusty trains. I think Robert explained it perfectly when he said “It’s like a playground for adults”.
3. You can actually meet ancient tribes at Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca borders Bolivia and Peru, so if you travel overland between the two countries, you have the opportunity to meet the ancient pre-Incan tribes of Lake Titicaca.
You’ll find them at Isla del Sol, Isla Taquile, and the floating Uros Islands. Boat tours can be booked from Copacabana on the Bolivian side, or Puno on the Peruvian side, where you’ll be taken to these communities to learn about their past and interact with the people.
4. You can mountain bike down the world’s most dangerous road
If you think this is overhyped, let me tell you – it’s not. Our mountain biking trip down Death Road required us to get uncomfortably close to the edge of a very steep cliff, all while trying to keep our handlebars steady as they vibrated with the rough gravel beneath our tires.
Around 250 people per year die on this notorious road, but don’t worry – we were told that not many of them are cyclists! Death Road, which is still in use by vehicles, is more dangerous for cars or trucks when they try and pass each other.
It’s essential to book a tour for mountain biking Death Road. We went with Altitude Adventures, who were very professional and considered our group’s safety before anything else.
5. You can see Bolivian Cholitas in traditional dress
Cholitas are traditionally dressed Bolivian women who wear small bowler hats, large boofy skirts, and have their hair in long plaits. It’s a very unique fashion style that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
Cholitas can be found all over Bolivia. You can even go to Cholita Wrestling in La Paz, if that kind of thing is up your alley (and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like).
6. You get to drink loads of coca tea
The Coca plant is grown in only South America, and the tea is primarily used to help your body adjust to the altitude. Considering La Paz sits at 3640 metres (11,975 ft) above sea level, any trip to the Bolivian capital will mean you’ll be offered coca tea at some stage.
Aside from coca tea, there’s a few things you can do for the altitude. We acquired some medication from our travel doctor before we left, and these reduced the effects to only a subtle ‘altitude headache’ which lasted about 3 days. Some people in our hostel were bedridden with altitude sickness, so do be careful and drink up that coca tea.
#funfact: Coca leaves are actually what cocaine is extracted from, but you won’t get high from drinking the tea. Coca leaf extract has also been used in Coca Cola products since 1885, though there’s no traces of cocaine in it!
7. You can see unique Bolivian street art
The street art in La Paz was different to what you might see on the streets of America or Europe. The locals have added a Bolivian element, so you can expect to see Cholitas, Alpacas, and the brightly patterned fabrics of Bolivia all represented in the street art.
8. You can eat unlimited avocados
My vegetarian diet meant it was a little difficult to find food in Bolivia, and it was also challenging to find anything healthy – Coca Cola practically owns Bolivia and they don’t exactly have a history of producing wholesome foods.
Still, if you’re a massive fan of avocados (like I am) and don’t mind eating them every day, you might be happy to know that they’re cheap, perfectly ripe, and readily available in street markets. I practically lived off avocados and bread while I was there.
9. It has spectacular natural scenery
The salt flats aren’t the only place for spectacular natural scenery in Bolivia. Lake Titicaca’s islands (such as Isla del Sol, pictured above) are so damn beautiful that you won’t be able to put down your camera.
Nearer to La Paz, the El Palmar Integrated Management Natural Area marks the beginning of the Death Road descent and has some amazing high altitude lakes and mountains, or for something different you can travel about 10km from La Paz to Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) to see the exposed rock spires caused by erosion.
10. It’s totally affordable
Bolivia is a lower-middle income country and has experienced many ups and downs in it’s economy over the past 30 years. At the moment, it’s a fairly cheap country for travellers.
Flights within South America are usually on the expensive side, but once you arrive, you can expect to pay maybe half to two-thirds of the price you would normally pay for food, drinks, and sightseeing in the US or Western Europe.