Bolivia

The view from my hostel in La Paz.

When I began my long term travels, Bolivia was the first country on the list and I ended up spending almost a month there. I had wanted to go there because it has amazing natural wonders and most of all, I could hike in the Andes.  The cost of travel in Bolivia is also incredibly low.  That being said, Bolivia was the first developing country I had visited and it was a culture shock.  Prior to that trip, I had only been to Costa Rica and Western Europe.  Seeing how women were treated, the poverty and the harsh reality of life for some Bolivians taught me a lot about the world.

That being said, it’s not surprising that I didn’t particularly love Bolivia as a country, however, if I went back today, I think I’d have a totally different perspective having traveled more.  Bolivia is a cool country, just mentally prepare yourself for something very different if it’s your first developing country.

There is so much to see and do here and once you more accustomed to how life looks outside of the western world.  I have also learned that although the people of Bolivia seemed cold and somewhat closed to me then, I am now much better at connecting with people, and I think they may take a bit more work, but the effort is always worth while.

Bolivia is incredible and challenging at the same time.  I would highly suggest it to anyone who loves to travel for natural beauty and for culture.  Pack for four seasons and lots of hiking.

The markets are dizzying and busy.  You can get everything from 40 different varieties of potatoes to pig’s feet and avocados.  If you are the superstitious type, you may also buy a llama fetus to sacrifice to Pachamama.

Cholitas in the market

Even if you are not into biking, biking down the Death Road is a great introduction to Bolivia.  You start in the cold of the high altitude altiplano and descent into the jungle as the day goes on.

Biking the Death Road

Valle de Luna is a $15 cab ride from La Paz and is totally worth it for it’s surreal rock formations.

Valle de Luna outside La Paz

Honestly, it seems like Salar de Uyuni is one big photo opportunity.  All world travelers have one of these perspective shots.  It’s also one of the strangest landscapes I’ve ever seen, almost other-worldly.

Salar de Uyuni, the Salt Flats of Bolivia

The silver mines of Potosi were another cultural eye-opener.  These are shocking and part of me thinks it’s not really right that a place that is so unsafe is a tourist attraction.  However, this had a big impact on the group I went with and was very eye opening on working conditions in other countries.

Silver mines of Potosi

Sucre almost felt like a different country.  There is a lot of Spanish influence here.  It would be a great place to stay while learning Spanish.

Sucre

On the border with Peru is Copacabana, a touristy town on the shore of Lake Titicaca.  Here I met both a former emerald smuggler and a llama hater.  From Copacabana you can take a boat to Isla de Sol and see ancient Inca ruins.

This shack on Isla del Sol sold candy bars, bottle water and cigarettes

This Bolivian soccer match put American football fans to shame, and I heard it was one of the more tame crowds.

The chaos of a soccer match

Do not miss the Pampas if you go to Bolivia.  This experience is one of my all time travel favorites.  I first went on the traditional Pampas tour and then went again. I will never forget the sounds of the jungle at night.

 

The Amazon basin or the the Pampas