Relics. Landscapes. Rivers. Jungles. Peaks. Capture the excitement in one of South America’s most diverse and astounding nation. Welcome to Bolivia!
A blend of history, multi-ethnic culture and extreme adventures, Bolivia offers endless possibilities for every type of travelers. From the lavish hotels and resorts in Copacabana to the otherworldly expanse of salt flats of Uyuni, the many attractions of Bolivia will surely give you a one of kind travel experience.
Bolivia at a glance
Bolivia is an ethnically diverse nation in South America sharing borders with Peru, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. It boasts a certain charm that transports every visitors to a time of the early South American civilizations. Due to its geographic features consisting of different land forms and landscapes, weather in Bolivia depends on a particular region. But generally speaking, Bolivia has two seasons – wet (November-April) and dry (May-October).
The currency in Bolivia is Boliviano (BOB). ATMs and credits cards are widely accepted, but check with your bank beforehand if there are any limitations before you head to Bolivia. As a general rule, do not rely on credit or debit cards when traveling in Bolivia. It is still best to bring enough US dollar bills (bring smaller denomination bills).
Being a Spanish colony for three centuries, Spanish have become the nation’s language. However, Bolivians still use their own like Aymara, Quechua and more than thirty other indigenous languages.
Sample day by day itinerary 10 days in Bolivia
10 days won’t give you the opportunity to see as much of the country as you’d like. Bolivia is a big nation and its geographic and transportation barriers make touring around the country a bit complicated. However, this 10-day itinerary will give you an idea on how to best experience Bolivia. Please note this itinerary begins and ends in La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia.
Flying to Bolivia is not cheap! At this point the only direct flight from the US is from Miami with a round-trip ticket for about 820 during the dry season. From New York the price jumps to about 920 USD – 1000 USD. From London, a round-trip ticket costs about 1500 USD and from Hong Kong – a little under 1800 USD. If you are a budget traveler, your best option will be to combine a trip to Bolivia with another destination in the area. Good idea will be a trip to Peru since there are direct flights from Lima to La Paz that cost less than 250 USD for a round-trip ticket.
Day 1: La Paz
Take an international flight to La Paz El Alto International Airport (LPB), situated above the Bolivian Capital of La Paz. Try to schedule it so that an overnight flight gets you there very early in the morning. Natural factors such as jet lag and acclimatization to high altitude requires most visitors to take a rest and recover.
Where to stay in La Paz:
Stannum Boutique Hotel (Av Arce 2631 | San Jorge, La Paz, Bolivia)
Casa Grande Hotel (Calle 16 No. 8009, Calacoto, La Paz 1132, Bolivia)
Hotel Rosario La Paz (Av. Illampu 704, La Paz 12446, Bolivia)
Camino Real Aparthotel & Spa (Capitan Ravelo No. 2123, La Paz, Bolivia)
Casa Fusion Hotel Boutique (Miguel de Cervantes No. 2725 – Sopocachi, La Paz 3-35171, Bolivia)
Take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in La Paz on your first day. La Paz rests on the Andes’ Altiplano plateau at more than 3,500 meters (11,500 ft) above sea level, so be prepared for high altitude and cold nights. It is recommended to drink coca tea to soothe altitude sickness.
Once rested, stroll around the city and its markets like the Witches’ Market. Stop off at Museo de la Coca (Linares, La Paz, Bolivia, Bolivia; tel: +591 2 2311998) and learn about the history, uses and culture surrounding the coca plant. In the evening, have a light and relaxing dinner at one of the top rated restaurants in La Paz such as Rendezvous Restaurant (Subteniente M. Carranza, La Paz, Bolivia; tel:+591 2 291245) and Namas Te (C. Zoilo Flores # 1334 Almost Esq, La Paz 2481401, Bolivia; tel: +591 2 2481401).
Day 2: Tiwanaku
Wake up early and join a guided tour to the enigmatic site of Tiwanaku, a Pre-Columbian archaeological wonder. The Tiwanaku is a complex society existed hundreds of years before the Inca and is believed to have lasted more than 25 centuries in the Andes. By joining a guided tour, you will learn about how this great civilization developed some of the most advanced irrigation system, impressive stone monoliths among other things. Some of the highlights of the Tiwanaku sites are the Akapana (Pyramid), semi underground temple and the Kalasasaya (Standing rocks).
Day 3: Lake Titicaca
On you third day, take a cab or bus to the world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca. You may also explore the lake, Copacabana and Sun Island altogether by joining a guided tour from La Paz. Learn the history of the ancient civilization and the local Andean culture. Tours normally include a private chartered boat to the Sun Island where you can wander though the ancient Incan ruins.
Day 4: Sucre
On your fourth day, board a short flight to Bolivia’s most appealing city, the ‘white city’ of Sucre (a round trip with Amaszonas cost about 125 USD and the flight itself is about 40 minutes). Founded in the 1500s by Spanish colonials, this beautiful city is famous for its charming whitewashed buildings, welcoming atmosphere, and year-round spring like climate. Sucre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Where to stay in Sucre:
Sky Hacienda (Mosoj Llajta | Yotala, Nr Sucre, Sucre, Bolivia)
Hotel Boutique Mi Pueblo Samary (Calle Dalence # 349 | Hotel Samary S.R.L, Sucre, Bolivia)
Parador Santa Maria la Real (Bolivar 625, Sucre 00000, Bolivia)
Hotel Villa Antigua (Calvo 237 | Frente Al Museo Del Convento de Santa Clara, Sucre, Bolivia)
Hotel Monasterio (calle Calvo No 140, Sucre, Bolivia)
Staying at one of the attractive whitewashed hotels in Sucre is one of those quintessential Bolivian experience which can’t be skipped. Get settled and explore the nearby attractions on the main square, Plaza 25 de Mayo. Head to Casa de la Libertad, the place where the declaration of independence was signed in 1825. For tourists interested in architecture and history, don’t forget to visit the Catedral (the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Bolivia. It was built between 1559 to 1712), Museo de la Catedral, Templo Nuestra Señora de la Merced and Iglesia de San Francisco.
Day 5: Sucre
The next day, visit the nearby village of Tarabuco (catch a tourist bus from the main plaza in Sucre departing 8.30 am, cost 35 Bolivianos or about 5 USD. It is cheaper to catch local bus from Centro and then transfer in historical area out to Tarabuco. Round trip is 10 Bolivianos or about 1.50 USD. Another option is to rent a car – check with your hotel for the available options). If you are lucky enough that your fifth day in Bolivia is on a Sunday, then you also go to the Tarabuco Sunday market. Here, you will witness the indigenous people of the surrounding mountains sell their beautiful weavings, dried foodstuff, sandals and other local products. You can also pick some souvenirs like ch’uspa coca bags, ponchos, shawls and a lot more.
Back in the heart of Sucre, explore the other attractions such as Universidad de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca, Santa Clara Convent and La Recoleta.
Day 6: Potosi
A two hour drive south west of Sucre is Potosi, a small pre-hispanic city perched at an altitude of 4,000 meters (13,120 ft) above sea level. The mining town of Potosi (founded 1545) sits at the base of Cerro Rico, a mountain “made of silver” which famously enriched the Spanish empire. Despite the flow of silver out of the town, the population remains poor and many work in extremely dangerous conditions in the mines, tracking down the remainder of the silver. It is possible to tour the mines (check Marco Polo Tours for details). You can learn more about Potosi and its mines by watching the Devil’s Miner, a film about a young Potosi mine-worker, which is regularly shown in bars throughout Sucre.
There are several options to get to Potosi from Sucre:
By the iconic bus-train (or as the local call it “buscarril” or “ferrobus”), travel will take approximately seven hours, but it is seven hours of fantastic views as the bus-train navigates around mountains, lakes and valleys. If you are not on a tight schedule and would like to marvel at the mountain scenery, then this route is definitely something to consider. Tickets cost 25 Bolivianos (3.62 USD).
By bus. The road between Potosi and Sucre is paved and in good condition. Buses leave roughly hourly from 6.30am, and take around three to four hours. In Sucre,the buses leave from the bus station which is a short taxi ride (taxi ride cost about 4 bolivianos per person or about 0.60 USD) from the center. If leaving from Potosi you can catch the bus from the new terminal (Nueva Terminal) which is located about a 20 minute taxi ride form the town center (3.50 bolivianos per person or about 0.50 USD), otherwise it’s a 30 minute walk.
The bus costs around 17 Bolivianos (2.50 USD), with more expensive semi-cama (half-bed) and full cama (full-bed) options available (as the buses are generally going to or from La Paz – you’re unlikely to need the cama options if just going from Potosi to Sucre or vice versa). One of the best operators on the route is El Dorado. Tickets can be purchased at the bus station on the day, or sometimes a day or two in advance (depending on the company). There is a 2 Bolivianos (0.30 USD) “uso de terminal” departure tax to be paid at the bus station.
Hire a taxi. Taxis in Bolivia are cheap!!! The trip will take around 2-3 hours. Shared taxis (locals call them “trufis”) leave from the bus station and cost about 45 Bolivianos (6.50 USD) per person. A taxi off the street will cost more, at about 60 Bolivianos per person (about 9 USD or less than two grande iced Vanilla Lattes from Starbucks, holy sh*t!!!). Ask at you hotel to arrange tha taxi for you and the price will be even lower since the hotels have preferred prices with the taxis.
The most famous attraction in Potosi is the Cerro Rico, the mountain that towers the city once considered a jewel by the Spanish Colonials. Cerro Rico is the perfect destination for those who want to learn the effects of colonisation upon the indigenous people of Bolivia. Who would have thought the Spanish brought over 30,000 African slaves to work the mines? It is said that the goods extracted from the mines helped to fund Europe’s Industrial Revolution. Visitors may also tour the mines where an estimated 8 million indigenous people lived and died during the Spanish Colonial times.
Stay overnight at one of the hotels in Potosi. Rest well to prepare for your three-day Salar de Uyuni tour.
Day 7, 8 and 9: Three day Salar de Uyuni Tour
Undoubtedly one of the best travel experiences in South America is a visit to Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world. Full day or multi-day Salar de Uyuni tours need not to be booked in advance. Tour agencies in Uyuni, Potosi and La Paz can arrange your tour from there. Two-night stays in a salt hotel, transportation in 4×4 vehicle, English-speaking guide and driver, sleeping bags, full board meals are included in the tour. 3-day tours are normally priced at USD 200.
The opportunity for incredible photographs is endless during the tour, so frequent stops are provided for visitors to enjoy the landscape. Highlights include the white expanse of Salar de Uyuni, train cemetery on the outskirts of Uyuni, Mummy caves, Laguna Colorada (colored lagoons) scattered around the salt flats that are home to thousands of pink flamingos and the vast geothermal field of Sol de Mañana.
Day 10: La Paz
Start early in the morning in order to be transferred to the airport in time for your flight back to La Paz. You may schedule your flight back home in the evening so you can rest a little or go souvenir shopping on Calle Sagárnaga.
Have you been to Bolivia? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.