Bolivia was once off the tourist map but this diverse country is starting to get some international recognition as a must-visit tourist destination. It has plenty to offer for the curious and adventurous traveler. Things to do in Bolivia range from some of the most dangerous roads in the world to swimming with dolphins in the Amazon, climbing mountains in the Andes and relaxing by the shores of Lake Titicaca and taking in the culture of the capital La Paz.
Things To Do In Bolivia
Your international flight will most probably have you landing in La Paz. Most travelers on a Bolivia trip look to move on quite quickly but it’s worth spending a night or two in La Paz to explore the city and what it has to offer.
It’s home to the world’s longest and highest cable car known as Teleferico. This impressive structure has three lines that run from the south of La Paz up to the neighboring city of El Alto. As you board one of the comfy modern cabins, you’ll ascend up over the city and see breathtaking views of La Paz and the surrounding mountain range. This awesome experience will cost you less than $0.50 and give you a chance to wander around El Alto too before your journey back down.
If you happen to be in El Alto on a Sunday, it’s well worth watching some cholita wrestling. This is where indigenous Aymara women dressed in a traditional pollera skirt wrestle with men and defeat them in a comically brutal fashion. It’s quite a sight to behold and all the locals get involved.
While looking for things to do in La Paz, you should also check out the witches market where you’ll find a range of potions, elixirs, voodoo charms, natural remedies and Ayahuasca, a hallucinogen used by shamans for natural rituals. You’ll also have the opportunity to engage in witchcraft; fortune readings, magic spells, and curses are all available on request.
The oddest thing and probably the most memorable of the market are the dried out Llama fetuses that were traditionally buried under buildings as a sacrifice to the gods.
Visit Bolivia and the Death Road
Just a few hours outside of La Paz is Death Road. It is exactly what it sounds like, the most dangerous road in the world. The trail begins way up high in the mountains and descends around blisteringly sharp corners through the lush jungle forests in the Yungas region. The views as you come down are mind-blowing and the adrenaline is too.
Every year around 30,000 people hop on a mountain bike and decide to run down this super risky road for the fun of it. You might think their crazy but it’s actually fun and safe enough to be one of the most popular Bolivia tourist attractions.
Lake Titicaca is one of the most historically significant places in the Andes. It’s believed to be the birthplace of the Inca civilization where Viracocha (the Incan god), created the sun, moon and the stars from the lake’s central islands. It’s also where many think Manco Capac, the first Inca king, and Viracocha’s son, was born.
A trip to Bolivia would be incomplete without spending some time around the lake’s shores. You can relax, sunbathe on the beaches, swim, fish, and enjoy freshly cooked trout. A trip to Isla del Sol (sun island) is well worth it while you’re there too.
Hop on a ferry and take the 3-hour hike around the island to see some Inca ruins and some magical views around the island the sun, moon and stars were born on.
Madidi National Park – A Bolivia Wildlife Gem
This incredible national park is part of the Amazon basin and is found in northern Bolivia, near the border of Peru. It’s a quick 40-minute flight from La Paz or a 20-hour bus ride. Although considered one of the best places to visit in Bolivia, it is not recommended to go there solo. There are many tour operators and eco-lodges that will show you around once you’re there.
The park is famous for its incredible diversity and is home to hundreds of thousands of different species of birds, plants, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. In fact, 14% of the world’s known species of birds have been seen in the park. How’s that for diversity?
Madidi National Park encompasses both high mountain forests and lowland jungles. Some of the most iconic animals to see are jaguars, spectacled bears, ocelots, giant otters, and pink river dolphins.
The best time to be there is between April and October during the dry season when the wildlife congregates around the river and is easily spotted.
Salar de Uyuni – The Largest Salt Flats in the World
Nothing can quite prepare you for a trip over the Salar de Uyuni. One of the most unique places to visit in Bolivia, it is a vast expanse of salt flats in the middle of nowhere. And when you combine it with a multi-day trip around the region, taking in a variety of colored lakes, volcanoes and flamingo spotting, it is definitely something you will never forget.
The Salar de Uyuni is insanely immense at 11,000 square kilometers (4250 square miles) and heading into the middle of it is like losing yourself in a bizarre world with nothing else in sight.
There are however some stunning rocking outcrops you will also be taken to in the area that are covered in jaw-dropping cacti. On top of that, the accommodation in the area often consists of hotels made entirely of salt, so try to overnight in one of those if you can!
Personally, I did the multi-day trip and would recommend it, but if you are starved for time, you can also head straight to the Salar de Uyuni and just see that in one day.
Mountain Magic of Bolivia – Sajama National Park
Sajama National Park is a few hours from La Paz on the Chilean border. On your Bolivia trip it’s a great place to go if you want to get away from it all and enjoy some of the magic the mountains have to offer.
Nevado Sajama, Bolivia’s highest peak is in the park and its snow-capped top is visible from anywhere in the park. Hiking trails are all around and you can wander up the volcano, around mountain lakes and look out for the local wildlife. Llamas, alpacas, pumas, Andean foxes and more roam around the dry mountain tops. It’s also home to the world’s highest forest and some hot-springs which are great to soak in after a long day of walking.
There is also a cultural side to the national park. Around the town of Tomarapi, you’ll find a few rock paintings that date back millennia, chullpas (funerary tower containing the mummies of noble families) and ancient Aymara fortifications.
Just outside the park is possibly the most interesting sites, the Sajama lines. A series of lines that stretch 16000 kilometers etched into the altiplano and is one of the largest pieces of artwork on earth.
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What would be your pick of best things to do in Bolivia?
Mike is addicted to both adventure and travel, so decided to combine the two to form TheAdventourist. There he shares his journey from one adrenaline rush to another, always exploring new places as he goes. You can find him sharing his travels on Facebook.