Most of the times, people visit Bolivia at the same time as they visit Peru. This country is full of wonders to see, but there is one I dreamed to see: the Salar of Uyuni. This desert is in the south of the country and will be my last stop. However, I will enjoy Bolivia and discover the wonderful places in this country!
Step 1: Titicaca Lake
If you followed my adventures in Peru, you know I crossed the border at Titicaca Lake. So, it makes sense this place is my first stop in Bolivia.
The Bolivian side is completely different from the Peruvian side. Here, there is only one island to visit: Isla del Sol. You can easily go there by your own, hike and even sleep on the island. Unfortunately, since 2016, the north of the island is closed due to conflicts between communities.
When I was on the island, I visited only the south but it worth it.
We left from Copacabana by boat and we arrived 2 hours later on the Isla del Sol. I advise you to store your backpack at Copacabana (at the hostel or the bus company) because the walking to go the hotels is very steep, long and in the sun.
For the accommodation, we didn’t book which allows us to bargain the prices. Be careful, usually, the breakfast is not included and it costs almost the same everywhere. We took advantage of this and choose a cheap hostel and took the breakfast to another place with a beautiful view on the uplands of the island.
To visit the island, there is only one way: by foot. One the steep walk is done, the view on the lake is breathtaking. We spend an entire day to admire it. It the sky is clear, you can even see the mountains on the other side of the lake.
Step 2: La Paz
To be honest, I didn’t like this city. I spent one day and it was more than enough for me. I found in this city all the things I hate: the mass of people everywhere every time, lots of cars, klaxons and pollution. However, there are some places to see in the Bolivian capital. The Witches’ Market is the place to go if you’re looking for souvenirs. You can easily bargain the prices and divide them by 2. The Plaza Murillo is the main square of the city. If you look closely you will see that the hours on the clock are backward.
But what’s the most famous in La Paz is the cable cars. The city is surrounded by high hills. This transportation gives a nice view of the capital, especially during the sunset.
Step 3: Sucre
After my deception in La Paz, Sucre reconciled me with the cities. This city is the exact opposite of La Paz. It is a very nice place and you quickly understand why is it also called “the white city”. Almost every buildings are white, it can be houses, official buildings or even churches. When the sun shines, le city shines too and you need your sunglasses!
The Plaza 25 de Mayo is the main square of Sucre. Here and in the surrounding, you can find the restaurants, hotels and all the shops.
Among the must-see of Sucre, my favorite place is the “Mercado central”. At this market, you can found almost everything: souvenirs, fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, restaurants, cleaning products, decorations, cooking tools, etc. If you’re looking for a cheap place for eating, I advise you this market. You can also buy all you need for cooking, it is cheaper than in a supermarket and you will find all you need.
To have the most beautiful view over the city, you have to go to the Convento de la Recoleta. The walking might be a bit difficult because the street is a bit steep, but it worth it. If you wish, you can also eat or have a drink on the terrace and enjoy the view.
La Torre is a new café in Sucre. It is located just behind the Plaza 25 de Mayo. Once you’re at the top of the tower, you can have a view of the city center while you’re eating a pastry or drinking a café.
For those who never visited France, go to Simon de Bolivar park. There, you will see the Tour Eiffel’s little sister and even be able to go to the top for free. This park is also a nice place if you want to chill.
The city is full of museums, churches, convents, etc. but just walk and get lost is a good way to discover Sucre.
Step 4: From Tupiza to Uyuni – the South Lipez and the Salar de Uyuni
The Salar de Uyuni is one of the most famous deserts in the world and it’s also probably the most visited attraction in Bolivia. For this reason, I wanted to do something special and unforgettable. I choose a tour in the Salar and in the south Lipez during 4 days leaving from Tupiza. There are few agencies in Tupiza and they offer more or less the same tour for the same prices (between 1 200BOB and 1 500BOB). In my case, I chose “Alexandro Adventure Travel” agency. Many people advised me it and now I advise you too to chose it. For 1 300BOB, you have included: 3 meals/day, 2 snacks/day, a guide and the cooker, the 4×4 and accommodation. However, you have to add 250 BOB for the entry fees, access to thermal baths and showers in the hostel.
These 4 days will remain in my memories forever.
We left Tupiza at 6h30 am to drive to the south Lipez. We ate the breakfast with a view on the Ravin de Palala. After, we visit Aguana pampa (where we saw wild lamas) and ate lunch at Cerilloas (a village where 40 families live there). During the afternoon, we went to the moon valley and San Antonio de Lipez ruins. We quickly stopped to the Mirador of the Laguna Marjon (at 4900m above the sea level!) and slept at Quetena (4 250m), located in the Eduardo Abaroa reserve.
The second day is the longest. Breakfast was at 6h30 and we left Quetena at 7h15. The first stop was at Laguna Hedionda where we breathed the good smell of sulfur and admire a small geyser. We had lunch at the thermal baths of Polques. The most braves can take a bath but the place is really cold and windy. The afternoon, we crossed the beautiful and colorful Salvador Dali desert. The story tells that the painter came here and these mountains inspired him for his paintings. Next, we went to the Laguna Verde at the bottom of Licancabur volcano (5 960m at the top of the volcano¶). It was my favorite landscape for this day! Then we saw the Laguna colores: a pink lake with wild flamingos and mountains behind, all of it at 4 000m. Seriously, what else ?! And as if it wasn’t enough, we stopped at Aminata to see more flamingos. Then, we slept at Mallku Villamar village at 3 950m.
This day was more relaxing than the previous. We woke up “late” since the breakfast was at 7h30 and the departure at 8h15. We directly started by climbing in a canyon. This canyon was formed by petrified lava billions of years ago. The climbing is of course not mandatory if you don’t want to. Some stones have shapes you can recognize: camel, football world cup, etc. After the sport, we had a break to rest at laguna negro. We ate lunch at the anaconda canyon. Stay calm, the name comes from the curves from the river which look like an anaconda from the sky. Then, we went at the Refugio de Sal where we spent the night. But before having dinner, the guides had a surprise for us: we had an appetizer in the Salar de Uyuni while we admired the sunset and listened to 90’s songs! For me, it was the best moment of this tour. This magical moment is even my best souvenir of Bolivia.
The alarm clock rang at 4h30 and it was difficult to get up (mostly because of the last night we spent all the group together), but it worth it. We went to see the sunrise on Incahuasy island in the Salar de Uyuni. It was really cold, but the sunrise was wonderful. We ate breakfast on the island and we started the funniest part of the tour: taking pictures in the Salar de Uyuni. During 2h we took pictures and videos. The guides helped us to create the funniest pictures/videos. Once we had no more idea, we left to see the salt museum and the souvenir shops of the Salar. We finally arrived at Uyuni around 2 pm.
For your information, these 4 days were very relaxing. The guides dropped us at the places to take pictures, we get in the car when we finished and it continues like this all the days. From time to time, we walked during 20-30 mins, but mostly the programme was: picture – eat – pictures – sleep. After 2 months of travels, I must confess, I was happy to have a small break and to rest a bit. Anyway, don’t expect hiking in the desert, it’s clearly not the spirit of the tour!
Good places to eat
Even if I spend only a few days in Bolivia, I ate in some restaurants but only in Sucre. This explains why I will only advise places from this city
Cosmo Cafe, Plaza 25 de Mayo
This café is located in The main square of Sucre and so it is very easy to find. This restaurant is a bit expensive but the food is good. The meals are most of the time internationals, but after 2 months, I was so happy to eat a tiramisu.
Torre – Cafe Mirador
When I visited Sucre, this cafe was open only for 2 weeks. What’s interesting is its tower. You can go to its top, enjoy the view of the city and eat or drinking something. This place is cheap and good if you want to have a snack with a nice view.
This advice is good for every city: the Mercado central is the cheapest place to eat local food. Most of the time, it’s also the canteen for local people. The inconvenient is that there is not much choice, but every meal is typical!
My budget for Bolivia
My budget for Bolivia was of 207 BOB/ day (~26€/day during October 2018). The 4 days tours in the south Lipez and Salar de Uyuni costed more than I planned. This is why my real and final budget is of 243BOB/day (~31€/day), 15% more than planned.
Now, my journey in Bolivia is already over! My next country is Chili and I’ll start in San Pedro de Acatama the driest desert of the world!