TIISTAI, 06. LOKAKUUTA 2020
Superlative in its natural beauty, rugged, vexing, complex and slightly nerve-racking, Bolivia is one of South America’s most diverse and intriguing nations.
Bolivia is not for the faint of heart: rattling down the World's Most Dangerous Road into sultry Yungas; soaring breathless above verdant La Paz valleys in a paraglider; jumping on a horse for a Wild West adventure near Tupiza; pulling a catfish that outweighs you out of an Amazon river (and maybe cooking it for dinner!). Whether your tools are crampons and an ice axe for scaling 6000m Andean peaks, or a helmet and bravado for jumping into the abyss on a glider, Bolivia's rocks, rivers and ravines will challenge – nay, provoke – you into pushing your own personal limits.
Bolivians love a parade, and hardly a month passes without a procession of brightly costumed celebrants honoring an important historical date or deity. You'll hear them from blocks away before the brass bands and whirligigging dancers approach and envelop you (you may even get to join in). Learn about the history and culture of the country's indigenous peoples at excellent museums, and through the continued presence of traditions and customs in everyday life. Bolivia has South America’s largest percentage of indigenous people – get to know them better by participating in community-based tourism and hiring local guides.
Bolivia is so biodioverse that unique species are being discovered to this day. Tiptoe into caves of tube-lipped nectar bats, their tongues probing the darkness. Tread lightly on the terrain of the poisonous annellated coral snake, deadly in look and effect. Listen for the cackling call and response of a dozen different macaw species (among 1000 bird species) including the world’s rarest, the bluebeard, which can only be found here. Multihued butterflies and moths flit at your feet in the jungle; lithe alpacas and vicuñas stand out in the stark altiplano. Deep in the forest live jaguars, pumas and bears.
Food & Drink
Ever had a llama tenderloin? Here’s your chance, maybe with a glass of Tarija wine. Bolivia's food is as diverse as its peoples and you'll find new delicacies to sample in every town. Markets are a good place to start, though the steaming pots of unfamiliar concoctions might test your nerve. Freshly blended fruit juices will no doubt become a daily habit, and Yungas coffee can be found in a number of new cafes that are popping up around Bolivia. La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz have thriving restaurant scenes where you can sample contemporary takes on traditional local dishes.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BOLIVIA
Generally speaking, climate varies much more as a result of altitude and topography than it does between different seasons. Nevertheless, there are clear-cut seasonal differences. Winter (invierno) runs between May and October: this is the dry season, and in many ways the best time to visit, though it’s also the high season for tourism, so some prices will be higher and attractions busier. In the highlands it’s noticeably colder at night, particularly in June and July. The days are slightly shorter, but usually sunny, and the skies crystal clear, making this the best time of year for trekking and climbing. Winter is also the best time for visiting the hot and humid lowlands, when temperatures are generally slightly (but pleasantly) lower, although the dry season is less pronounced and rain remains a possibility all year round. A few times a year, usually between July and August, the country is swept by cold fronts coming up from Patagonia, known as surazos, which can send temperatures plunging even in the Amazon. Towards the end of the dry season in late August and September, farmers set fire to cleared forest areas across much of Bolivia, which can obscure views and cause respiratory problems.
Summer (verano) is the rainy season, which runs roughly from November to March and is much more pronounced in the lowlands; in the Amazon, road transport becomes pretty much impossible, as huge areas are flooded and everything turns to mud – though, conversely, river transport becomes more frequent. Heat, humidity and mosquitoes are also much worse. In the highlands, particularly the Altiplano, it rains much less and travel is not as restricted, though delays and road closures still occur, while trekking trails get muddier and clouds often obscure views, particularly in the high mountains, where route-finding can become impossible. Despite this, the rainy season is also a very beautiful time in the Andes, as the parched Altiplano and mountainsides are briefly transformed into lush grassland and wild flowers proliferate.
GETTING TO BOLIVIA
Air travel is the obvious way to get to Bolivia, the main airports are located in La Paz to the western side of the country and in Santa Cruz to the east. The arrival plan must be based mostly in the purpose of your visit to the country; you have to remember that La Paz receives most of their visitors due to the immense culture and heritage from the Incas and other indigenous cultures from the Andean region, and therefore from La Paz it is easier to move to the Tiwanaku ruins, Oruro's carnival, Potosi’s mines, Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, Los Yungas, valley and the Andres Mountains; since La Paz is the seat of government all the embassies and foreign organizations have their headquarters in the city, which is useful in case of an emergency. On the other side, Santa Cruz with a warmer weather could become a good location for doing business visit other alternatives in tourism like the Misiones, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park or visit the eastern cities. There are also some foreign consulates in Santa Cruz. But don’t forget that the cities in the south and central Bolivia, like Cochabamba, Tarija and Sucrealso offer a very rich experience; there are several ways to get to these cities from La Paz or Santa Cruz.
From Europe - Following on from Aerosur's demise in September 2012, the best options from Europe to Bolivia are now with Air Europa or Boliviana de Aviacion from Madrid to Santa Cruz. Other connections can be made in neighbouring countries such as Brazil or Peru, or in the US. The cost could go from €1000-1200 to other higher prices depending on the class and duration.
GETTING AROUND BOLIVIA
Air - Air travel is the quickest and most reliable way to reach out-of-the-way places, and it’s reasonably inexpensive.
Bus - The most popular form of transport; it can be uncomfortable and at times nerve-racking, but it’s cheap and relatively safe.
Tours - Popular and hassle-free way to get to remote locations like the Salar de Uyuni.
Train - Around the same price as the bus, but much slower. It does, however, offer heating and air-conditioning.
Bicycle - For cyclists who can cope with the challenges of cold winds, poor road conditions, high altitudes and steep terrain, Bolivia is a paradise. Mountain bikes are common on Bolivia's large number of dirt roads. While traffic isn’t a serious problem (though cliffs are), intimidating buses and camiones (flatbed trucks) can leave cyclists in clouds of dust or embedded in mud. Finding supplies may prove difficult, so cyclists in remote areas must carry ample food and water. Given these challenges, many prefer to leave the work to a tour company. Make sure you purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy.
WHERE TO STAY IN BOLIVIA
- Buganvillas Hotel Suites & Spa
Set in a charming complex boasting a swimming pool, 2 restaurants, a tennis court and a football pitch, Buganvillas Hotel Suites & Spa offers self-catering suites with free Wi-Fi. Santa Cruz city centre is 3.3 km away. Decorated with contemporary art and stylish furniture, suites at Buganvillas feature spacious seating areas with upholstered armchairs. Self-catering facilities include refrigerators and microwaves. A buffet breakfast is served daily. Soho Restaurant offers regional dishes, whereas Bug-n-Grill offers steak options. Snacks and drinks can be enjoyed at the bar. Spa facilities include a sauna, a fitness centre and a massage rooms. Guests can unwind on the sun loungers by the pool or engage in football, tennis and volleyball matches. Free parking is provided. Buganvillas Hotel Suites & Spa is 3.2 km from 24 de septiembre Square and 17 km from Santa Cruz International Airport.
Situated in the centre of La Paz and just in front of the Hernando Siles Stadium, Hotel LP Columbus offers modern accommodation with free Wi-Fi and a restaurant. All rooms at Hotel LP Columbus are spacious and feature a private bathroom, a flat-screen cable TV and a minibar. Suites are also fitted with a seating area and a spa bath. The buffet breakfast includes a choice of pastries, juices, cereals and yoghurt. The hotel’s restaurant offers a wide variety of Bolivian and international dishes, which can be served straight to the room. The hotel also offers an airport shuttle service. El Alto Airport can be reached within 25 minutes by car.
Located in an elegant district and set within an extensive lagoon pool, Camino Real Hotel is 10 km from the city centre of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It features a spa with sauna, hot tub and massage facilities. Camino Real Hotel has an outdoor swimming pool with a water slide, a whirlpool and a wet bar. Guests will also find a beautiful indoor pool. There are gym facilities and certified professionals who deliver beauty treatments and fitness sessions at the Health Club. Rooms at the Camino Real Hotel are equipped with modern appliances, including WiFi, air conditioning and cable TV channels. All rooms offer a seating area and private bathrooms and are constantly being renovated and kept in optimal conditions. Guests can enjoy the in-house La Tranquera and Novo Cafe Lounge restaurants. Other facilities include a well-equipped gym with steam bath and a children’s playground. Santa Cruz de la Sierra´s popular Museo Etno-Folklorico and the Basilica Menor de San Lorenzo are both within a 20-minute drive from Camino Real Hotel. Viru Viru International Airport is 15 km away.
Hotel G is located in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The property is 3.8 km away of the main square September 24th and 12 minutes by car, 1.8 km from Zoo Fauna Southamerica and 2.3 km from Arenal Park. The property is situated 2.9 km from Metropolitan Cathedral. The rooms in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV. Rooms are equipped with a private bathroom with a shower. A continental breakfast is available each morning at the property. Speaking English, Spanish and French at the reception, staff are willing to help at any time of the day. Sacred Art Museum is 3 km from Hotel G, while Gabriel Rene Moreno Autonomous University is 3.3 km away. Viru Viru International Airport is 13 km from the property. Parque industrial is located 30 minutes away by car and the Fexpocruz is located 6.2 km from the property.
Featuring an outdoor swimming pool, and a fitness centre, Senses Hotel Equipetrol offers free Wi-Fi and breakfast in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The main square is 3 km away. Providing a tranquil environment, the rooms in Senses Hotel Equipetrol feature private bathrooms, air conditioning, and flat-screen TVs. Guests at Senses are provided room service and laundry services can be arranged upon request. Tourism information is available to explore the area. Senses Hotel Equipetrol is an 8-minute walk from the shopping centre and 15 km from Viru Viru International Airport. Free private parking is possible on site.
Set in a residential neighbourhood of La Paz, this hotel offers free WiFi and easy access to different embasies like Brazil, United States of America, UK,and Spain. Also are near the new cableway stations white and yellow. The cafeteria Boutique Roaster is next to the hotel. All 70 luxurious suites of Ritz Apart Hotel distributed in 12 floors include cable TV. Some suites have balconies overlooking La Paz. Rooms are elegantly furnished and offer a seating area. Guests can relax with a massage treatment. Hotel Ritz Apart’s tour desk can offer advice on excursions. Duke’s Restaurant serves local and international dishes, the specialities are grilled meats, pasta, hot and cold sandwiches served through room service, which follow biosafety protocol processes implemented by the hotel for your safety. Ritz Apart Hotel is a 20-minute drive or 5.6 km from El Alto International Airport, and offers shuttles to and from the airport at a fee.
Set in Uyuni's city centre, Casa de Sal - Salt Hotel offers accommodation with free WiFi and free private parking on site. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant and room service is available. Rooms at Casa de Sal - Salt Hotel are built with salt blocks and feature details of Andean décor. Each room is fitted with a private bathroom, a seating area, a dining table, flat-screen TV with cable channels and heating. Bed linen and towels are included. The hotel also offers bike hire.
- HOTEL MAISON FIORI (Centro)
HOTEL MAISON FIORI (Centro) is situated in Cochabamba, 1.3 km from September 14 Square and 1.5 km from Santo Domingo Church. This 3-star hotel offers a shared lounge and a tour desk. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, room service and free WiFi throughout the property. All rooms in the hotel are fitted with a flat-screen TV. Guests at HOTEL MAISON FIORI (Centro) can enjoy a continental or a buffet breakfast. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Santa Teresa Monastery, Colon Square and Cochabamba Cathedral. The nearest airport is Jorge Wilstermann International Airport, 5 km from HOTEL MAISON FIORI (Centro).
Hotel America has a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge and garden in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a microwave, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a desk. With a private bathroom fitted with a shower and free toiletries, rooms at the hotel also have a city view. At Hotel America all rooms include a seating area. Continental and buffet breakfast options are available every morning at the accommodation. The area is popular for cycling, and car hire is available at Hotel America. For business travellers' convenience, meeting and banquet facilities, a business centre, newspapers and a fax machine and photocopier are offered. Popular points of interest near the hotel include 24th of September Metropolitan Plaza, Arenal Park and Sacred Art Museum. The nearest airport is Viru Viru International, 17 km from Hotel America, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Situated 300 m from Colon Square, Apart Hotel Regina features accommodation with a restaurant, a bar and a 24-hour front desk for your convenience. There is a fully equipped private bathroom with shower and free toiletries. The aparthotel offers a buffet or American breakfast. Apart Hotel Regina also offers a bicycle rental service and a business centre. Guests can also relax in the shared lounge area. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Santa Teresa Monastery, Quintanilla Square and Stadium Félix Capriles. The nearest airport is Jorge Wilstermann International, 4 km from Apart Hotel Regina, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Located in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 400 m from Sacred Art Museum, HOTEL CANCILLER provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Featuring a bar, the 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests. At the hotel, every room is equipped with a desk and a flat-screen TV. All units include a wardrobe. HOTEL CANCILLER offers 4-star accommodation with a sauna and terrace. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Metropolitan Cathedral, 24th of September Metropolitan Plaza and Arenal Park. The nearest airport is Viru Viru International, 18 km from HOTEL CANCILLER, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Kachi Lodge has a restaurant, free bikes, a bar and shared lounge in Jirira. There is a terrace and guests can make use of free WiFi and free private parking. The lodge include a pick up and drop off from Uyuni airport, meals are a gourmet bolivian fusion meals accompanied with local wines and soft drinks. Activities with guide and driver that speaks english and spanish are also included. At the hotel, each room is equipped with a wardrobe. The rooms are fitted with a private bathroom with a shower, a hairdryer and free toiletries. At Kachi Lodge each room is fitted with a seating area. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy a continental or a à la carte breakfast. Guests at Kachi Lodge will be able to enjoy activities in and around Jirira, like hiking and cycling.
PLACES TO VISIT & THINGS TO DO IN BOLIVIA
This largely undiscovered country is just starting to gain international recognition as a must-visit tourist destination – and for good reason. Bolivia has plenty in store for the curious traveler. Marvel at the surreal landscapes of the Salar de Uyuni, conquer some of the most beautiful mountains on Earth, fish for piranha deep in the Amazon rainforest or pave your own way through a land whose indigenous inhabitants still cling to the fascinating traditions of a bygone era.
With such a varied topography and rich cultural diversity, no two travel experiences in Bolivia are alike. For the adventurer there is mountain biking, zip lining, swimming, hiking, snowboarding and rap jumping. Nature lovers can enjoy exploring the country’s spectacular national parks, amazon jungles, salt flats and pampas. History buffs can join city walking tours as well as visit Bolivia’s many fascinating archaeological sites while cultural enthusiasts can explore colorful markets, savor traditional dishes, partake in fun-filled fiestas and study Spanish.
Very few people come to Bolivia without spending at least a day or two in the world’s highest (administrative) capital. Besides having a myriad of things to see and do, it serves as the perfect jumping off point for other attractions in the country.
The gastronomic center of Bolivia, Cochabamba is famous for serving huge portions of the country’s finest cuisine. It also happens to have a perfect year-round climate, a thriving cultural scene and plenty of stunning nature reserves right on its doorstep.
Bolivia’s economic powerhouse tends to be largely overlooked by travelers. While this rapidly expanding city doesn’t have many tourist attractions itself, venture a few hours beyond its borders and you’ll find captivating sand dunes, rainforests, rivers and waterfalls. You might even see a sloth casually hanging out in one of its central plazas.
Upon visiting Tarija, not far from the border with Argentina, many might wonder if they are still in Bolivia. This laid back, Mediterranean-style town features whitewashed colonial architecture, a thriving wine industry and a noticeable Argentine cultural influence.
Apart from being an alternative starting point for the Salar de Uyuni tour, Tupiza is also a terrific spot to spend a couple of days. Its surrounding badlands feature impressive canyons, rivers and valleys, which are perfect for exploring on a guided horseback tour. Reminiscent of the wild west, these are the lands where Butch Cassidy met his fateful end.
The former economic center of the Spanish empire, Potosi used to be one of the biggest cities in the world due to its silver-rich Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain). These days, a visit to Potosi provides a fascinating insight into Spanish Colonialism and mining history. Many travelers join a guided tour to gain firsthand experience of the horrendous working conditions in the country’s most notorious mine.
Bolivia’s official capital and colonial centerpiece manages to charm even the most weary traveler. Its delightful array of whitewashed churches, government buildings, parks and monasteries entices many a visitor to stay longer than originally intended. It’s also the best place to learn Spanish in South America, with numerous high-quality yet inexpensive language schools to choose from.
Oruro hosts one of the continent’s best carnival parades. Tens of thousands of intricately-dressed dancers strut their stuff down Oruro’s main streets to the infectious rhythm of exuberant marching bands. It’s a loud, outrageous and refreshingly unpretentious alternative to Rio de janeiro's carnival.
Meaning the ‘Royal Range’ in English, this spectacular Andean mountain range earned its name for one simple reason – it’s truly majestic. Every year, hordes of climbers come from all over the world to conquer the snowy peaks of this wondrous region.
Just two hour’s drive from La Paz, Coroico’s relaxed way of life feels worlds away from the big city. Spend a day or two just kicking back and enjoying the stupendous views or exploring nearby rivers and waterfalls. There’s also some fantastic trekking in the region, including the famous three-day El Choro hike.
Most travelers come to Sorata for its trekking, climbing and downhill mountain biking. But if you’re just looking to chill out for a bit, then Sorata’s the perfect place. This gorgeous little town enjoys a slow pace of life and impressive views of snowy mountains and lush forest valleys.
As one of the most historically significant places in the Andes, a trip to Lake Titicaca is a must. Grab a delicious plate of fresh trout on Copacabana’s lake shore before jumping on a ferry to the sacred Isla del Sol (Sun Island). A three-hour hike across the island passes numerous Inca ruins and takes in some spectacular lakeside views. Locals believe the Sun and the Moon were born here and, for many visitors, it’s not hard to see why.
This wondrous National Park is internationally renowned for its incredible diversity. Over 1,200 species of bird call Madidi home (14 per cent of the world’s known bird species) as well as countless other mammals, reptiles and insects. Jungle treks, eco-lodges and animal safaris create the perfect opportunity to observe nature at its rawest.
Bolivia’s number one tourist attraction never fails to amaze. Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest and highest salt flat, is conveniently surrounded by a throng of other natural wonders, including colorful lagoons, towering volcanoes, bubbling hot springs and steamy geysers. An absolute must while traveling through Bolivia.
Toro Toro National Park has an impressive collection of well-preserved dinosaur footprints, some of which are mindbogglingly huge. If that doesn’t excite you, there’s also hikes through impressive canyons, bizarre animal-shaped rock formations and a fun caving experience.
If you really want to get away from it all, then Sajama is the place to go. This isolated National Park features a climbable dormant volcano, reflective lagoons, more llamas than you can poke a stick at, the world’s highest forest and some temperate hot springs to relax in after a long day exploring.
This nature lover’s paradise is just a short drive away from the metropolis of Santa Cruz. The park offers plenty of superb hiking trails which take in cascading waterfalls, scenic viewpoints and an incredible variety of flora and fauna.
This pleasant little town nestled in a lush valley is a favorite of retired expats and international tourists alike. It boasts a temperate climate, close proximity to Amboro National Park, an ancient pre-Colombian fortress and a fantastic waterfall and swimming hole.
As one of the most important pre-Colombian sites in the Americas, a visit to Tiwanaku is a must for any history buff. Set under the majestic Cordillera Real mountain range, Tiwinaku features an impressive number of beautifully crafted sculptures, gigantic stone building blocks and the mysterious, megalithic stone arch known as El Puerta del Sol (The Gate of the Sun). Take the time to peruse the onsite museum to learn more about this fascinating ancient culture.
Rurrenabaque is a humid little jungle town on the edge of Madidi National Park. Scores of adventurers brave the arduous 18-hour bus ride (or opt for a 45-minute flight) from La Paz to visit this renowned Amazonian eco-tourism hub. A three-day pampas tour utilizes dugout canoes to provide a floating wildlife safari that is arguably the best in South America.
- Biking in Bolivia's Death Road
The original inventor of the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” ride and one of the most popular tour companies in the country, Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking have been instrumental in establishing fun and safe mountain biking in Bolivia for over 10 years. Having been featured guiding and riding the road in a multitude of magazines, newspapers, TV shows and blogs, it’s easy to see why Gravity is the #1 company for those wishing to experience Death Road while living to tell the tale.
If braving The World's Most Dangerous Road wasn’t scary enough, travelers can now push their adventurous side to the limit with a ride along one of Bolivia’s best ziplines. Developed in 2010 to build tourism in the Yungas region, Zzip the Flying Fox is a community minded business providing travelers with sky-high thrills over the Amazon. Located in the tranquil town of Yolosa (the finishing point of all Death Road tours) Zzip features a 1500 meter zip line that sees you whizzing rapidly along cables suspended above a valley or forest through the use of a harness and pulley system attached to the cables. Operating daily from 9am to 11am and 1pm to 5pm, Zzip the Flying Fox is a high-quality, safe, not to mention fun, activity perfect for those seeking a thrill in Bolivia.
Hurtling down sand dunes is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about things to do in Bolivia. Just one hour from the city of Santa Cruz however, is a beautiful, yet rarely visited natural desert, ideal for thrill-seeking activities such as this. Featuring 3000 hectares of soaring sand dunes, it’s no surprise that Lomas de Arena is becoming a popular destination in South America for sandboarding. Those with a need for speed can whiz down 12 meter sand dunes either standing up or sitting down – any style you choose, the fun is guaranteed! The protected park also provides nature lovers great opportunities for birding and wildlife watching. The surrounding tropical forests and savannah are home to over 286 species of birds not to mention other fascinating species including sloths, marmosets, caimans, capybaras, monkeys, deer, armadillos, mountain lions, pumas and many, many more. Bolivia’s answer to the Sahara, Lomas de Arena is an adrenaline filled-oasis where travelers can go to learn, discover and experience some of the country’s finest natural wonders.
Snow enthusiasts traveling to Bolivia are in for a treat with this one-of-a-kind adventure allowing skiers and snowboarders of all levels to experience the majestic Bolivian Andes while ripping it up on beautiful 5000m+ glaciers tucked in the mountains surrounding La Paz. The ultimate back-country adventure with all the gorgeous views and high altitude fun you can only get in the Andes, this is one experience that will take your breath away.
If you’re planning a trip to Bolivia, chances are you’ll want to experience the world’s largest salt flat: Salar de Uyuni. Visiting this popular destination is without doubt an unforgettable journey, providing a transient glimpse into the surreal realm of Bolivia’s southwest. The following is an overview of what you can expect from a tour of Salar de Uyuni, outlining all you need to know about experiencing one of the most spectacular places on earth!
Ever wanted to scale a building Spider-Man style? Established in 2012 by the founder of Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking, Urban Rush gives thrill-seekers the chance to jump down a 17-story building, experiencing an adrenaline rush with a view to die for.
Sica Sica offers panoramic views over the city, and climbing it is about a 2hr round trip from the center of town, making it a great way to spend a sunny morning (or afternoon). The climb itself is challenging but attainable and would be suitable for anyone with a moderate fitness level or higher. There is a single path up to the summit, which can be found just off Avenida del Ejercito. If you’re coming from the centre of town, take Calle Grau all the way to its end (up and over the steps and keep going until you reach Calle Polanco). Turn left on Calle Polanco and Avenida del Ejercito is your first right (just a few metres down from the end of Calle Grau). Follow Avenida del Ejercito all the way to the first roundabout. The road to the left runs all the way to the summit of the hill. The path itself can become muddy and difficult after rain, so it is best hiked after several rain-free days. Also, please be aware that stray dogs have been sighted along the Sica Sica track, something to take note of, especially if you’re hiking alone.
- Rock Climbing on Sica Sica
Sica-Sica is also a popular place for rock-climbing due to its proximity to the city and the presence of several rock-faces with routes suitable for a range of skill levels. Most climbs take place on two adjacent walls of a crag located on the western side of Sica Sica. Each wall is 25m high and has 7 routes. The easier wall, the “slab”, has a mix of cracks, jugs and crimpers (small, challenging holds), while the harder wall has an overhang on every route. The slab ranges in grade from 5.6-5.9 (US), while the overhang ranges from 5.7-5.11a. For advanced rock-climbers, there is Garzilazo, a 25m sandstone crag in the valley below Sica Sica. Eight routes ranging in difficulty from 5.10a to 5.12b.
- Trekking to Maragua Crater from Sucre
During our stay in Sucre we went on a two day hike to the Maragua Crater, a beautiful area just outside of Sucre. We weighed up the offerings from several other tour companies including Condor Trekking and Joy Ride Tours. In the end we settled on Jaku Trekking as they were slightly cheaper and offered a similar route / experience.
Joy Ride Tours offer tandem paragliding tours from Sucre. The paragliding flight takes place in the skies above zona de Viña Pampa, 1.5hrs from Sucre. The take-off point is 500 meters above the landing site on the banks of the River Chico, giving a minimum flight time of 10 minutes. With favorable air currents, the flight can last up to 20 minutes. The tour includes a sandwich, fruit, a bottle of water and a bar of chocolate. At the end of the flight you will be given a commemorative flight certificate. You’ll also be treated to a free celebratory drink at Joy Ride Cafe.
WHERE TO EAT IN BOLIVIA
Meaning flavor in Quechua, Gustu offers exactly that. After opening in 2012 to rave reviews from renowned publications such as the New York Times and the Guardian, Gustu has become the undisputed king of Bolivia’s fine dining scene. The brainchild of Claus Meyer (of Noma fame), Gustu prides itself on serving locally-sourced ingredients, while adding a creative twist to traditional Bolivian fare. More than just a restaurant, sister NGO the Melting Pot seeks out promising young stars from disadvantaged backgrounds in El Alto and trains them up to work in the restaurant. Although expensive for Bolivia at 410 BOB (US$60) for a degustation menu, you won’t find better gourmet cuisine anywhere in the country. Still not convinced? Gustu was ranked number 14 in Latin America’s Top 50 Restaurants, the only entry from Bolivia, and head chef Kamilla Seidler received the honor of being declared Latin America’s Best Female Chef.
- El Fogón del Gringo, Tarija
Considering Tarija is so close to Argentina, it’s no surprise the city whips up the juiciest asado (BBQ meat) in the country. The best of the best can be found at El Fogón del Gringo, where delectable Argentine meat is served alongside a first-rate salad bar. Some of the steaks are as big as 14oz (400g), so be sure to order a bottle of the superb local wine to help wash it down.
- Carla’s Garden Pub, Coroico
Run by a friendly Dutch expat in the peaceful, subtropical town of Coroico, Carla’s is a topnotch resto-pub and tourist hangout. As the name suggests, this delightful spot just down the stairs from the main plaza is focused around a lush garden, complete with hammocks and stunning views of the valley below. The menu offers a great selection of tasty European and Bolivian dishes, and excellent machine-made coffee. During the evenings, it’s the best place in town to suck down a few cold ones and meet some other travelers.
- Minuteman Revolutionary Pizza, Uyuni
Most tourists get out of Uyuni as quickly as possible after their salt flats tours, avoiding an overnight stay at all costs. But there is at least one good reason to stick around – the chance to eat a truly revolutionary pizza. Located inside Toñito Hotel and run by a long-term expat from Boston and his Bolivian wife, Minuteman serves up some of the best pizza in South America. Creative toppings like spicy llama and pesto adorn wonderfully doughy bases which can even be ordered gluten free. As Bolivia’s most longstanding tourist-orientated pizzeria, Minuteman is a must in Uyuni.
Easily the most casual eatery on the list, La Cocina is more of a Friday-night-takeaway than a silver-service-fine dining kind of place. Run by a young Turkish dude, La Cocina serves up amazingly tasty snacks such as hamburgers, quesadillas, falafels and shawarma, with optional deliciously crispy fries that come in three different flavors. The major selling point here is that the staff make all their own bread every day, which happens to be among the best dough in the country. Scoring an amazing dinner for under 30 BOB (US$3.80) makes La Cocina Samaipata’s number one in our book.
Offering up exquisite French cuisine in a romantic though unpretentious setting, La Taverna is the best bet for a fine evening meal in white city. Although there is a wide selection of dishes to choose from, the steaks are the specialty here, cooked to perfection and accompanied with a creative range of garnishes and sauces. Given it is a French restaurant, an extensive wine list is par for the course.
Tucked away behind a forest on a hill above Yumani is the island’s best restaurant. Las Velas (“the candles”) is run by an internationally trained Bolivian native who cooks up a superb selection of pizzas and pastas as well as the local specialty, grilled trout. There is no electricity connected to his remote little restaurant, so candles are used to light the room instead, which is just as well, as this creates an intimate atmosphere for travelers to get to know each other over a game of cards and a few bottles of red. But be warned that the food can take up to two hours to arrive (the owners have to cook in the dark), so get there early, order straight away and step outside to watch the sunset from one of the best miradors (viewpoints) on the Island.
- El Nomadico, Rurrenabaque
Famous for their legendary fish curry served in a banana leaf, El Nomadico is a must for those visiting the jungle town of Rurrenabaque. Run by a young Australian guy and his Bolivian wife, the restaurant also offers awesome steaks, lasagnas and a variety of Bolivian dishes during their lunch time specials. With a fine selection of cocktails and guaranteed ice-cold beer, it’s a great place to chill out and have a few after coming back from a jungle adventure.
A longstanding Cochabamba institution, La Cantonata has been serving up the city’s best steak, seafood and pasta since 1988. The place epitomizes elegance and old-world charm, featuring white table cloths, attentive waistcoat-wearing waiters and candlelit tables. This cozy and intimate atmosphere makes La Cantonata the place for that special romantic evening.
Since opening its doors in May 2016, Sach’a Rest has been turning heads in Santa Cruz for its creative fusion dishes that draw upon Nikkei and Mediterranean influences. Seafood is a big focus here, with ceviche sushi and fish chicharrón among the most popular dishes. With a modern and hip décor that features plenty of funky artwork, it’s fast becoming the top place to be seen for Santa Cruz’ young and wealthy socialites.
WHERE TO SHOP IN BOLIVIA
- Walisuma - arts & crafts in La Paz
For a one-of-a-kind souvenir head to Walisuma, which works with 59 different Bolivian artisans. Star items include gorgeous (and ultrasoft) alpaca and vicuña textiles made with natural dyes. There are also quinoa soaps, flavored Uyuni salts and designer sweaters. Prices match the quality.
- Mercado 16 de Julio - Market in La Paz
For an excellent market experience don’t miss the massive Mercado 16 de Julio, which stretches for many blocks along the main thoroughfare and across Plaza 16 de Julio. This shopaholic’s paradise has absolutely everything, from food and electronics, to vehicles and animals, all at reasonable prices. You’ll have to fight your way through the crowds, though. (Warning: watch your wallet in both senses of the phrase).
- Mercado Campesino - Market in Sucre
A fascinating, sprawling market that's easy to get lost in, wandering row after row of goods from mundane everyday products to traditional foods. It might appear chaotic at first, but like a department store, it's organized by categories. Saturday is busiest. Stalls on the streets stay open later than the main building, some to around 10pm.
- Centro Artesanal Moxos - Arts & Crafts in Trinidad
Local Beni crafts, including weaving, woodwork and masks, are sold at the Centro Artesanal Moxos, 300m southwest of town by the cemetery. Look out for the pifano, an indigenous flute made from the wing bone of the jabiru stork using a technique more than 1000 years old – it’s the staple instrument of the unique Moxos music.
- Artecampo - Arts & Crafts in Santa Cruz
The best place to find fine artesanías (locally handcrafted items), this store provides an outlet for the work of 1000 rural cruceña women and their families. The truly inspired and innovative pieces include leatherwork, hammocks, weavings, handmade paper, greeting cards and lovely natural-material lampshades.
- Inca Pallay - Textiles in Sucre
This weavers' and artisans' cooperative has an impressive array of high-quality handmade crafts, not all from the Sucre area. Prices are high, but this is the store that returns the highest percentage to the weavers themselves. You can sometimes see weavers at work on the patio.
- Madres de Clarisa Convent - Food & Drinks in Coroico & Yolosa
The Madres de Clarisa Convent sells homemade cakes, 10 types of creatively flavored biscuits and ridiculously sweet wines. You’ll find it down the steps off the southwest corner of the plaza (just across from Carla's Pub); ring the bell to get into the shop area.
It's moved next door into the toy store, but this beloved shop still offers a wonderful selection of Sucre's most delicious chocolates, wrapped with love to take home. See if you can get back to your hotel before they melt in the Trinidad heat.
A gorgeous old-school bookstore with floor-to-ceiling shelves and great titles on local art and history. There's a chilled-out coffee shop in the front corner where you can dig in to your purchases or catch up on wi-fi.
The Centro Cultural Tacana has a handicrafts store and celebrates the Tacana people’s cosmovision. It's located on the southwest side of the main plaza in San Buenaventura.
The best shop to pick up a bottle of the local vino, singani or other specialty food products. Carlos, the owner, is happy to open bottles to try by the glass.
- Spitting Llama Bookstore & Outfitter
A great collection of secondhand books in English, German and French, as well as plenty of Lonely Planet titles. Also sells trekking maps and camping equipment.