Find out what to see, how to get around, and where to stay in Bolivia.
A Few Bolivia highlights
Salar de Uyuni – perhaps Bolivia’s most un-missable highlight. Take a 3 day 4WD tour through this breath-taking, other-worldy landscape from Uyuni. The Salar de Uyuni is the world’s highest and largest salt flat, but as well as miles of flats and various buildings made out of salt, you ll also see volcanic lakes dotted with pink flamingos, geysers, hot springs, a train cemetery, and an island full of Cacti – this is no normal trip! Tickets can be booked though any travel agent in La Paz or Uyuni. Food and accommodation is usually included, but be warned that accommodation on a standard tour is in very basic stone lodges and temperatures can get below zero at night during the winter months, warm clothes are a must!
La Paz – Bolivia’s de facto capital is bursting with culture and street life. See my blog post Learning to Love La Paz
Death Road cycle –career down Bolivia’s infamous “Camino del la Muerte” on a mountain bike taking in the stunning views along the way (just don’t look down!). The trip starts in La Paz where riders are driven an hour to the La Cumbre high pass at 4800m. From there its a 4-5 hour cycle down to Yolosa at 1100m. From Yolosa you can either head back to La Paz or hop on a bus to Coroico – see below. Recommended tours are with Gravity in La Paz.
Lake Titicaca – the jewel in Bolvia’s crown and another must see on Bolivia’s list.Backed by snowcapped peaks and home to ancient Incan islands, the highest navigable body of water in the world simply glitters. Take a boat from Copacabana (which later gave its name to Rio’s more famous version) to ancient Isla del Sol, and take a hike around it’s Mediterrean landscape and Incan ruins. If you have the time, do as the crowds don’t do and spend a night here. The birthplace of the sun does not disappoint.
Coroico – Bolivia’s centre of ‘chillaxing’ is a mere 2 hours from La Paz by minibus (micro). Soak up the heat, swim in your hostel pool and take in the beautiful views. If you’re feeling a little more active you can hike to waterfalls and natural pools or fly over the tree tops of the tropical forest with zipline Bolivia. For animal lovers La Senda Verde animal sanctuary is a must.
Rurrenabaque – known as “Rurre”, and located northern Bolivia’s steamy Amazon basin, this is Bolivia’s slice of the jungle for travellers. The bus ride from La Paz is long, bumpy and hair-raising (18-20 hours) making flying in the attractive option for most (45 minutes from La Paz with Latam or Amazonas. This tiny town is crammed with hostels, tour agencies and western cafes. Jump on a boat to a multi-day jungle adventure, or simply sway in your hammock soaking up the jungle atmosphere. Tours can be booked from La Paz or in Rurrenabaque.
Sucre – the constitutional capital is without a doubt Bolivia’s most beautiful city. A UNESCO world heritage site, whitewashed buildings and colonial squares abound. An overnight 12-14 hour bus journey on a near decent road makes Sucre a popular stop for backpackers as does its pleasant year round climate and easy-to-breathe air.
Potosi – one of the world’s highest cities at 4090m above sea level, Potosi was once the wealthiest city in the Americas and the seat of the Spanish mint. It’s Cerro Rico or “Rich Hill” was the site of the infamous silver mines, the horrendous conditions of which can still be experienced today. On a more cheery note, the city has fabulous churches and colonial architecture which are worth the 10 hour bus journey from La Paz.
If you have the cash, domestic flights can save you long, bumpy bus journeys. Regular flights operate between Bolivia’s major cities.
There are a huge choice of bus companies. Overnight journeys can be done on the more luxurious “full cama” buses and shorter journeys either by coach style buses or minibuses.
Trans touristico Omar
All these companies go between the major cities and you ll find their booths in bus stations. Please note that some, or even all of these have had accidents previously, as have most Bolivian bus companies.
Examples of journeys:
- La Paz to Sucre: 100 Bs for 10 hours, semi cama seat
- Sucre to Potosi: 15 Bs for 3 hours, normal seat
- Potosi to Tarija: 80 Bs for 10 hours, semi cama seat
- Tarija to Tupiza: 80 Bs for 7 hours, semi cama seat
- Potosi to Cochabamba: 60 Bs for 7 hours, semi cama seat
- Cochabamba to La Paz: 70 Bs for 9 hours, semi cama seat
- La Paz to Lake Titicaca: 40 Bs for 3/4 hours, normal seat
Note: Things change quickly in Bolivia!
Bus companies vary greatly between routes and companies and even within companies sometimes, so its best to talk to other travellers at the time. For longer journeys always buy your tickets at the bus station where you can check out all the companies running the route you want and compare. A good general rule is to go for the most luxurious option available, since this will be cheap in Bolivia and likely to get you the most comfortable ride!
There are 3 main bus stations in La Paz.
The Terminal de Buses (Plaza Antofagasta) is a 5 minute taxi ride from down town/ Sagarnaga which should cost around 5-10bs. Interestingly this stand out art deco building was designed by French architect Gustave Eiffel!
This station serves many of the main inter-city and international routes (such as most routes into Peru and Argentina). Don’t forget to pay the little-advertised “Bus station tax” of 3bs. This must be paid before boarding your bus at the ticket booth in the centre of the bus station – keep your tax ticket to show as you board the bus.
The Cemetery bus terminal (Terminal Cemetario) is further to the west of the city (no more than 15bs in a taxi from downtown) and serves shorter routes to Copacabana, Tiwanaku and Sorata.
The Villa Fatima bus terminal is about 1km uphill from Plaza Gualberto Villarroel (around 15-20bs in a taxi from downtown) and serves the Yungas/Amazon region with mainly minibuses (micros).
Where to stay
Adventure Brew Hostel is a large hostel with a bar and terrace located near the bus station. Dorms/singles/doubles/kitchen/cafe/travel agency. Avenida Montes #503-533 La Paz,
Hostal Republica is an attractive hostel located in an old colonial house once lived in by a president! Rooms are set on 2 floors around large courtyards. Dorms/singles/doubles/cafe. Calle Comercio 1455, Esquina Bueno, La Paz. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotel Sagarnaga is good quality budget hotel located in the heart of the tourist area. Ask for a room with a view! Singles/doubles/triples/restaurant. 173 Sagarnaga, La Paz. Email:email@example.com
Hostal Kory is a small hostel located right in the centre of Corioco with stunning views. Singles/doubles/triples. Limited wifi. Pasaje Adalis Linares eaq. Tomas Monje Gutierrez, Coroico.
Sol Y Luna is beautiful quirky eco lodge located 25 minutes walk up a hill and surrounded by lush gardens. (No address, head up Cuenca street, right off the main plaza, keep going and turn right at the sign, all taxi drivers know it). It has spectacular views and trek routes directly from the door. Facilities include a restaurant 2 small pools, hammocks everywhere, yoga room, dorms for up to 16 pax, Cabanas (apartments) with kitchens, and a hot tub (seasonal).