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We absolutely loved our time traveling in Bolivia as we crisscrossed this country that’s bursting with natural beauty. From the super-friendly locals to great food, and awe-inspiring places like the world-famous Bolivian Salt Flats, the bright blue Lake Titicaca, and the very cute and European-looking Samaipata, everywhere we turned there was so much to discover.
We were surprised to learn that this off-the-beaten-track destination is actually one of the least visited countries in South America. While there are parts of Bolivia that can be a shock to the system for non-seasoned travelers – like the crazy busy city of La Paz – there’s a charm even in the busy places that drew us in. We loved riding the La Paz gondolas for awesome views and checking out the weird and wonderful Witches Market, which is exactly what you picture – a market that sells all things related to magic!
We were lucky enough to spend a few months exploring the best of Bolivia, and so we want to share all the awesome things to do in Bolivia so you can have your own adventure here.
As we go through just a few of the top places Bolivia has to offer, we’ve thrown in something for every type of traveler. Hikers will love the section on Huayna Potosi, which is a mountain peak even beginners can tackle and wildlife lovers will be super-happy reading about Rurrenabaque, aka the Bolivian gateway to the Amazon!
I could spend all day writing about Bolivia, so I won’t delay any further – here are 13 of the best places to visit in Bolivia!
- What are the BEST Places to Visit in Bolivia?
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What are the BEST Places to Visit in Bolivia?
1. The Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni)
We’re starting this list of the best places to visit in Bolivia off with a bang, with the Bolivia Salt Flats. This is one of the most-visited spots in the country and definitely among the top Insta-famous destinations in South America – just check out my photo above!
These huge salt flats take over a whopping 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 sq miles) making them the world’s biggest salt flats! Because of their sheer size, you can visit them from many different cities in Bolivia and even Chile. The most popular place to visit the salt flats from is the town of Uyuni which is right on the edge of the flats.
This natural phenomenon was created by prehistoric lakes that evaporated, leaving behind a thick layer of salt. What I found the most fascinating is that the area is almost completely flat. In fact, the Bolivia Salt Flats are said to be the flattest place on earth! This large, flat surface allows you to take those funny dinosaur photos you’ve likely seen plastered all over your Instagram feed.
Despite being such a harsh environment, some animals thrive in the region. These include Andean flamingos, culpeo fox, james flamingo, vicuñas (similar to Llamas), llamas, and Bolivian vizcacha (similar to rabbits)!
April and May are the best months to visit the Bolivia Salt Flats as it will be dry and warm, but water from the rainy season will still be around in some sections of the salt flats (so you can enjoy the stunning reflections). If you visit during the summer, heavy rainfall floods the salt flats, turning the area into the world’s largest mirror lake. When this happens, you can take some truly breathtaking reflection photos!
The best way to visit the Salt Flats in Bolivia is on a multi-day guided tour. Most tours depart from Uyuni and go around the Salt Flats for 3 days (2 nights) before returning to Uyuni. Although a day trip to the Salt Flats is convenient and a great option if you have very limited time, you’ll miss out on so much!
One of the best tours to the Salt Flats (and the one we did) was this 3-day tour from Uyuni. It stops at over a dozen different places, including Isla Incahuasi and the hot springs of Laguna Polques and Laguna Blanca. Every landscape we passed was even more beautiful than the last and I definitely filled up my camera’s memory card here.
Isla Incahuasi was one of my favorite stops on the tour! This small rocky island is covered with Trichocereus cacti, and it takes just a 15-minute walk to reach the top section, where you can take in the amazing scenery! There’s even a small cafe here that offers llama steaks if you want to try a unique dish. The entire tour is only $250 USD when booked online including hotels and a bilingual guide.
Tupiza is another popular entry point into the Salt Flats, and it’s known as the “back door” to the Salt Flats. The tours from Tupiza receive rave reviews since the areas of the Salt Flats they explore are less busy. This specific tour from Tupiza is 4 days long, and is nice if you’re traveling in a group as the price is cheaper the more people you book for (it’s about $352 USD each for four people). The tour includes your accommodation for three nights and all meals. It’s important to note that the guide is Spanish-speaking!
If you want to visit the Salt Flats from La Paz, then I recommend this particular luxury tour as it offers flights to and from Uyuni, saving you a very long bus ride! It’s 3 days and 2 nights and is a more VIP and in-depth way to explore this famous natural attraction. It includes a private hotel room, all transportation, all meals, and a certified professional guide! One of the highlights is watching the sunset on the salt flats!
2. La Paz
Situated at 3,640 meters (11,940 feet) above sea level, La Paz earns the title of the highest city in the world! As the second largest city in Bolivia, it’s a popular entry point for many travelers to the country (El Alto International Airport is located nearby and is well-serviced).
We will warn you that even though La Paz is one of the best cities in Latin America, it’s a super busy place. The streets are crowded with pedestrians and traffic is insane! But, if you can look past that, then you’ll find a city filled with unique markets (the Witches Market is a must), a cable car system that provides awe-inspiring views, and, if you’re a partier, a fun and vibrant nightlife scene!
Interestingly, La Paz is one of Bolivia’s two capital cities. The other is Sucre. And as I mentioned, because it’s located at such a high altitude, you may experience altitude sickness in your first few days here. That’s why it’s so important to take it easy in the first 24-48 hours in La Paz, i.e., don’t do any strenuous hikes. Instead, spend this time wandering the city’s markets and hopping on the famed Mi Teleférico cable car!
Mi Teleférico is the biggest network of public transit cable cars in the entire world! And because La Paz is located in a valley and most locals live in the surrounding hills, these gondolas are a critical form of public transport. Constructed in 2014, it’s also the longest and highest cable car system in the world!
For just 3 BOB (around $0.50 USD), you can hop on the light blue line in the city center and ride a gondola to the top station. From here, transfer onto the green line and ride it to the summit. The entire ride is only 15 minutes long, and throughout the journey, you’ll be treated to unbelievable views of La Paz! When you reach the summit, take a short walk to take in the views. But keep in mind, it’s not recommended to come here after dark as it’s not very safe.
I touched on the Witches Market or “El Mercado de Las Brujas” above, and to put it simply, it’s one of the most memorable markets I’ve ever been to. Instead of souvenirs or fruit and veggies, at this market, you can buy magical potions, herbal remedies, and trinkets!
If you’re short on time in La Paz, I strongly advise booking a guided tour of La Paz. That way, you’ll get to see the city’s top sights, such as the historic center, the Witches Market, and the Valle de la Luna, with a knowledgeable guide who’ll tell you all about the city’s history and culture. This particular tour is a private tour, so you’ll have the guide to yourself as you see La Paz’s highlights over 6 hours for $97 USD.
And our last suggestion for La Paz is a little bit of an unusual one but so fascinating! Head to San Pedro Square at 1 pm to meet Crazy Dave. He’s given himself that nickname because, well, he’s a very interesting character who spent 14 years locked up in San Pedro Prison in La Paz, which is located nearby. His crime was drug trafficking, and as you can imagine, he really has some insane and interesting stories to tell about his time in jail here in La Paz.
Tours inside the prison are no longer permitted, so Crazy Dave’s tour takes place outside the prison in San Pedro Square. The tour is a couple hours long. Sadly, today Crazy Dave is homeless, and hosting these tours is his job, so make sure to tip him. FYI, if you’re familiar with the globally famous book Marching Powder, which is written about prisoner Thomas McFadden – well, Crazy Dave shared a cell with him!
Related Read: Stay safe in La Paz with our detailed guide on safety tips for traveling in South America!
3. The Death Road
Bolivia is also home to one of the most dangerous roads in the world – the aptly named Death Road, aka Yungas Road. This narrow, steep, and winding road connects La Paz with the Yungas region, and many adrenaline junkies come to Bolivia specifically to ride a mountain bike down this dangerous road.
Crazy, I know! And we were adventurous enough to try it out when we visited, so I’ll give you a few helpful tips below!
This road used to be a commonly driven route, and sadly, pre-2003, hundreds of people died trying to navigate its sharp twists and turns. Buses, cars, and trucks were literally falling off the edge of the road. Today, a new driving route has been developed between La Paz and the Yungas region, meaning Death Road is more or less just a tourist attraction for “gutsy” visitors!
Thankfully, the only vehicles you need to worry about on a Death Road mountain biking tour from La Paz are the tour companies’ safety trail vehicles. But it’s still a dangerous road, so if you do decide to bike down it, be cautious and sensible at all times. The road is wide enough for a car to drive, so we didn’t find it hard to stay on the path, but it’s a steep cliff edge right there!
It’s essential you book with a reputable company like this exact Death Road tour we took. They offer great quality bikes, and all safety equipment is included. The guides are also really experienced and will help ease your nerves.
It’s a full-day tour and departs La Paz at 6 am, meaning you will get to the start of the trail before most of the other tours, which means the narrow road is less crowded, which is ideal if you’re a little nervous, like me!
The first section of the trail is the easiest part, and it means you can get used to your bike and cycling on the narrow road. It’s the last hour or so of the ride that’s very steep and nerve-wracking, so keep that in mind. The tour also includes lunch and a stop at a nearby hotel where you can shower and hang around the pool before heading back to La Paz.
For all this, the tour ranges from $114-$153 USD per person, depending on the type of bike you choose when booking. Even though I wasn’t sure about this experience at first, I’m so happy I did it! If you’re on the fence, I say go for it and book the tour here.
Next up is Sucre, a stunning city nestled in Bolivia’s highlands. It’s a popular spot to learn Spanish, and we actually spent a month here recently learning the language and getting to know the country’s second capital. Sucre is Bolivia’s second capital city and the other is La Paz.
Besides learning Spanish, which I’ll delve into further below, you should spend your days in Sucre wandering the “Historic Center,” the area around the Plaza 25th de Mayo and the busiest part of the city. Here, you’ll find lots of colonial buildings, churches, shops, markets, restaurants, and bars.
Another of the best things to do in Sucre is to visit the gorgeous whitewashed Casa de la Libertad, as it’s here that Bolivia’s Declaration of Independence was signed. And if you’re an art fan, the Museum of Indigenous Art ASUR is well worth an hour or so of your time. Here, you will see local women weaving, and you can purchase some of their amazingly colorful textiles.
A guided tour is a great introduction to a new city, and in Sucre, you can book a half-day guided tour with a local who is a professional art historian and will take you to some of the city’s top attractions. You set the agenda by choosing which museum to visit (a couple top ones are suggested) and even stop for a yummy salteña which is basically a baked empanada and it’s delicious!
Just 5 km (3 miles) from Sucre, you will find the world’s biggest collection of dinosaur footprints (over 5,000 of them!) at Cretacico Park. The footprints are spread across a giant vertical rock wall you can walk beside. There are footprints from 15 species of dinosaurs including Tyrannosaurus Rex, Sauropods, Titanosaurus, and even the tracks of a baby T-rex, which are a whopping 1,148 feet/350 meters which is the longest set of tracks like it in the world!
The dino park offers two daily tours (at 12 pm and 1 pm), which last 45 minutes. But, make sure you’re up for a steep climb as to access the footprints, you must climb down into and back up from the quarry. You can’t go into the quarry without a guided tour, as it’s still in use!
While you’re exploring Bolivia, it’s so helpful to know a bit of Spanish. If you want to learn Spanish in Sucre, like we did, then you’ll need at least two weeks here. Thankfully, finding a highly rated and cheap place to learn Spanish in Sucre is easy-peasy.
A private Spanish lesson in Sucre will set you back approximately $6 USD per hour, and group lessons are a little cheaper, at around $5 USD per hour. What’s great about learning Spanish here is that you can choose your own hours – learning as much or as little Spanish as you please. Many Spanish schools in Sucre are also hotels/hostels, so you get a place to study and sleep all in one! Some of the best places to learn Spanish in Sucre include Colors Hostel Sucre and Kultur Berlin.
Bolivia has another claim to fame as the home to the highest city in the world – Potosí. Situated at 4,090 meters (13,418 feet) above sea level, you may already be familiar with Potosí as the home of the world’s biggest silver mine. This mine produced 60% of the world’s silver for hundreds of years and was a big factor in the wealth of the Spanish Empire.
As a matter of fact, there was a time when Potosí was one of the wealthiest cities in South America! The silver ran out in the 1800s, but the mine here is still active. Taking a mine tour in Potosi is one of the most popular things to do here, but these tours are very controversial – I’ll delve into why below!
If you’re not keen on doing a mine tour, there are plenty more fun activities to fill your time in this city of 120,000 people. I will add that Potosí is very different from your “typical” city – you won’t find any high-rise hotels or fancy restaurants here! It is a true mining city.
Some of our favorites from our time in Potosí include being awed by the views from the Arco de Cobija monument and admiring the stunning interior of the Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Paz. We also loved wandering around the National Mint of Bolivia, a highly-rated museum that houses 20 different galleries. Each artifact is related to Bolivia’s currency.
I’ll add that a great way to see the best of Potosí is on an in-depth, private city tour. You’ll explore the streets, squares, and a museum of your choice with a handy guide. This city is full of history, but it’s easy to miss all the little spots that make this place special. This tour is $88 USD and a great way to get a feel for the city when you first arrive!
As I said earlier, the main reason tourists come to Potosí is to do a mine tour, but there are some serious ethical issues surrounding such tours, as the mine itself is said to be the most dangerous mine in the world! Regardless, many visitors (ourselves included!) still choose to book a mine tour as a way to support the workers.
Our mine tour in Potosí started in the morning with a stop at a local market to buy gifts for the miners. Because these workers take time away from their jobs to chat with you, this is a really nice token. We only spent a couple of dollars on items like pop, juice, alcohol, and coca leaves. The entrance fee the tour operators pay also goes back to the workers.
In the past, slaves (African and Indigenous) were forced to work in these mines, sometimes for months with no days off, and unfortunately, thousands died due to the harsh conditions. Today, working in the mine is a little different as miners now work independently and make a wage by selling what they discover (tin, zinc, and other earth metals).
Sadly, many of the workers are too poor to buy adequate safety equipment, and our guide told us that the life expectancy of a miner is only 50 years. Still, the local men continue to work in the mines because they can earn three times more than, say, if they worked as a waiter or store assistant.
Of course, there are risks involved in doing a Potosí Mine Tour. We did suit up in safety equipment before entering the mine (dust mask, full suit, rubber boots, gloves, and a headlamp), but these won’t protect you if there’s a serious accident. You should also note that dynamite is regularly going off in the mines, which can be scary to see/hear!
It’s also really dark in the mines, and the only light comes from your headlamp. Plus, oxygen in the mines is pumped in from a compressor. It’s not the tour to take if you don’t like small spaces or the dark. On this particular tour, you will get to meet the miners and speak with them and they will show you the tools they use to mine for minerals. This isn’t your typical “tour” and for me, it was more of an eye-opening experience to the conditions these workers face.
Next up is one of my favorite small towns in Bolivia – the super-cute Samaipata, which has rightly earned the nickname of “Bolivia’s little Switzerland.”
You’ll understand why when you visit, but to put it simply, the town is awash with colorful European-style buildings, many European ex-pats live here, and German-style sausage is featured on the menus of most restaurants. It’s also surrounded by mountains, which gives it a “Sound of Music” feel!
If you have a few days to spend in Samaipata (which I strongly suggest doing), you’ll be delighted to learn that there’s the bucket-list-worthy Amboró National Park, with its cloud forest, waterfalls, and varied, unique birdlife as well as plenty of gorgeous waterfalls not far from the town.
The main attraction in Samaipata is Fuerte de Samaipata, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is over 2,000 years old. Translated to English, it means “The Fort,” but it was so much more than a fort as there were also several residential and administrative buildings here as well as plenty of religious structures with ceremonial spaces.
On a visit here, you’ll get to see several ancient buildings up close that interestingly belonged to three different civilizations (the Chanè, Incas, and Spanish) and see some unique rock carvings. If you can, we strongly recommend hiring a guide to show you around El Fuerte to explain exactly what you’re seeing and tell you lots of fascinating information about the people who once called the site home.
Only 20 km (12 miles) from Samaipata, you’ll find Las Cuevas Park. It’s one of the most popular day trips from the town, and here you’ll find three impressive waterfalls which are set amongst a beautiful forest. You can take a refreshing dip in the pools below the falls, stand right underneath the cascading water (like I did!) and go hiking to each of the falls via a narrow trail. The entry fee to Las Cuevas for foreigners is just 20 BOB, which is about $3 USD.
Although we strongly recommend getting a hotel in Samaipata and staying a few days, you can take a day or overnight tour from Santa Cruz if you don’t have much time. These can typically be booked through your hotel.
I also highly recommend booking private transport to Samaipata from your hotel in Santa Cruz. We opted for a collectivo (mini-bus) for the three-hour drive and even though we paid the driver extra to not take on more passengers, he still did (along with other miscellaneous things). I spent the drive stuffed between strangers with a giant fruit basket on my lap! It’s a fun story now, but not one I want to repeat!
7. Santa Cruz
As the biggest city in the country, it should come as no surprise that Santa Cruz, aka Santa Cruz De La Sierra, makes this list of the best places to visit in Bolivia.
It’s the country’s economic hub, and because it’s a low-altitude city, it sits at 400 meters (1,300 feet), it is warmer than Bolivia’s other big cities like La Paz and Sucre. Plus, you don’t have to worry about altitude sickness when you visit here.
One of the best things to do in Santa Cruz is ride the Death Train to Brazil! This is a famous train journey that’s one of the most popular ways to get from Brazil to Bolivia. It starts or ends (depending on which way you do it) from Puerto Quijarro in Brazil to Santa Cruz. It’s a long train ride, (16+ hours), but we found it to be a memorable experience. And despite the scary-sounding name, it is not dangerous at all! The name comes from the fact that the train used to carry people who were sick with Yellow Fever to remote camps for treatment.
The city of Santa Cruz was founded by the Spanish in the 1500s, and this is evident in the many Spanish colonial buildings here. One of the most recognizable structures here is the rose-colored Metropolitan Cathedral in Plaza 24 de Septiembre, the city’s main square.
The best way to learn about the history of this cosmopolitan city and see all of its top attractions is on this History of Santa Cruz Tour, which is 1.5 hours long. The tour brings the history of the city to life with a walk around the “old town” part of Santa Cruz, along with visits to museums and art galleries housed in prominent buildings. It’s super affordable at between $8-$11 USD each depending on your group size.
Amboro National Park is located only 40 km (25 miles) from Santa Cruz, and it’s a wildlife-lovers paradise! There are an astonishing 812 species of birds that call this lush park home. This unique national park is made up of three distinct ecosystems: the Amazon Basin, the foothills of the Andes, and the northern Chaco. This mix of climates in such close proximity is seen nowhere else in the world!
Amboro is a national park, so you must visit with a registered guide. One of our top picks is this highly-rated overnight tour from Santa Cruz. You’ll have two full days to explore Amboro with a mix of guided and independent activities from night walks to spot nocturnal animals to swimming in waterfalls. Your accommodations are in a solar-powered lodge right in the middle of the rainforest – how many people can say they’ve stayed in a place like that?! This entire tour can be booked in advance here.
For day tours, it’s easy enough to visit one of the tour operators in Santa Cruz and choose a tour that catches your eye. Nicks Adventure Tours is a great choice, and we did their Jardin de las Delicias Waterfalls trip when we visited. On the tour, we traveled deep into the national park, crossing over 15 river streams before arriving at the waterfall for a short hike and, of course, a swim. Overall, it was a really good tour.
Another fantastic tour option from Santa Cruz is this Sloth and Wildlife Tour. Seeing the very cute sloths is not guaranteed (as they’re quite shy creatures), but you’ll likely get to see monkeys and caimans and visit the town of Cotoca on this 4-hour tour. It starts at $83 USD per person, and since it’s a private tour, you can customize it to include a stop at some sand dunes if you wish! You can reserve a spot on this fun-filled wildlife tour online with Viator.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Not to be confused with the more famous Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the lovely Copacabana in Bolivia, is a bit of a hidden gem! It sits on the border with Peru and is nestled on the shores of the glorious Lake Titicaca (more on that at the end of this blog post!).
A 4-hour bus ride from La Paz will have you at this tourist town, which is well-known for its red-roofed buildings and scenic pebble beach but is most famous as the gateway to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, both very important Incan archaeological sites.
Even though the beach in town is glorious, it’s unlikely you’ll have many beach days during your time here. That’s because Copacabana is located high up in the Andes, so it’s quite cold here for most of the year. During its warmest month, temperatures reach a cool high of only 19°C (66°F).
Instead of swimming or sunbathing on the town’s beach, do as the locals do and rent a swan-shaped boat from the shore (around $3 USD per person per hour). This will allow you to explore Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, in a unique way. Or, if you want to conserve your energy (pedaling the swan boats can be tiring!) you can hop on a boat tour to the lake’s famous floating islands. These “islands” (there are 40 of them in total!) are handmade by the Uros people, an Indigenous tribe, by using an underwater plant called totara!
In Copacabana town itself, it’s worth spending a few hours in its main square – Plaza 2 de Febrero. Home to the beautiful Catedral de la Virgen de la Candelaria, an important pilgrimage site, and the Virgen de la Candelaria sculpture. Or, if you’re a hiker, you can climb Cerro El Calvari for a picture-perfect viewpoint of the town.
This small town is also well known for its various festivals and ceremonies. One of the most interesting held here is the “car blessing ceremony.” It’s customary for any Bolivian who buys a new car to drive to Copacabana. We saw rows of idling cars all waiting for blessings with holy water, beer, and flower petals. It’s a daily thing, so chances are while you’re in town, you’ll witness a few new cars getting blessed for their future journeys!
9. Huayna Potosi
As one of the country’s most popular and scenic hikes, Huayna Potosi is one the best things to do in Bolivia, so adding it to our list of the best places in Bolivia was a no-brainer.
Although not technically a place, Huayna Potosi is known worldwide for being the easiest hike over 6,000 meters (19,685 feet), and the breathtaking views over the Cordillera Real and Lake Titicaca when you reach the summit make it a worthy addition to this list!
Amazingly, beginners (provided they have a good level of fitness) can tackle this hike! Technical training is not required for scaling Huayna Potosi despite the fact that it’s a 6,088-meter (19,974-foot) mountain and ice picks and climbing equipment are required to hike up to its snowy peak.
So really you should take its popularity with a pinch of salt if you’re a newbie hiker and hire an experienced guide to take you safely to the top. As for the best months to climb this 6000er (the name given to the few mountain peaks in the world over 6,000 meters), aim for April to November!
If summiting Huayna Potosi is part of your Bolivia itinerary, it’s best to start training a few months out. Hike a few hours a day in the lead-up and focus on steep terrain. This is a good way to prepare for the climb and increase your chances of making it all the way to the peak.
It will take around two days of hiking to reach the top, and most guided tours to Huayna Potosi are multi-day trips. This 3-day hike up Huayna Potosi starts in La Paz and from there you head to Paso Zongo, where you’ll spend the night in a Refugio (mountain hut) and practice your ice-climbing skills before dark. The next day, you’ll hike between 2-4 hours to High Camp. The last day is tough – it’s a long day of hiking between 10-13 hours to the summit and back to high camp across rocky terrain, snow, ice, and glacier fractures. But if you want to say you’ve scaled a mountain, you can book a spot on this tour for $327 USD!
If you’re short on time, this 2-day guided tour is a good alternative. I’ll warn you that it’s more full on, and each day, you’ll be doing a LOT more hiking than the longer tours. The good thing is because it’s a private tour, you can hike at your own pace. It’s truly an adventure as you arrive at the peak to watch sunrise! Although that does mean starting hiking at 1 am the night before!!! All climbing equipment, a night at a mountain hut, meals, and a guide are included for $150 USD when you book in advance.
Related Read: Huayna Potosi is widely regarded as one of the best hikes in South America, you can check out the others in our popular blog!
A 70-km (43-mile) drive from La Paz will have you at Tiwanaku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that interestingly pre-dates the Incas. It was founded circa 110 AD, and at its peak, it housed between 10,000 and 20,000 residents. In short, this pre-Columbian archaeological site is one of the most important in Bolivia, and it’s also one of the largest sites in South America.
Spread across the site, you’ll find megalithic blocks, giant structures, and beautifully decorated ceramics. One of the must-visit attractions at Tiwanaku is the Gate of the Sun. This huge gateway is adorned with carvings of animals and other beings and is said to have been used as a type of calendar by the people here.
You will also see the Puma Punku complex, an impressive stone terrace that contains the largest stone block in the complex, and the Kalasasaya Temple.
You can, of course, visit Tiwanaku on your own, but we strongly suggest hiring a guide as then you’ll learn the full history of the site. Unfortunately, information boards at Tiwanaku are few and far between, so you miss out on a lot without someone to delve into its secrets.
Because Tiwanaku is so close to La Paz, booking a guided tour from there is the best way to visit. This particular tour is your key to exploring this ancient civilization. Over the course of 4 hours, you’ll tour through a couple of museums near the site before walking around the ruins themselves. The guides are so good at bringing this site to life as you picture what it might have looked like back when it was a thriving place!
The tour is only $49 USD which includes lunch at a local restaurant and round-trip transport from La Paz, so it’s really a hassle-free way to step back in time to see these ancient ruins. You can easily book a spot on this tour online here!
Huddled near the border with Argentina, Tupiza is known as Bolivia’s Wild West. With its impressive red rock landscapes, arid desert look, and unique rock formations, it’s so photogenic! Yep, visiting here, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped onto the set of a Western movie! Fascinatingly, infamous outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are said to have been killed at nearby San Vicente.
P.S. Tupiza is also a great starting point for a Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) tour. There are many to choose from with tour operators around town so you can either book when you get here or if you like to be organized (like us!) book one in advance.
This 4-day Salt Flats tour from Tupiza comes highly recommended! Your transport is a comfy 4WD so you can access more remote areas – meaning better photos and no crowds! There are so many great little stops like Sol de Mañana which is a massive geothermal landscape filled with geysers and bubbling mud. You’ll get to spot flamingos at the colorful Laguna Colorada and even watch a sunrise over the salt flats. The entire tour includes three nights of accommodations, meals, roundtrip transportation, and a Spanish guide. It’s limited to six people and is cheapest if you book online for a group of 4-6 for $352 USD each.
For the best view of Tupiza, head out to Cerro de la Cruz, a 30-minute walk from downtown. It’s best to get to the viewpoint at sunset as then you can watch the mountains change color as the sun descends behind them! Doing this hike in the evening also means that you’ll avoid the intense heat the area is known for, as there’s very little shade on this hike.
Back in the town itself, be sure to spend an hour or so wandering the Mercado Negro, a busy market that sells mostly meat, fruit, and vegetables. It’s a great place to see daily life in Tupiza in full swing and grab an inexpensive (but delicious!) meal.
The Cordillera de Chicas that surrounds the town is filled with weird and wonderful red rock formations, and it’s where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were said to have hid out for a time before meeting their demise in San Vicente. Horseback riding tours and guided jeep tours with Tupiza Natural Adventure are the best way to explore the dozens of rock formations here, as the intense heat can make hiking here difficult.
However, we found Valle de los Machos, Puerta del Diablo, and Cañon del Inca relatively easy to reach on foot, so consider heading out to those formations from downtown if you’re a keen hiker. You’ll be happy to hear that they’re all in the same area, so you can do them all in one day.
I bet you didn’t know that you can access the Amazon from Bolivia?! Well, Rurrenabaque, or “Rurre” as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a cheaper entry point to the famed Amazon than the more popular gateways in Brazil (Manaus and Belém) and Peru (Puerto Maldonado).
Situated in the north of the country and nestled along the banks of the Beni River, this vibrant town is a fantastic tourist destination in its own right. Before heading out on an Amazon tour, we recommend spending at least a full day in Rurre.
Start with a visit to Plaza Principal De Rurrenabaque, the town’s beating heart and home to the beautiful Our Lady of Candelaria Church. Then, head over to Calles Santa Cruz for lunch in one of the many restaurants there. The La Cruz Lookout offers the best views in town, and luckily, it’s a short walk from downtown, making it an ideal after-lunch activity.
Across the river is the smaller town of San Buenaventura. A motorized canoe will take you across, and here, you can stop by the Centro Cultural Tacana, a small museum where you can buy Indigenous handicrafts.
The tours into the Pampas Wetlands of the Amazon tend to last 2-3 days. Activities usually include piranha fishing, seeing pink dolphins, and keeping your eyes peeled for anacondas. Other animals you’re likely to encounter include crocodiles, caimans (similar to an alligator), capybaras, monkeys, giant anteaters, porcupines, toucans, and macaws!
On this 3-day ecotour from Rurrenabaque, wildlife lovers will get the chance to spend three full days in the Bolivian Amazon Basin and the Pampas. During the day, guided boat trips will take you among the habitats of different species, including crocodiles and caiman. It’s a small group tour limited to 10 people, which means you’re getting a more personalized experience! Included is two nights at an eco-lodge equipped with mosquito nets and hammocks, a knowledgeable local guide, as well as all food and drinks. You can reserve a spot here for your Amazon adventure!
13. Lake Titicaca/Isla del Sol
And last but definitely not least is the super-unique Lake Titicaca, which is not only one of the biggest lakes in South America but it’s also the highest navigable body of water in the world! It sits at a whopping 3,812 meters (12,507 feet) above sea level.
Not forgetting that this giant lake (it’s about three times the size of New York City!) is home to the Uros people. They live on the lake in makeshift islands that they’ve made themselves from reeds! In short, Lake Titicaca truly is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in Bolivia.
The lake borders both Bolivia and Peru and is surrounded by the Andes Mountains. It’s part of the Titicaca National Reserve, an isolated area known for its unusual marine creatures, such as rare giant frogs. Another interesting tidbit is that Lake Titicaca is believed to be the birthplace of the sun and the Incas!
The best thing to do at Lake Titicaca is to visit the world-famous man-made islands. There are about 40 of them in total, and each one is made out of an indigenous underwater plant called totara. Now that’s ingenuity for you!
On a tour of the Uros Islands, you will see these amazing structures up close and get a glimpse into the daily lives of the Uros people who live here! You’ll start with a boat ride across the lake before getting to meet the local people who will show you how they built these incredible floating islands.
You’ll even have the option to sail on a boat completely made from totora reeds to the main island of Uros. That’s where you can get your passport stamped! It’s really a special tour that gives you a glimpse of an incredible culture. The tour is $51 USD when booked in advance and make sure to bring some cash with you to pay for the totora reed boat ride (10 soles) and to buy some of the amazing crafts on display.
From Copacabana, which I wrote about earlier, you can hop on a two-hour boat journey to Isla del Sol (aka the island of the sun). On the island, there are numerous fascinating Incan archaeological sites, such as Pilko Kaina, a ruined palace, the Escalera del Incan, a staircase leading to a spring that is said to give you eternal youth, and the impressive Chincana ruins. But the most significant archaeological site is the Roca Sagrada, a ginormous rock that is believed to be the birthplace of the first Inca people.
A guided tour like this one is the perfect way to see the best of Lake Titicaca in a limited amount of time. It leaves from La Paz, stops at Copacabana in the morning, and includes an afternoon boat trip to Isla del Sol. You’ll have time to wander around the ancient Incan sites and take in the incredible views. It’s only $45 USD for this full-day tour that takes you to some of the very best places in Bolivia we’ve been talking about in this blog! You can check available dates and book online here.
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
See, didn’t we tell you that Bolivia was an unforgettable country? We love hidden gem destinations, and Bolivia is exactly that. With so many incredible landscapes and places to explore, Bolivia is a destination you won’t forget anytime soon. We know you’re going to have the best time ever exploring this naturally beautiful country!
Before booking those plane tickets, be sure to also browse all of our Bolivia blogs or check out some other popular articles we have below: