We often get asked the same question that I’m sure all travellers get asked over and over again. “Out of all the countries you’ve visited, which is your favourite?” We always find this question difficult to answer. We’ve got so much love for all the countries we visit and all for different reasons. We can’t pick one particular country so we’ve narrowed it down to New Zealand, India and Bolivia. All very different countries. All incredible in our opinion. So what’s so great about Bolivia, South America’s poorest country? We’re glad you asked! Let us tell you our top 4 amazing things to do in Bolivia to help you understand.
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Salar de Uyuni Jeep Tour
If you’re reading this because you’re looking for things to do in Bolivia, make sure to note this one down! Our Salar de Uyuni Jeep tour is not only first on our things to do in Bolivia list. It’s also up there with some of our favourite trips in the world!
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat. It’s humongous at 10,582 square kilometres and is located in the far south-west corner of the country. Near the crest of the magnificent Andes mountains.
Where to Start the Tour
You can gain access to the area from various locations but the most popular is from the small town of Uyuni to the north. Here the salt flats can be seen as part of a day trip. However, we entered from Tupiza because we arrived there first after crossing the border from Northern Argentina. Tupiza is also on our list of things to do in Bolivia which you can read about later in this post.
Due to Tupiza’s longer distance from the salt flats, it isn’t possible to see them in a single day trip. The length of a trip to see the flats is a 4 day Jeep safari across the whole area of this breathtaking part of Bolivia. This makes for a far more adventurous trip and is why it makes our things to do in Bolivia list!
Our guest house owner hooked us up with one of the many tour operators in town. The next morning we were sat in the back of a well-kitted Jeep to take on some of the world’s strangest terrain.
Over the four days, we were constantly in awe of the landscape. We felt like we were travelling through another planet. Mountains, active volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, red lakes, green lakes, turquoise lakes, eerie ruined towns, flocks of Flamingoes and herds of Alpaca before reaching the mass of white at Salar de Uyuni. When taking this trip you’re getting numerous things to do in Bolivia for the price of one!
Accommodation and food are all included in the price for the three days but don’t expect luxury. We stayed in basic but clean shared accommodation. Make sure to pack your winter warmers because the high altitudes on the trip make it bitingly cold. Especially at night. We were hugely grateful for our five thick blankets provided at each accommodation. Nice and cosy!
Our final night’s accommodation was made of salt which made for a really interesting place to stay. Literally, almost everything was built from salt. The walls, the floor, the chairs and even the beds. Don’t worry, non-salt mattresses were provided!
The trip finishes in Uyuni where you get to learn how the locals farm the salt to make a living. There’s also an awesome train graveyard just outside of Uyuni. Set in the desert like landscape the rusting old trains are very photogenic. It felt like a location from the film Mad Max. From Uyuni, you can then jump on a bus to your next destination.
Choose a Tour Guide Wisely
We had a fantastic four days on the trip due to our friendly and responsible driver/guide and his wife. Travellers should take care when choosing a tour operator for visiting Salar de Uyuni. We heard stories of bad accidents due to unsafe vehicles and irresponsible drivers.
Make sure your vehicles have seatbelts, emergency radio transmitters and first aid equipment. And don’t shy from asking about guides’ levels of training and experience. If they tick all the boxes then we promise you’ll have an incredible and memorable experience. You’ll be telling other travellers the things to do in Bolivia after this trip!
TIP – We’d recommend using La Torre Tours as we did.
Horse Riding in Tupiza
This was the first time we had ever gotten on a horse, let alone ride one
We have to admit we were a little nervous. Horses seem so unpredictable to us and we’ve always found them quite intimidating. We had nothing to worry about. Our horses named Al and Ben were relaxed and friendly fellas. They seemed perfectly comfortable with us on their backs which therefore made us feel the same.
Our guide spoke not a word of English so there wasn’t much chat going on. This gave us the opportunity to really take in the impressive scenery and appreciate the peace and quiet. Another unforgettable experience and a must on anyone’s things to do in Bolivia list. Thank God our horses behaved well because not being able to communicate with our guide we would have had no clue what to do!
Exploring Ancient Mines in Potosi
The big attraction in Potosi is going to one of the still existing mines
It’s a fascinating insight into how these brave miners live their lives and should be added to your list of things to do in Bolivia. Some of the miners are so desperate to make some kind of living. They can spend days in the darkness of the mine. Away from their families, working, eating and sleeping.
The tour starts on the outskirts of town where you get yourself dressed up in miners gear. You’re then taken to a shop where you’re given the chance to by gifts of food, drink, dynamite, cocoa leaves and cigarettes for the miners. We gladly bought some fluorescent Inca Cola (Peru and Bolivia‘s Coca-Cola) and a bag of cocoa leaves. The leaves are chewed by miners to keep hunger at bay and help with altitude sickness.
Oh yeah at over 4000 metres above sea level, Potosi is one of the world’s highest cities! But most of the folk in these parts are well climatized so do not suffer from altitude sickness. Unlike us!
Inside is a maze of dark, dirty and dusty tunnels
At times we were on our hands and knees crawling through the tiniest of holes. We could hear dynamite explosions in the distance. And often had to jump flat to the wall to avoid the rubble full rail carts going by at high speeds.
The strangest part of the tour was finding a statue that they call “El Tio” who is supposed to represent the devil. They make daily offerings to El Tio as they believe God rules above ground but El Tio is in charge down below in the mines. By worshiping El Tio they believe their lives will be spared while they work in these awful mine conditions where fatalities are high and life expectancy low.
Blue Waters of Lake Titicaca
The epic Titicaca. The largest lake in South America and highest altitude lake in the world. What other lakes can compete with stats like that! It’s deep blue waters, like a sheet of smooth ice, perfectly reflect the blue skies above. With all that blue going on and what some might call a beach on the lake’s shores, you can’t blame yourself for thinking you’re on a tropical island holiday resort.
However, this is Bolivia, so on close inspection in isn’t quite like that. Yes the views are stunning and the sun is always shining but a tropical island holiday resort it isn’t quite. Although the locals do use the main town of Copacabana and it’s lake as just that. It’s a very popular holiday destination for Bolivians and I can’t blame them.
Copacabana is a cute little town with a holiday buzz but the highlight for us was the accommodation we chose to stay. Perched up on a hill overlooking the lake and town sits a very unique looking guest house called Las Olas. Las Olas has a range of quirky and creative looking rooms. All individually designed with private terraces and incredible vistas.
If you’ve been on the road for a while and looking for somewhere to rest then this is the place in Bolivia. We spent days swinging in our terrace hammocks, overlooking the epic lake from above. Pure bliss. This place is well worth the splurge, but prices, when we stayed, were still no more than flashpacker. Bolivia is cheap don’t forget!