Bolivia / South America

4 Amazing Things To Do In Bolivia

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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What to do in Bolivia we hear you ask. Bolivia is one of our favourite countries. Here's our 4 best things to do in Bolivia to help you understand why.

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.

We never knew red lakes existed until we came across this one!
We never knew red lakes existed until we came across this one!

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. 



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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.

We saw hundreds of wild Flamingos on this trip.
We saw hundreds of wild Flamingos on this trip.

The Landscape

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

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!

Shelley chilling out in one of the natural hot springs.
Shelley chilling out in one of the natural hot springs.

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.

Darren getting a bit to cosy with a giant Cactus.
Darren getting a bit to cosy with a giant Cactus.

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

Have you ever wanted to be like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood? Riding a horse through the Wild West like a cool as a cucumber Cowboy? Our travel experience in the USA goes no further, for now than New York City. So going to Tupiza gave us the next best thing!
Tupiza is located in dramatic ‘Wild West’ countryside. With beautiful orange and red coloured eroded rocks, cactus-covered slopes and dry as a bone ravines. The perfect setting for your best Western movie horse riding skills. I bet you didn’t expect this in our things to do in Bolivia list?!
Enjoying the views on our new friend.
Enjoying the views on our new friend.
Horse riding in Tupiza is popular with tourists so most tour operators offer the experience. However, you can still easily find your private pocket of rugged scenery due to the surrounding area being pretty huge. Plus there still aren’t that many tourists who travel through this area.


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On our half day horse ride, we came across only one other group of three. I imagine doing full day trips would take you out even further out. This would increase the chance of seeing no one for that remote and ‘in the middle of nowhere’ experience.

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.

Darren trying to look cool as he rides off into the distance
Darren trying to look cool as he rides off into the distance
So off we rode into the sunset, slacks strapped and cowboy hats upon our heads. We thought we looked proper cool but judging by some of our mates Facebook comments we’re not convinced we did.

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 listThank 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

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the city now but Potosi used to be the largest and wealthiest city in the Americas. The city was founded in 1545 after the discovery of silver in the surrounding landscape. The mines in the region soon became the richest mines in all of world history and still hold that fame. We’re talking 60,000 tonnes of silver. That’s a lot of silver!!!  
Overlooking one of the outer suburbs of Potosi with the mined mountains behind.
Overlooking one of the outer suburbs of Potosi with the mined mountains behind.
 
You can see signs of the city’s previous wealth in the centre where magnificent baroque churches (UNESCO listed sites), monasteries and ornate colonial architecture were built. But the areas surrounding the centre are in complete contrast which reminds you that you are still in South Americas poorest country. By 1800 the silver had all been extracted. So these days they’re mining mostly rare earth or what’s left of any tin that also used to be mined here. This has lead to a massive economic decline.

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. 



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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! 

Our entrance into the darkness of the mine.
Our entrance into the darkness of the mine.
 
The mine we visited was inside the main mountain the overlooks the city. These days it’s not clear how safe the mines are as the whole mountain is pretty much honeycombed with mine shafts and tunnels that aren’t supported like they should be. Remember we’re in South America’s poorest country. It’s probably not one of the safest things to do in Bolivia. However, our curious minds convinced us to go in.

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.

Watch out for those rail carts!
Watch out for those rail carts!
Halfway through the tour we came across a bunch of young miners on their break. Exhausted from mining for God knows how long and faces black with dirt in the darkness. We exchanged a bit of chat via our guides translation and they were curious to know where we were from and what we do. We were, of course, curious to learn about their lives too which are so completely different to ours. At this point, we handed over our gifts which they were very grateful for.

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. 

Every miners friend "El Tio".
Every miner’s friend “El Tio”.
After 4 hours in the mine, we made it out alive, into the daylight, with a whole new appreciation of life. Thanks for looking after us El Tio! 

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. 

View point of Lake Titicaca.
A view point of Lake Titicaca.
Titicaca stretches as far as the eye can see so at times you forget it’s a lake. The sheer size gives it the appearance of a sea. In fact, the lake is so big that half of it crosses the border into Peru!

Accommodation Recommendation

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.



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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!

Darren enjoying our terrace overlooking the Lake Titicaca.
Darren enjoying our terrace overlooking the Lake Titicaca.

Isla del Sol

If you choose to visit Lake Titicaca then you must take a trip to Isla del Sol, an island in the Southern, Bolivian part of the lake. From here you get to stretch your legs on any of the many walking trails which offer Inca ruins and more amazing view points of the lake. You can come here on a day trip but we recommend staying the night. You can then take your time and not have to rush back to catch your return boat in the afternoon.
Shelley enjoying the views on one of the Islands many walking trails.
Shelley enjoying the views on one of the Islands many walking trails.
There’s a little village in the middle of the island with a choice of places to stay and eat. Darren was suffering from quite bad altitude sickness on this island so was glad to finally arrive to rest. But even with bad altitude sickness we still remember the Island of the Sun to be one of our favourite things to do in Bolivia.
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What to do in Bolivia we hear you ask. Bolivia is one of our favourite countries. Here's our 4 best things to do in Bolivia to help you understand why.

Hi! We’re Darren and Shelley, a travel obsessed couple from London, England. We’ve been travelling on and off for the past 11 years. We regularly leave our comfortable British lives behind to live the nomadic lifestyle for a year at a time. There’s nothing we love more than quitting our jobs, packing our bags and flying to the other side of the world without much of a plan. Not having a plan allows us to travel more freely, slowly and without commitments. We’re now on our new and epic one-way ticket adventure to Asia but it won’t stop there. The only plan we have that’s different to previous trips is to try and make some money along the way, so our travels can last as long as we wish them to. We’re chasing our digital nomad dream. We’d love you to join us to see if we can make it work and maybe give us some suggestions on where to go next!

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