2 months: Santa Cruz → Sucre → Potosi → Sucre → La Paz → Rurrenabaque → La Paz → Lake Titicaca → Cochabamba → Sucre → Potosi → Tupiza → Uyuni → La Paz
01.11.2014 - 30.12.2014
I was a little apprehensive of La Paz, but I really enjoyed being there. There's a lot to do, and it's a jumping off point for so many destinations and activities.
STAY: Loki La Paz is a legit hotel. Underneath a rooftop bar is 5 floors of dorms and private rooms. To say it’s social is an understatement – people are always drinking at the bar, every night offers a different activity (trivia night, beer pong, karaoke, etc). Wild Rover is also a well known party hostel chain.
DO: The Free Walking Tour is the best way to see and get to know the city. Biking the Death Road is terrifying but beautiful, and you can go as slow as you want (I went so slow tours behind us were passing me). Market for juices, papa rellenos, and cheap almuerzos. Teleferico to El Alto for amazing views of the city. Cholitas wrestling (I didn't realize it was a thing either) is best to arrange via hostel (includes transportation). Don't miss out on quadbiking at Valle de la Luna!!! One of my fav experiences.
TO DO: I'm not a big museum person but there is a Coca Museum that I wanted to go to.
FROM LA PAZ: Amazon tour -- we did the Pampas trip (as opposed to the more survival-esque Jungle trip). $500 included flights to/from Rurrenabaque, transportation to/from the Amazon, 2 nights lodging in Amazon, food/water, and activities including hunting for anacaondas, fishing for piranas, swimming with pink dolphins, and looking for crocs at night.
Note: it is possible to go to Rurrenabaque independently and book a tour when you get there, but convenience is a factor in the fee and in my opinion totally worth it in this case
The little gateway city into the the Amazon's Madidi National Park... we fell in love with it and ended up extending our flight couple days (free of charge) to enjoy it for longer (your time here may be extended whether you want it to or not, thunderstorms, and therefore flight cancellations are frequent).
DO: an Amazon tour. Sunday market by the river for everything you can think of. The zipline tour is on the more expensive side ($40) but I don’t regret it (it included a boat ride and hike through the jungle in order to get to the isolated zipline course). If interested, go for the Ayahuasca tour. Head to El Mirador for awesome views of the city.
EAT: French Bakery (across the street from Fluvial Tours) – for fresh pastries and coffee. La Perla restaurant for delicious fish meals. Julianos for steak and amazing oreo dessert.
Only 4 hour bus from La Paz, this is the Bolivian jumping off point for Lake Titicaca. It's a little city; everything the tourist needs (restaurants, tour agencies, bus companies, vendors) is close by the water.
DO: Wander around the city. Hike up to the view point. Enjoy a rooftop meal at a restaurant by the water. Get a fresh fish meal at a stand by the water. Rent a paddleboat. There are also plenty of docks that offer perfect spots to just sit back and relax.
→ easy jump off to Puno (Peru's equivalent of Copacabana)
isla del sol (lake titicaca)
There are a couple different islands and different ways to experience Titicaca. We decided not to book a tour, and instead just got a boat ride to the island and explored on our own. The north end offers incredible sunsets, the south end is a little more touristy. We went in December and the weather was kind of shitty – mix between sun and rain.
I spent about a week here with a friend and we really tried to enjoy it but it just didn’t happen. It has a similar vibe to Sucre (but less colonial and significantly more expensive Spanish lessons).
DO: Cristo de La Concordia for view of city.
lived up to everything I had heard about it... picturesque, colonial, relaxing. Travellers tend to stay there and take Spanish lessons, but it’s a worthy stop for any amount of time.
DO: Spanish lessons! Enjoy movie night at Joyride. Suck up the uphill climb and head to Recoleta Mirador for a view of city, especially nice at sunset. Check out the local hotspots Plaza 25 de Mayo and Parque Bolivar. There are a bunch of tours. We did one to Maragua Crater for $40 (hike was beautiful, scenery was impressive, but not a must do). Go to 7 Cascadas – guides are recommended but it’s possible to get there on your own (we got hopelessly lost but still found it).
EAT: at the mercado!! Groceries are super cheap; there is an area that sells made to order fresh fruit juices for about $1; on the second level you will find food stands offering meals for $2; for a quicker meal you can grab a delicious sandwich on the bottom level.
GO HERE! Please don’t miss this stop. I almost skipped it and I am so grateful I didn’t. It’s a poor, dirty city; but given it’s history a visit is necessary and beyond eye-opening.
DO: I felt uncomfortable about doing the mine tour (from what I had heard it seemed sketch and voyeur-istic) but I’m so glad I did it. It all comes down to the tour you choose. We booked ours through the hostel we were at (Casona) and it was legit because the guide used to be a miner so he was knowledgeable and homies with the workers. Eat some volcano soup after.
FROM POTOSI: Ojo del Inca – a natural hot spring about 30 min bus ride from Potosi. Possible as a day trip, but also a legit overnight trip (we went expecting cabanas but they were under construction so we just slept next to the hot spring in our sleeping bags)
Not entirely necessary, but the “western” scenery is beautiful and it was nice to experience a relatively less visited part of Bolivia. There are a number of tour operators, most that offer a map of the area with the main attractions highlighted - making it possible to do them on your own.
DO: La Cruz is an uphill hike but worth it for views of the city and Cerro Elefante (2 attractions in 1!).
TO DO: One of my biggest regrets was not doing a horseback riding tour and hitting the rest of the main attractions. Please do it for me!
Note: Salt Flat tours can be arranged/started here, but I think we found that they were a little more expensive than starting at Uyuni.
→ possible to cross border to Argentina via Villazon (Bolivia)/La Quiaca (Argentina)
An uninteresting shithole buzzing with tourists. The only thing to do here is shop around for tours of the salt flats – and there are so many it quickly becomes a pain.
Tip #1: every tour offers the same thing, so just because it’s more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better quality. Our 3 days/2 night tour cost $100 (not including park fees – if I remember correctly none of the tour prices included the park fees which total to about $30)
Tip #2: Definitely check reviews… as long as it doesn’t have consistent shit reviews, chances are it will be fine. You could drive yourself crazy trying to find the “best” one.
Tip #3: Tours from Uyuni connect with those from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, which makes going from Bolivia to Chile seamless. (Tours also return to Uyuni – my friend and I went together but she and everyone else on our tour were headed to Chile, so on the last tour stop I switched to a car going back to Uyuni).
Tip #4: Some agencies also offer sunrise/sunset tours of the flats (separate from the overnight tours). We chose the sunrise tour ($15). DO IT!!!! You might freeze, but you will not be disappointed.
to do: back to santa cruz!
I didn't give Santa Cruz the attention it deserves. It's far from the main circuit of places to go in Bolivia, but it's a nice university city, that offers as a jump off point for a wealth of incredible places. It's also home of the world famous soccer academy for development, Academia de Futbol Tahuichi Aguilera.
STAY: Jodanga Backpackers was a legit hostel that had a pool, bar, and tours offered.
TO DO: Day trips to Espejillos Waterfalls,* Jardin de las Delicias Waterfalls,* Lomas de Arena (option to sandboard)*
FROM SANTA CRUZ: Jesuit Mission circuit of the Chiquitos; Kaa Iya National Park for wildlife viewing including jaguars and pumas (borders with Brazil);* Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (borders with Paraguay);* Amboro National Park (en route to Cochabamba) for birding, trekking, waterfalls and untouched scenery;* Samaipata (en route to Sucre) for access to Amboro Park*
Because of limited public access, tours and guides are required/recommended for all of these*
→ Possible to cross border to Brazil at Quijarro (Bolivia)/Corumba (Brazil) via train
(departure times, length of trips, and fare prices vary depending on comfort level)
the busses are suuuuper shitty. They are rundown, dirty, without airconditioning (you’re lucky if your window opens), uncomfortable (you’re lucky if your seat reclines), without toilets (you’re lucky if your bus driver stops so you can pop a squat outside next to the bus), usually late, and packed (the aisle is usually filled with people). But that’s all part of the adventure!!
Don’t drink the tap water. No matter how careful you are, you’ll probably get some type of food poisoning. My friend and I both got Salmonella and the doctor was hardly impressed. It doesn’t seem like it at the time, but you’ll live. Just make sure you have some Cipro with you (available at all the pharmacies for super cheap).