Above: The High Altiplano is one of the most dramatically beautiful areas of Bolivia, close to the Chilean border. It is a land of ice, fire, wind and salt where the scenery is surreal with jagged snow capped volcanoes reflected in the lakes of many colours.
Known as the Tibet of the Americas, Bolivia is remote and landlocked in the heart of South America. Bolivia boasts the highest capital city, the highest navigable lake and the largest salt pan in the world. Bolivia is also the most indigenous country in South America, having the highest number of pure Native Americans who have not only preserved their native languages but much of their traditional way of life.
La Paz is the self-proclaimed capital of Bolivia and is breathtaking in its beauty, and altitude. At over 3,500 metres in height and sprawling across a swooping basin which measures 1,000 metres, its scale quite literally takes your breath away. A fantastic way to appreciate the magnitude of this spectacular city is to ride on the Teleferico. I was mesmerised by the vast panoramic views from a ‘bird’s eye view’ above the clouds and seemed to float above the huge canyons and Mount Illimani, the three crested volcano which oversees the city.
Above: The Valle de la Luna with its extraordinary spire rock formations jutting out of the mountainside …
La Paz is a colourful and vibrant city rich with a number of beautiful 19th Century Baroque churches, museums of artefacts from the pre-Conquest era and colourful markets with Aymara women selling an extraordinary variety of handicrafts. The Witches’ Market in the centre of the city sells charms, lotions, potions, souvenirs and bizarre objects, offering a fascinating insight into such a diverse culture.
If you can tear yourself away from La Paz, heading west you will find the second best place to start a journey through Bolivia is Lake Titicaca, the birth-place of the Incan Empire and the world’s highest navigable lake. This is the most sacred lake in the Andes and its deep blue waters are held in mythical awe by the people who still inhabit the area today. The floating reed Uros islands are remarkable and we hiked to the sacred stone of the Puma, where Incan kings made sacrifices to the sun god.
However, the pinnacle of Bolivia’s fantastical natural beauty and isolated pristine wilderness is the Andean Altiplano and the surreal landscape of the Salar de Uyuni salt flat which was formed 40,000 years ago after the evaporation of a giant prehistoric lake. Strange hexagonal shapes remain encrusted in the salt and ten metre high giant cacti offer a truly other-worldly experience. Beyond is a world of bizarre rock formations, snow-tipped volcanoes and sparkling soda lakes of dizzying shades of jade and red, filled with flocks of pink flamingos.
Below: Salar de Uyuni is the largest and highest salt lake in the world and offers some of South America’s most extraordinary scenery and isolated pristine wilderness. A perfect way to explore this unique landscape is from the luxury of a retro-style Airstream!
The North Yungus Road – better known as ‘The Death Road’ linking La Paz to the Amazon Basin once again took our breath away in every sense. The magnificent views were extraordinary and sheer drops were heart stopping as the bus’s ‘fuselage’ lurched over cliff edges traversing high altitude passes, through cloud forests of hair-pin bends and with much hissing and grinding of metal on metal we plummeted at speed narrowly missing other road users.
On my last trip I only just scratched the surface … this country is a giant treasure trove of gems waiting to be marvelled at and I can’t wait to do so when I next adventure there.
If you would like to go to Bolivia, Peru and/or Chile a journey can be tailor-made for you by World Odyssey – for more information on anything to do with South America or anywhere else on the planet, please call one of our travel specialists for advice on: 01905 731373