Bolivia, landlocked at the heart of Andean Latin America, remains something of a well-kept secret. It’s the hemisphere’s highest, most isolated and rugged nation. Unparalleled beauty is also reflected in its vibrant indigenous cultures, colonial cities such as Sucre and Potosí and whispers of ancient civilizations.
A good place to start is Copacabana, which is nestled between two hills and perched on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca. Copacabana (Copa) is a small, bright and enchanting town. For centuries it was the site of religious pilgrimages and today local and visiting Peruvian pilgrims flock to its fiestas.
A short distance by boat will give you the opportunity to visit both Isla Del Sol and Isla De La Luna (Sun and Moon Islands) and enjoy its serene beauty and Inca history. Sun Island is home to the sacred rock of Titicaca and in the labyrinth-like ruins of Chincana, a restored Inca Temple and nunnery (housing the virgins of the sun) can be found. By the water’s edge pigs can be seen running across the sandy beaches.
The startling limpid waters of Lake Titicaca reveal an incongruous splash of sapphire amid the stark plains of the Altiplano and are one of the most beautiful sights in the region. The lake is the second largest in South America and can be reached by either traditional reed boat or hydrofoil.
The tiny island of Pariti houses a new museum featuring exquisite finds from a recent excavation and is well worth visiting in order to appreciate the hidden depths of Bolivia.
La Paz is dizzying in every respect, not only for its well-publicized altitude (3660m) but for its quirky beauty. The first glimpse of La Paz will take your breath away. The city’s buildings cling to the sides of the canyon and spill spectacularly downwards. On a clear day, the imposing showy, snowy Mt Illimani (6402m) looms in the background. The best views of the city are from Parque Laikakota. Here you can enjoy a leisurely lunch and admire the grand public buildings. Of special interest is the cathedral, the Palacio Presidencial and the Congresso Nacional.
Coroico has long been a favourite with visitors enjoying its laid back atmosphere and serene natural beauty. Surrounded by orange and banana groves this is a perfect place to put on your walking boots and explore the unique countryside with citrus orchards and coffee plantations before ensconcing yourself into a hammock.
Proud, genteel Sucre is Bolivia’s most beautiful city, and the symbolic heart of the nation. A glorious ensemble of whitewashed buildings sheltering pretty patios and with a wealth of colonial architecture.
Oruro, whose name means ‘where the sun is born,’ sits against a range of mineral-rich low hills at the northern end of the salty lakes of Uri and Pope, linked by river to Titicaca. Oruro has good museums and restaurants and there’s plenty to see in the surrounding area. It’s also culturally very colourful, with a rich dance and musical heritage that culminates in the riotous Carnival celebrations, famous throughout South America for the lavish costumes and elaborate traditions.
Laguna Colorada is a shallow salt lake in the South-West of the Altiplano of Bolivia and close to the border with Chile. It is famous for its James flamingos that live and breed here. At the South-West of the park is Laguna Verde and Laguna Blanca where, around the emerald green lake, NASA has performed experiments to prepare for future missions to Mars.
North of Laguna is the Valle de Dali which is a surrealistic collection of rocks against a backdrop of eroded cliffs. The thermal pools embedded into the rocks ensure that you will leave this matchless area in a relaxed state.
Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado is one of the world’s most stunningly diverse natural habitats with a wide range of plant and animal species almost unmatched anywhere else on the planet. With its Amazonian forests, spectacular waterfalls and eerie-looking flat-topped mountains it is no surprise that this park houses seven distinct eco-systems. With over 600 species of birds including the Amazonian umbrella bird and animals like black howler monkey, this is a nature lover’s paradise.
Proud, genteel Sucre is Bolivia’s most beautiful city, and the symbolic heart of the nation. A glorious ensemble of whitewashed buildings sheltering pretty patios and with a wealth of colonial architecture. The country’s declaration of independence was signed in Sucre in 1825 and the city’s heritage is very much on display in its museums and churches. You can take a flotilla to Potosi and marvel at its history of bankrolling the Spanish empire with the silver it extracted from its mines.
Bolivia’s innate charm lies in its staggering breadth of contrasts: the clash of indigenous and European culture, the sweep of landscape from jungle to high-altitude mountain and the diversity of activities from adrenaline sports to ancient monuments. Enjoy.