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Insider's Guide: Bolivia

What makes this country unique?
Bolivia is a true travel icon, a country of endless superlatives, a land of adventure, discovery, rural beauty, rich cultural heritage and tradition, wonderful people, and indescribable scenery that seems to defy reality.
Although there is an almost endless array of interesting and unique facts about this fascinating country, such as Bolivia having the highest capital in the world (La Paz, Bolivia’s seat of government) at a breath taking 3640 metres above sea level, or the Salar de Uyuni being so large it is visible from space!, what really makes Bolivia so unique is that it is one of the last remaining unspoilt travel gems just waiting to be explored. A journey through Bolivia’s stunning landscape is a unique experience impossible to experience anywhere else on earth, with lunar-esque valleys giving way to pink, white and green lakes, thermal springs, salt hotels, Andean valleys and Amazon jungle, Inca heritage, stunning wildlife and so much more. If you truly wish to travel, Bolivia is waiting to be discovered.

2.    When is the best time/season to visit and why?
Choosing what time of year or what season to visit Bolivia really depends on where you are travelling within Bolivia, and what you want to experience during your trip. Bolivia’s climate can be summarised into two distinct seasons: the rainy season running from November to late March, and the dry season running from April through to October, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Bolivia’s main attraction is the incredible Salar de Uyuni and during the dry season the landscape here is stunning, 4x4 tours can easily traverse the salar to visit “Isla Inchuasi” island in the centre of the salar, and of course the lack of rain is a positive although the nights can get bitterly cold due to the altitude. During the rainy season the salar is covered in a thin layer of water which can restrict visits to certain regions, however the water creates the reflective mirage effect often seen on photographs in guide books or travel magazines, so if you are a keen photographer or really want to marvel at this natural phenomenon then it is important to visit in the rainy season.

 

 

 

 

3.    What is the ‘hot spot’ for 2017?
Bolivia’s more famous tourist sights including the Salar de Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, the ancient ruin of Tihuanaco and the capital La Paz may grab all the headlines, but the city of Sucre is undoubtedly the travel hot spot for 2017.
Bolivia’s “other” capital (La Paz is the seat of government, Sucre is the constitutional capital) the Historic City of Sucre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site rich in history and crammed full of historic colonial-era buildings and fabulous architecture including the House of Freedom (where Simón Bolívar founded Bolivia), Sucre Cathedral and the Archbishops Palace.

 

 

 

4.    3 highlights for first time visitors:
a.    Food - Although Bolivia isn’t a destination one might automatically associate with fine dining, there are some delicious local delicacies worth sampling during your trip. Bolivia’s wildly varied geography also ensures the cuisine changes with the landscape so in lowland Amazon regions fruits and river-fish are staple ingredients, whilst in the highland regions meat stews and warming soups are popular. Popular dishes include “Salteñas” - mini baked pasties filled with meat such as beef or chicken which are a popular street food snack throughout Bolivia, and “Pique Macho” - a spicy dish consisting of stir-fried beef, tomatoes, onion, sliced hotdog, egg and even fried potato which is very popular with travellers.
b.    Place/Sight - With so many highlights in such a fantastic country narrowing down to one or two recommended places or sights to visit for first-time visitors is never an easy task. For something crazy and totally unique a visit to the witches market in La Paz is certainly unforgettable, with street vendors selling an array of weird, wonderful and often bizarre good luck charms to understanding locals and bewildered tourists. For something a little more traditional the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tihuanaco, an ancient pre-Inca archaeological site, is a must-see.
c.    Activity - Bolivia has a deserved reputation as being off-the-beaten-track, and there is no greater activity in Bolivia to experience the best of the country than embarking on a 4x4 adventure through the Salar de Uyuni and the surrounding region. It is difficult to put into words how stunning, majestic, awe-inspiring and breath-taking the landscape is in this region of the world. This is the kind of destination deserving of inclusion on any bucket list.
The Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world, is an endless landscape so unique it has to be experienced to be believed. White nothingness stretching to the horizon and beyond, like a beautiful dream. In the dry season the salt crystallises into geometric patterns and 4x4 tours traverse the flats to visit Incahuasi “island” in the middle of the flats. Of equal beauty is the immediate region surrounding the salt flats, a fantastical concoction of bubbling mud pools, warm thermal springs, pink and white salt lakes scattered with wild flamingos, and smoking volcanoes.

5.    Did you know that….? Don’t miss… (little known fact)
Did you know that… although the Inca Empire are usually associated with Machu Picchu in Peru, Inca legend actually says that it was in fact on Isla del Sol, a small island on the Bolivian waters of Lake Titicaca, where the first Inca Manco Capac emerged to found the Inca Empire. Isla del Sol is a delightful traditional farming island scattered with Inca ruins and ancient farming terraces as well as basic accommodation, and can be visited on day trips via catamaran from the mainland.

6.    What is your personal favourite place/location to visit/stay?
My personal favourite place to stay in Bolivia is to spend at least one night in the salt hotel on the Salar de Uyuni. The landscape in this region is stunning enough by itself to make a trip to this region worthwhile, however staying in a salt hotel has an additional touch of adventure about it, and the best part is the night sky – due to the altitude and lack of light pollution the sky is painted white with layers upon layers of brilliant stars as the Milky Way can be enjoyed in all its glory.

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