When I decided to travel around the world, Bolivia wasn’t on my ‘must-see’ list. In fact, it wasn’t on my list at all. That was until I spoke to a number of travellers who had either been there or were planning to go. Having listened to what they had to say, I decided to find out what it was like for myself. That’s the great thing about independent travel; you have the flexibility to divert and go to places you hadn’t initially thought about. I am so glad I did because it is such an interesting country and I had a great time there doing a variety of things. Here are just some I got up to, which might give you some ideas if you are thinking of going to Bolivia:
This seems to have become a rite of passage when you get to La Paz. There are numerous companies that offer this ‘ride of a lifetime’. If you decide to do it, make sure you choose the company carefully.
2. Visit a mine in Potosi
While staying in the world’s highest city at an altitude of approximately 4070km, you can visit working co-operative mines. Apparently, it was the discovery of silver in Cerro Rico that founded Potosi in 1546. Interestingly, translated into English, ‘Cerro Rico’ means rich hill. Nowadays, they mine for silver, zinc and copper. The miner’s life is a hard one; they start at an early age and they work long hours in dark, cramped conditions with very little air. They pray to Pachamama and the devil. In fact, every Friday they pray and bring offerings of 95% alcohol which they pour onto the figure of Pachamama, the ground, and they drink the remainder. It’s only a tiny bottle of alcohol.
After visiting the mine, you might be given the option of holding a stick of lit (yes, LIT) dynamite. I did – crazy but true!
3. Stay the night on Isla de Sol
From Copacabana you can get a boat to Isla de Sol, one of the Bolivian islands on Lake Titicaca. You can do what I did: leave your main backpack in storage and take a smaller pack to the island. It takes a couple of hours to get to there. On another traveller’s recommendation, I stayed on the north of the island and had a room with a view of the lake. It was very, very peaceful. You can visit the Inca Chincana ruins located in the north, walk to the south of the island which takes a couple of hours before getting a boat back to Copacabana or to Isla de la Luna. You might even want to camp somewhere in between. On my way to the south of the island, I saw two tents pitched overlooking Lake Titicaca. It was a stunning view so if you have a tent, you might consider doing that. I would!
4. Visit Salar de Unyuni
If you go to Bolivia, Salar de Unyuni has to be a ‘must see’. It is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. It’s a great place to stop for a while to take photos and have a bit of fun. I went as part of a road trip from San Pedro de Atacama to Unyni but you can do it the other way.
5. Visit, stay and volunteer at an animal refuge
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at La Senda Verde, an animal refuge. The people are lovely and the animals are great fun, especially the monkeys. I found the spider monkeys the most entertaining.
6. Visit Tiwanaku
Tiwanaku is an ancient city with pre-Inca ruins and a museum. This was the spiritual and political centre of the Tiwanaku culture and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. For some time, Tiwanaku occupied the entire Titicaca basin from 1200 BC to AD 1100. They speculate that the society ceased to exist because of severe drought, which was about 300-350 years BEFORE the Incas.
7. Spanish lessons and volunteering
I had Spanish lessons while I was in Sucre for a week and I volunteered at a local orphanage. There are a number of schools scattered around Bolivia should you decide to improve your Spanish. You can also find out about local volunteering opportunities at the schools.
I have pinpointed the areas mentioned above so you know exactly where they are.
What do you think?
What do you think about my list of things to do? I would love to hear from you if you have been to Bolivia or are thinking of visiting.