Bolivia is not necessarily the first place that one thinks of when choosing to travel to South America. Usually the quintessential places like Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina pop up on everyone’s radar. In my personal opinion, Bolivia is a place of exploration; one for the avid traveler at heart searching for a sense of adventure and excitement. That was the exact feeling that I got when I backpacked through Bolivia for 3 weeks; a sense of adventure and excitement, along with ill equipped clothes and a poorly researched itinerary.

Before I headed to Bolivia, admittedly to catch up with my boyfriend who was traveling all across South America for 3 months, I really had not anticipated beforehand the kind of things that I would be experiencing. I had just come off a 3 month trip to South East Asia, where you can imagine the climate stays a humid 35 degrees Celsius at least. Bolivia was a completely different ball game, very mountainous and rugged, along with hiking trails and vast natural wonders from the Andes mountains, to the Amazon Rainforest and the Spectacular Salt Flats. Therefore, one recommendation that I would definitely give before traveling to Bolivia is to be prepared! It’s extremely high altitude with tons of mountain ranges. Be prepared with the right clothes and equipment, as well as an adventurous state of mind.

The Capital city of La Paz, where the duration of my stay took place, is a stunning sight to behold: built literally within a valley and looking like a bowl, La Paz is incredibly steep to climb. I mainly stayed in the middle of the city, where the hiking was less steep, altitude kicked you a little less hard, and most of the tourists stayed. One thing to note is the further you go out, the more dangerous it gets. However, do not let that deter you from all that La Paz has to offer: with so many day trips like paragliding over the Andes, and death road biking down the most dangerous road in the world (a lot more fun than it sounds), there are a ton of activities to do around La Paz. Even walking through the Witches Market, where shopkeepers sell little knick-knacks and alpaca wool clothes, you really get a sense for the city and what it has to offer. Namely, The people of La Paz are marked with a sort of resilience about their culture; where your altitude sickness kicks in they seem to be able to run a mile, and when you get frustrated over the never ending traffic and constant poorly built state of the Bolivian roads, they seem to trudge through it. That was one incredibly remarkable trait that I noticed about these people.

La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia (Photograph by Claire O’Donnell)

If you have time, stop over by Lake Titicaca, the highest altitude lake in the world with stunning views and equally stunning islands. We went to one island in particular, Isla del Sol, that was a hikers paradise: climbing up to 3000 metres above sea level, you really do feel like you’re on top of the world. The hills might seem impossible to climb, but I assure you they are not. Just use an old Bolivian trick; cocoa leaves to fight through the altitude sickness!

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca
Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca

One of the most truly stunning places that I have ever visited was the Salt Flats, near the Atacama Desert in Bolivia. Book a 3 day tour of the salt flats and I swear you will never regret it. The salt flats were created when the sea started to recede millions of years ago to form what is now the country of Bolivia and Chile. However, because of the mass amounts of salt deposits, an entire flat section of the desert is now salt plates that extend for miles. It is such a large space and so vast, that it is a perfect place to take picture illusions with your friends! If you have more time to explore, I would highly recommend going further into the Atacama desert and reaching Chile on the other side; you get to pass through some amazing rock formations, active volcanoes and the driest desert in the world!

Salt Flats, Bolivia
Salt Flats, Bolivia

Bolivia is one of those truly stunning places, where you start to really understand the natural beauty that this world has to offer. However, Bolivia is not a place for the faint hearted or beach resort traveler: it offers tons of hiking, backpacking and plenty of opportunities to explore the rustic side of South America all for a very decent price.

IMAGE CREDIT: Happy.Apple