The untamed, bizarre, and almost vindictively unique country of Bolivia was our home from mid-May to mid-August of 2011. The three months were packed with more adventure than our bodies could comfortably cope with, strange food our stomachs definitely couldn’t cope with, and experiences that we’ll never forget.
We started in Sucre, Bolivia’s constitutional capital, but soon moved on to other cities. This was the first time we’ve called an entire country home for three months; usually, we stick to specific cities. But we wanted to see everything Bolivia had to offer, and I think we did a fair job of it…
The City of Four Names is probably the most beautiful in all Bolivia. Set in the valleys of the Andes, Sucre (or La Plata, or Chuquisaca, or Charcas) enjoys a perfect climate and is famed for its gorgeous colonial architecture. Most people don’t know that Sucre was Bolivia’s main city for most of its history, and still technically the capital. With wonderful restaurants, a vibrant student population and interesting things to do, such as hiking tours, a hat factory and a bizarre castle, Sucre provided us a great introduction to Bolivia.
We spent four fascinating days in the tragic city of Potosí, which has an amazing history and depressing present. The mines of the Cerro Rico once made Potosí the world’s richest city, and a number of amazing buildings testify to its glorious past. But though the mines are still being worked, the silver has long since stopped flowing. A few hours away, sits the Salar de Uyuni: the world’s biggest salt flats. We took a three-day jeep tour through the most bizarre landscapes I’ve ever seen. Colored lakes, cactus islands and a surprise blizzard were just some of the highlights of our trip.
Sucre might still technically be the capital, but Bolivia’s main city is doubtlessly La Paz. With a stunning location high in the Andes, La Paz is unforgettable. It’s loud, bustling, modern, and blessed with a strong and proud indigenous population who give the city a colorful flavor unlike any other in the world. There are plenty of interesting museums and churches in La Paz, but the best experiences to be had here are in the streets, where riotous markets dominate life. A trip to the satellite city of El Alto, propped on top of the cliff overlooking La Paz, is a must — whether it be for the market or to watch the Lucha Libre.
After three weeks in the psychotically hectic metropolis of La Paz, an extended stay in quiet Cochabamba truly hit the spot. The city, famous for the so-called “Water Wars” of 2000, is Bolivia’s third largest, and almost completely avoided by tourists. Although Cochabamba doesn’t have much in the way of sights, besides its outrageous Jesus statue, the surrounding area is awash in them. Picturesque towns like Tarata, stunning parks such as Pairumani and the Amazonian basin just a short drive away. We spent five days in Villa Tunari, going on jungle hikes and enjoying the rainforest climate.
Three months is a long enough time to fully explore most places, but we were overwhelmed in Bolivia. The country is too huge, too varied, but we did as much as humanly possible. Danced and drank chicha at the festival of a town called Independencia. Learned how to chew coca leaves. Explored the Incan ruins of the Isla de Sol and avoided hippies in Copacabana. Chilled in Santa Cruz where we hiked through sand dunes and were terrorized by butterflies.
Every trip to Bolivia is bound to be amazing, and we could have easily filled up another three months. Whether you’re planning your own journey or just interested in this wonderful country, we hope our blog will be of use. You can visit the index to see all 91 of our articles, or start at the very beginning and experience Bolivia in the order we did.