Those who want an authentic and spectacular South American vacation should definitely consider Bolivia. This mountainous country is the only landlocked nation on the continent, and boasts sheer mountains with the world’s highest navigable lake, cultural cities, and spectacular cloud and rain forests. It is slightly off the beaten tourist path, which makes it possible to travel economically and get a real view of Bolivian life. Here is a look at some of the best places to visit in Bolivia:
The charming town of Rurrenabaque, or Rurre, is a backpacker’s paradise. It is situated on the shores of the Rio Beni, and is the jumping off point for many jungle, pampas and riverboat tours that last between one and thirty days. The lowland tribe people here, the Tacana, are one of the few who were resistant to Christianity, so the town does not have the typical setup of a central cathedral square. These days, however, it gets a large enough tourist trade that the culture mostly caters to Western tourist tastes.
The name of this town is derived from the quechua word meaning “golden hill.” Its location on the side of the Andean foothills gives the resort village of Coroico a spectacular view of lush jungle forest, tropical foothills and jagged, icy peaks. It is low enough in elevation to be warm, and a great stopping point on the way to or from La Paz. Extreme mountain biking is a draw here, though there are several lovely hikes in this region as well to lovely waterfalls and hilltop views.
Located between La Paz and Lake Titicaca, the sleepy town of Sorata serves as a base camp for visitors who want to hike in the mountains of the Cordillera Real. The granite slopes of the Cordillera Real lie in the Altiplano, or “high plains,” of the widest part of the Andes Mountains. Six of the towering peaks of the range are over 20,000 feet high. Hikers come to Sorata to plan and prepare for mountain-climbing treks.
This resort town on the shores of Lake Titicaca appears very touristy, but it has a long history of being a mecca for religious pilgrims. This is the place to board a ferry to the islands of the Sun and the Moon, and to enjoy the beach of the Incas. Those who like to wander outside the touristy part of town will find pleasant hikes and great views, as well as a combination of beautiful Incan and colonial ruins.
This miners town is one of the largest in Bolivia, and is best known for its lavish costumes and festivities during carnivale season. The festival features thousands of dancers and musicians, performing a broad variety of ethnic dances. Off season, it is a great place to experience the high plains, and is home to several good museums and the artisanal street of Calle La Paz, which makes many of the costumes and masks for the festival, as well as tourist reproductions to bring home and display.