What to do on Your Bolivia Holiday (and keep away the altitude sickness)
Bolivia is not one of those places that you will be wanting to visit if you are starting out on your world travels, but it is one of the most fascinating that we have been to.
Why, the country is almost like a ‘free’ Cuba or Venezuela – behind the times but totally enchanting.
You will need data on your telephone to travel around Bolivia and, if you are worried about running up your roaming charges, it is best to get chip. The problem is that you need Bolivian Id to get the chip, so go with a friendly taxi driver or hotel staff member who will use their own Id to help you out.
Don’t expect much English to be spoken outside the hotels – so know exactly where you going when taking taxis. The taxis are very cheap but not the latest models…
What is the best way visit Bolivia?
There are two main routes ways – as part of a holiday to Peru or a standalone journey.
If you are entering Bolivia by road, it is likely to be from Peru via Lake Titicaca.
If you fly into Bolivia from Europe, then it will be almost certainly into Santa Cruz airport, which is at a much lower altitude, where planes can take off and reach far flung places.
Combination of Bolivia and Peru
From an acclimatization point of view, it is probably best to start in Bolivia as you can benefit from the lower altitude in Sucre on the way up to the Andes but it is equally viable to make the journey in the other direction.
As noted earlier, you will not have much choice but to stay here because of the airport. The taxi ride to the centre will cost about 10 dollars and take about 30 minutes.
Santa Cruz (altitude 500 metres) is by far the biggest city in Bolivia and is rapidly expanding. While there is not much to do here, Santa Cruz has a very modern feel compared the rest of the country.
The main square is not very pleasant and his little to do but there is a nice area with restaurants about a mile away. Try Bravissimo for high quality Italian food with nice Bolivian wine.
We recommend you stay at the Marriot which is on the outskirts of town but very modern and friendly with Good English spoken.
You have two options of traveling from Santa Cruz:
- 12 hours by road
- 30 minutes by plane
If you decide to take the plane, there is a 40 drive from the airport to Surce which will, again, cost about $10
Sucre is quite a large town and the colonial centre is reached by driving through some non-inspiring districts, but when you get to the old town you will be very pleasantly surprised.
White washed Sucre is one of best Spanish Colonial cities in the world with nice range of hotels and restaurants. We recommend the Samary Botique Hotel, which is 10 minutes walk from the main square but very nicely appointed.
How long you stay in Sucre, altitude 2800 metres, will depend on how long that you want to aclimitize at this ‘lower’ altitude before going up to 4,000 for the next week or so. If you are worried, stay 3 nights in Surce.
Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni is beyond description, until you have visited it, so we will concentrate on the practicalities of getting there from Sucre. The options are:
- Fly – this will be using two flights via La Paz
- Road – 7 hour drive in local bus or private transfer
You do have the option of breaking the journey up by staying a night in Potosi, but only do this if you really want to visit the famous Silver Mines which produced 60% of the silver in the second half of the last millennium.
90 minutes after leaving Surce, the road starts winding it way up the Andes and you will be in for some spectacular views.
If you take the bus or plane you will end up in a town called Uyuni which is about 30 minutes away from the salt lake. Be sure to ask the hotel for a private transfer.
Try to spend three nights at Salar de Uyuni to explore the amazing lake. We recommend the Hotel de Sal Luna Salada.
We have never seen a city like La Paz. It is a complete mess of a place but totally endearing
You have two options of traveling from Uyuni:
- 12 hours by road
- 30 minutes by plane
The airport in La Paz is at the north of the city which is, quiet frankly, terrible and the best hotels are in the south of the city. The transfer around the ring road will take about 40 minutes.
We recommend taking a ‘free walking tour’ on your first day in La Paz to get you acquainted with the city, which although is home to only 800,000 people it feels like there are 8 million living there!
A must do in La Paz is the Mi Teleférico” or “My Cable Car”. It is possible to rise to 4,200 metres, and get amazing views of the city, but be careful if you are suffering from altitude sickness.
3 nights should be long enough to see the main attractions in La Paz.
Lake Titicaca is a place that you have always thought about but never thought that you would visit.
On the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, the places to visit are Copacabana and Isla del Sol. Copacabana is about 3 hour by road from La Paz but this includes a boat crossing at the Tiquina Straights -which only takes about 10 minutes. However, the whole exercise takes much longer as the cars and busses go on one ferry but you will travel in a small motorized boat.
Copacabana is nothing like its namesake in Brazil, and we recommend staying here for as little time as is possible. The excursion to Isla de Sol takes abut 4 hours, and it is possible to avoid staying in Copacabana at all if you want to return to La Paz or move to Puna in Peru that evening. However, it will make a for a very long day.
If you do choose to stay in Copacabana for the evening, then the recommended hotel is the Rosario.
Return to Santa Cruz
The only realistic way to get to Santa Cruz from La Paz, if you are not heading to Peru is by air. The flight takes less than a hour.