A PLEASANT HIGHLAND SURPRISE
Two weeks in Bolivia: the first-timer’s itinerary
A curated guide to planning your two weeks in Bolivia. From this tried and tested itinerary you will find out where to stay and what to do in the country of colours and traditions.
Every time I think of Bolivia one striking image comes to my mind, two women dressed in typical Bolivian clothes, their beautiful shiny black hair braided in two long braids with ornaments at the end, bowler hats and colorful pleated skirts. The ‘cholitas’, as they are called, will forever be my favourite and more representative memory of this unique country, because of the beauty of their outfits and because they perfectly describe Bolivia, a country where old and new mix and collide.
Squeezed between the more famous and richer countries of Peru’ and Chile, Bolivia is a less advertised destination but despite, or because, of that we found it to have a certain special character and energy that completely swept us off our feet. Its beauty lies in the contrast between centenary traditions and rapid development, mesmerizing landscapes and wonderful cuisine.
Crossing the Chile/Bolivia border by bus, Bolivia did certainly feel less developed. It was considerably cheaper but also noticeably less catered to tourism, which in our opinion is not necessarily a deficit as it has acquired less of the western traits, maintaining its originality.
Two weeks in Bolivia were definitely not enough. We were seriously upset to leave this country as we truly enjoyed its rough beauty, its bright colours and interesting traditions. If you can spend three or four weeks in Bolivia, do it! but for now, this is our two weeks itinerary as a starter.
Salar de Uyuni: 3 days
White salt for kilometres, a landscape so unique and incredible that your mind will need some time to grasp it fully. The Salar de Uyuni is a mandatory stop in Bolivia, and the best way to visit this part of the country is by doing a 3 day 4x4 tour. It will be incredible, challenging, adventurous and cold but you will make some of the best memories of your life!
Potosi: 2 days
With its lovely Spanish colonial architecture, Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world at 4,090 meters. Sitting at the foot of Cerro de Potosi, also called Cerro Rico (“rich mountain”), a mountain famous for its extraction of silver.
Where to stay in Potosi
With its interesting inside/outside courtyard, Hostal Tukos La Casa Real is good value for money option. The rooms are extremely spacious, breakfast is included and the wifi works pretty well for Bolivian standards. For a more luxurious option, Hostal Colonial has all the comforts and a beautiful courtyard.
What to do in Potosi
For the ultimate humbling experience, a tour of the Cerro de Potosi mines is a must do. During Spanish rule, an estimated 60,000 tonnes of silver were extracted, resulting in the death of an estimated 6 million indigenous and African slaves. Today 10,000 workers descend the mines every day working in terrible conditions.
To appreciate the beautiful colonial architecture, walk around and visit the many churches and cathedrals scattered around the city. Recommended are the Church of San Lorenzo de Carangas, which was one of the first churches ever built in the area and the San Francisco Convent, which from the top has a view on the whole city and Iglesia de San Bernardo.
La Paz: 4 days
La Paz reminds me of a very old tree. Its leaves change at every season, new come and grow with the eagerness of youth. Its centenary roots remain unchanged and constant despite the time. Bolivias capital collects all the uniqueness and beauty of this country, in a dynamic, loud, colourful environment, where centenary traditions live next to 21st-century evolutions.
If you want to treat yourself, the recently opened Atix Hotel has already entered the Conde Nast Traveller Hot List for 2017 and it’s probably the best-designed hotel in the city. For a more budget option, but equally beautiful and curated, make Hostal 3600 your base. Comfortable, clean and perfectly located in the best neighborhood of Sopocachi.
Built at the top and in-between mountain peaks, La Paz is connected by a system of cable cars called Teleferico, which not only is extremely convenient but also super fun to ride and to enjoy the best views of the city. Another must do is a visit to Mercado La Bruja, the Witches Market, to experience some Bolivian esoterism. For a cultural afternoon, head to road Calle Jaén where you can find four of the best museums in the city. Read more about La Paz, including restaurant suggestions here.
La Senda Verde: 2 days
Immerse yourself in this animal sanctuary. Support the commendable work done by La Senda Verde to ‘give rescued animals another chance at happiness’. Born by the willingness and vision of Vicky and Marcelo Ossio, who transformed a once eco-resort into a ‘resort’ for animals in need. Today, it's supported mainly by volunteers who live and work there paying a weekly fee and tourists who visit by day or who stay at one of the lovely cabins or treehouse.
Copacabana and Isla del Sol: 3 days
I feel like Late Titicaca is not advertised enough, as honestly, it will go down as one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen! The best way to visit the lake is to arrive in Copacabana and spend one night in this little town which is quite touristy, but mainly a launch-pad for Isla del Sol.
Where to stay in Copacabana
We stayed at Hotel Utuma, which offers really great value for money. The rooms are comfortable and clean and the shower works well.
Where to stay in Isla del Sol
Isla del Sol feels like another universe, a calm, grounded and beautiful world. During the day you can take lovely walks around the island. Visit the Temple of The Sun and enjoy the beautiful views of the lake all around you, stopping every once in awhile for a coffee or tea at one of the restaurants. The sunset is the moment you will most love, one of those moments that will fill your heart of joy so much that it might hurt a bit. I shed a genuine tear of happiness seeing the sun dipping into the lake behind the island, tinting the sky in fiery oranges. A moment I will never forget.
Hostal Wara Uta was such a beautiful and comfortable stay. You need to walk all the way up the hill to reach it, but it’s worth as you will have the best views, plus all the restaurants are up there. The rooms are new, clean and very comfortable, the same goes for the bathrooms. Waking up and walking outside in the little flowery garden with the view of the still lake was a real treat.
From Isla del Sol you will need to make your way back to Copacabana to then, either enter Peru’ trough Puno, or travel back to La Paz.
Count on us to walk again on your wonderful land, eat your delicious quinoa and shed some more tears of happiness while appreciating your epic sunsets.
See you very soon, you beauty.