Landlocked Bolivia is the highest and most isolated country in South America. From the ice-covered Andes mountains, the Atacama Desert and the Amazon Basin rainforest; Bolivia is a country of extremes. Lofty La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia sits more than 3,500m above sea level. Lake Titicaca, the continent’s largest lake, straddles the border with Peru and is the “highest navigable lake” in the world. The Salar de Uyuni is a spectacular great white expanse and another attraction, the largest and highest in the world, that draws visitors to Bolivia time and again.
BOLIVIA TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Sitting in a valley in the Andes Mountains, La Paz, at 3,640 meters above sea level, is the city that touches the clouds. Renowned for its unique street markets, particularly the Witche’s Market, and for its vibrant nightlife. The Coca Museum, San Pedro Prison and the Mi Teleferico cable car are all things worthy of your time on a trip to La Paz.
Salar de Uyuni
If you’re visiting Bolivia, chances are the Salar de Uyuni (the Bolivian Salt Flats) is on your bucket list. The world’s largest salt flat is a truly amazing sight. Spreading out over 11,000 sq km, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable vistas in all of South America. Photographers flock here and camp out on the flats to capture the unique landscape and so should you!
Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains you will find the largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca, which sits at 12,500 feet above sea level which also makes it one of the highest commercially navigable lakes in the world. Said to be the birthplace of the Incas, it’s home to numerous underwater ruins and Inca settlements and its waters are famously still and brightly reflective. Around it is Titicaca National Reserve, sheltering rare aquatic wildlife such as the rare giant frog and 530 aquatic species. While here make sure you try the local delicacy, freshly-caught smoked trout washed down with ripe papaya juice.
World’s Most Dangerous Road
Death road in La Paz, Bolivia, is known as the World’s Most Dangerous Road and hundreds have died here since it opened (just adrenaline junkies ticking off Bucket Lists – you’ll be fine!). There’s extreme drop-offs of at least 1,800 ft on curves, the road is only slightly wider than a single-lane and you have occasional on coming buses to watch out for, all while feeling the wind in your hair!
La Paz Witches Market
Want a spell to punish a cheating lover? If you’re into natural medicine or witchcraft then the La Paz Witches Market will certainly be worth paying a visit to. Also known as El Mercado de las Brujas and La Hechiceria, this market is a popular tourist attraction in the middle of a lively tourist area, on Calle Jiminez and Linares between Sagarnaga and Santa Cruz. Local street vendors sell dried llama fetuses (for good luck), dried frogs (for Aymara rituals), dried turtles and snakes, aphrodisiacs, owl feathers, and various folk remedies. If you don’t think any of the above would make a suitable Bolivian souvenir you could always just get your fortune told by a Witch Doctor.
Read more: 10 awesome things to do in Bolivia
Adventurous Traveler? Browse our
Bucket Bunny List of the top 25 travel adventures in South America.
Camp on the Bolivian Salt Flats, go Cotopaxi Horse Trekking in Ecuador or hike to Peru’s Machu Picchu. Enjoy browsing our top 25 South America Travel Adventures and be inspired to tick off a few yourself.
BOLIVIA TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Originally farmers from all around the country would pray to Ekeko, the Aymara god of abundance, giving him miniature gifts to ensure plentiful crops for the year ahead. On the 24th of January each year, people now come from all over Bolivia to La Paz to fill their shopping bags with houses, cars, electrical goods, computers, airline tickets and even university degrees, all for a few bolivianos. They buy themselves and each other miniature items they hope Ekeko will grant in real life. The largest Alasitas fair is an annual month-long cultural event starting on January 24th.
Holy Week is one of the most important holidays in Bolivia. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. Easter Week celebrations fill the town with pilgrims on Good Friday who do penance at the Stations of the Cross on Cerro Calvario. At dusk pilgrims join a candlelit procession, with a statue of Christ in a glass coffin and a replica of the Virgen de Candelaria in the lead.
Fiesta del Gran Poder
Between the months of May and June, the whole city of La Paz stops to celebrate one of Bolivia’s most extravagant and unique festivals; Fiesta del Gran Poder. Also called La Festividad de Nuestro Senor Jesus Del Gran Poder, this festival initially began as a candle procession, but now it has evolved into La Paz’s biggest religious celebration with an enormous parade carried out by locals.
Language: Spanish is the main and official language of Bolivia. However there are around 39 other languages spoken by people in different regions and roughly 50% of the population have an indigenous language as their mother tongue. English is not widely spoken at all in Bolivia although those working in tourism tend to speak the language.
Currency: Bolivian boliviano.
Visa: EU, Canadian and U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Bolivia for tourism and the maximum period of stay for tourists is 90 calendar days per year. To enter Bolivia as a tourist you must have a valid passport and a yellow fever vaccine, if you area visiting endemic areas. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Bolivia is required (which depends on the country you are from) and how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: Most of Bolivia uses 220-230 volt outlets however be aware that some older buildings in La Paz still use 110 volt outlets so make sure to double-check before using your device. Buy a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Bolivia: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN BOLIVIA
Some traditional dishes that you must try in Bolivia are listed below.
Saltenas: A Bolivian Salteña is a traditional Bolivian food and is a variation of the popular empanadas. Salteñas are savory pastries filled with beef, pork or chicken mixed in a sweet, slightly spicy sauce containing olives, raisins and potatoes. Vegetarian salteñas are sometimes available at certain restaurants.
Sajta de pollo: Sajta is a dish typical in western Bolivia, particularly in the city of La Paz. Consisting of chicken, onions, tomatoes, peas, and yellow chili peppers. It is usually flavored with parsley, celery and black pepper.
Tucumanas: Tucumanas are another one of Bolivia’s fantastic street foods and are similar to salteñas, but instead of being baked, they are deep-fried. They are a very filling meat pastry that is usually eaten as a mid-morning snack.
Pique Macho: Pique macho or Pique a lo macho is a typical Bolivian food consisting of chopped beef and sliced potatoes, served with onions, locoto, boiled eggs and a generous amount of ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise.
Silpancho: Silpancho is a typical, popular Bolivian food from the city of Cochabamba. It consists of rice and potatoes, covered with a breaded steak topped with fried eggs.
WHERE TO STAY IN BOLIVIA
Bolivia is a very affordable destination to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Bolivia is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Bolivia affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Bolivia will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Bolivia can cost less than $30.
If you’re looking for accommodation that includes luxury amenities and comforts then there will be endless options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like La Paz. Whatever month you choose to visit Bolivia, it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have been snapped up already. Bolivia is a very popular backpacker destination.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Bolivia. However, if you are backpacking in Bolivia or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Bolivia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies where ever you go.
PLAN YOUR BOLIVIA TRIP
BEST TIME TO VISIT BOLIVIA
The best time to visit Bolivia depends on where you’re going and what you’re hoping to see. Generally May to October is the best time to visit Bolivia, as the dry weather brings less travel disruption. This is the Bolivian winter so expect the highlands to be cold and in June and July the desert will be way below freezing at night. An alternative to the dry season is the shoulder season from April to June and September to November which also has warmer temperatures and less rain.
BOLIVIA TRAVEL BUDGET
Bolivia is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Bolivia really depends on the level of comfort you want. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $35 to $50 per day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $50 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget at least $250 plus per day.
IS BOLIVIA SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Compared to most South American countries, Bolivia is safe for travelers, although crime rates have increased slightly over the last five years. Based on my own travel experiences in South America I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your trip to Bolivia.
BOLIVIA VISA CHECKER
BOLIVIA FLIGHT DEALS
BOLIVIA TOURS & ACTIVITIES
BOLIVIA PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Bolivia, like most other places in South America, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Bolivia.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our awesome finds with you.
Packing for a trip to Bolivia, like most places in South America is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for dry season and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during the rainy season. Be prepared for the weather to get extremely hot during the summer so pack a high factor sunscreen and a sun hat.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Bolivia include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected. Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.