Bolivia: South America’s Hidden Gem

When people talk about Bolivia, you’ll often hear about Salar de Uyuni. The Salar de Uyuni is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable destinations in all of South America. If you are planning a trip to South America, you will regret not including Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni to your itinerary.

In this article, we will feature the two most popular regions of Bolivia – Uyuni and Lake Titicaca and discover why it is worth all the hype in the world.

La Paz

If you’re travelling to Bolivia by plane, there is a good chance you will land in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. This will require a short transit at the Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz de La Sierra.

La Paz is challenging from the moment you touch down on the runway at El Alto International Airport. You will experience some altitude sickness due to the city being extremely high above sea level, so be prepared! When I walked out of the airport, I almost fainted and had a headache during my entire trip. I had to take Sorojchi pills everyday as it was the only thing that saved me and worked almost instantly.

Casa Grande Hotel was the property I stayed in which is located in the heart of La Paz’s South Zone. The hotel offers luxury and comfort with great facilities such as heated pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, gym and massage room. It’s within walking distance from San Miguel, the commercial area in La Paz.

La Paz used to be an old charming town, but now with all the new construction and poor town management, it doesn’t look appealing to me. I will try to avoid it next time I visit Bolivia.

On The Way To Uyuni

A flight to Uyuni requires a short stopover at Cochabamba as there are currently no direct flights from La Paz. My flight from Cochabamba to Uyuni was with Bolivian Airlines. Surprisingly, the plane wasn’t as small as I had expected, offering amazing views just from my cabin window.

A quirky tourist attraction in Uyuni is the Train Graveyard which signifies something far greater than just a junkyard. It is so big that it looks as though all the trains in South America were moved to Uyuni for their last chug. The Train Graveyard is about 3 kilometres away from Uyuni train station and is filled with hollowed-out bodies and other remains that have completely rusted over time. Despite it being one of the attractions, there weren’t many tourists around when we were there due to Covid-19.

There are some souvenir stores along the roadside on the way to the salt flats. You will find some unique salt products made entirely out of salt gathered from the salt flats – ranging from beautiful carvings of Llamas and camels, to abstract decorative sculptures.

Uyuni Salt Flat

The Uyuni Salt Flat, locally known as Salar de Uyuni, is a must-see wonder. The horizon is endless! Neil Armstrong, the famous astronaut, was impressed by the shining of Uyuni Salt Flats from space. At the time, he did not know what it was and confused it with a giant glacier. When he returned to Earth, he made a private excursion to Uyuni Salt Flats and was impressed by its magnetic beauty.

It took us 4.5 hours to drive across the Salt Flat from South to North, where Mount Tunupa is, and had a stunning view of the crystal white salt flat and the outline of Mount Tunupa. When we finally arrived at Mount Tunupa we enjoyed our late lunch with the view of the Salt Flats, company of flamingos, and a couple of local Llamas.

A one-of-a-kind experience is spending the night on the salt flat in a sleek Airstream campervan. The Deluxe Airstream Campers provides mobile accommodation which is perfect for an overnight stay. Despite the interior not being as luxurious, it is quite compact and comfortable for such a small space. 

Our airstream was parked at the foot of Mount Tunupa, right on the edge of the salt flat. At sunset, we drove into the middle of the salt flat to witness the phenomenal mirror effect, a star attraction for all visitors.

Mountain Tunupa

We had a day tour to Mount Tunupa, passing the cultural museum where we got to learn about the local way of life, the local wildlife and plantation.

We spotted an abundance of animals in the area including the Llama, the Alpaca, and Pink flamingos, whilst admiring the beautiful volcano with its colourful glowing peak. The scenery was magnificent and camping out under the stars on the largest Salt Lake in the world was an experience of a lifetime!

If you’re travelling with a larger group where the airstream campers cannot be accommodated, Hostal Doña Lupe is your option. It is quite basic but decent for a couple of nights stay.

In April 2023, I am planning to go back and do some tango dancing on the salt flat and will organise to stay here if I have a group of more than four people.

Lake Titicaca

After returning back to La paz, we drove towards our next destination, Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca is one of South America’s largest lakes and is located on the border of Bolivia and Peru. We took the Hydrofoil boat through Lake Titicaca to Copacabana. This is the best island-hopping transport in the area.

Copacabana attractions include the famous cathedral and its Virgen de Copacabana, the patron saint of Bolivia. During the Easter period, hundreds of pilgrims prepare to hike from La Paz to Copacabana as a sign of devotion to la Virgen Morena. People come from around the country to attend the ceremony, pray and implore the virgin.

There are many islands in lake Titicaca. On the Bolivia side, there is an island in Lake Titicaca called Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), which offers commanding views of Bolivia’s Royal Andean range. These distant snow-capped peaks are bathed in pink, orange and red hues that are combined with history and cultural heritage. It is a popular day trip but is definitely worth spending a night there. 

You can spend the night at the Utasawa Lodge, a beautiful property with nice, stunning views of the snow-capped Royal Andean range. If time allows it, check out the Escalera del Inca. The Inca Stairway will take you through plenty of terraced gardens, small shops and hotels.

We also visited the ‘Moon Island’ locally known as Isla de la Luna. It is a tiny, uninhabited island in Lake Titicaca, known for its mythological significance to the Incas. It is considered as sacred islands, where the god Viracocha emerged from the lake and created the sun and the moon.

If you’re looking for the perfect pre and post stay of a Lake Titicaca tour, Inca Utama Hotel & Spa is a tasteful, cultural resort located on the secluded shores of Lake Titicaca.

At the resort you will find a Bolivian culture museum; traditional reed boat museum, telescope and astrology.

During my visit, I’ve learnt that you can drive from Argentina North West to Uyuni. This is a popular and less stressful route for travellers in South America. I am planning to take this route next year, via San Pedro de Atacama (town in Chile), Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), and Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon); few of the most stunning sceneries in South America.