South America

Bolivia

 


Best time to visit

Bolivia has a temperate climate, its widely varying temperatures between day and night dictated by altitude.  The 'altiplano' receives very little rain throught the year, but elsewhere, the wettest period is November to March, which, in extreme circumstances, may induce landslides in mountainous areas.  During the winter months of June and July, nights tend to to be clearer but colder than at other times.  These are the best months to visit the Salar de Uyuni in the south of the country as the salt lake is best experienced under cloudless blue skies.  Much of Bolivia, including the Yungas and eastern highlands is semi-tropical.  Visitors often find La Paz uncomfortable due to the thin air.  August is the driest month, which coincides with the major festivals.

Bolivia

Landlocked Bolivia has a near monopoly of world’s highests - from its capital, La Paz, to the world’s highest navigable lake, Titicaca, Chacaltaya, the highest ski resort and Malasilla, the highest golf course. A strong indigenous culture, colonial cities and spectacular mountain scenery make Bolivia a figurative high, as well. At 3,636 metres, La Paz dominates the altiplano, or high plateau, while just a few hours north lie the warm, sub-tropical valleys, known as the Yungas and beyond them the Amazon Basin, characterised by dense jungle and humid plains.

 

Around La Paz

Lake Titicaca is not only the world’s highest lake, it is also the birthplace of the Inca Empire - rising up from it, so the legend goes, came the founders of the Inca Civilization in Cusco, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. There is no better place to gain an insight into this fascinating period than at the Inca Utama Hotel, situated near the town of Huatajata and which has several excellent museums. Tiwanacu is Bolivia’s most important archaeological site and was the ceremonial centre of the Aymara Civilization, who pre-dated the Incas. A further short drive away is the bustling capital city of La Paz, with Mount Illimani towering majestically in the background.


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Sucre and Potosi

Sucre, the so-called 'white city' contains a number of magnificent buildings, none more so than Casa de la Libertad where the declaration of Bolivian independence was signed. Reached by bus is Potosi, a city that rose to prominence almost entirely on the strength of its considerable mineral wealth generated almost 500 years ago; indeed it is still possible to relive those days by visiting a working mine. A further reminder of past glories is the Casa de la Moneda, effectively the Royal Mint and situated just off the main square.

The Yungas

In an area of citrus, banana and coffee production, beyond the Andean cordillera to the east lie the lush sub-tropical valleys of the Yungas. This is classic walking country and there are a number of excellent trekking options of varying durations - the 3 day Choro Trail follows a pre-colombian stone road starting at snow-covered La Cumbre pass before eventually descending to the town of Corioco.

Uyuni Salt Flats

The town of Uyuni is the starting point for trips to Bolivia’s most breathtaking stretch of scenery, the salt flats that reach across from the south of the country into northern Chile.  The Salar de Uyuni is both the highest and largest salt lake in the world at 3,650 metres and covering almost 12,000 square kilometres.  Traversing it by 4 x 4 vehicle is perhaps one of the most surreal experiences throughout South America, particularly June and July when the bright blue skies contrast with the white salt crust, added to which are small islands dotted with giant cacti and flocks of flamingo.