Every time I’m asked what my favorite country is in South America, I immediately say “Bolivia!”. It’s also one of my favorite countries, period. Bolivia is the most indigenous and natural resource-rich country in South America, yet it is also the poorest, economic-wise. It has every kind of landscape you can imagine, except for a coastline and ocean, which they used to have until it was lost to Chile (still a touchy subject there). It has the Amazon, jungle, the Andes, valleys, mountains, geysers, the world’s biggest salt flat- Salar de Uyuni, desert, and lakes upon lakes upon beautiful lakes, sometimes with flamingos chilling in these lakes. Bolivia has the craziest, most unique and varied landscape I have ever seen in my life and I was constantly blown away by its beauty. It was like being on another planet.
Some fun facts on Bolivia:
Bolivia is the cheapest country in South America. You can get street meat for $1-2 and a delicious meal at a restaurant for $3-5. If you’re on a budget and you want to see the Amazon, Bolivia is the place to do it and it’ll be the least touristy. Yes, Bolivia has part of the Amazon, along with eight other countries. It’s not all about Brazil, which is awesome too, but it’s by far the most expensive place to see the Amazon.
The majority of Bolivia is at very high altitude, which is challenging for anyone who is not used to that… so most people. The highest altitude I experienced was 4700m. My first day in Bolivia, at 4200m, took the life, appetite and breath out of me. Everyone has the shittiest sleep on their first night at high altitude because one of the side effects of high altitude is difficulty sleeping, which is really stupid because one of the other main side effects of high altitude is fatigue. And you will wake up with a vicious headache and feeling like you have the worst hangover of your life, due to the lack of oxygen. Even after spending five weeks at high altitude between Bolivia and Peru, I still felt the effects of the altitude and walking up the stairs would still take the breath out of me. But it’s all worth it, I promise!
“No one in Bolivia speaks English” laughed a travel agent in Chile, the day before I left for Bolivia. And that was more or less my experience during my time in Bolivia; however, of course some people you will meet do speak English. It’s definitely worthwhile to learn some Spanish before you go to South America, and luckily, it’s a fairly simple straight-forward language to learn.
But Spanish is often not their first language, so communicating is sometimes difficult, but certainly not impossible. Many Bolivians speak their indigenous languages, usually Quechua or Aymara.
Grocery stores are rare in Bolivia, so if you want to buy milk or shampoo etc, you decide which lady on the street to buy it from 🙂
Bolivia is a major destination for drug tourists. Even though cocaine is illegal, it’s very affordable in Bolivia and just about every taxi driver sells it. Route 36, an underground after-hours lounge in La Paz, is the world’s first cocaine bar. Route 36 changes locations every few weeks or months, so you can only find it through word of mouth and travel websites.
But most importantly, Bolivia is drop-dead gorgeous:
The world’s biggest salt flat- Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni at sunrise
Bolivia’s ridiculously high altitude
La Paz, at 3650m above sea level, is the world’s highest administrative capital. Buildings upon buildings spill into a bowl-like valley surrounded by mountains.
It’s time to add Bolivia to your bucket list.