Posts on Bolivia by Kyle the Vagabond:
Justifiably holding the title as the “Tibet of the Americas”, Bolivia is a dizzying country in all respects–not all of which have to do with the extreme altitude. The poorest country in South America, much of Bolivia exists halfway to the heavens as seen (and felt) in 13,000 ft. Isla del Sol, 11,500 ft. La Paz, and 15,000 ft. Salar de Uyuni. Much more than mountains and frigid plains, it also has dense Amazon jungles, wildlife filled grasslands and pampas, and bustling cities that are steeped in history and culture. From the frigid lakeshores of Lake Titicaca to the howler monkey filled forests of Rurrenabaque, Bolivia is the type of place where seemingly anything goes–for better or for worse.
Boliviano; Current Exchange Rate: $1 = 6.96 Bolivianos (March 4, 2011). For more currency info visit xe.com
When to Go:
Being such an altitudinous country, you wouldn’t expect the best time of year to visit to be winter. Contrary to what you would believe, the winters in Bolivia (June-September) are filled with clear sunny skies and are nearly devoid of precipitation. While it inevitable warms up slightly in the summer months, the rainy season stretches from December-April and brings with it crippling rains that swallow much of the country and make off-road travel (which is nearly all travel) virtually impossible. The salt flats become covered in water, the streets of La Paz turn to rivulets of dirty water, and the jungle areas hunker down for what could be months on end of mosquito-breeding rains.
Like many other places in South America, American passport holders must pay a steep visa entry ($135), payable in cash at the border. Also, be sure to use the bathroom before you get on the bus, otherwise you’re peeing in the aisle.
The Vagabond’ s Personal Favorites:
1. A 3 day tour in the Bolivian Pampas, Rurrenabaque
Ride hours upriver in a dugout canoe to search for anacondas and get shockingly close to oversized alligators and black caimans.
2. Cross the Salar de Uyuni
The weirdest and most desolate landscape you’ll probably ever encounter, a multiday trip across the salt flats and the national parks of this arid, flamingo filled tundra is a mind-blowing experience.
3. Spend a night on Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca
A place where sweeping views stretch above azure blue waters while llamas and sheep brush past you on narrow hillside footpaths, modernity is slowly creeping up on this traditional lake hamlet as witnessed by sheepherders on cell phones.
4. Dive deep into the markets of La Paz
A dizzyling frantic city that swarms inside of a massive crater bowl, this steep capital city is a mish-mash of traditional Quechua merchants sharing streetcorners with suit clad modern businessmen. If you’re really feeling up to it you can head to the Witch’s market and purchase a dried llama fetus–for luck of course.