Bolivia: Where adventure meets traditionWednesday 6 September 2017
Bolivia has long been in the shadow of its north-western neighbor, Peru. But now the country is making a name for itself thanks to its breathtaking scenery. From the wild Andean mountains to its colonial villages, this Latin American country is bursting with natural wonders and ancestral traditions.
A diverse natural landscape
Stretching over more than a million square kilometers, Bolivia has extremely mountainous regions in the Altiplano west, but the north and south-east consist of vast plains, making up 70% of the entire country.
Scarcely populated, Bolivia boasts a wide variety of geographical sites, from the snowy summits of the Andes, the Amazonian forest and jungle, to its wild savannah, majestic lakes and mystical swamps. Such diversity means the country is home to a plethora of wildlife: different species of lama and tapir roam the land, condors soar over the mountaintops, and small mammals live by the water's edge. Bears, jaguars and alligators can also be seen, carefully monitored in Bolivia's national parks.
An unmissable Bolivian destination, the Salar de Uyuni is a pre-historic salt lake located at 3650 meters above sea-level. These days, the former lake is a vast pristine desert, with alternating layers of salt and clay. The result: a spellbinding paradise-cum-mirage which can be discovered on expeditions which generally leave from the Atacama desert in the south.
Another must-see on any visit to Bolivia is Lake Titicaca. Located on the country's Peruvian border, it is thought to be the birthplace of the Inca civilization. At over 3800 meters altitude, it offers a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and its numerous small islands.
There are 13 national parks in Bolivia, of which the most famous and breathtaking are Noel Kempff Mercado, Amboró and Torotoro.
One of the largest, the Noel Kempff Mercado national park in the north-east of Bolivia is home to a wide variety of birds and mammals who live in its rainforest. Amboró, to the west of the Santa Cruz region, has a unique geographical position, with three separate eco-systems: the Amazonian basin, the vast plains of the northern Chaco and the Andes mountains. Lastly, while Torotoro, located near the town of Cochabamba, might be the country's smallest national park, its fossils and dinosaur footprints make it one of the region's most important and captivating sites.
The colonial towns of Potosi and Sucre
Coiled around the foot of the Cerro Rico mountain, Potosi is classed as a World Heritage site. Thanks to its numerous silver mines, the town has long been a source of prosperity for the country. The National Mint of Bolivia, a historic building in the town center, bears witness to the fruitful years when Potosi traded with Spain.
A few kilometers to the north, then to the east, lies a jewel of Baroque architecture: Sucre. Known as "the white town", Sucre is a blend of Spanish influence and local traditions. An ideal place to soak up a provincial atmosphere and climb up onto church rooftops to admire the view of the Cuidad Blanca.
Both towns have thankfully preserved their local customs, and it isn't rare to see locals from Potosi and Sucre dressed in traditional garb.