Before I made my plans to go to South America, I told my friend Darrell that I was planning to go to Peru, and then fly to Argentina to see Patagonia. I had no other plans to visit any other countries, because I only had two months.
“You have to do Bolivia”, he told me.
“Just because – it’s awesome.”
Yeah, Bolivia was AMAZING. I want to go back. I didn’t even make it to Argentina on this trip because I spent so much time there.
ANALOG GIRLS’ TOP 10 THINGS TO DO/SEE IN BOLIVIA: (Dedicated to all my good folks out there right now)
1. UYUNI/TUPIZA: Four day tours from Tupiza to the Salar de Uyuni
Incredible landscapes, hot springs, tons of creative photo opportunities. The land out here is like nothing I’ve ever seen.
2. RURRENABAQUE: Do anything and everything
Eat amazing almuerzos because all the food there is great (go across the river to the other town too!) and enjoy the company of warm and friendly local folks who tend to be in a good mood because it’s hot and green and lush and GORGEOUS out there. Take a Pampas tour to see pink river dolphins, capybaras, and crocodiles. But most of all, do a multi-day trek to El Parque Nacional Madidi – As one of the most bio-diverse parks in the world, you get a chance to walk through some amazingly beautiful jungle with tons of animals all around (some tours also do visits with indigenous villages). And the bars are great in Rurre too.
3. COCHABAMBA: Live Life and Work
When I first heard that the people of Cochabamba organized and fought back against the privatization of their water resources – and won, I had this image in my mind of a small lil town. Nope, it’s a population of about a million people. It’s a very livable city, and it’s where I had some of the best experiences on my trip. Cochabamba has a ton of great grassroots organizations doing amazing work both locally and internationally – from water rights to community arts, from food justice to working with abused children. Volunteer or hang out with Cocha’s locals and learn about the very real, personal (and political) side of Bolivia. There’s also some great nature and jungle tours you can do just a few hours away…
4. SUCRE: Hanging out and trekking around the “White City”
There’s so much to do in Sucre, apparently. I only went rock climbing, but other travelers I know went on overnight hiking treks, rode ATV’s, rode horses, and went white water rafting. The city itself is beautiful, and the people seem pretty cool (travelers and locals alike).
5. LA PAZ: Shopping, Organized Tours, and Cholita’s Wrestling
Some people say that there’s not much to do in La Paz, but that depends on what you want to do. I went on a shopping spree up on Illampu street where you can buy really nice knock-off Marmot and North Face jackets for $35 each. Besides adventure gear, the Brujas area has some of the best jewelry and clothing shopping I’ve ever seen. I dreaded walking down Sagarnaga St. because I just knew that I would buy a pair of earrings or a scarf before I reached my destination. You can also go to el Valle de la Luna (by bus! not through a tour), see Cholita ladies wrestle (and do the “stanky va-jay-jay” move in the ring!), and plan your trips to Coroico to bike down the WMDR, or hike snow-covered Huayana Potosi. But most of all, you gotta take one of the frequent and very inexpensive mini-van buses – they’re an awesome experience in themselves. The markets up there are pretty great – they sell pretty much everything in their stalls. And see the museums on Jaen St.! Look out for festivals, organized protests, and events organized by the Bolivian government too.
Okay, I didn’t do this one, but I’ve heard nothing but AMAAAZING comments about the Yungas area – warmer climates, lush green jungle and snow covered mountains – where you can do overnight hiking, see waterfalls, or mountain bike down “the World’s Most Dangerous Road”. Next trip, I’m definitely doing the three day Choro trek through Coroico and want to check out the gorgeous city of Sorata!
(Not my photos – give credit where credit is due…)
7. COPACABANA: Roam Around Town On the Edge of Lake Titicaca
I love this little town. I love the church, the blessing of the automobiles, the colorful markets, the many great seafood stands by the lake, the hill you can walk up to see a dope view of the entire city. But most of all, I love the night market and the street food. I’ve heard mixed reviews about boat trips to la Isla del Sol, but if you do it, make sure to do an overnight trip. Hike the length of the island and view amazing ruins, while going to a museum that tells the tale of the lost city beneath Lake Titicaca…
8. TOROTORO NATIONAL PARK: Dinosaur tracks, Caves, and Amazing Landscapes
All the guides here are locals that have lived in the area pretty much all their lives. There’s so much to learn, see and do in this park. It’s quite an adventure – short hikes down canyons, cave exploring, waterfalls, dinosaur tracks, and stunning landscapes. Just amazing.
9. FESTIVALS, HOLIDAYS, AND LOCAL CUSTOMS: From Carnaval to City Anniversaries
Gain a better understanding of a country’s traditions, values, and history by taking part in some exhilarating parades and triumphant music. If you’re a party person, these festivities are sometimes accompanied by lots of after-hours drinking, dancing, and hedonistic behaviors too. If a city is having an anniversary (you can tell when it was founded by the dates in a particular city’s street names), check out those festivals too. On a more subtle level, (respectfully) learning about and engaging in spiritual or cultural practices can also be transformative and grounding.
Last but not least: I don’t know about other folks, but when I travel two of my main goals are to learn about life and make friends in other countries. These moments are oftentimes the most life-changing and meaningful parts of traveling. I’ve had some amazing conversations – both short and long – with my tour guides, friends of friends, my taxi drivers, strangers, etc. Get to know people’s stories, learn about a region’s history, and gain a better understanding of a country’s social issues and politics. Supporting a good local NGO is a great way to do this while making a positive contribution to a local community (just be mindful about the fact you’re mostly there to give, not take). It’s these moments and experiences that sometimes allow us to make some profound realizations and put our own life into perspective, too.
BOLIVIA: MUCH LOVE & SHOUT OUTS TO…
Hostal Santa Ana in Rurrenabaque (and the local restaurant down the street); Hotel Copacabana on Illampu St. in La Paz (confusing, I know); La Torre – Tupiza Tours & Juan Carlos and his mama (for the Salar de Uyuni); Alex and Cabana Las Lilas hostel in Tiquipaya / Cochabamba; Hostel Amigo in Sucre; Climbing Sucre / Carlos – my amazing tour guide; La Magia de Uyuni – one of the few decent places to stay in Uyuni; Marcela, Neyda, and all the great folks in Cochabamba; and all the dope people I met on my travels throughout Bolivia.
And to all the homies back in the States that gave me great recommendations/connections/hook-ups: Angelica, Vivianna, and Katina – Thank you and much gratitude!