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5 Places to visit in Bolivia, South America

Ahhh, Bolivia. A country of great beauty, stunning landscapes, and unique attractions. A country with the highest capital city in the world, the largest salt flats in the world, mountains, jungles, lakes, and everything else in between.

Bolivia may not be the easiest place to travel in, may not have the warmest people, and may not have the best cuisine, but what it lacks in those departments it more than makes up for in others.

Bolivia stands out as a top notch travel destination for many reasons. The main one being the diversity of the landscape. No other country I’ve been on Earth has such a myriad of dazzling natural beauty that is so unique.

While the highlights of Bolivia are many, these five stuck out as must see, can’t miss places if visiting this beautiful, landlocked South American country. These sites provide a great contrast of all there is to see in a country about three times the size of the state of Montana.

1. La Paz

The highest capital city in the world, sitting at about 13,400 feet (4100 meters), is a great introduction to the diversity of Bolivia.

La Paz, a picturesque city set in a valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks, offers anything a traveler could want. This bustling metropolis provides top notch cuisine, from Indian to Middle Eastern to local, accommodations of all shapes, sizes, and prices, a rousing night life, and activities for everyone (fancy a bike ride down the World’s Most Dangerous Road?).

Giant markets (even a witch market), crazy traffic, impressive architecture, ornate churches, and the Presidential Palace await you in La Paz. If big, urban cities appeal to you, look no further. There aren’t many major cities in the world where a room can cost $5US and a top notch meal can be had for under $10US, so consider beginning your Bolivian trip here.

2. Coroico

Traveling in Bolivia can be tough business, especially for backpackers with a low budget. The buses and roads are, shall we say, challenging, and overland travel can take a lot out of even the most seasoned travelers.

Luckily Coroico is here to whisk all your worries away. A few hours outside of La Paz (or at the end of the World’s Most Dangerous Road bike ride), Coroico is perched on a hill in the subtropical Yunga Valley, set amongst orange and banana groves with condors circling overhead.

This small town is appealing for its scenery and being a place to just kick back and relax. A stop here for a few days in highly advisable for anyone, and if you plan on riding the World’s Most Dangerous Road before heading towards the jungle (a typical Bolivian itinerary), you’ll be thankful for the R & R.

Accommodations are quite cheap (private doubles with bath can be found for about $15US), most have spectacular views, and many even have a pool. If time permits, don’t skip over this gem of a town. You’ll thank me later.

3. The Pampas

Pampas Bolivia
Day One – Crazy Guides with alligators in Pampas

High atop anyone’s list of must-sees while traveling in South America is a trip into the Amazon jungle to see wildlife galore.

Most people automatically think Brazil when contemplating this world famous site, but parts of the jungle can be visited in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Bolivia. Two options are available in Bolivia, jungle tours and pampas tours, both based out of Rurrenabaque (about 20 hours by bus-one of the worst trips in South America-north of La Paz, or a 45 minute flight).

If seeing wildlife is your goal, then the Pampas tour is for you. Picture slowly puttering down the river in a dug-out canoe, with literally hundreds of alligators, crocodiles, turtles, monkeys, pink dolphins, capybaras, and an abundant species of birds all around. Envision piranha fishing, swimming with the dolphins, hiking around the jungle in search of the largest snake in the world, the anaconda.

Wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys and the cacophony of jungle sounds. A truly unique place in the world that permits travelers to get up close and personal with a myriad of wildlife, a Pampas tour is something that will be etched in your memory forever.

4. Copacabana

If you’re fortunate enough to travel around South America and are going to both Peru and Bolivia, Copacabana is a can’t miss destination. Sitting on one side of the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia, sits the charming and quaint town of Copacabana.

The radiant blue-turquoise lake is what people come to Copacabana for, and options abound for exploring it. Hiking trails along the shore is a great way to see the lake for different perspectives, with white capped mountains in the background. Kayaking or paddle-boating your way around the bay gets travelers up close and personal with the lake.

A boat trip to one of the islands in the middle of the lake is one of the most popular ways to experience Lake Titicaca. And while the town itself doesn’t offer much in the way of entertainment, that’s all right because the lake is the highlight here, and it’s the only entertainment you’ll need.

5. Salar De Uyuni

If a Bolivian Salt Flats tour isn’t on your travel bucket list, add it now. The Salt Flats themselves are the definite highlight of the tour, but they only constitute one of the four days of the trip. This is actually a tour of southwestern Bolivia, and never in my life have I felt more like an astronaut.

Other-worldly landscapes await you on this indescribable jeep trip through scenes out of a fantasy land. Red and green colored lagoons, pink flamingos and other unique wildlife, geysers, volcanoes, and geothermal wonders, painted mountains, bizarre rock formations, and the feeling of being on the moon are just a sampling of the highlights of the other three days.

Then there’s the Salt Flats themselves.  The highest and largest in the world, the Salt Flats are a wonder like no other. Bright white stretching as far as the eye can see, contrasting with the deep blue skies, offers a scene that simply doesn’t look, seem, or feel real. A magical place that has people of every age acting like children, a trip to the Salar de Uyuni is a memorable one.

There are so many sights to see in a country as beautiful as Bolivia, and these five are just the tip of the iceberg. While travel in this very poor and developing country is usually challenging and at times heartbreaking, your efforts will be rewarded with some of the most visually pleasing scenery in the entire world.

What can you add to the list of places to visit in Bolivia?

More posts about South America

More Resources for South America

  • Lonely Planet South America on a shoestring
  • South America (Insight Guides) 

Plan Your Trip to Bolivia, South America

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Tours in Bolivia

After a life-changing year long RTW trip, Adam Seper is back home in St. Louis, MO, with his wife and travel companion, Megan, trying to figure out their next plan of attack. When he’s not working at his father-in-law’s flooring store, he’s writing and working on his new site, World Travel for Couples, along with any and all freelance travel writing gigs he can land. While no other big trips are on the horizon for now, it won’t be long before he and his wife hit the road again for another adventure.

Find out more about Adam on his site, World Travel For Couples or follow him on twitter @aseper.

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42 thoughts on “5 Places to visit in Bolivia, South America”

  1. Thanks so much for featuring me here Craig and Caz. I really do appreciate it.

    Bolivia surprised us around every single turn. It’s such a beautiful and unique place that I highly suggest visiting it. Thanks again you two!! And thanks for all the comments so far.

  2. Bolivia was one of our favorite places we visited in South America. As the writer said, it isn’t always the easiest travel and the people aren’t always the friendliest (especially when you take your camera out), but the country is physically stunning and there is just so much going on – we found our heads spinning by the end trying to figure out politics (we were there before the presidential elections) and how the country was changing so quickly.

    The salar de uyuni is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, not just the actual salt flat but the whole area is full of mineral-laden lakes and Dali-esque landscapes. Really incredible.

    1. Thanks Audrey. Bolivia sounds really exotic and I love the look and sound of the salt flats. I have read a lot about Bolivia recently and Adam has written some great posts about it over at his blog. I wondered why you wrote “the writer” above and then I just rechecked the post and saw why- I had left off Adam’s bio- which is a major mistake. I’m so glad I caught it just after it was published and not weeks later. Now you can check out more about Adam at his site.
      Sorry for that as well Adam.

  3. This post is so timely as I’m heading there in November and I have no idea what I’ll do. You’ve made things much easier and I’ve just bookmarked it 🙂

  4. We were fortunate to make it to Copacabana but that was as far as we got. Would have loved to visit the Salt Flats, I hear nothing but amazing review. Thanks for sharing Adam! 😉

  5. We love Bolivia too. We are currently in La Paz, which we like much more than expected – the street scene is very vibrant. We loved the salt flats tour and the amount of wildlife you see in the pampas is amazing.

    I would also add the beautiful, laid-back city of Sucre to the list, and Samaipata, a chill out mountain place similar to Coroico but with less tourists. We played with monkeys and rented horses for a few dollars an hour there – lots of fun!

  6. I visited all of those places in Bolivia and they were amazing. The salt flats is one place I wouldn’t mind going again. However, Bolivia is my least favorite country I’ve visited to so far. I had way too many bad experiences there that definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

  7. Bolivia may seem like a destination many people may not think of visiting but your pictures make this place look beautiful. Just make sure you carry some oxygen! 🙂

  8. Amazing pic of La Paz. Really want to go there. It’s also the home of San Pedro, the prison from the Marching Powder book. Apparently Brad Pitt’s production company is working on a Marching Powder film for 2012.

  9. Salar de Uyuni is one of my dream destination. I saw some pictures in the internet, with the surface slightly wet, and the salt reflects the sky perfectly. I fell in love with it. It’s actually what inspired me to fo to the pink salt lakes in Victoria (Australia). Some part of the lake was solid enough for us to walk around, it felt amazing.
    (Btw, La Paz picture is superb. Can’t wait to see it myself one day)

  10. Oh man, I miss Bolivia. 4 out of 5, not bad right? The Pampas will have to wait. Lunch with some street kids in Sucre was the inspiration for the travel with a cause blog I’m working on now. Nice article about a great country.

  11. Such an amazing country to explore.

    And, indeed, that’s a great top 5.

    I’d add…

    > Tupiza: Quirky town nestled in an extraordinary landscape, with a Butch Cassidy and Sundance connection. And, when we visited, a perfect pair of clay tennis courts by the train station. We had an Australia vs Bolivia challenge day and got totally owned by the local players. We mixed with the locals more here than anywhere else in Bolivia.

    > Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca: Greatest sunrises on the planet with a strong mythical connection to the story of the Incas. We camped on a beach and were quite a curiosity for the local kids. Sailed a boat with rice-bag sails, and a good ration of red wine.


  12. I agree, Ben – Isla del Sol was beautiful! I also really enjoyed La Paz and Sucre, so I would add those places.

    Not on our list: the Bolivian hospital. Geoff ended up in the hospital, and for a while we thought things were getting pretty serious. Luckily everything turned out okay and we have almost nothing but the best of memories from Bolivia!

  13. Sounds really great, curious about your must see’s. :-),
    I’m planning a trip this year along the Panamericana for 4 month, starting 1st of July in Alaska and one of my stopps will be Bolivia in September. I’m travelling as a backpacker, looking also for good an cheap accommodations. Would be perfect to get some hints. Thanks in advance to all the travellers:-)

  14. How wonderful are the diverse and spectacular landscapes of Bolivia! We just left Sucre where we lived for 5 months. My husband and I fell in love with the place and would definitely recommend anyone traveling to Bolivia to put the ‘White City’ on their itinerary…oh and the salt flats of course!

    Am going to miss the food, the people, the culture, and the ridiculously cheap prices!! Really great post & photos btw 🙂

  15. Hi, I am travelling to Bolivia next February from 10th to 5th of March. Just wondering how many days you would need to cover all 5 places above.
    Any advice for travelling from place to place would be great!!
    Thanks 🙂

  16. Planning to visit Bolivia in the next 3 weeks and will be having not more than a week to
    explore this beautiful terrain. My desire is to travel by road as much as possible so as to see countryside and meet people.

  17. Coroico is an interesting choice. Living just a few hours away it’s a personal favourite of mine. Other good destinations are Sorata, Isla del Sol, Potosi, Sucre, Tarija and Samaipata to name a few. Plenty of good trekking and climbing for those who are interested too.

  18. I love Bolivia, it really is a unique and beautiful country. I’ve been there, recently. La Paz has a great nightlife and is a Wonder City. My top favs are Copacabana and the saltflats. I’ll be going back sometime soon.

  19. Bolivia has deffinitely some stunning places to visit. (By the way La Paz is not the capital city is just the seat of government, the capital city is Sucre, a beautiful and quiet city itself, and they make delicious chocolate too).
    But I would also add some places in Santa Cruz to the must visit list.
    I leave you this video that might help ilustrate my point:
    The city is beautiful and cheerful and you will find really nice people there, and just a few hours by car you will find amazing places as Samaipata city, the Valle de Tucabaca, the Misiones Jesuíticas, Codo de los Andes or the Amboró National Park, even have places where you can make extreme sports as trekking, rappel, rafting or canopy.
    If you have the chance to get there, don´t miss it.

  20. I agree with your list! But I take the time to leave this comment to add the condor’s valley (valle de los condores) in Tarija. It’s one the best memories I have from my 3 months in south america. An superb hidden spot, really authentic.

  21. Nice blog but these are the places that EVERYONE visits , its like going to Australia and saying you know the place when you have only been to the East Coast. I am waiting for a blogger who gets off the boring gringo trail and visits destinations which rival these places and more.

    Madidi National Park –
    Toro Toro National Park – dinosaur tracks, caves, waterfalls
    Samaipata , ruins, jungle, waterfalls, condors
    Kaa iya National Park to see Jaguars
    Sand boarding and Sloth watching in Santa Cruz
    Giant waterfalls of Jardin de las delicas in Santa Cruz
    Amboro National Park – Refugio Los Volcanes
    Santiago de Chiquitos and surroundings.

    1. Thanks Nick. Feel free to send us a guest post with these suggestions! we love to share the must see places and the off the path as they are both valuable for different reasons. Send me an email if you wanted to write it and I’ll send you our guidelines [email protected]

  22. The Pampas is not better than the Bolivian Amazon ( Madidi National Park ) for seeing animals !! People only write this because they book the cheapest Jungle tours then complain that they dont see any animals.

    My first trip to Madidi National Park i saw a Jagaur , missed 2 more, Giant Otters, Tapir, 3 species of Deer, 5 species of Monkeys, Tapirs, Caiman, Capybara, 2 species of Peccares and more !! I saw this because you get what you pay for and i went deeper into the Amazon away from hunters and cheap backpacker lodges.

    The Pampas is over touristic and a example of cheap backpacker tourism.

    If you really want to see wildlife then explore Kaa Iya National Park, Beni Wetlands , San Miguelito Jaguar Reserve or go deeper into Madidi National Park. I promise you will see a lot more !!!

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