Imagine hiking through glaciers in the Andes Mountains.
The next day, you walk through the Amazon rainforest.
This entire time, you build relationships with warm and caring locals.
Good news! There’s no need to use your imagination.
Travelers can experience all this and more in Bolivia, a charming South American nation that hasn’t been overrun with tourists. Yet.
Bolivia boasts the world’s largest salt flats, most diverse national park and highest just-about-everything. This country is the ideal destination for travelers who seek authentic, off-the-beaten-track experiences.
The question isn’t if you should go. The question is where you should go.
That’s where FluentU comes in! We’ve compiled the ultimate Bolivia itinerary. Follow this guide to spend up to four weeks in the country.
What to Know Before You Create Your Bolivia Itinerary
If you don’t have four weeks to spare, don’t dismiss this Bolivia itinerary. Just pick and choose destinations that appeal to you. Regardless of your plan, here are a few things to keep in mind as you set up your Bolivia itinerary.
- Look into your visa requirements. Americans can organize a visa for 160 USD on entry, and Israelis must obtain one in advance. Most other travelers can waltz in for free.
- May to August are the driest months and the best time for Bolivia travel. The shoulder seasons see fewer crowds and only moderate rain, while February and March and are known for torrential downpours.
- Most locals don’t speak English, so check out FluentU to brush up on your Spanish before and during your trip. FluentU teaches you Spanish with fun videos, news reports and flash cards. Prepare to impress the locals! Continue to study Spanish while you’re on the road to make the most of your adventure.
- Keen to make a lasting impression on the locals? Try learning a few phrases in Quechua or Aymara as well.
- Finally, a word of warning: Things don’t always go as planned in Bolivia. Roadblocks, transport strikes, altitude sickness and other unforeseen circumstances can throw a wrench in even the most finely tuned travel plans. As they say in locally, “Todo es posible, nada es seguro.” (“Everything’s possible, nothing’s certain.”) Stay flexible and go with the flow!
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Where to Begin Your Trip Around Bolivia
The ideal start and end point of your epic adventure depend on your broader travel plans.
Those exclusively visiting Bolivia can fly into the international airports of El Alto (The Heights) or Santa Cruz (Holy Cross).
Backpackers on a trip around South America could border hop via Lake Titicaca in Peru, San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, La Quiaca in Argentina or Corumbá in Brazil, to name a few.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll enter Bolivia from Peru.
Bolivia Itinerary: Travel for up to 4 Weeks with This Ultimate Guide
Week One in Bolivia
Copacabana: A sacred town (1 night)
This town is on the western border of Peru and Bolivia. It’s home to Lake Titicaca, South America’s largest lake.
Copacabana is one of the country’s most sacred towns. You’ll find the revered Virgen de Copacabana (Our Lady of Copacabana), a centuries-old statue who serves as Bolivia’s patron saint and has been credited with numerous divine deeds.
The small, wooden sculpture lures scores of devout pilgrims each day. They visit to receive blessings for their newly purchased automobiles in a ceremony that involves Catholic priests, indigenous shamans and crate-loads of local beer. Turn up at the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana by 10:00 a.m. to watch the extraordinary event unfold.
For the best view of this sacred town, hike up the mountain Cerro Calvario (Calvary Hill).
Looking for a unique place to stay in Copacabana? Try this quirky hostel built in a series of fantastical animal-inspired designs.
Isla del Sol: Majestic scenery (1 night)
From Copacabana, jump on the ferry at 8:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. to Isla del Sol (Sun Island), where you can enjoy some of the best scenery in Bolivia. Bask in the ice-capped Andean peaks reflecting off Lake Titicaca.
A myriad of archaeological sites is available to explore. That’s not too surprising, considering the Inca believed this sacred island to be the birthplace of the sun.
La Paz: An Andean metropolis (3 nights)
Frantic and utterly authentic, La Paz showcases a blend of archaic indigenous culture and Andean topography. Coupled with the extreme altitude, this city will literally take your breath away.
Admire the city’s setting as you soar through the air on a cable car. Or explore the stunning scenery on foot in nearby natural attractions such as Tuni Condoriri, Cañón de Palca (Palca Canyon) or Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon).
There are several fun options for exploring the culture of La Paz. Peruse the city’s amazingly cheap museums. Or maybe you want to shop for potions at the spellbinding Witches Market. Or watch some death-defying acrobatic stunts performed by a troupe of fearsome cholita (indigenous female) wrestlers.
Yungas Road: The world’s most dangerous road (1 day)
Adrenaline junkies would be crazy to miss a trip down Bolivia’s notorious Yungas Road, better known as Death Road. This white-knuckle mountain biking experience combines subtropical scenery with heart-thumping adventure.
To ensure your chance of survival remains high, opt for a well-established company such as Gravity Bolivia.
Week Two in Bolivia
Rurrenabaque: Amazon wildlife (4 nights)
You can access the Amazon in numerous places around South America. However, Rurrenabeque is a Bolivian town that provides the most budget-friendly option.
See exotic Amazon animals from your canoe, ranging from adorable monkeys to fearsome anacondas. Plus everything in between! These tours of Bolivian plains, or “pampas tours,” are unique opportunities for tourists interested in eco-tourism.
For a quality pampas tour, book through Bala Tours Ecolodges & Tours. Spend three days in the Bolivian pampas with a local guide, all for only 240 USD.
Nature lovers seeking a more in-depth rainforest experience might wish to trek through Madidi, the world’s most bio-diverse national park. Meanwhile, astral travelers have the option of imbibing the psychedelic ayahuasca brew with a certified local shaman.
The Salar de Uyuni: Otherworldly landscapes (3 nights)
A bumpy overnight bus or a brief redeye flight brings travelers to the ramshackle town of Uyuni, the final frontier for those venturing into the country’s famed salt flats.
Time poor travelers can opt for a fleeting half-day trip into the salar (salt). But the real adventure awaits those who take the extended three-day option. It may be a bumpy ride, but its high altitude scenery is entirely worthwhile.
En route, travelers pass through a series of psychedelic volcano-clad deserts. We recommend stopping along the way to photograph pink flamingos as they feast in technicolored lagoons.
Gushing geysers and bizarre rock formations dot the path, while a mineral-rich hot spring offers a picture-perfect place to bathe at the end of a long day.
Sadly, Uyuni is famous for fly-by-night tour operators with poor safety standards and service, so opt for a more reputable company, such as RedPlanet, instead.
If you want to sprinkle a little luxury into this rough and remote region, book a couple nights in the Tayka Hotels, a series of plush eco-resorts.
Week Three in Bolivia
Tupiza: The wild west (2 nights)
Tupiza’s badlands are where travelers come to live out their childhood fantasies in real life. After all, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid spent their final gun-toting moments in Tupiza!
Take photos of the cacti, gorges and canyons that set this area apart from the rest of Bolivia.
Naturally, the best way to traverse these rugged surrounds is on the back of a trusty steed. Book a horseback riding tour through a trustworthy company, such as Tupiza Tours. Giddy up, partner!
Potosi: The silver mines (2 nights)
It ain’t glamorous, but descending into the depths of the notorious Cerro Rico mine is an eye-opening experience you’ll be glad you fit into your itinerary. Thousands of impoverished local miners work excruciatingly long hours in this mine, tirelessly chipping away at what little precious silver ore remains.
As bad as the mine may seem, it used to be a whole lot worse. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadores (conquerors) worked as many as six million slaves to death to extract an untold quantity of silver. This silver ultimately financed their expanding New World Empire.
Above ground, you can visit the adjacent colonial town of Potosi. Here you’ll find crumbling remnants of a grand former city that was once among the most populous in the world.
Sucre: Colonial architecture (3 nights)
Congratulations, you’ve made it to Bolivia’s capital!
Bankrolled by the immense riches of Cerro Rico, Sucre remains one of the best preserved colonial cities in South America.
The city’s laid-back vibe creates the ideal ambiance for travelers who want to spend a few days resting to gather energy for the last leg of their Bolivia trip. Stroll around the city to enjoy quaint, whitewashed houses with vibrant terracotta roofing.
Better yet, stick around to study some Latin American español (Spanish) at one of the city’s countless Spanish schools. Me Gusta (I Like It) is a highly respected local language school, thanks to their friendly and knowledgeable teachers who spice up the curriculum with plenty of games, videos and flashcards.
To really solidify your linguistics skills, get in touch with the non-profit Condor Trekkers who offer a number of immersive volunteer programs. Past volunteers have relished in the chance to hike through the hills by day and wax lyrical with their local host families by night.
Week Four in Bolivia
Cochabamba: Traditional food (1 night)
Cochabamba isn’t known for scenery. But it’s famous for its food, which is arguably even more important!
Hike to the top of the famous giant Jesus statue overlooking town to work up an appetite before indulging in a mouthwatering Bolivian feast at a packed local restaurant. Try La Vidalera, a restaurant that doubles as a rowdy folkloric music venue.
Toro Toro National Park: Dinosaurs and nature (2 nights)
Cochabamba’s biggest drawcard is Toro Toro (Bull Bull), a nearby national park that boasts some of Bolivia’s most underrated natural treasures. Skip a day with an expensive tour group and organize your day trips locally at the tourist office for a more agreeable local rate.
Highlights include the lush Vergel Canyon, claustrophobic Humajalanta caves and bizarre rock formations of the Ciudad de Itas (City of Itas), each encircled by the mammoth fossilized footprints of our prehistoric ancestors.
Samaipata: Maximum relaxation (3 nights)
After an exhaustingly active month, many travelers would relish in the chance to kick back and relax in one of Bolivia’s most easygoing towns.
Sleepy little Samaipata is a haven for expats and hippies. The town has ample boutique restaurants and hotels while still maintaining that quaint small town feel.
The more active among us may wish to check out the prehispanic Samaipata fort, hike to watch soaring condors, swim underneath a pristine waterfall or trek through the dense Amboro National Park.
Santa Cruz: The Bolivian lowlands (2 nights)
Seldom visited by international explorers, Bolivia’s most affluent metropolis provides travelers with the best of both worlds: Lowlands and a vibrant cosmopolitan setting.
Escape the big city with a sandboarding and wildlife safari to Las Lomas de Arena (Natural Sand Dunes) or get some respite from the oppressive heat in the Jardín de las Delicias (Garden of Delights) waterfalls and pools.
Where To Next?
Travelers heading to Brazil could hop on the train towards Puerto Suárez, jumping off at Robare to explore the stunning Jesuit churches of Chiquitana along the way.
Those traveling south towards Argentina could indulge in a tipple at the fertile winegrowing valleys which surround the laidback Mediterranean city of Tarija.
Whichever places you fit into your Bolivia itinerary, make sure you take it all in! It won’t be long before the rest of the world’s tourists discover how amazing the country is, too. Take advantage of South America’s best-kept secret while it’s still unknown.
Harry Stewart is a South America-based freelance writer who covers travel, arts and culture, among many other things.
And One More Thing…
If you’re pumped for your big trip to Bolivia, then you’ll love taking advantage of FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, commercials, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into Spanish learning experiences. In these videos, you’ll see your newly-acquired Spanish travel vocabulary in action.
In the real world, you may not pick up on new vocabulary straightaway. FluentU is designed for you to become familiarized with everyday Spanish, by combining all the benefits of total immersion and native level conversations with easy-to-read subtitles.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos – topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies, and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
And FluentU isn’t just videos – it’s a complete language learning program. Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Quiz Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on. You’ll be able to create vocab lists and track your progress as you advance through video after video.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or from the Google Play store. Become a master of Spanish vocabulary faster than you ever thought possible!
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