Bolivia

Copacabana

on Sunday, 07 August 2011. Posted in Bolivia

Copacabana and Lake Titikaka
Copacabana and Lake Titicaca are two of Bolivia's most valued landmarks. My fondest memory is skimming across the lake on a hydrofoil to Peru - about 6 hours. On the Island of the Sun you can get out and do some hiking and see some Incan ruins. The Island of the Moon is much smaller, but also pretty. Skip the pizza and have some Titicaca trout on the shore in Copa. It doesn't get fresher than water-to-grill. Skip Copacabana around February 2nd unless you're into hundreds of people dancing drunkenly in the streets and stay at the Andean Eco Village in Huatajata instead.

La Paz

on Sunday, 07 August 2011. Posted in Bolivia

La Paz - 2nd Highest City in the World
La Paz is where I spent most of my childhood. The city has grown immensely since then. El Alto was an empty plain with nothing but the airport and the tiny town of Viacha when I went to grade school and graduated from high school there. Good times!
La Paz has a lot of great museums and art galleries. Visit my friend Susana Castillo, one of Bolivia's most renowned artists. For a cultural experience, visit during February - Alasitas Fair and Carnaval. Buy and Ekkeko (the god of abundance) and load him up with miniatures of all the things you want him to bring you during the coming year (you can even buy a miniature visa! He he).
I love eating a salteña on the Prado at about 10 in the morning when the air is still cool and brisk, and a cuñapé with tea at 5 near Plaza Murillo (by the way at Plaza Murillo in the morning around 10 am you can see the changing of the guards at the government palace too).
The Montículo is an overlook in Sopocachi where you can take a walk through a small plaza high above the city and look out over it. It's a prime location for photos of Illimani, when it's not clouded over, which is like, almost always.
The Witches Market behind the San Francisco Cathedral is a definite must if you want to learn about weird traditions, like why dead llama fetuses are buried under new constructions.
A visit to Peña Naira at night for folkloric singing and dancing and drinks in a dark stuffy little room makes for one good evening.
One of the absolutely most bizarre tours in Bolivia is the San Pedro Prison Tour. I used to visit the prisons in La Paz with my mom as a child and it's heartbreaking. I can understand why this would attract tourists, but I personally believe taking this tour is hazardous. These tours supposedly don't exist any more after the combined stupidity of prisoners, guards and some very badly behaved tourists led to a prisoner mutiny (but actually they still take place).
A trip to the Valley of the Moon is a great day trip. Careful climbing around, the soil is soft and breaks away easily.
Mallasa is where the Zoo is located. You can also ride horses, but they're usually kind of old and saggy.
Laikakota is a park in Miraflores just a few blocks from the Stadium. It's built up on a hill in the center of the city. Has several playgrounds and you can't take better photos anywhere! From this vantage point, you have a 360º view of the city. It's one of my favorite photo spots!
I scaled the Muela del Diablo (Devil's Tooth) several times as a teen. It used to be a 6-hour climb. Now you can take a bus almost all the way to the top. At night the city lights look like a great big handprint from El Alto down to Calacoto.
Calacoto, in the southern half of the city, is an upscale neighborhood with lots of foreigners.  Now it's full of upscale discotheques, boutiques and stores, malls, gyms, movie theaters, and lots of other stuff.Sundays are soccer day. Catch a game at the stadium in Miraflores.

Pando

on Sunday, 07 August 2011. Posted in Bolivia

Pando - Once the Rubber Capital of America
Pando has an interesting past. It lost half of its territory to Brazil (the northernmost region of Acre, now know as the Brazilian state of Acre). Read the History of Pando to learn why this is one of the reasons Pando is the most sparsely populated departments of Bolivia. However, there are a lot of very nice natural areas in Pando, such as beautiful lakes, rivers and lagoons. I haven't built a section on Pando yet because it's the one place I've been away from the longest and I need to take an update trip! Soon!

Potosi

on Sunday, 07 August 2011. Posted in Bolivia

Potosí - The World's Highest City
Not only is Potosí higher than La Paz, during colonial times Potosi was the most populated city on Earth! There was so much silver in the mines at Cerro Rico that the Spanish (and Bolivians after them) have mined it for over 500 years. Tin overtook silver to become Bolivia's prime export during World Wars I and II and Bolivia's wealth increased dramatically at the time. As of only about 15 years ago, oil and natural gas from Eastern Bolivia (Santa Cruz and Tarija) have replaced tin to fill Bolivia's coffers.
In Potosí the two most interesting things are the mines and the Casa de la Moneda. When I was little women were not allowed into the mines. Only men could go in. The miners believed that El Tio (the devil) would cave the mines in if women entered. Working conditions have not improved at all over the past 30 years and although tourists can now enter some of the shafts, I don't really suggest going too far in. Safety from falling rocks and cave-ins is a problem even for miners today, as they dynamite without discretion. But the other problem is the silica. Miners have an average life-span of 45 years because they spend their entire lives breathing in the invisible silica particles that are like fiber glass that cuts away at their lungs.
The Casa de la Moneda (the Spanish MINT) is where the Spanish turned much of the silver into imprinted silver coins before sending shiploads of them to the King of Spain. It's an extremely interesting museum now.

Salar

on Sunday, 07 August 2011. Posted in Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni - The World's Largest Salt Beds
The Salar de Uyuni (a vast salt desert up to 120 meters deep) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bolivia. Three million acres (12,000 square kilometers) of blinding white salt are were left behind millions of years ago by the receding Lake Minchín. It's vast and extremely flat expanse is enjoyed by tourists who like to play with the optical illusions the lack of horizon causes - super fun photo opportunities await you here. Located at over 3000 meters above sea level, it gets very very cold at night. You can stay at a hotel where everything right down to the furniture is made completely out of salt bricks.

Sucre

on Sunday, 07 August 2011. Posted in Bolivia

Sucre - Bolivia's One and Only Capital City
Sucre is one of my favorite cities in Bolivia. It's totally colonial architecture is beautiful and it's everywhere. There's a large park across the street from the Supreme Court building where kids can "climb" a rusty replica of the Eiffel Tower. Everywhere you look the houses have European balconies, there are tons of antique shops where you can get European antiques that are hundreds of years old, and pay attention to the glass in many of the windows of the homes and buildings on the center plaza - many still have centuries-old French glass panes.
Other places to visit include the Recoleta at the top of the hill where the convent is to get a great view of the entire city and the cemetery which is gorgeous and where many of Bolivia's former presidents are buried. Little kids give you a complete tour with a history lesson to boot. Also, there are several cool bars and restaurants. I personally like La Tertulia which is kind of quiet and dark and a great place to have some coffee and a good read. Sucre has the cleanest market I've ever seen anywhere in Bolivia.
There are several beautiful colonial churches, lot of great architecture, beautiful parks and plazas, and really nice people. There is also a historical museum and the Casa de la Libertad, where the first Bolivian constitution was signed and there are several colonial paintings and documents on display. Lastly, visit the natural history museum where you can see pieces of pottery, weavings, and even mummies that are thousands of years old. Strangely, at night Sucre reminds me of Cuzco.
If you go to the main plaza in Sucre you can find the DINO TRUCK and take a day tour (it's only about 4-5 hours total) to the world's largest repository of dinosaur footprints ever found! CalOrcko. They'll have you there and back in 1/2 a day for about Bs. 50! (Unfortunately, in early 2011 a portion of this hill collapsed, taking with it a fairly large section of the prints).
Don't miss the museums in Sucre. Especially the Ethnographic museum where you can see mummies and all kinds of cool stuff. And at the weaving museum you can see people weaving on looms. by the way, Sucre is also Bolivia's one and only capital city. Here's why people mistakenly think Bolivia has two capitals.

Tiahuanaco

on Sunday, 07 August 2011. Posted in Bolivia

The Ancient Ruins of Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku)
Up on the highlands in the opposite direction (heading Southwest from La Paz and toward Lake Titicaca) are the ruins of Tiwanaku (sometimes spelled Tiahuanaco) which was the ceremonial epicenter of Andean culture for thousands of years and has a great museum and of course, ruins of temples and monoliths as well as the Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate) that shouldn't be missed. In this section you can read about its history and watch some videos on the legends and myths that surround this unearthly city. You'll hear what scientists have to say about whether or not Tiwanaku is the oldest city on Earth.
If you have any questions about things to do, places to stay or eat, or tourist attractions in Tiahuanaco, or if you'd like to share your travel stories and photos, click here to enter our Tiwanaku Travel Forum.

Yungas

on Sunday, 07 August 2011. Posted in Bolivia

Yungas: Coroico, Caranavi, Death Road
To the North of La Paz you can take a trip to the Yungas either on the new paved 2-lane highway by bus or car (where you can visit towns such as Coroico, Chulumani and Caranavi or even continue on as far as Rurrenabaque or Trinidad in Bolivia's second largest state of Beni) or by way of one of the most exhilarating and famous (or shall we say infamous) tourist attractions of Bolivia, by biking down what has become known as Death Road. As a child I took this road many times. It lives up to its name and can cost you your life.
If you have any questions about things to do, places to stay or eat, or tourist attractions in Coroico, or if you'd like to share your travel stories and photos, click here to enter our Coroico Travel Forum or Death Road Travel Forum.

* Note: Room prices change constantly. You should check the latest availability as in many cases the room price can be even lower than the listed price on the LastBeds website.