Of the 35 countries I’ve visited on this beautiful planet earth, Bolivia is by far one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I spent many of the 21 days there with my mouth gaping wide open at the splendid vistas, bizarre geological features and absurdly pretty displays by Mother Nature.
Most trips to Bolivia start in La Paz where you’ll need to take things very easy for the first few days. As soon as you get off the plane you become aware that you are higher than you’ve likely ever been before – 4000m. Climbing a flight of stairs becomes a time consuming physical feat – so pick a hotel with porters. We chose the welcoming and trustworthy Hotel Rosario, with its incredibly helpful staff.
Our first week focused around hiking the El Choro trail. It begins above the clouds at 4600m and descends 2000m over three days along an Inca paved road. Walking down hill for a few days didn’t sound too difficult for these old bones. Ha! By the last hour of the third day we were in agony and barely talking to each other. We hobbled into town using our walking sticks as crutches. I have never been so grateful to see a cold beer. Fortunately the breathtaking scenery we’d seen along the way more than made up for our painful knees.
Next up was the Uyuni Salt Flats. A weird and wonderful 10,000 square kilometer area of well….flat salt!
We stayed in a hotel made of salt, slept on salt beds, ate our dinner off salt tables and chairs.
By day our guides drove us to one incredible natural geological feature after another. We literally thought every sight was the most amazing thing we had ever seen….until we saw the next one…then the next one.
Bubbling pools of hot mud, an island covered in giant cacti, colourful mountainsides of mineral layers that were seemingly painted by an artist, hundreds of pink flamingoes standing in a red lake. It all has to be seen to be believed.
The last part of our trip was spent in the steaming hot jungle in southern Bolivia at Chalalan Eco Lodge – a truly unique and unforgettable experience. However, if you don’t like creepy crawlies, snakes and wild things that bite, this isn’t the place for you. We spent hours walking through the jungle with our guide, fascinated by his knowledge of the lavish flora and fauna. We took a refreshing dip in the lake one hot afternoon; only to be told that night we’d be heading out into the same lake to search for Caymen (little alligators). Yikes! You mean the lake we just swam in? Yup.
After a few days we developed a wary truce with the frogs that visited our ensuite bathroom. One night however, we discovered a boa constrictor slithering in the rafters towards one of the frogs. I have never screamed so loud.
Bolivia is a gem of a country. In three weeks I felt I’d barely scratched the surface. I’d return there in a heartbeat to see all the natural beauty I missed first time round.
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