Following on from spending two weeks in Peru, I headed across the southern border at Puno / Copacabana to spend one week in Bolivia. Before I arrived I had no idea what I would really find here – all I knew was that I was desperate to see the coloured lagoons and flamingos. These turned out to be one of the highlights of my whole trip, so if you’re heading to SA, DO NOT SKIP Bolivia <3
I’ve split it up place by place so you can decide to stay longer / shorter if you have less or more time OR add in a cheeky little trip to the Amazon (I’ve put info on this and my recommended amount of time in each place at the bottom of the post). 🙂
Firstly, if you’re planning a backpacking adventure and will be arriving into Bolivia from Peru, read more on itinerary / route ideas here:
The perfect itinerary for one week in Bolivia…
If you’re travelling to Bolivia from Peru, Copacabana will probably be your first stop. It’s a cool, relaxed town with a chilled vibe, but it’s quite small so not that much to do. It’s the town on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca (Puno is the town on the Peruvian side of the lake).
We planned to spend a night here but after arriving realised that there really wasn’t enough there to fill two days, so we just spent the day there in the end. Best thing to do, especially if you only have one week in Bolivia. The main attraction is an island tour, but after coming from Puno in Peru and doing the Uros floating islands trip (awful trip – do not recommend) we decided to sit in a chilled café all day and explore the town instead as we’d had a long night bus the night before from Cusco.
If you’re flying into Bolivia rather than crossing a border, then La Paz will be your first port of call. La Paz is a huge city with loads going on and kind of reminded me a bit of Cusco, although not as pretty. Really cool buses though!
Take the yellow cable car up and over the city – this is the one with the best views. If you have time you can hop off the yellow and onto the green as this takes you to the other end. Best views ever! And cheap, 3 BOB (30p) each way.
We also went to the Witches Market which is worth a visit – tonnes of local Bolivian women with potions, remedies and llama fetuses hanging everywhere for luck.
Death Road has to be on your list if you’re spending a few days in La Paz. But people do actually die btw, it’s not called death road for fun. So fun though and again, amazing views. You take this as a day trip and can book it from any of the tour agencies in La Paz centre. We used the company No Fear and it cost 480 BOB (£48) but they are all very similar.
If you are planning on doing the 3 day 2 night salt flat tour, then you need to head to Uyuni to begin your trip. This is easy enough, you take a night bus from La Paz at around 9pm and arrive at Uyuni at around 6am the next morning. Again, this can be booked from either your hostel / hotel or any of the tour agencies around the city.
To be honest, the salt flats were OK but the next two days of the tour were the absolute best and a highlight of my whole SA trip. Colourful lagoons, incredible scenery, huge mountains, volcanoes, the milky way and hundreds of flamingos! Eek! If you want reflections on the salt flats then you have to travel between January and March as this is rainy season. Most months outside of this time there will be no water on the ground hence no gorgeous sky / sunset reflections.
The Salt Flat tours are usually 3 days 2 nights and again, can be booked either at a travel agency in La Paz or even in Uyuni when you arrive. There are travel agencies in Uyuni waiting for the buses to arrive so lots of people even booked one for the same day as all the tours depart at around 10:30am and the buses arrive at around 6am.
The salt flat tours end down at the Bolivia /Chile border in the south which is ideal for anyone continuing on to Chile. It takes 45 minutes to get across to San Pedro de Atacama (the town in Chile just the other side of the border) – make sure this transfer is included in your tour. OR if you’re not planning to travel Chile you can choose to end the tour back up in Uyuni and then travel back to La Paz or wherever.
Have more than one week in Bolivia and want to head to the Amazon?
You will not find me anywhere near the Amazon EVER due to the monstrous tarantulas that can be found every which way you turn, however many friends I met on my trip visited from Bolivia and said it was amazing. They told me stories of trekking through the jungle at night and coming across hundreds of wild pigs, and seeing pods of pink dolphins swimming past their boat.
The town Rurrenabaque in Bolivia is known as the gateway to the Amazon and the pampas (pampas = swamp area). The best time to slip this into your itinerary would be after La Paz as it’s just north of the city. To get there you want to take a short flight with Amaszonas however you have to book this in advance otherwise there’ll be no space. The other option is to take the 14 hour night bus which isn’t long at all for SA, however I’ve been told the road is kinda like death road at times. The best length of tour to take is the 3 days jungle, 2 days pampas tour – make sure you do both jungle and pampas as they are very different and you see different things.
My friend booked with Mashaquipe Ecolodge, a good company that protects & respects the wildlife and doesn’t touch / handle anything. This is a really important factor when choosing which tour company to go with as a lot of companies do and that is naaaat right. 🙂
Jungle: 5 types of monkey, (night, howler, yellow, capuchin, spider), toucans, parrots, wild pigs, lizards, iguanas, small snakes, tree frogs, deer, tarantulas (ugghhh), jaguars & tortoises.
Pampas: caiman, alligator, anaconda, monkeys, capybara, tortoises, pink dolphins, loads of huge birds like falcons etc & bats.
Things to note
How long should I spend in each place?
For one week in Bolivia I would recommend 3 or 4 nights in La Paz followed by the 3 day salt flat and Laguna Colorada tour. If you’re in South America you NEED to do the lagunas – I can’t tell you how beautiful all the scenery was. THE BEST. For 2 weeks I would include the Amazon, or if you’re terrified of spiders like me then I heard of people heading to Potosi and also Sucre too – we didn’t head to either of these so can’t comment I’m afraid!
How to get around?
Bus is the best, cheapest and easiest way. You will need to take a night bus between La Paz and Uyuni as mentioned above (look upppp). We took Bolivia Hop from Cusco across the border and to La Paz. This takes you via Puno and Copacobana, the Peruvian and Bolivia sides of lake Titicaca, however you could just as easily get a standard bus from any of the travel agencies in the city / town centres and it would probably be cheaper.
We all got ill in La Paz. It’s the highest city so expect some light dizziness, maybe some nausea and a lot of time being out of breath. I was literally out of breath lying down flat in bed haa. Packing our bags was also hard….Things you can do to try and prevent / help this is buying some Coca sweets from a shop in town or putting coca leaves in hot water, leaving it for a few mins then drinking the water (not the leaves too, they taste rank). If your hands / arms start to get tingly you need to keep squeezing and moving your hands to keep the blood flowing.
Other posts you may enjoy if you’re heading to Peru after Bolivia: