March 22, 2022
Bolivia is one of the less visited countries in South America but it’s certainly where you will have the most authentic experiences. You will fall in love with its traditions, customs and warm people but also with its incredible landscapes and varied geography. From the Salar de Uyuni to the Amazon passing by the Andes Mountains there is so much to explore there, and you won’t regret stepping out of the gringo trail.
We already created an article about the best off the beaten places in Bolivia that you can find here but this one is about our favourite cities and all the incredible things you can do there.
Let’s start this article with our absolute favourite town in Bolivia, the elegant and pretty Sucre. The white city is packed with museums, beautiful architecture, adventure activities and cultural experiences which makes it an ideal place to visit during your trip to South America. You can easily visit Sucre in 2 or 3 days, but we can guarantee that its laidback atmosphere will make you want to stay more. If you do so, there is plenty for you to discover here and you will be able to deeply experience and understand Bolivian culture.
Start your adventure in the beating heart of the city, Plaza 25 de Mayo where you can sample some delicious chocolate, go to see the Eiffel tower replica in Bolivar Park or spot a real dinosaur footprint in Parque Cretacio. You can also upgrade your cooking skills by taking a class, capture the white city from Recoleta Mirador and try some delicious traditional food in Tarabuco Market.
Tajira is usually overlooked by travellers as it’s quite remote which is a shame because it’s one of the best places in Bolivia to unwind and take some time off from the different activities. The town is located in Bolivia’s main wine region so you will be able to taste some good wine at a very cheap price. To accompany your bottle of wine, there’s nothing better than a delicious steak, and we can tell you that it’s the best that you will have in Bolivia, some even say that it’s better than Argentina! Besides from good food and wine, Tajira also offers different type of activities. Visit the pretty Casa Dorada to get a sneak peek into Bolivia’s wealthy colonial past, discover a captivating fossil collection at the Museum of Paleontology and Archaeology, watch the sun set on the lake in San Jacinto Dam and spot some wildlife in Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve.
While this isn’t your typical tourist destination there is no better place than Potosi to learn about Bolivia’s colonial past. Potosi is located at 4090 m above the sea level which makes it one of the highest cities in the world. People usually stop there for a night or two to get from Sucre to Uyuni but If you can bear the altitude and want to stay for a few days, Potosi will surely leave a lasting impression on you.
The city was once one of the richest in the world thanks to its silver mines and it’s still possible to visit them today, it’s actually the main reason why people visit Potosi. You will be able to understand the conditions in which the jewelleries are made, and the whole experience is very humbling. But also quite scary. If you have some tendencies of being claustrophobic, this is absolutely not for you. Don’t worry you can still climb San Francisco Church for an incredible view, soak up the atmosphere in plaza 10 de Noviembre or take a trip to Tarapaya to enjoy the hot springs.
If you need a break from the altitude in Bolivia, Cochabamba might be exactly what you need. With its spring like weather all year round and its chill atmosphere, this underrated city is an amazing place to relax for a few days while learning some Spanish. Cochabamba is located in the middle of a lush valley and you can appreciate its beauty from El Cristo de La Concordia where you will also have a 360° view of the city. Visit La Cancha, one of the largest flea markets in South America to do your souvenir shopping and get lost in this captivating labyrinth.
From Cochabamba, take a day trip to the stunning Torotoro National Park where you can hike, climb, enjoy the waterfalls and canyons or hunt fossils. If you don’t suffer from altitude sickness, there’s also the famous Cerro Turani mountain (5035m) and its pretty aquamarine lakes.
Santa Cruz is the largest city in Bolivia but compared to the other major cities of the country this one is at a much lower altitude and benefits from a tropical climate. Often overlooked by travellers because of its location, Santa Cruz has a lot to offer if you decide to take the time to explore it. One of the best places to visit is its lovely Cathedral where you can climb the bell tower to admire a beautiful view of the city. Then, explore the botanical garden and its 6 kilometres of trails for a chance to spot monkeys and sloths. Make sure you visit Samaipata for its stunning cloud forests and waterfalls. For the more adventurous, you can book a tandem jump as Santa Cruz is one of the only place to skydive in the country.
Rurrenabaque is the gateway to the Amazon and one of the best places to visit in Bolivia. It’s an incredible destination for ecotourism and you will be able to spot plenty of wildlife there. Before heading to the jungle, you should take a tour to visit the Yacuma Pampas, the tropical wetlands which is home to various species like monkeys, caimans, anacondas, pink river dolphins, capybaras and much more. The pampas are less dense than the rainforest so the animals are easier to spot and you can sometimes get very closed to them.
Madidi National Park is the second main attraction near Rurrenabaque and promises a unique and unforgettable experience. This jungle is considered the most biodiverse national park in the world with more than 1200 bird species, and 120 000 insect species. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot jaguars, giant otters, ocelot and spectacled bears among other incredible animals. The park is also home to 46 indigenous communities who rely on ecotourism, handicraft and agriculture to live. Take the time to visit them and learn about their way of life, how they help protect the environments and their culture and traditions.
Once a quiet fishing town, Copacabana is today well known by travellers as the ideal launching point to visit the infamous Titicaca Lake. First of all, you absolutely need to hike to Cerro Calvario and enjoy the sunset, or sunrise if you’re more of an early bird. Visit Catedral Virgen de La Candelaria where is located the virgen of La Candelaria who is believed to have accomplished many miracles. While you’re there you might witness something quite unusual, a queue of dressed up cars waiting to be blessed. In Bolivia the tradition when you buy a new car is to drive it to Copacabana to get it blessed.
Of course, you can’t visit Copacabana without a trip to the islands. If you have enough time, the best thing to do is to spend a night (or more) in Isla Del Sol. It will give you the chance to learn more about the Inca, their culture and traditions, visit the different ruins and take a trip to Isla de La Luna.
Of course, when you think of Uyuni what comes in mind is the world’s largest salt flat and it would be a shame not to visit it during your trip to Bolivia. But before you start this adventure, there’s a few things that you should check out in the town of Uyuni. The train cemetery is one of the main attractions there and it’s a really cool place to take some photos in the middle of the rusty wagons. For those who like archaeology, the Kawsay Wasy Museum is very interesting, and you will find some well preserved mummies and skeletons.
Regarding the Salar The Uyuni, take an early trip to the Sol de Mañana Geyser, climb the Tunupa Volcano, spot flamingos in Laguna Colorada and admire the milky way during a stargazing tour.
Our article wouldn’t be complete without talking about La Paz. The city is located at 3,500m above the sea level so take a few days to acclimatise before doing too many activities. The first thing you should do there is try some delicious food, La Paz is a real paradise for foodies and you will find plenty of cheap restaurants and food markets. Another must see is the witches market, this place is absolutely fascinating and you can easily spend hours looking at all the lucky charms, potions, dried animals, medicinal herbs and much more. Spend an afternoon in Calle Jean to admire the well-preserved colonial architecture and learn about La Paz history in the different museums.
From La Paz you can visit the Moon Valley and its incredible otherworldly geological formations, trek the cordillera Real, defy death and cycle the Yungas road or visit the numerous waterfalls in Coroico.
We hope that after this article you will add some of these incredible cities to your bucket list. Also don’t forget that you can find about our favourite off the beaten path destinations in Bolivia here. And as usual, you can contact us directly so we can help you organise the trip of you dreams!