For the intrepid traveller a holiday to Bolivia is one of the most rewarding travel experiences to be had. Although the infrastructure can be basic, stunning colonial towns like Sucre and Potosi, the mind-blowing salt lake at Uyuni, the Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca and some of the best wildlife viewing in the Amazon all go to make Bolivia an incredible place to visit. This Andean country in the heart of South America is often overlooked and we think it is one of the continent's best kept secrets.
Everything about this land-locked country is out of the ordinary. Reminiscent of the surreal inventions of Gabriel García Márquez, it’s the kind of place where you start taking the strangest things for granted. Like sitting next to an alligator on a bus or waiting behind a group of piglets at the check-in desk. In Bolivia, it seems, pigs really do fly.
The minute you arrive in La Paz, you realize this is no humdrum conventional city. The airport, at over 4,000 m above sea level, is the highest in the world. So high, in fact, that incoming flights almost have to ascend to land. The capital is one giant street market, where indigenous women in bowler hats and voluminous skirts will sell you everything you could possibly need – from a pair of designer jeans of questionable authenticity to a dried llama foetus.
These grotesque objects are burned and used along with incense, bits of wool, grease and coca leaves in white magic ceremonies and to rid houses of evil spirits.
Bolivia’s strange curiosities are not confined to La Paz. Only a few hours north is Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, which gave birth to the Inca empire. In the southwest of the country, near a train graveyard, is the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s highest and largest salt lake – 12,000 sq km of blinding white nothingness. South of the salt lake is a Salvador Dalí landscape of deserts, volcanoes, bizarre rock formations, bubbling geysers, peculiar green plants and a blood-red lake filled with flamingos.
East from here is a hollow silver mountain, dinosaur footprints, villages where annual festivities revolve around ritualized fights and national parks that are so isolated they’re almost impossible to get to.