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HOME > Bolivia


11 days (only Bolivia),  Aug '11




Kind of travel:
Me and my girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel

05th- 15th Aug 2011 (only Bolivia)

Do I need a visa
no, just the passport to get a colourfull medium size stamp

How many km
1600 km (only Bolivia)

How I moved
bus is the main mean of transport being frequent and well organised, but the train lovers shouldn't miss the Uyuni- Oruro
train. Few times we hitch hiked without any problems- Domestic flights are convenient and frrequent (La Paz- Sucre: 60€ pp). Salar de Uyuni has no other mean than an organised jeep share among 6 people (75€, 3 days).

Freezing or baking
August is winter time so be equipped for the real coldness: Sucre is warm (13C- 26C), but Potosi and Uyuni are colder (4C-16C), while it's in the Salar your resistance will be tested (till -8C). In particular what makes lfe harder is the lack of heating system in the hotels or the unreliable hot water.

Where I slept:
Guesthouse generally were not so impressive, mainly for the frequent lack of hot water and heating system, at least they were cheap like hell (7- 17€ double)

What I liked:
First of all I loved everything of Bolivia: the Salar and Laguna Colorada are jaw dropping, the mines in Potosi more than impressive and La Paz with its traditionally dressed women (Cholitas) and its location is charming. The last bt not the least the madness of the car blessing in Copacabana (sunday morning) has been unique.

What I disliked:
Night buses are cold like hell (thank to A/C), people don't want to be photographed even if asked kindly, the country is full of stray dogs, and waiting 40 min at the restaurant for a soup is the norm.

How much daily:
We got impressed by how much Bolivia is cheap: accommodation from 8-17€ for a double, meals from 6-7€, also taxi are amazingly cheap (0.8 per 15min) at the end for a total of 33€ per day pp. making Bolivia one of the cheapst country I've travelled in.

Dangers/ hassles:
Pickpocketing unfortunately is popular in particular in La Paz, hence pay attention, since they use many tricks. When moving through the Salar by jeep be patient: we punctured 5 times! When planning your itinerary consider time-buffers and backup plans, since strikes (blocadus) are quite frequent

What you do need:
Warm clothes (thermal pants) and sleeping bag is a must in particular for the Salar, then don't forget your flash lamp.



From the backpacking standpoint Bolivia'll exceed your brighter expectations; first of all it's really an authentic country from the traditional standpoint; even the the capital you'll se so many women wearing traditional dresses ('Cholitas') hanging around.
Then what about the environmental variety? from the world most amazing mountains landscapes, to the wild Amazon Forest.. what's missing is just the sea shore but Lake Tititicaca makes a great alternative.
And what about the cheapness? We were immediately impressed by the low prices; in fact we made it at South Est Asia cost level, and if you have other travelling experiences in South America you'll be well aware is definitely not a low budget place (Brazil for instance)s
Having said this, if for travelling Bolivia is a kind of paradise, it might be not for those living there; it's the poorest country in South America and Bolivians frequently protests against the government with strikes (blocadu) that could mine easily your plan if no time buffer is allowed. The only thing Bolivians have to damp the hard life seems to be Coca leaves, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to test them.





Day Transport Night Price Duration
1 La Paz   Hotel Colonial 17€ double  
2 La Paz- Sucre Flight   65€ 1h
2 night Sucre   Hotel Charcas 14€ double  
3 Sucre-Potosi Bus     4h
3 night Potosi   Hostel Koala Den 10€ double  
4 Potosi mines Minibus+ on foot   10€ pp 3.5h
4 Potosi- Hot Springs Minibus     40min
4 Hot Springs- Potosi Hitch hiking     1h
4 night Potosi   Hostel Koala Den 10€ double  
5 Potosi- Uyuni Bus   4€ 7h
5night Uyuni   Hotel Kory Wasi 10€ double  
6,7,8 Uyuni- Uyuni (Salar) Jeep (6 people)   75€ pp 3days
6,7 night Salar (San Juan and Laguna Colorada)   Cold basic guest house Cost included in the 75€pp  
8night Uyuni- La Paz Night Bus Semibed bus 10€ 10h
9 La Paz- Copacabana Bus   2€ 4h
9night Copacabana   Residencial Sucre 7€  
10 Isla del Sol Boat-on foot    

3h boat
4h on foot

10night Copacabana   Residencial Sucre 7€  
11 Copacabana- Puno (Peru) Bus   4€ 3.5h



It has been a long haul from Milan to La Paz stopping over in London, Chicago and Miami but at least we paid the ticket 1.150€! (return from Lima)
We particularly liked La Paz, mostly built on the steep walls of a valley at 3.600m with it's highest part (airport included) at 4.000m. We were quite surprised by the number of women wearing the traditional colourfull dresses (Cholitas), inf act the town has an authentic Bolivian atmosphere.
We stayed in La Paz a couple of days at the Hotel Colonial (17€ double) before flying to Sucre (1.5h, 60€ pp), where in turn we stack in our sleeping bag at the Hotel Charchas (14€ doulbe). The town is defined as the most elegant town of Bolivia and it's also its cultural hearth since where Indipendence was declared. The town is plenty of white churches to be visited and in particular I liked the 'Convento De San Felipe Neri' (you have to ring), where you can climb the roof and than the stample to enjoy a great view of the town, without mention the beauty of the place itself. Beside we visited also the Parque Cretacico, the place where dinosaurous footprints have been found: if you have a kid this is the right place to go.
Since relatively speaking Sucre sits in the lowlands (2700m), despite being winter, it was really warm reaching the temperature of 26C.
It took just 4h by bus to reach again 4.000m in the town of Potosi, known for what's one of the main highlights of Bolivia: the mines.
In fact nearby the town there is 'Cerro Rico', a mountains completely dug by undreds of narrow tuunels (a kind of Emmental Cheese) searching for silver or thin. We easiliy organised the tour through our hostel (Koala Den) in the night for the following day.
At 9.00am we were already wearing a complete miner outfit, boots and flash lamp included. Then our guide took us to buy some gifts for the miners: explosive, coca, gloves, water.... at the beginning I thought it was just a trick to make the tourists spend in the shops, only later I realised how such stuffs are badly needed by the guy working there.
We (4 people) entered the caves walking for 3h in narrow tunnels, sometimes so small we had to crawl (70cm high) with temperature up to 45C, till the level where miners were working.
I warn the tour is not for faint hearted or an entertainment park for kids; apart of the phisical effort (narrow tunnels, unbearable hotness and unbearable dusty air), what makes it really impressice are the people digging for hours at such conditions. Once you see them you wont' be surprised , working there they live at most 10 years dieing for lung Silicosys.
The following day we set out to Uyuni through a looong 7h bus trip.
In Uyuni there's the feeling of a remote place where young (and not) backpackers are departurting or arriving from the Salar, that's why there no lack of travel agencies, hotels and restaurant but the whole built without spoiling the atmosphere.
The town is small built around the station,a few wide avanues swipen by the cold wind. We settled at the Kori Wasi guesthouse (10€ double) a cute place but don't expect warm rooms.
Asking advice around to the other travellers, we quickly organise the 3 days tour in the Salar in the agency :'Alkaya Expedeciones' for 75€pp (see travel tip for details). and we bought the bus ticket to return to La Paz after the tour (most of the buses where already full booked!)
The tour has been amazing: we were 6 people + driver+ a cooker (woman). Besides the two of us, there were two German girls and an Israeli couple, nice people and great time all together! (Thanks Mona, Iagmur, Eli and Itav!)
The first day we crossed the white Salar De Uyuni reaching the Isla Del Pescado, a strange hill plenty of cactus (even 1.000 years old) in the middle of the Salar. Then we reached San Juan where we spent overnight in an hotel built by salt (even the floor was made of salt).
The following day we drove to the Laguna Colorada, a red lake where hundreds of red flamingoes live: there is an alien like atmosphere, as being on another planet. However the wind made the coldness quite unbearable so be equiped. We slept in a very basic guesthouse (a kind of long hut made out of mud) where due to the obvious lack of heating system, although being in the sleeping and coverd by 4 wool blankets, we wore all the clothes we had.
The third day we set out at 4 am with -8C stopping by the hot spring (only the braves managed to try) andLaguna Verde, a little disappointing since more than green was grey and not so interesting compared to the Laguna Colorada, but this may be up to the season. Finally we reached the border with Chile where we dropped off the Israeli couple setting back to Uyuni by an looong 7h drive.
We were in Uyuni at 6.00pm and the same evenign we got the bus pulling in La Paz at 6.30am. Then we headed to Copacabana where we arrived after 4h at 11.00am. (there's a quick boat tranfer before reaching the town).
It was Sunday morning and by chance in front of the cathedral we attended to what has been one of the most funny thing we saw in the whole travel: the car blessing. Lliterally hundres of cars, minivans, trucks heaviliy decorated with flowers, piles of fake dollars, colourfull garlands, hanging beers bottles...maybe some big altar supporting a Virgin Mary statue.... everything available in any of the many stalls in the square. Then after a long queu the cars were blessed (around 30 per shift), even on the motor opening the bonnet to the priest. The conclusion was the picture of the whole family with the priest and the launch of noisy crackers among the crowd.
The following day we took a boat harbouring after 3h in the north part of the Isla Del Sol in the Titicaca lake (the holy island where Incas are supposed to have been originated). Here we trekked for 3h all the 9km trail at almost 3.000m (ok we gasped a little) till the southern part, enjoying the great view of the blue lake under the hot sun, chilled down by the cold air.
From Copacabana to the Peruvian border it's less then 30min by bus and in further 3h we were in Puno.

[Travelling in Peru]



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