One of the hands-down best things to do in Bolivia is to visit the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats. Located in southwestern Bolivia, this expansive salt lake stretches out to more than 10,500 square kilometres. The remnants of a prehistoric body of water that dried up, exploring this Bolivian salt lake is a must for every traveler. Walk across the barren plain to experience one of the most incredible natural landscapes in the world. Drive across to Incahuasi Island, located in the middle of the lake, to see the giant cacti that grow on this otherwise-barren part of the world. Don’t forget to snap a selfie and play with the perspective of this salty desert.
Wonder around the Bolivian Witch Market
If you’re a fan of all things spiritual and mystical, you’ll want to head straight down to the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia. Located right in the heart of the city’s tourist district, dozens of vendors line the streets to sell strange and fascinating products of the Aymara people. Walk around the markets to find dried llama foetuses – which are said to bring prosperity and good luck – dried frogs, turtles and snakes, soapstone figurines, aphrodisiac formulas, owl feathers and traditional herbs. Many of these ingredients are used in Aymara rituals, while others are key ingredients for traditional folk remedies. If you’re game enough (and can speak some Spanish), get your fortune told by one of the Witch doctors in dark hats and dresses that wander the market streets.
See flamingos at Laguna Colorada
Lovers of nature, you’ll fall in love with Languna Colorada. This colorful national park is a feast for the senses. Home to the Red Lagoon, a shallow salt lake that spans 6000 hectares (but is less than a meter deep), head straight to this spectacular spot to see some of the country’s famous flamingos. Folklore suggests that the red the water is the blood of the gods, though scientists believe its color comes from the red algae and rich minerals in its waters. Littered with white islands, pink flamingos and fluffy llamas, try to get down here first-thing in the morning to see the mist rising from the volcanic water and snap some out-of-this world photos.
Dare to drive down the Death Road of Bolivia
Thrill seekers, this one is for you: we dare you to drive, cycle or zoom down Bolivia’s infamous “Death Road.” La Carretera de los Yungas is a 69-kilometre road between La Paz and Coroico, in the Yungas region of Bolivia. Stretching around and across this mountainous region, La Carretera de los Yungas is known as the most dangerous road in the world – but it also has some of the world’s best views. Find a tour company to take you to the top off this 3400-metre mountain, before riding down by moped or bike. But be warned: the sign at the drop-off spot that features this year’s death count might make you change your mind once it’s too late to turn back!
Capture the view from Valle de la Luna
Literally translating to “Moon Valley,” Valley de la Luna isn’t actually a valley at all, but more of a maze of canyons and giant spires. Located about 40minutes from La Paz, this natural wonder consists of clay and sandstone formations created by mountainous erosion. Spend the day exploring the Valley’s two circular walking tracks, each leading you to breath-taking vistas. The most spectacular of these will be found at Devil’s Point, located toward the end of the longest track. If you’ve got a bit of time on your hands, why not stay overnight at the park’s camp site, which boasts amazing views over the valley and get places to hang a hammock.
Things to do in Bolivia
Alasitas, La Paz
Alasitas is Bolivia’s annual festival of small-wishes, which is held at different times in different cities. It takes place in the city of La Paz on January 24 each year. The festival combines both Catholic and Pagan Andean traditions. Devotees will buy miniature versions of their dreams, such as toy cars, get them blessed by a Catholic priest and offer them to Ekeko, the Andean God of Plenty.
Copacabana, Culture & Tradition
Semana Santa is the Catholic festival of Holy Week, which is celebrated in the lead up to Easter Sunday. One of the largest gatherings takes place in Copacabana, along Lake Titicaca. On Good Friday, hundreds make the pilgrimage to Copacabana from La Paz by foot. Easter Sunday is celebrated with parades, champagne and a firework display.
Aymara New Year
La Paz, Culture
The Aymara New Year is a cultural and spiritual celebration of the Aymara people, an ethnic group of Bolivia that inhabits the altiplano – Bolivia’s high plains. Taking place on the winter solstice every year, this festival is marked with ancient sunrise rituals and celebrations. The biggest celebration happens at Tiwanaku, 2 hours from La Paz.
The Procession of el Gran Poder
La Paz, Culture
Officially called La Festividad de Nuestro Señor Jesús del Gran Poder, this festival is celebrated in late May or early June. What began as a simple candle procession in Gran Poder, a district of the city of La Paz, Gran Poder has grown into the largest religious festival in the country. It features a day-long procession with folkloric music and dancing.
Urkupiña Festival in Quillacollo
The Urkupiña Festival in Quillacollo, Cochabamba is a colorful spectacle that you’ll definitely be glad you experienced. Paying homage to the Virgin Mary, this religious and cultural festival features traditional rituals, parades and parties. Held every year from August 14-18, enjoy the traditional music, dances and costumes of this lively event.
Top 5 Festivals in Bolivia
As a melting pot of ancient and contemporary cultures, you can bet that Bolivia is full of amazing festivals and celebrations. From religious ceremonies to colorful costumes and parades, enjoy the best of Bolivia at some of its biggest festivals. Here are our top five picks for ones you’ll want to check out.
Museo de la Coca
The city of La Paz is home to a unique museum dedicated to the coca leaf, best known as the main ingredient of cocaine. The Museo de Coca explores the long history of coca and its sacred use in the Bolivian culture. From its application in ancient rituals and modern pharmaceuticals, learn all about this versatile plant.
Museum of Bolivian Andean Textiles
Tucked away in La Paz’s Miraflores neighborhood, the Museum of Bolivian Andean Textiles showcases textiles and clothing from the Bolivian Andes. With fabrics that date back more than 3000 years, learn about traditional weaving processes, styles and textiles from many different cultural groups across Bolivia.
Museum Precious Metals
The Museo de Metales Preciosos (the Museum of Precious Metals) features ancient archaeological pieces from the Tiwanaku, Aymara, Mollo, Yampara, Wankarani, Urukilla, Inca and Beni cultures. Housed in the former home of Bolivian revolutionist Apolinar Jaén, marvel at the jewels, crowns and other precious artefacts from some of the great ancient civilizations in his fascinating museum.
National Mint of Bolivia
The 16th century Casa de la Moneda in Potosi was created to process all the silver extracted from the Cerro Rico mountain before shipping it back to Spain. Now known as the National Mint of Bolivia, learn all about the old technologies involved in this process, as well as the stories behind its extensive collection of coins, machines and dioramas.
Museo San Francisco Cultural Center
Established in 1953 to preserve the arts and memories related to the history of La Paz Bolivia, the Museo San Francisco Cultural Center is a collection of the city’s religious art and murals. Head straight up to the roof for a beautiful view of the city, before exploring the surrounding cloisters and garden of the adjacent basilica.
Top 5 Museums and Galleries in Bolivia
From ancient Andean empires to the Spanish colonial era, Bolivia is bursting with history and culture. Learn about traditional textiles to religious art and everything in between at some of the country’s greatest museums. Here are five museums we think you should check out in Bolivia.
Something like a cross between an English pasty and an Italian calzone, salteñas are Bolivia’s answer to empanadas. A popular snack originating in the Andean part of Bolivia, salteñas are usually filled with meat, vegetables, egg, olives and a spicy sauce, which is all wrapped up in a delicious pastry.
Best eaten at Paceña La Salteña, Loayza 233, La Paz
Hailing from the country’s west, sajta is a traditional Bolivian dish usually eaten on All Saints' Day and during Carnival. Sajta consists of seasoned boiled chicken served with rice, potato, freeze-dried Andean potatoes, as well as sarsa, the typical Bolivian onion and tomato garnish. Tuck into some sajta at Luciernagas Restaurant in La Paz.
Best eaten at Luciernagas Restaurant, Avenida Illimani 1683, La Paz
Similar to salteñas, tucumanas are stuffed pastries filled with meat and vegetables. However, instead of being oven-baked, tucumanas are deep-fried. A quintessential Bolivian breakfast, these delicious pastries are often served with a variety of colorful sauces. Dip your tucumana into a different sauce for a different flavor with every bite. And don’t worry, double-dipping is a thing here.
Best eaten at Condor Cafe, Calle Calvo 102, Corner Bolivar, Sucre
A national staple, silpancho is the ultimate in Bolivian comfort food. Hailing from the Cochabamba region, silpancho consists of crumbed beef served on top of a bed of sliced potatoes, with a fresh salsa of tomatoes, onions and spicy sauce. Topped with a fried egg, you can pick up a silpancho at Calle Federico Zuazo in La Paz.
Best eaten at Calle Federico Zuazo 1905 Batallon Colorados, La Paz
Looking for the perfect late-night snack? Chicharrón is what you need in your life. These heavily salted chunks of beef, chicken or pork are deep fried and served with choclo, a type of local corn. Served straight from the deep fryer and dripping in fat, you can pick these up at from street vendors in La Paz or Sucre.
Best eaten at Street markets in La Paz or Sucre
Food in Bolivia
With its love of meat, potatoes and deep-frying, Bolivian food is hearty and delicious. From salteñas to silpancho, you’ll want to try every national dish this South American nation has to offer. Here are our picks for the top five foods to tuck into in Bolivia.