Silvana Z., expert traveler and one of Latin America for Less’ Travel Advisors, recently returned from her trip around Bolivia. On her journey, she visited a number of that country’s prime destinations and changed her perspective about her Andean neighbor.
A Peruvian Traveler Abroad
As a native Peruvian, who has traveled to every corner of her native land, Silvana Z. didn’t know what to expect when hopping on the plane bound for her Andean neighbor, Bolivia. Admittedly, she was hesitant because she expected a rough and uncomfortable trip, but to her delight, Bolivia surprisedher time and again.
“I’ve always been hesitant to go there (Bolivia),” Silvana said. “I have always envisioned a rough country– and I’m not good with backpacking or hostels– but the entire trip was very enjoyable and comfortable.”
From the moment she touched down on Bolivian soil, our traveler was on the move. She was so eager to start seeing the sites that instead of heading straight to the hotel from the airport, she caught a tour bus to Tiwanaku, a pre-Columbian archaeological site about 45 minutes west of La Paz, situated at more than 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for housing the fabled “Gate of the Sun,” a 10-ton stone doorway with mysterious engravings believed to possess astronomical and astrological significance.
As she rode to and from Tiwanaku, Silvana began to see some of the aspects that make Bolivia exceptional.
According to Silvana, no place on her journey was more inimitable than the Uyuni Salt Flats, the world’s largest salt flats. She describes this large area, which were once prehistoric lakes, as an isolated and surreal expanse where you have no distractions.
“You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Everything in Uyuni is spread out: the hotels, the islands, the train cemetery,” she said. “It’s not the type of destination where you can visit everything in a few hours.”
As an avid photographer, Silvana was eager to capture some of the legendary, mind-bending imagesfor which the salt flats are known. She went during the dry season when the flat, flat landscape acts as a giant canvas prime for creative use of multiple perspectives. You can see some of her shots below.
“Uyuni is unique. It’s a destination worth visiting twice,” she said. “I want to go back during the rainy season when the photos are totally different.”
A moment on the island
After exploring Uyuni, Silvana flew back to La Paz before venturing to Copacabana, the town on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. It was on the waters of Lake Titicaca that she found her favorite Bolivian destination, the “Isla del Sol” or Sun Island.
Silvana remembers having an experience that made her time on the island extra memorable. As she watched the sunset she had a moment of complete serenity when her mind was completely free and she was completely present in the moment.
“There are few places you visit that give you this freedom, and that’s priceless,” she said. “When you travel to remote destinations like Patagonia, Iguazu Falls, or the Galapagos you are very much in the moment. “
As a traveler, Silvana searches for those places where you don’t think about plans, projects, or your job; you just appreciate what’s in front of you.
“I was very impressed with Isla del Sol,” she said. “I used to tell clients it’s not worth it to travel all the way to Copacabana from Puno, but it is worth it.”
One piece of advice that she would like to share with other travelers is to take medicine for altitude sickness starting a day or two before landing in Bolivia. Those little pills can be the difference between enjoying a peaceful hike and struggling to carry on because of a strong headache.
Ultimately, Silvana’s image of Bolivia as a travel destination changed during the course of her tour around the country.
“I’ll be honest Bolivia isn’t the Caribbean,” she said. “When you’re there, you have to be adventurous and sometimes ready to wake up early in the morning to watch a beautiful sunrise. If you’re ready for an adventure, Bolivia is an amazing place to explore.”