Admittedly, My knowledge of Bolivia was pretty shabby before we came here. I didn’t know for example that Sucre is the capital -the white city-, that the air was so thin up here or that the jungle is 229,985 square miles of its landscape. The Amazon covers Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Suriname, Guyana, basically most of the continent, including north Bolivia. The place to go is Rurrenabaque and the thing to do is a jungle camp. Eat the sweet fruits of the forest, wonder through the thick leaves, and sleep in the depth of the night.
Ahh, now you’ve heard of this one. Bolivia’s northern city, the business centre and economic capital, is a mad sprawl of 870,000 people. Mount Huayna Potosi sits silently on the horizon, the crazed hills collapse in the middle like a soufflé, and there, in the pit, is La Paz. The high altitude and trapped clouds make it a cold place, but the sun shines high and the city is alive. Continue reading
Small, dusty and old, you’ll find Samaipata on the windy backroads south west of Santa Cruz. Although the town isn’t groundbreaking, it’s a cosy little place that acts as a base for the things around it. Discover ancient inca ruins or explore the forest hills, samaipata is a little retreat from the craziness of Bolivian cities. Continue reading
Sucre-the white city- is a picturesque maze of old buildings and pretty nooks . As the official capital, it often gets overshadowed by the business centre, La Paz, much like the Canberra-Sydney complex, but sucre is a wonderful city in its own right. It’s UNESCO title means that city is well maintained and well loved, a beautiful city to see and be in. Continue reading
Across the brown- orange earth, a splick of white cuts under the mountains. 12,000km2 of salt pans across the desert in one of natures most bizarre, unique, otherworldly spectacles. The salt is blindingly white, the sky is cloudless and the curvature of the earth draws the horizon. This is salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flat in the world, and the main attraction for in three day trip across Bolivia. You have to see it. Continue reading
As one of the least visited countries in South America, Bolivia is often underestimated and overlooked. The dry salt lands of the south merge into the mountain forests of the east and to the north into dense masses of jungle. Between them are vibrant markets, ancient ruins and barely there roads. See the incredible salt flats, the white town of sucre, or the madness of a city wedged in the mountains -La Paz. The only thing Bolivia doesn’t have is the sea -that belongs to chile- and money. In place of globalisation and mass oil exports, are dosens of cultures and protected national parks. Try maize soup, quinoa beer and a potent lump of cocoa leaves to chew on.
San Pedro de Atacama is right in the north of chile, 1,200km from Santiago, and plonked in the middle of the Atacama desert –the driest place on earth. For miles there’s dust, mountains, and nothingness. But San Pedro is far from the frontier town you’d expected to be. Find cool bars, ice cream parlours, hot showers and even wifi. It’s also a base for tours around the desert, to bursts of life hidden in the curves of the desert. Continue reading
Heavy with gold from Peru and searching for a route back to Spain, the colony abandoned the treacherous waters of Patagonia, left the pirate riddled Caribbean and made a road south through the continent. Their port was Buenos Aires, and their road the pan-American highway. This is where Salta was born. Continue reading
It took us 18hours from Buenos Aires and 26hours to Salta, but we made it to Iguazu falls and it was all worth it. The falls and rivers connect Argentina and Brazil, with a magnitude, a force that humbles both nations. Continue reading
A large part of South America is travelling around it. Deciding what to see, how long you need, what can you do where and how to get there. Argentina and Brazil, being the richest, are the most expensive for travel, while Bolivia, Colombia and most northern nations are cheaper. The continent also has all the climactic extremes, thousands of things to do, a selection box of cultures, and so endless variations for a trip. Hit the big ‘must-sees’ and it’ll be a breeze. Machu Picchu, Torres del Paine, Iguazu falls, Rio carnival, Dia de Los Muertos….you’ll find you way in not time. For most of South America though, tourism is pretty low key, and locals shrug it off like it’s nothing . If you want something, you’ll have to find it, if you don’t ask, you won’t be told and if you can’t speak Spanish, start learning.
Buses are the way to get around. Be prepared for regular 15-30hour journeys, as you inch along these gargantuan countries. Yes, internal flights do exist, but you’ll pay a hefty price. £280 for a four hour flight, or £40 for a 27hour bus. Your choice. If you’re still on the fence then check out the buses; memory foam built in pillows, coffee, lunch, films, a clean working toilet and if you splash out your ‘semi-cama’ can be upgraded to a full ‘cama’. Comfy though they may be, the journeys are still epically long. What was a 3hour flight down to Patagonia, then took 77hours worth of buses back up. Bring fresh snacks, a film, a book, thick loungewear and you’ll be fine.
South America is beautiful. The landscape varies, and so do its people, foods, religions, cultures, music… It’s an exciting place to be.