Sofia has been exploring the world and has kindly taken us along with her on her travels. So far she’s showed us Rajasthan, South India, Nepal, Myanmar, the Philippines, Japan, Cuba, and Peru. Now it’s over to Sofia to share her photos and tips from the final stop on her epic journey – Bolivia.
At times Bolivia feels like it’s in a bubble, separated from the rest of the world. The country has such a strong culture and traditional dress that speaks of years gone by. And the landscapes seem to belong to another planet.
Throughout Bolivia you will find cholitas – women with long dark hair in plaits with beaded tassels attached to the ends. They wear black hats and large petticoats with huge Cinderella-style skirts, and on their feet they have schoolgirl-style socks and sandals. Unlike in parts of India, where things seem to be evolving to adopt western ways, Bolivia feels like it still very much embraces its culture, through the local dress, the food or the many band parades. There is an authenticity to the country even throughout the big cities.
When I arrived in La Paz, the first thing that struck me were the women lining the streets between the high rise buildings, each one selling her beautiful wares. Every turn you make reveals a new square and as you look out you can see the valley, scattered with square brick houses in uniform rows. Parades fill the streets with women twirling their skirts and men playing trombones. Everything here feels a little offbeat and everyone moves at their own pace.
The strangest experience I had in Bolivia was the San Pedro prison tour. Our guide walked with us around the prison walls, explaining that the prisoners have their families living with them inside and that they buy their own cell. The more money you have, the better your cell will be. There are no guards, justice is doled out by the criminals themselves. The prisoners run a cocaine operation – producing it, selling it to outsiders and apparently giving a cut to the prison. It was the craziest tour I’ve ever been on, that’s for sure.
Beyond the crazy though, are the beautiful landscapes. Copacabana and Lake Titicaca offer stunning mountain views at altitude – the most tranquil backdrops you can imagine. Take a trip through Uyuni and you’ll come to the world’s largest salt flats, which are an enormous white expanse that reflect like mirrors during the wet season. You’ll see flocks of pink flamingos, and beautifully colourful lagoons in shades of red, blue and green. The hidden marshlands and streams in the middle of the desert feel like something from Lord of the Rings – each new setting transports you somewhere new – somewhere magical and quite surreal.
From the Andean highlands to the Amazonian lowlands, Bolivia is so climatically diverse and incredibly interesting. Take the time to go and explore this beautiful country. Appreciate all of its charms and quirks and allow yourself to be amazed.
Sofia’s Top 5 Tips for Bolivia:
- Get those layers on and venture to the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni. I would recommend doing one of the longer 3/4 day tours to see all the ‘National Geographic’ landscapes.
- Go wild at one of the many parties in La Paz.
- Rummage through the never ending lanes off La Paz’s flea market where you’ll find yourself many a bargain, I picked up an 80s festival swimsuit and ‘spice girls’ style bomber jacket, both under £1!
- Spend an afternoon at the Mirador Cafe in Sucre. Enjoy the tranquil laid back vibes of the city, whilst indulging in the panoramic view and one or, go on, two bottles of great red wine!
- Catch a boat across Lake Titicaca to the tranquil island of Isla Rosa. Watch the Cholita women herding goats across the mountains and take in the beautiful scenery of the mountains sat against the sparkling lake.
Thank you Sofia! Don’t forget to catch up with the rest of Sofia’s journey here.