The ethereal landscapes of Bolivia never fail to leave their mark on any lucky travellers who pass through this lesser-known, landlocked country in South America. Though the Uyuni Salt Flats are undoubtedly a favourite of ours here at Surtrek, there is so much more to explore during your Bolivian adventure, from blood-red lagoons to impenetrable fields of giant cacti, razor sharp rock fields, rainforests, arid desert and just about everything in between! We know and love Mount Illimani, Rurrenabaque in the Amazon basin, the Sajama National Park, Volcán Ollagüe, Lagunas Verde, Cordoba and Cañapa – to name just a few. But for now, we are thinking ‘big picture’ with what we consider to be five of the best, most unmissable landscape environments in Bolivia as a whole; enjoy!
1. The Uyuni Salt Flats
It’s no surprise that the Uyuni Salt Flats are unashamedly top of our list, with this famous highlight of South America being simply a must-do attraction while in Bolivia and indeed the wider region. We have all seen the famous photographs of Uyuni’s optical illusions, but nothing can either do it justice or quite prepare you for witnessing it first-hand, as endless plains of this glass-like surface stretch out in every direction, for as far as the eye can see.
Covering an ancient expanse of nearly 11,000sq km, the result of a giant prehistoric lake which has long since dried up, there is – quite literally – nowhere like the Salar de Uyuni anywhere else on earth. As such, the experiences to be enjoyed here are never-ending, truly unique and entirely unforgettable. From overnighting in a classic Airstream Camper under the stars, to kaleidoscopic high-altitude lakes, some of the most impressive sunrise scenes on the planet and, of course, those all-important iconic photographs; it can only be the Uyuni Salt Flats of Bolivia as our number one landscape.
2. Lake Titicaca
Spilling over the border between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is as mystical a place as any of the Inca ruins or ancient sites in South America, making for an unquestionable highlight of a trip to Bolivia and, of course, one of the country’s greatest landscapes! Monstrous in size at over 150 miles long and 50 miles wide, this, the largest lake in South America and highest navigable body of water in the world, has attracted folklore and legend since ancient times, with its many islands and islets playing host to a range of temples, ceremonial sites and places of worship. So, if you find yourself anywhere near the Lake Titicaca region during your South American adventure, then spending time among the traditional Aymará villages which line the shoreline, visiting iconic floating reed islands or simply admiring the view atop Cerro Colvario, with Copacabana at your feet, is certainly the way to go.
Exploring Isla del Sol is also an absolute must. Often considered to be one of Bolivia’s most beautiful regions, the appeal of Isla del Sol lies in its unforgettable panoramic views, local communities and scenic walking trails, with many secluded spots to uncover along the way. All that said, when the times comes, there’s often nothing more satisfying than simply sitting back, and exploring Lake Titicaca from the relaxed comfort of a motorboat, during one of the many exciting tours available around this timeless watery expanse.
3. The Moon Valley
Named after its lunar-like appearance of lifeless caverns and craggy canyons, Bolivia’s Valle de la Luna or ‘Moon Valley’ is an otherworldly place indeed – all just a stone’s throw from La Paz! Here, seemingly impenetrable rock formations, sharp spires and deep gorges fill the landscape, and though much of the site can be accessed via a series of makeshift bridges and walkways, you cannot help but feel like you’re entering a pre-historic alien land as you stroll between columns and crevices. The trails and lookout points which dissect Valle de la Luna are a joy to behold, meaning all you need to explore this particular highlight of Bolivia is some comfortable shoes, a camera, and a spare afternoon to escape the bustle of La Paz.
4. The Valle de las Ánimas
Moody, mystical, imposing, incomprehensible… no matter which words you choose to describe Bolivia’s Valle de las Ánimas, the ‘Valley of Souls’, you’ll still be left speechless after visiting! The vast walls and spire-like geological formations of the Valle de las Ánimas could be taken straight from the set of a Hollywood fantasy movie, such is their atmospheric appearance, scale and inexplicable beauty. As you walk through the valley, impossibly steep stone towers erupting on either side, it is all-too-easy to forget your proximity to La Paz, being that the city lies just a short drive away from these ominous pinnacles. This, then, earns Valle de las Ánimas a place in our top five as, if nothing else, to have such awe-inspiring natural wonder and beauty so close to such a major city – and therefore making for an all-too-easy day trip from La Paz – is noteworthy alone!
5. The Siloli Desert
For anyone thinking – why include the Siloli Desert in a top-five list which already includes the Uyuni Salt Flats and Moon Valley – the answer, is that for us, Siloli represents elements of both, all rolled into one. On top of that, while Lake Titicaca is known as the world’s highest navigable lake, Siloli holds the desert equivalent of that accolade at 15,000ft above sea level, so is also a record breaker in its own right. Seen by some as an extension of the Atacama in Chile, Siloli is arguably even more barren and isolated, making it truly seem like world’s end while here!
Indeed, it is this feeling which stands the region out as one of South America’s great untouched landscapes, a place that combines the open wilderness of Uyuni with the towering geology of the Moon Valley and Valle de las Ánimas, albeit in the form of distant rolling mountains rather than stark, steep cliffsides and sudden gorges. For visitors, ‘off the beaten track adventure’ doesn’t do it justice, as a trip to the Siloli Desert is one of real explorative travel, and while you may save the best photographs for Uyuni or the culture for Lake Titicaca, it is in the high-altitude desolation of Siloli that the inhospitable, otherworldly feel associated with this region of South America comes sharply into perspective.
Tempted by Bolivia’s amazing landscapes? Start building your Bolivia trip with Discover Your South America and make sure you add your favourite excursions to your top landscapes when you do. You can also call our experts on 1 866 978 7398 (US/Canada) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) – we are always here to help!