A trip to Bolivia – Part 1

My husband Abhiram and I decided to go on a vacation to Bolivia. I have shared our experience. which might help you if you are travelling to Bolivia? I have shared a few photographs of our trip. Facts about a place are always available on the internet.

Why we decided to go to Bolivia?
Both Abhi and I are academically inclined – we like science and history and exploring new places. We have already been to typical tourist places – amusement parks, casinos, beaches and the like. We wanted something different, something that would be a learning experience. We chose South America because we have always wanted to see many places there. We decided to explore only one country this time because neither of us had been to South America before and thus had no idea what to expect. An email forward had gotten us fascinated by the Salar De Uyuni. We had read a lot about it. During the reading, we also explored the map of the Amazon basin. A part of the rain forest was in Bolivia. So we decided to do both the Salar and the Bolivian Amazon.

How we planned our trip?
We planned our trip in three parts.
Part 1 – La Paz sightseeing, Lake Titicaca
Part 2 – Uyuni
Part 3 – Bolivian Amazon basin

The internet has a lot of information. A number of package tours are available. But we wanted to be on our own. So, after a lot of surfing on the internet, we came across a site – boliviatravelsite. This site has information on tourist locations, hotels, transportation, package tours etc. We planned our trip in Bolivia based on information from this site. For the amazon basin, the best place to look at is National Geographic. We found that Chalalan Eco lodge was one of the best. It is owned and managed by an indigenous community – San Jose De Uchupiomonas.
Knowing/ Learning Spanish is very helpful. It would be cool to have a Spanish translator on your phone.
You can get visa upon arrival in Bolivia. Make sure you’re to and fro flights have no connecting flights in nearby countries. You will not be allowed to board the flights without visas.

Where did we go in Bolivia?
I have tried my best to give a day to day experience of our trip. We took a flight from Miami, Florida to La Paz, Bolivia. It was a 10 hour direct flight. Upon landing in La Paz, we realized that it was situated at a high altitude. My husband even found breathing a little difficult. It is always good to get acclimatized to a place. Hence we decided to spend a day in La Paz. We stayed at Hotel Rosario. This hotel is built in colonial style and offer continental breakfast. Their menu includes vegetarian options.

Day 1 – La Paz City

First look at La Paz – it is at an elevation of 3650 m

If you are someone who travels with an academic curiosity to get the feel of another country and learn about its people and culture, then La Paz sight-seeing will definitely be good. We visited the government buildings, the Plaza Murillo, the museums and the colonial streets. Next we headed to the witches market. The witches market is a must. It is a street filled with shops full of mystical artifacts. Every shop is owned by a witch. They sell small objects that are believed to bring luck, happiness, and success in your life. There are some respected people called Yaitiri. They read cocoa leaves and tell us our future. They are somewhat similar to tarot card readers. We asked a Yaitiri to tell us our future. It was fun :-). Next we headed to the Moon valley. If you have seen the Grand Canyon, then you may not find moon valley fascinating. The moon valley is somewhat similar to the Grand Canyon. Differently shaped soil. It felt like we were on a different planet. The moon valley is a little outside the city. It is about 1.5 hours’ drive on winding roads. With that we ended our first day of sight-seeing.

Moon Valley

Day 2 – Lake Titicaca, Copacabana and Inca Ruins

First look at Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. We left our hotel early morning around 7.30am since it as a long way to Lake Titicaca. We went by road for about an hour and then by boat for half an hour. We traveled again by road to the small island of Copacabana. We visited the church. From there, we went to the Inca ruins again another hour by boat. Lake Titicaca is breathtaking. The forget-me-not blue waters make you feel you are in paradise. I was so assured that nothing else in this world can be as beautiful as the lake. There is something so mystical about the lake. We reached the island of the Incas. We climbed through the stairs and looked at the Andes, the Sun Island and also the stone structures that the Incas built for the Gods. To the Incas, the lake is very auspicious and sacred. Carry a few energy bars, cookies, biscuits, chocolate bars etc. (especially if you are vegetarian/vegan) since it is a long trip and finding vegetarian food on Copacabana is difficult.

First look at the city of Copacabana

Lake Titicaca , The Sun island and the Andes in the background.

The Inca diety

With this we finished the first part of our trip.
———————————————————————————————————————

Day 3 – Salar De Uyuni, Uyuni

Salt Pyramids at the Salar De Uyuni

We left La Paz to head to Uyuni. We took a flight from La Paz to Uyuni which was about 45 minutes. Only Amazonas provides this flight to Uyuni. It was a very small plane which could carry only 10 people. We got our first look of the Salar from the flight.

Uyuni Town

Uyuni Town

Uyuni is a very small town with basic facilities. Internet and telephone are available at a few places. Do not expect hotels to provide you with wireless. If you have gone on bag packing hikes or trips, you will be very happy with the facilities. If you are used to 5 star hotels and expect the same, maybe Uyuni is not for you! To get to Uyuni from La Paz, you can take the bus or the flight. We travelled by flight since it saves time and are also less strenuous. We heard from some European travelers that they had a hard time travelling by bus to Uyuni since the roads were bad.

We stayed one night at Hotel Cristal Samanaa – hotel made entirely of Salt. – The walls, the floors, even the bed is made of salt!

Hotel Cristal Samana, even the bed is made of salt!

The staff at the hotels is extremely friendly and helpful. Being vegetarians, we had a tough time with food. You get bored with bread after a while. We had carried Maggi and MTR foods. The staff let us use the kitchen and cook. Carrying Sunglasses is a must, especially in the Salar. Warm clothing will help a lot.

After settling in, we visited the Salar and the Inchuasi Island. Salar de Uyuni – the salt desert of Uyuni – is, as the name suggests, a desert of salt. Yes! A DESERT OF SALT! What makes it even more awesome is that it is entirely flat (some people also call it the salt flats). Another thing that is wonderful about it is that it becomes a mirror when it has a thin layer of water over it. We aren’t that widely travelled, but we can guarantee that the Salar is one of the most breathtaking places on earth. We saw giant cacti at the Inchuasi Island. My husband’s height was 1/10th of the height if a cactus!

@Salar De Uyuni

There are two seasons when you can visit the Salar. It is beautiful and breathe taking both times.

1) When it is filled with water, although you may not be able to go to the Inchuasi Island. (Nov to Feb)
2) When it is dry. (May to October)

This time, we decided to go when it was dry since we planned to visit the Amazon basin too. Hopefully, we will be able to go to the Salar when it is filled with water :-)

Giant cacti at the Inchuasi island.

More in the next and concluding part. Hope Ghumakkars like my first attempt here.

22 Comments

  • Praveen Wadhwa says:

    Thanks for posting it. I wish one day I’d be there too. Nice pictures and good explanation.

  • Welcome aboard.

    Well written post and it is nice to know about this country and some awesome pictures and landscape.

    Argentina breathless playing at 3,600 metres altitude. They were beaten by a humiliating 6-1 World Cup qualifying match at high altitude against Bolivia. ‘Every goal was like a stab in my heart,” the God of Football Diego Maradona said after that match that.

    Look forward to your next part,

    Regards,

    • Pavithra says:

      Thanks Amitava.
      We saw the stadium, but sadly when we were there , there were no matches. We watched a few on TV. My husband is an ardent football fan, he kept commenting – nobody is defending that is why everybody is scoring goals! I understand nothing about football. :)

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Welcome to the ghumakkar family, Pavitra, with a beautiful narrative abour a fabulous place. For most of us, Bolivia is as remote as it gets and it feels great to know that ghumakkars are penetrating all parts of Spaceship Earth. You have introduced us to one of the most beautiful places on our planet.

    Lake Titicaca, with the Andes looming over the horizon, looks awesome. It would have added a lot of value to your blog if you had mentioned the Incan legends about this mystical lake. As you have said, there is a lot of information on the Internet, but if it is not the same thing as a first-person account.

    The Salt Pyramids of Salar de Uyuni look amazing and it is incredible that there is a hotel entirely made of salt. The humidity must be really low or the moisture would have dissolved the salt. What about washrooms and kitchens where running water might dissolve salt?

    Eagerly looking forward to the next post.

    • Pavithra says:

      Thanks Narayan.
      Truth be told – I was very excited to hear a lot about the Inca legends. But sadly, very few locals there understand English. Even the English speaking guides speak broken English. Everybody talks in Spanish. Knowing that it is the second largest spoken language across the world, they find no need to learn English. It was very hard to follow what stories they were telling about the Incas. I wish I could tell you more.

      I guess the hotels use pipes for water. The washrooms were very clean. They do not provide hot water though. My teeth started chattering after brushing :-) An event to remember for lifetime. :)
      They provide warm blankets and a heater. Hotel Cristal Samana is the best hotel there.

  • Warm Welcome to ghumakkar family

    This was one of the most beautiful posts in ghumakkar. A mixture of good narration, astonishing and beautiful pictures and choice of the place makes the post discrete.

    Each and every picture was outstanding, mind boggling and stupendous. I cannot choose the best one. But I liked Lake Titicaca first one, Moon Valley and Lapaz city from top as best ones . You should also had put the picture of witches in the post .

    Thanks for sharing.Waiting eagerly for next one.

    • Pavithra says:

      Thanks Vishal.

      The witches in the witches market do not like being photographed. They got offended when we asked for photographs. We may somewhat compare them to the genuine sadhus in the himalayas – they dont care about photographs or the world. I have few pictures which I took without them noticing, but they are not very good.

  • venkatt says:

    Pavitra, welcome to ghumakkar. Thanks for bringing to us the sights of a far off land. The salt desert and lake Titicaca look stunning.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Good description and nice photos. Your writing looks preofessional and hope you will share more journey. Language and food is main problem. If you not like much sea water then Canada is good option. Lots fresh water lake and in Alberta White Xmas can be enjoyed. Thanks

  • ashok sharma says:

    very good post.superb photos.this lake seems to be from heaven,beautiful.

  • ram dhall says:

    Welcome aboard Pavithra.

    Thanks for taking us around Bolivia through your well written account. Salt flats appear to be amazing. The hotel made from salt is astonishing.

    Wish you had added a few pictures of the Witch Market.

    Shall await the next part of your write up.

    • Pavithra says:

      Thanks Ram.

      The witches in the witches market do not like being photographed. They got offended when we asked for photographs. We may somewhat compare them to the genuine sadhus in the himalayas they dont care about photographs or the world. I have few pictures which I took without them noticing, but they are not very good.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard Pavithra. This is a FOG post. I would wait for your comment to answer what is FOG ? :-)

    The lake is looking out of the world and the photograph depicting the Sun Island with the backdrop of Andes is really stunning. More details on the witch market, photos of witch market, photo and details of food (and the kitchen where you guys cooked your MTRS and Maggis) would have further added to the glory.

    Also tell us about expenses. Please respond to comments as you find time.

    @ Ram – Very glad to see you back in action.

    • Pavithra says:

      Thanks Nandan.

      FOG is First on Ghummakar? ;-)

      The witches in the witches market do not like being photographed. They got offended when we asked for photographs. We may somewhat compare them to the genuine sadhus in the himalayas they dont care about photographs or the world. I have few pictures which I took without them noticing, but they are not very good.

      At Hotel Cristal Samana, the owner provided us with an oven , a kettle and an electric stove. We cooked over the counter. At Hotel Tambo Ayamara , the owner let us inside the kitchen which had everything including cutlery. The people are very hospitable. It would be very helpful if we had taken a Spanish – English translator on our phone because we found communicating a little difficult. At Uyuni, people hardly understand English. How do I add photos/edit my post?

      Expense – We spent about $7k USD for two people for 10 days ( inclusive of the amazon basin). But we were a little extravagant because it was our first trip after our wedding :) Our expense included – international and domestic flights , hotel accommodation , food, boat and taxi within bolivia, visa , shopping, tourist guide and tips. We booked our flights a little late. Early planning will cost less. Another thing is we flew from North America to South America – I don’t know what the route will be if travelling from any other part of the world. :)

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Pavithra,

    Welcome to Ghumakkar.

    The post is very interesting in many aspects. Superlative narration and pics is the first one.

    At the start, the name of Bolivia conveyed to me a country in Eastern Europe . Then the word ‘South America’ appeared….. Thanks for letting us know about this wonderful country.

    Witch market seems very interesting. No pics, and your response above – I read somewhere (probably Desmond Morris) that some African communities do not like to be photographed because they believe photograph captures a part of the soul of the individual. Sadhus may not care about being photographed, but is there a religious compulsion/theory behind ?

    Being ‘on own’ is another interesting point. Yaitri – was it believably predictable?

    Moon valley, the lake and Uyuni – enjoyed it all.

    Thanks again,

    Auro.

    • Pavithra says:

      Thanks Auro.

      I do not know of any religious reasoning behind sadhus and photographs. If you come to know, please do let me know.

      Yaitiri kept telling – “Mui bien” meaning ‘very good’ for everything! He said I will have leg/knee pain. If I ever end up with that then I will know if any of his predictions are true. LOL

  • Bidisha says:

    Hi Pavithra,
    Warm welcome! Thanks for unlocking our mind’s door to one of the most mystic countries and landscapes of the world. The photos are breathtaking and from them I can imagine how heavenly the place would be if seen with physical eyes and not the minds one ?. At the end of it the only feeling I had was, wish I could go there someday. The salt desert, the salt hotel, Lake Titicaca, the giant cactuses everything has got woven together to create a fantasy land. Please continue your journey through the physical world as well as the literary one.

  • naturelover79 says:

    Great report. Thanks for sharing. Its nice to see that you have visited a different place and have shared the details here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.