4 REGIONS OF BOLIVIE

La Paz – Titicaca Lake & Salar de Uyuni – Santa Cruz & Jesuit missions – Historical & colonial Bolivia

The San Francisco Church – 16th and 18th century – deserves a considerate visit as well as its museum.

It is a remarkable sample of combined art where the Spanish baroque style blends with native culture’s input. Cut stone sculptures decorate the facade which shows tropical birds and Iberian patterns.

Taking time to ramble in downtown La Paz is a must as it is so lively and entertaining. The end of the visit can be dedicated to climbing El Alto, the ultimate neighborhood Aymara. Panoramic view of the city. 

La Paz is also a gourmet stop especially at “El Prado” 16 de Julio Avenue. Many cafés must be visited to meet some locals wearing the Aymara traditional outfits.

TITICACA LAKE & SALAR DE UYUNI

Titicaca 

LAKE

Bolivia shares the blue sapphire waters of Titicaca with Peru offering nice trip routes both leaving from Puno (Peruvian riverside) from Copacabana (Bolivian riverside). Overlooked by the Royal Mountain Range and with scattered islands, the lake displays magical sceneries and a one day cruise to discover it is not only a must-see but one of the most strong points of a trip to Bolivia.

Copacabana, at 3800 meters of altitude, overlooks the south bank of the lake and remains the ideal starting point for trips. This is a city with a strong indigenous population, the Aymaras and an invitation to stroll in the always lively downtown. Important place of pilgrimage for centuries, the visit of the huge cathedral built in the Moorish style is paying homage to the “Virgen Morena”, the black statue of the Virgin of the Candelaria, which celebration takes place on February 2nd every year.

The cathedral houses a little museum dedicated to sacred artifacts. Leaving Copacabana by boat or hiking, the visit of Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) unveils the legendary birthplace for the creation of the Inca world.

The site is still venerated by the indigenous communities as the place where the white God Viracocha and the first Inca couple, Manco Capac and his spouse Mama Ocllo, appeared on earth by a miracle of the Sun. The landscapes are magnificent and many little villages deserve to be visited, including Yamputa, Sampaya and Yumani. Around the villages, the discovery of archeological remains, Palace of the Inca, Temple of the Inca, some used still as places for prayers, complete the visit.

Salar
de Uyuni

The Bolivian large open spaces which the most extraordinary is, without a doubt, the Salar de Uyuni, are accessible from La Paz by bus, from Potosi and San Pedro de Atacama in Chile by bus or by 4x4 car. Each of these itineraries, very rich in discovery, cross through completely different regions that the traveler will have the opportunity to choose at will.

Leaving from La Paz:

It takes 4 hours by bus from La Paz to Oruro, charming stop at the Bolivian South. This Indian city is dedicated to mining operation, holds a fabulous cultural heritage based on ancestral traditions linked to the famous Carnival, celebration taking place every year during Mardi Gras. The Carnival of Oruro develops in parades when crowds in costumes and with extremely beautiful masks dance in the streets. Known as the “diablada” the masks the dancers wear are shaped in mythical demons, the Carnival of Oruro can be seen also in a beautiful museum dedicated to collections of colorful and magnificent costumes.

  • Leaving from Chile: Please consult the information regarding Atacama. Desert
  • Leaving from Potosi: Please consult the information included in “Historical and Colonial Bolivia.”

Salar de Uyuni – 7 hours by train from Oruro, city hovering in the glacial desert of the Southwest at 3669 meters of altitude. It can be accessed also by plane leaving from La Paz through the airline “Amazonas”. Departure point for the discovery of the salar which organized trips are to be highly recommended in order not to miss this important location and have a bit of more comfort in these harsh areas.

The largest salt reserve in the world, the Salar stretches out endlessly, some 12000 square kilometres with an immaculate white when it dries out from July to September. The blue sky and the white lake provide one of the most striking landscapes of our planet! By 4x4 car or on foot, you can traverse the lake and visit the islands beautified by cactus: Incahuasi and Cascara de Huevo. Close to the village of Colchani, it is possible to understand the harsh work it entails to extract and treat the salt.

SANTA CRUZ REGION & THE JESUIT MISSIONS

TOWARDS THE EASTERN ANDES

The discovery of Eastern Bolivia makes all sense if the traveler takes the “Jesuit route” to visit the magnificent missions made famous by the movie “The Mission”, Golden Palm at the Cannes Festival in 1986. It must be known that the transportation time by roads, some of them still trails, is long. On the other hand, the region has charming and comfortable hotels, as it is recommended to spend at least two nights in the area in order to discover the most precious missions.

The Jesuits arrived in the region on the 17th century and have dedicated their life to convert the indigenous people especially through art and sacred music. Even today, the musical talent of the natives of Chiquitania is well recognized. Numerous musical groups exist and maintain the tradition of the past. Every two years, an important sacred music Festival takes place at the missions, perfect setting for high quality concerts.

HISTORICAL & COLONIAL

Potosi

Potosi, classified Worldwide Heritage Site by the UNESCO, is accessible leaving from Sucre through 3 hours of mountain roads and can also be the departing point toward the Salar de Uyuni, 3h30 by road.

At 4000 meters of altitude, it remains the “city of the silver” thanks to the mine of Cerro Rico that dominates the city and provided wealth to Spain during the colonial period. The tradition of work to extract silver still exists but the reality is far from the opulence of the past. It is possible to visit cooperative mines and meet the miners working in their thankless and difficult jobs. To be noticed the extreme hospitality of the residents of this city to add a charming note to the discovery of Potosi.

 

Place that cannot be overlooked, La Casa Real de la Moneda is impressive with its solemn beauty and the wealth inside. True fortress, the huge building was used to control the stamping of colonial pieces. It is particularly an exceptional museum with religious paintings of Mestizo art and also pieces that were used to shape silver pieces, named “potosis”.

The religious monuments, churches and convents are bountiful and attest to the wealth of Potosi when it was the most important city in South America for the Spanish Crown.

Please take note of the museums and convents of San Francisco and Santa Teresa. The walk through the  winding streets unveil colonial houses with monumental doors which some are