5 mins

The Wanderlust guide to the best of Bolivia

From mountain to jungle and the wide Altiplano, Bolivia is truly at the heart of South America. Here's why you need to get there now...

Llamas on grassy Bolivian altiplano (Shutterstock: see main credit below)

Bolivia: where flamingos feed from red and green lakes rimmed by volcanoes, where Dali-esque rock structures dot the Altiplano, and where waterfalls crash down on one of the world's most dangerous roads.

Although Bolivia's high capital, La Paz, is breathtakingly high, and indigenous women in traditional bowler hats and brightly-coloured skirts sell absolutely everything you could possibly need, much of Bolivia is tropical lowland, a lush carpet stretching all the way to Brazil. Twisting roads thread their way down from the snowy peaks of the high Andes to steaming jungles, providing excellent – if dangerous – mountain biking.

In Bolivia's north, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. The old colonial town of Potosí hosts a silver mine, while a train graveyard lies on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni, the world's highest and largest salt flat. Amboró National Park encompasses three ecosystems – the Amazon basin, the foothills of the Andes and the Chaco plain, and is home to thousands of species of insects, birds and plants.

Laguna at Ruta de las Joyas Altoandinas (Shutterstock.com)

Laguna at the "Ruta de las Joyas Altoandinas" (Shutterstock.com)

Looking for inspiration?

Bolivia is a land of extremes... A capital city amongst the clouds. Vast deserts that don't see rain for decades. Dangerous roads that cling to the side of the Andes, and a thick jungle that stretches towards Brazil. The variety is unfathomable. Choosing which Bolivia you want to experience is seemingly impossible.

Enter Gemma Bowes with her guide to Bolivia's best landscapes. From the desert to the jungle, she's got Bolivia covered. Her advice? Go off-beat and go off-season.

Bibiana Tellez-Garside runs a tour company out of La Paz and list the things you need to know before you go. And don't be put off by Bolivia's reputation as one of the unfriendliest in the world. Melanie Stern says there's plenty to love in a country that offers the world's tastiest street food, best value rail travel and incredibly diverse markets.

Fancy cycling Bolivia's notorious camino de la muerte (Road of Death)? Simon Heyes reveals everything you need to know. Just don't tell your mother he told you.

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Bolivia's best landscapes – Gemma Bowes

Know before you go: Bolivia – Bibiana Tellez-Garside

5 reasons to get friendly with Bolivia – Melanie Stern

Cycling the world's most dangerous road, Bolivia – Simon Heyes

 Ouro costume carnival, Potosi (Shutterstock.com)

Oruro costume carnival, Potosi (Shutterstock)

Bolivia's secrets revealed

There are a million secrets tucked away in Bolivia – in sacks under the table at the markets, or in hidden corners of its vast deserts. Ed Shoote, for example, trekked through the Sajama National Park and found a region of unspoilt landscapes, spectacular mountains and empty hot springs. He reveals how you can have it all to yourself too.

Bibiana Tellez-Garside, on the other hand, lets you in on Bolivia's 10 best street foods and where to find them, as well as offering some handy tips on dealing with altitude sickness. Kelly Ross lists the seven things locals love to to in La Paz.

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Bolivia's secret mountains – Ed Shoote

Bolivia's 10 unmissable street foods – Bibiana Tellez-Garside

How to stay tip-top in La Paz – Bibiana Tellez-Garside

7 great things to do in La Paz, Bolivia – Kelly Ross

Woman hiking through Bolivian jungle (Shutterstock.com)

Woman hiking through Bolivian jungle (Shutterstock)

Into the jungle

When travellers think of Bolivia, it is usually the Andean cliches of bowler-hatted locals leading alpacas that springs to mind. But get on the the other side of those same Andes and you'll discover a vast stretch of Amazonian jungle as wild and as untouched as any in South America.

It's a great place to track jaguars, says Alex Robinson. And it's home to Jesuit Missions that have changed little since the late 16th century when they were founded. Adventure is guaranteed.

Just make sure you come prepared. Siân Lewis lists the 10 things you need to survive a trip to a Bolivian jungle.

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World's greatest journeys: Track jaguar in the Bolivian Amazon – Alex Robinson

A man on a mission – David Atkinson

10 things a girl needs in the Bolivian jungle – Siân Lewis

Local lady wandering through market, La Paz (Shutterstock.com)

Local lady wandering through market, La Paz (Shutterstock)

Capturing it all on film

The markets of Bolivia are a photographer's delight – but how best to distill that into amazing photos?

Thankfully Steve Davey is on hand to list his top tips for taking awesome market photos. He reckons the best way to get engaging portraits is to walk up to stall holders and ask about their goods. And don’t just shoot and move on: step to one side and shoot them interacting with the next customer.

If it's inspiration you're after, then look no further than the terrific photos our readers have taken on their travels in Bolivia.

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Photography tips – markets – Steve Davey

Readers' photos of Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia (Shutterstock.com)

La Paz, Bolivia (Shutterstock)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Bolivia Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by the Bolivia Essential Info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from Bolivia too.

Chances are you'll visit the Bolivian capitol, La Paz. Our guide to your first 24 hours there will prove invaluable. If you have a particular question about Bolivia, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about Bolivia. The answer to yours might already be there.

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Bolivia Travel Guide – Wanderlust Team

Bolivia Essential Info – Wanderlust Team

Latest travel news from Bolivia

First 24 hours in La Paz, Bolivia – Vicky Roberts

Forum posts about Bolivia

Community content about Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia (Shutterstock.com)

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia (Shutterstock)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From tours uncovering the archeological and ecological secrets of Bolivia to mountain-biking tours of its most dangerous roads, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in Bolivia

Main image: Llamas on grassy Bolivian altiplano (Shutterstock)

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