When I was traveling through South America, many of my friends and family told me not to go to Bolivia because it was dangerous. but after traveling for several months in Brazil and Argentina and being a bit naïve, I believed that wherever you go you just have to be cautious and if you would avoid every place that’s dangerous you would end up traveling around Stockholm (my hometown and one of the safest places on earth according to Business Insider).
Meaning, there are more or less dangerous places all around the world.
Anyhow, I of course ended up in Bolivia and quickly realized I was not the only one who believed that this place couldn’t be that bad, since I met tons of backpackers along the way who were on a similar path. I wouldn’t say it’s the safest place on earth but it’s definitely worth a visit.
Trust me, Bolivia isn’t all about cocaine and corruption, I found beautiful nature and friendly people almost everywhere I went.
Therefore, I wanted to list my top three things I think you should consider before crossing off Bolivia from your Travel plans.
ake Titicaca is the largest and highest lake in South America; it’s located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It’s probably one of the most beautiful lakes I have seen (I have heard NZ has some awesome ones as well but haven’t been there yet) but what’s great about Titicaca is that it has so much more than its looks.
Lake Titicaca is actually home to many Bolivians with a very different religion. When you are cruising along the lake you will immediately see these Uru people living on man-made islands. It’s an amazing site. The islands themselves are actually made of reeds and not only the island, but also their houses and the boats they use! It feels like being thrown back in time a couple of hundred years.
If you are interested of staying on the lake and learning more about their history then follow my footsteps…
1. Lake Titicaca
Four day trip: Take a four day trip to one of their main islands (that’s a real island and not made of only reeds) and stay in one of the local ladies houses. They will give you a homemade hat to show all the other people on the island that you belong to their house and they will also show you all their rituals.
One that I found particularly interesting and fun was how they find their partners. Apparently all the girls with colorful dresses are single and the girls with darker dresses are married. Then all the guys with their hat’s tassel hanging back are married and everyone with hat’s tassel hanging forward are single.
Once a year they have this mating ceremony where you are supposed to do a specific dance and find your partner. If the guy sees anyone he likes he moves his hat’s tassel around to get the girls attention and if the girl sees anyone she likes she will use her “pom poms” to show her attraction. WOW!!! Let me tell you about Swedish religion – there is hardly none! So when I saw this I was quite impressed
Everyone on the islands is super friendly and will do their best to take care of you. They may even take you to each of their villages, show you around, and teach you how everything works on their little islands. So, if you are still not convinced, please let me know and I will further convince you to book a trip here 😉 One of the most unique experience I have had traveling.
2. Salar de Uyuni
There are a lot of dry salt lakes out there and I have seen many on pictures (I’m sure they are all more or less the same) but why did I choose this one? Well for one I was already in Bolivia, two it was really convenient but what I really liked about going out on Salar de Uyuni with a Jeep was the history they give you about the salts, what they actually use it for. Plus, after that they will take you to this cactus island in the middle of the salt lake with gigantic cactus bigger than any cactus I had ever seen. It made the experience a bit more interesting than seeing a giant desert of salt…
If you never been its definitely worth a visit
3. Jungle Tour
Have you heard about the Death Road? If not watch this YouTube clip before you continue.
So, as you might know the Amazon is huge and part of it is actually in Bolivia. I didn’t have time to visit the jungle when I was in Brazil so I took a small trip while I was in Bolivia, which I highly recommend.
There were a lot of arranged trips but I didn’t have much time left on my trip and everything was fully booked, so I found 10 Australians who had rented their own jeep and decided to join them instead. Did I know that they were going to take the death road? NO. Well, I kind of figured this was the death road when I was sitting next to a 100m drop, 5 cm from my window going 90km/hour on a dirt road.
If you are not an adventurer I wouldn’t recommend taking this road although it does give you an adrenaline kick. Anyhow the jungle is worth the trip.
Usually the jungle tours is about 3-8 days, you will stay along the river in a small family house where you cook dinner together every night. Every day there is a new adventure where they will tell you all about the nature and animals found in the area.
Our first day, was the hunt for a 10m long Anaconda. After walking in 20cm mud and billions of mosquitos attacking us we finally found one giant snake that could easily choke you to death if you were alone. Luckily we were at least 5 people holding it. 50 mosquito bites and three beers later, we were pretty impressed by this animal!
After the snake hunt, it was time for the crocodile hunt and kayaking along the river, which was both fun and exciting! Apparently you are allowed to swim in this river but it’s the same river as the dolphins and the alligators swim in, so I would give a second thought?!
Anyway we were cruising in the kayak and saw a lot of different types of birds, alligators and monkeys. Finally we came to where the biggest alligator in the river was supposed to be and yes he was big and hungry for meat. Luckily not meat from any of us. This creature was quite impressive, we have big animals like moose’s in Sweden but I have to say this was a bit cooler.
Extra: If you want to discover the “bad” part of Bolivia and get a picture of their culture you can visit Prison San Pedro. I’m not sure if it is legal although I don’t think anyone really cares. They are corrupt in this country remember? You can’t find any tour guides selling tickets to San Pedro but if you to go to the main square of La Paz and ask two people who usually stroll around in front of the prison and they will charge you some money to get in.
In Prison San Pedro prisoners build their own homes together with their family, more or less everyone takes drugs together with the police and they also act as “tour guides”. It’s really interesting to see how they have built up their own community in this prison and how things works in Bolivia with their system, but if you feel uncomfortable only reading this I wouldn’t say it’s worth it.
What to think about:
They do sell drugs everywhere even in bars / restaurants.
They have strikes now and then where you need to stay inside.
Usually when I am traveling I would advise people to ask the locals about anything, maybe not in La Paz because you never know who you are actually talking to.