Uyuni: A freezing desert city

Uyuni is a freezing cold desert city. The city, which has an altitude of 3675m, is described the following way by the Lonely Planet: “This climatically challenged otherworldly and isolated community today seems to exist only for the tourist hoards who venture out to the extraordinary salares.”

Most tourist come here to book a tour to the Salar de Uyuni and are usually “forced” to spend the night before heading off. It is also the cheapest place to book a tour due to the fierce competition.

I arrived with a big group of people on the bus and we were able to book a Salar de Uyuni trip (3 days, 2 nights) for 550 Bolivians per person.

We all stayed at Hostal Tati- Laura. The rooms were okay, but freezing cold. And the female owner promised us that we would have 24 hours hot water when in fact she locked the shower cabin at all hours except 7-9 in the morning. This meant that when we returned VERY dirty from our Salar de Uyuni trip (not having washed for 3 days) we had to argue with her to get access to a shower.

The days in Uyuni were so cold that the water in the yard of the guest house (used for washing yourself and your dirty clothes) froze completely.

However, if you do stay in Uyuni, go to the local market on Thursday and Sunday. It is a really great place to stock up with wool socks, hats, legwarmers, and gloves before setting out on the Salar de Uyuni trip. And try the potato balls food they sell in the street…very delicious.

Good journey and stay warm 🙂

Sucre: the most beautiful Bolivian city

Sucre is without doubt the most beautiful Bolivian city. Well in fact it is one of the most beautiful cities I have visted in central and South America. The stunning city of Sucre has a rich colonial heritage, evident in its buildings, streetscapes and numerous churches. In 1991 it was declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site.

The city has many amazing flowery plazas, good restaurants, indigenous markets and is really a fantastic place to spend at least a few days. Do go to the food market and tast the amazing fruit salats…they are divine and cost hardly anything.

I really find it a shame that La Paz became the governmental capital. Sucre is a much more beautiful place and hence gives a lot better image of Bolivia.

If you visit Bolivia I definitely recommend you to reserve at least three days for Sucre. You will not regret it 🙂

Samaipata – A tourist chill-out place in Bolivia

Samaipata - A beautiful village in Bolivia
Samaipata - A beautiful village in Bolivia

Samaipata is a beautiful village (1650m) 2.5 hours from Santa Cruz. The Bolivians use it as a weekend get-away, but tourist are slowly but surely discovering it as well. This peaceful village in the foothills of the Cordillera Oriental has lots of nice foreign-run, stylish hostels and restaurants.

I stayed in Hotel Paola which has a nice balcony overlooking the beautiful plaza and spent my days reading, going to the used clothes and vegetable market. I also went to visit El Fuerte – the ancient mystical site.

If you’re coming from the lowlands, it’s also a good place to begin altitude acclimatization by degrees.

Very recommended for a relaxing time.

La Paz: A cement jungle with witch-craft shops

La Paz is overwhelming in many aspects, not just because of the altitude of 3660m. From a distance, the city looks like a cement jungle (as on the picture above), but when you move around inside it actually has many beautiful neighbourhoods.

The suburbs are posh, with skyscrapers, colonial houses, and modern glass constructions. But most of the commerce and daily activity takes place further up in the centre of the city where a mass of irregular-shaped steep streets and alleys wind their way skywards. Here you will see lots of street-sellers, neighbourhoods divided into different commerce and witch-craft shops selling llama fetuses.

The sky-high altitude means that warm clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses are essential. I enjoyed the city due to its many faces.

Parque Nacional Madidi – the Bolivian jungle

The jungle in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
The jungle in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

The Bolivian jungle includes Parque Nacional Madidi. It is a stunning place. The amazing Rio Madidi features the greatest biodiversity of the earth’s protected regions. Parts of the Parque Nacional Madidi are protected and it has a huge range of wildlife habitats, from rainforests to Andean glaciers at 6000 m.

There are more than 1000 bird species in the parque – which is 10% of the world’s known species. In the non-protected parts of the parque indigenous people continue to live with their traditional pratices: hunting, fishing and utilizing other forest ressources. Up until now the Quechua, Araona and Tacana communities are coexisting happily with the park.

When doing a jungle tour you usually stay for one or two nights in a fairly primitive camp in the jungle itself. During the days the guide will take the group for long walks in the jungle and explain about different kinds of animals and trees that live in the forest. I found it very interesting and enjoyed it a lot.

The tours can bee booked from Rurrenabaque.

Rurrenabaque…the beautiful Bolivian lowland and jungle

Rurrenabaque - the beautiful Bolivian lowland
Rurrenabaque - the beautiful Bolivian lowland

Rurrenabaque to me was like arriving in heaven. After spending several month freezing in the beautiful south of Peru and La Paz, the hot lowland was a very welcome change.

This friendly frontier town is probably Bolivia’s most beautiful lowland settlement (elevation 105 m). It is a small city, which enables you to walk all over the city by foot in no time at all. Most of the buildings are two story buildings which makes the city very comfortable.

The town has become a great travellers hub with many restaurants, cheap (good) guesthouses, hammocks, travel agencies and swimming pools. I absolutely loved it.

Most travellers head up the Rio Beni to visit the surrounding jungle in Madidi National Park and the savanna-like grasslands (pampas). I highly recommend both the city and the tours. It was a wonderful experience for me.

Death-road by bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaque

Death road by bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaque
Death road by bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaque

Taking the bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaque is NOT for the faint-hearted. The majority of travellers who take the bus there – decides to fly back. The picture above might explain to you why that is.

The journey takes about 18 hours and the first 4-5 hours are done on a very small dirt road onto which only one normal vehicle fits. However, buses drive there all the time and it gets really “funny” when these buses meet a truck or another bus and have to pass each other.

On the picture you can see how much space there is…well hardly enough for ONE vehicle. Then imagine two next to each other and a mountain drop on the outside of about 300 meters. That’s the reality.

On top of that you drive at night. I am a believer in destiny – so I just went to sleep. But the girls I travelled with didn’t close an eye and perhaps with good reason. The passengers on the other bus driving down there at the same time as ours, was woken up at 2am with their bus hanging over the edge of the mountain. They had to get out and pull. Needless to say that they couldn’t sleep the rest of that night.

The trip is beautiful and cheap though and I did actually decide to take the bus both ways…you have to be a believer 🙂