A Bolivia tour should be on the top of the list of any culturally curious traveler. It has the largest indigenous population in the continent, with over half of its inhabitants practicing traditional Andean beliefs and customs. But equally fascinating are Bolivia's awe-inspiring landscapes and its colonial cities, whose architecture helps to tell the tale of the country's grand and rocky history. Travelers to the region are greeted by the warmth of the Bolivian people, and are astonished by the varied geography of deserts, mountians, canyons, and jungles that hide countless untold mysteries. Aside from its stunning appearance, Bolivia's varied topography invites extremely diverse wildlife. Mystery and excitement await travelers in every corner of Bolivia. This is one of the most uncharted regions in South America -- a traveler's best-kept secret!
Madidi protects some of the wildest and most pristine rainforest on Earth. Herds of peccary, sloths, howler monkeys, giant otters, and jaguar still thrive in this national park. Deep within its wilderness lies Chalalan Ecolodge. The lodge sits on the edge of Chalalan Lake and has been constructed with respect for the natural surroundings. It is owned and managed entirely by the indigenous Quechuas. What makes this place truly unique is the opportunity to meet the people and learn about a culture that has called this wild place home for centuries.
Noel Kempff Mercado is arguably Bolivia's most spectacular national park, and is one of the most isolated and concentrated wildlife reserves in South America. It contains an incredibly diverse combination of ecosystems. Amazon rainforest, dry savannah, and rugged Brazilian forest shelter over 139 species of mammals, 74 reptile and 62 amphibian species. Eagles, storks and parrots are just some of the park's 620 different species of bird. Its most inspiring land-feature is the Huanchaca Plateau. This sandstone feature rises five hundred meters from the surrounding rainforest. Noel Kempff is also home to over 20 waterfalls, including the beautiful Arco Iris and Federico Ahlfed Falls.
This 9,000 km (4680 sq mi) salt desert at an altitude of 3650 m (11,970 ft) is the largest salt flat in the world. It was once part of a prehistoric salt lake that covered most of southwestern Bolivia. Armed with only picks and shovels, the local campesinos harvest salt from this ancient lake filled with an estimated 10 billion tons of fine salt. Situated in a semi-arid climate, the Salar has an average annual rainfall of about 10 inches. Besides witnessing its unique beauty, visitors can also see a historic hotel actually built of salt, and visit Isla de Pescadores, a bizarre island surrounded by salt and studded with 20-foot tall cactus. A climb up the nearby Volcano Tunupa offers a spectacular view of this expansive salt desert.
This city's legacy -- its birth, its splendid and tragic history -- is directly tied to its mines. After the 16th century discovery of silver in Cerro Rico, Potosi grew into the largest and most opulent city in the Americas. Its architecture and history has earned recognition from UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. A trip to the present-day mines includes a stop at the El Tio shrine, who locals believe controls the underground and success of the mines. With no mechanization, a visit into the maze of tunnels is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Sucre enjoys a spring-like climate year round. The city offers coloful markets and colonial buildings. For dinosaur buffs, 60 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex tracks are found on the city's outskirts. Also nearby is the small town, Tarabuco. Here the residents have conserved the dress and customs of years bygone. The area is famous for its weavings, which are displayed at the town's Sunday markets.
La Paz is Bolivia's industrial and financial hub. Half the population of this cultural city are of Indian hertiage; the city has a collection of museums to learn about the history of Bolivia's people. Day trips from La Paz include a visit to the Tiahuanaco ruins. Little is known about the people who left behind these remains over 1,000 year ago, but their significance and religious influence on the area is obvious in the fantastic stone statues and structures.