Why we love it: Bolivia

Bolivia is next in our Why We Love It series, where Peregrine staffers take turns in writing about their favourite place in the world:

Bolivia was the biggest surprise of all the countries I visited the first time I travelled to South America. When planning that trip, it felt like a bit of a staging-post, somewhere on the way to somewhere else – a hurdle between the glamour of Brazil and Peru’s big sights. Not any more.

From the laid-back lush tropical lowlands to the stark beauty of the altiplano, from diving into La Paz’s friendly madness to being alone on a salt desert on the top of the world, Bolivia’s variety and sights bowled me over when I first visited, and still has me shaking my head in disbelief whenever I return.

La Paz
La Paz is a place like no other. The highest city you’re ever likely to visit, at this altitude you might expect somewhere of slow character and quiet reserve. Not a bit of it. Like a kid on a sugar high, it’s got energy to burn. Colourful markets on every street, processions and protests in the old squares, restaurants and cafes abuzz in the evenings – each time I visit I end up staying for a bit longer. And the crafts and textiles – this is the place to stock up on Andean souvenirs. My home is beginning to look like a La Paz market stall! 

Salar de Uyuni
Potosi and Sucre have rich colonial legacies, but really for me the pleasure of Bolivia lies in its natural, luminous landscapes. The Salar de Uyuni (pictured above) is a simply incredible place – the world’s highest and biggest salt flats will blowtorch your brain the first time you see them. It’s not often you come across somewhere that makes you reconsider the power and creativity of nature itself. It’s a must if you’re heading to Bolivia. Actually, for me, it’s a must if you’re going to South America – it’s right up there with Iguazu Falls and Machu Picchu.

At the country’s other end is Lake Titicaca. There’s not a great deal to do in Copacabana – it’s basically a pretty little border town with Peru – but such is the welcome from the locals, the quality of the light and air, and the surreal feeling of being at a beach resort 4,000 metres up, it’s a great place to chill out for a day or two. Grab a seat at one of the waterfront stalls frying up freshly caught fish, look out on the deep blue of the lakes and the distant peaks of the Cordillera Real and breathe deep. Perfect.

Have you been to Bolivia? What was your highlight? Leave it in the comments section below or head to twitter and Facebook to upload images.

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