Bolivia conjures up images of the epic Andes, a towering mountain range characterized by countless snow-capped peaks.
It’s not just the Andes that stretch into the sky. Bolivia has the highest salt flats, lake, administrative capital city, golf course, Irish pub, road, and cable car in the world. At these lofty heights, altitude sickness is a given.
With such altitude comes an abundance of furry alpacas who can be seen wandering through the mountainous terrain with their traditionally dressed shepherds in tow. Equally famous are the colorful alpaca wool jumpers which serve as the perfect Andean souvenir.
Bolivians won’t want to hear this, but it’s undeniable many outsiders associate the country with the cocaine trade. Bolivia produces the third largest crop of coca leaf in the world (after Peru and Colombia), yet most locals think poorly of the destructive derivative that is cocaine.
South America has had its fair share of dictators and Bolivia is certainly no exception. Throughout its turbulent history, the country has seen revolutions, uprisings, riots, and a revolving door of presidencies.
A response to this political turmoil is the people’s penchant to protest. Blockades and marches have become a quintessential Bolivian pastime and an almost weekly occurrence in the legislative epicenter of La Paz.
Bolivia’s latest president Evo Morales shook up the political scene upon arrival in 2006, touting a fiery socialist and anti-imperialist message which certainly hasn’t won him any favors in Washington.
Indigenous culture is alive and well in Bolivia, a country where the vast majority of inhabitants are of native descent. Even today, the traditional bowler hats and puffy dresses of indigenous cholita women can be admired at every turn.
Bolivia boasts many breathtaking sites, although the most famous is undoubtedly its otherworldy salt flats. Known as the Salar de Uyuni, this spectacular great white expanse is the largest and highest in the world.
Every other backpacker in South American will dispense brave tales of how they survived a bike ride down the Death Road. Despite being a tourist attraction for over a decade, this death-defying route really hit the big time when it was covered by Top Gear in 2009.
Inmate-run restaurants, shops, and real estate businesses are all par for the course in San Pedro, a loco La Paz prison which became immortalized with the classic backpacker novel Marching Powder in 2003.