We’ve all heard of the stunning landscapes of the Salar de Uyuni, the tranquil waters of Lake Titicaca and the bustling city life of downtown La Paz, but what about some of Bolivia’s lesser known attractions? This hugely diverse South American nation has plenty more to offer than the usual well-known highlights – enough to keep the curious traveler busy for a month or more. Read on to discover eight great things to do that are off the beaten path in Bolivia.
Few travelers make it to this sunny Mediterranean-like town in the south of the country which feels more like Argentina than Bolivia. With a delightfully relaxed pace of life, a permanently warm climate and some large leafy plazas surrounded by excellent restaurants and cafés, it’s the perfect place to escape the tourist crowd. Better still, Tarija is home to Bolivia’s surprisingly respectable wine industry, so book yourself a tasting tour and check out the best vineyards and vino the country has to offer.
A beautiful little town nestled in a dry desert section of the country’s expansive highland plains, Tupiza is probably best known as an alternative start point for Salar de Uyuni tours. In reality, there is much more to it than that. As the final resting place of Butch Cassidy, the surrounding badlands scenery is totally worth a day or two of your time. The best way to explore it is just like they did back in the good old days, on the back of a trusty steed. Horse riding tours last several hours and traverse the area’s spectacular quebradas, canyons, valleys and rivers – an experience that will make you feel like a true cowboy exploring the wild west.
At a crossroads between La Paz, Lake Titicaca and the ominous Cordillera Real, the quaint town of Sorata is a trekker’s paradise that receives far less attention than it deserves. This charming little village has just enough tourist infrastructure for a pleasant stay before trekking off to explore nearby snow-capped mountains and lush forested valleys. Hiring a guide on longer expeditions is highly recommended because it’s not uncommon to hike for days on end through picturesque scenery without coming across a single tourist. Bliss.
Want to enjoy the tranquil waters of Lake Titicaca without the tourist crowds of Isla del Sol? Then put on your hiking boots and veer off the beaten track by traversing along the lake from Copacabana to the small fishing community of Yampupata. The hike takes five hours, give or take, and runs parallel to the lake, ensuring ever present views of its glistening waters. At the end of the road, instead of turning around and going back, pay a local fisherman to row you across to Yumani on Isla del Sol.
Not many people make it to Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, and fewer still explore the Chiquitana region. A series of quaint little villages with stunning Jesuit churches form a delightful circuit that can be explored over a number of days. The UNESCO-protected houses of worship are the main attraction, although a warm climate, friendly locals and very few international tourists just adds to the adventure.
Relive the final days of this controversial revolutionary whose image has been imprinted on more T-shirts than anyone else on the planet. Che Guevara was captured and killed in Bolivia and the exact location of his death as well as some relics of his final days can be visited by the public. Vallegrande and La Higuera is where the action took place, a region which also happens to be blessed with stunning natural scenery and sees only a trickle of visitors.
Bolivia has plenty of amazing national parks, some of which are fairly well explored. Others, however, see very few visitors and are well and truly off the beaten track. Noel Kempff, for example, can sometimes only be visited by a private charter jet, while the town of Sajama sees just one local bus arrive per day.
Most tourists visiting Bolivia have heard about Rurrenabaque, Madidi National Park and the wildlife tours of the pampas. But there’s actually another fantastic lowland tropical tourism hub that gets far less attention. About halfway between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz lies the wonderfully authentic jungle town of Villa Tunari, a place that is far less developed than rival Rurrenabaque. With just a handful of tour agencies offering rafting trips and jungle treks, it’s a great way to experience the Bolivian jungle away from the gringo crowd.