South America’s Bolivia is often said to be the Tibet of the continent. It is the area’s least explored places, and it also has the largest concentration of indigenous people. Whilst it can be said that many places across Bolivia are off the beaten path, there are still some places that see even fewer visitors and give the impression of being untouched, unvisited, and completely unspoilt. The eastern part of the country sees a lot fewer visitors than places in the west. To really venture to new places in Bolivia, you will almost certainly need to have your own transport.
Oruro en route
Many visitors to the famous salt plains at Salar de Uyuni will pass through Oruro en route. Sitting on the train line, it is easy to get to, although many time-pressed visitors simply pass through on their way to somewhere else. Because the town receives lower numbers of visitors it means that prices are even lower than in other parts of the country, with some delicious authentic food available at really cheap prices. Accommodation is also very affordable. The town is important for political reasons, and there are several interesting reasons to add it to your Bolivian itinerary. With a gold mining heritage, there are some stunning buildings that are decorated with gold. As well as admiring the architecture, you can spend some quality time getting to know some of the locals and experiencing the local way of life. There is a lively market that is great for picking up a few mementoes from your time in the town.
In the past, Pando was once the heart of the country’s rubber industry. Today, it is covered in dense jungle and home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. It offers a different jungle experience away from the tourist crowds.
The village of Chipaya is near to Salar de Uyini, and it is a traditional Indian community. It is believed that the people who live here could perhaps be direct descendents of the lost tribes of Tiahuanaco. It is a great place for seeing an untouched Bolivian village, although you should definitely be sensitive to cultural differences here, as locals are not used to seeing many foreigners at all.
San Vicente is said to be where the notorious fugitives Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were finally stopped by the Bolivian army in the early 1900s. Whilst the tiny village does not have any other great claims to fame, it is worth a visit for this aspect alone.
Tarabuco is a dry and dusty part of the country, and it presents a stark juxtaposition with the otherwise lush areas and the grand colonial cities. It is a good place to spend a few days relaxing and enjoying doing nothing. There are no major attractions, but this is part of the town’s appeal – it is quiet and offers a glimpse of the regular lives of local people free from outside influences. The weekend market is lively, and you should take a wander through the hustle and bustle and peruse the variety of products on offer. Try the local spirits and chill out with local inhabitants.
Laguna Verde translates into Green Lake, and that is just what you can expect here – a dazzling green lake sitting in the shadow of a towering volcanic cone. At the top of the mountain there is a crypt from the Inca civilisation. In times gone by, young males were taken to the top of the mountain and left to freeze to their deaths in a gruesome offering to the gods. Today, the area is very scenic and offers some terrific isolated hiking opportunities.
Laguna Colorada, in contrast, is a vibrant red colour, and it sits in a remote highland area of the country. In the south of Bolivia, the waters are home to a rare species of bird – the James’ Flamingo. A short drive away from the lake you can also visit burbling and bubbling pools of mud and see geysers that shoot water and steam high into the air. The sulphuric small seems strange in the otherwise fresh and clean crisp mountain atmosphere.
The lowland village of Rurrenabaque sits on the Beni River, and is a truly lovely spot. As well as being an ideal base for exploring the nearby jungle areas, it is also one of the few lowland places that took a stand and rejected the Christian religion and attempts at Westernisation.
Tarija is close to some amazing wineries, where you can sample some delicious locally produced wares in picturesque surroundings.