Bolivia really surprised me. It can be a tough country to travel in but I really loved it. It’s poor, the bus system sucks, and there’s not a lot of choice in hostels and hotels. But it is really unique.
There is a four-day circuit by jeep that many travellers take, either ending with or starting at the Salt Flats. We started in Tupiza instead of Uyuni so saw the Flats last, which I recommend for they are the highlight and it was nice to work up to that.
Tupiza is a cute town and famous because the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed there. Needless to say, it’s a good place to go horseback riding.
There was a driver and a cook on our jeep trip and they both were also the tour guides. It was well organized with lots to see every day from abandoned towns to spectacular landscapes to flamingos. The scenery is beautiful yet quite barren since you’re driving through desert. Just the colour of the rocks is amazing.
We stopped for picnic lunches and slept in simple hotels each night. Everyone went out of their way to make us comfortable. Our jeep didn’t break down so we were lucky but even if it had people would have stopped to help.
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The third evening was spent at hot springs which is nice because it is cold there at night. Then very early the fourth day we went to the Salt Flats and watched the sun rise. It’s really awesome because it is the biggest salt field in the world. It’s like an inland sea but one that is flat and white. It is quite amazing and rather eerie.
This four-day circuit was a highlight of my South American trip. We actually knew very little about it and thought it would be just a side trip. But it surprised us because it was so unique. It was also super cheap—something like $120 for four days. It was quite different from our trek to Machu Picchu for that required making arrangements from home and it cost a lot of money.
There are big changes when you travel from country to country in South America. Bolivia is very poor. For instance, when we went to a restaurant in Bolivia there wouldn’t be any locals eating there because they couldn’t afford it. But when we crossed the border into Argentina, we couldn’t afford to eat in the same restaurants as the locals!
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Photo credits Vanessa Kohut
© Riding the buses 2011