Founded more than 500 years ago by the Spanish, La Paz has always been a center of the cultures of the Altiplano. Known by the Aymaras as "Chuquiago", crossed by rivers that were mined for gold and blessed by its closeness to the Andes and the tropics, it was an ideal site for a city. But also it was inhabited by the Tiawanacu culture, which left its temples and cities, just two hours by bus from La Paz. The city is more than that, of course. The political and economic center for centuries, it has a long list of museums and cultural centers. Churches and colonial and republican mansions are scattered all over the city. The Titicaca lake, the Yungas, the Andes and more can be reached in less than two hours.
The town of Coroico is one of the most visited destinations in Bolivia. A city hanging from the Andes mountain chain, deep in the tropical valleys of La Paz, in the middle of the frantic descent to the Amazon, Coroico is an obligatory stop to admire Bolivian nature and culture. One of the attractions is the so-called Road of Death, a 50 kilometer stretch of road descending from 4,000 meters over sea level (masl) to 2,000 masl in less than two hours. This road is now mainly used for dare-devil bikers and hikers every day of the year. Coroico allows you to rest on your way to the Amazon, and also explore mighty rivers, indigenous and Afro-Bolivian communities, and enjoy waterfalls and the magnificent tropical weather.
The Titicaca is the sacred lake of the Incas, the place where the legend tells, Manko Kapak and Mama Ojllo were born and sent by the Inti (the Sun God) on the quest to found the Incan Empire. It is sacred also to ancient cultures like the Aymaras and the Tiahuanacu people. Only an hour an a half from La Paz City, the lake offers a unique landscape, a blue horizon covered by the purest sky in the Americas, circled by the Andes mountain range. The beautiful church of the Virgin of Copacabana, protector of Bolivia, crowns the mystic energy of the Titicaca Lake. While visiting the lake, take the opportunity to enjoy the living culture of the indigenous communities that live around the lake and to participate in the numerous cultural and sporting events throughout the year. Also, you can travel by boat to Isla del Sol, or Island of the Sun, and Isla de la Luna, the moon island, the sacred islands of the Incas.
More than five hundred years of colonial history, from the arrival of the first spanish explorers, to the foundation of Bolivia, Sucre and Potosi are the best expression of the colonial and republican era of Bolivia. The extraction of silver, allowed Potosi to become one of the biggest cities in the world in the XVII century. This, in turn, allowed Sucre to become a cultural and political center and a destination for migrants from all over the world. In Potosi, you can visit the historic silver mines; indigenous communities; live cultures; churches and museums representing different parts of Bolivian history. While climbing to the top of the Cerro Rico de Potosi, you will also feel the power of high altitudes and the beauty of the Cordillera Real. In Sucre, where Bolivia was founded and the fight for independence in the American continent started, you can visit colonial buildings; churches; the oldest University in Bolivia and one of the oldest in the continent, the Universidad Real y Pontificia de San Francisco Xavier; and if that is not enough, one of the biggest paleontological parks in South America is just thirty minutes from the city. Known as the white city, the beauty of Sucre is legendary.
Oruro is the embodiment of Carnival, the folklore capital of the world. Every year, Oruro is home to the biggest cultural festival in Bolivia, an event where most of Bolivian music and dances are shown: the Carnival of Oruro. This is a religious festivity honoring the Virgin of the mines, an example of the Bolivian syncretism, where catholic religious traditions mix with ancient indigenous dances and rites. More than half a million people gather during the Carnival in Oruro, coming from all over the world to take part, not only as spectators but also as participants. But Oruro is more than Carnival, it is also a center of Bolivian gastronomy, strategically located near hot springs and other natural attractions.
In the Southern part of Bolivia, almost reaching the border with Chile, lays the Uyuni salt flat, the biggest and highest salt flat in the world. It is renowned as one of the natural marvels of our planet, and offers incomparable attractions and adventure for visitors and tourists, such as short trips around the 12,000 Km2 (4700 sq miles or 3 million acres!), visits to volcanoes, ancient cemeteries, indigenous communities and peaceful connection with the natural beauty of the surrounding landscapes. From the Uyuni salt flat you can also visit the Laguna Colorada (red lagoon)and other lagoons in the Eduardo Avaroa National Park. In this park you can see pink flamingos, vicuñas, Andean mammals and of course, if you are lucky, Andean condors.
A recommended stop on your way to the lowlands, Cochabamba is known for its food and warm climate. A modern city, close to the Chapare tropical region and the Andes, the garden city has a lot to offer to visitors and tourists. Colonial and republican era towns can be reached by bus in less than two hours, like Mizque and Totora. The Chapare, with its hotels in the jungle, where you can enjoy canooing, rafting or just a nice day at the pool, is just two hours away.
One of the fastest growing cities in Bolivia, and certainly the most modern, Santa Cruz has a lot to offer to its visitors and tourists. You can visit the Samaipata Inca ruins, or the Amboró National Park, just two hours from the city. If you are more adventurous, you can take the bus to the jesuit missions, like San Ignacio or San Miguel. If you are MORE adventurous, maybe a trip to the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park to admire the Arco Iris (rainbow) waterfalls. Santa Cruz is also known for its international fairs and night life. Just pick one, there are many throughout the year.
If you travel to South America, you must have Cusco in your travel plans. Not only because Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire, but because it is the doorway to Machu Pichu, the jewel of the Peruvian culture. One of the advantages of Cusco is that allows tourists to enjoy the surroundings, like the ancient towns and the Titicaca lake. You can trek to Machu Pichu or take the train.
One of the main towns around the Titicaca lake, the other one being Copacabana in the Bolivian side, Puno is visited by lots of tourists through the year. You can enjoy the indigenous communities in the shores or take the bus or boat to cross to Bolivia. There are trains to Cusco, which can be an options to the usual bus ride. Traveling from Peru to Bolivia or viceversa, you will notice why this part of the continent used to be just one country. Sometimes you feel that you have not crossed the border.
Once part of Peru, Arica is now one of the most important ports of Chile, catering to Bolivia and Peru. If you traveled in Tacna or Arequipa, you may have noticed the arid lands in this side of the Pacific. The Andes mountain range and the sea currents from the South Pole create this dry environment. Arica has developed a tourist infrastructure based on its beach facilities and heavy commerce. Many Bolivians and Peruvians cross the border to enjoy the sun at the beach and the shopping malls.