5 Must-See Landscapes In The Bolivian Altiplano
South America is home to the most beautiful landscapes and natural wonders of the world. Luscious green sceneries fill these lands, as well as mountains, deserts, and plenty of massive bodies of water. From the North to the South of this sub-continent, it seems like an adventure awaits.
Some countries have hidden treasures that only travel experts know. On this occasion, we would like to feature a nation that shines for both its culture and its stunning sights: Bolivia.
This South American country is a place with many-sided experiences and destinations. Graced with the Eastern Andes Mountain Range from the North to the South of its limits, it has countless highlands and lowlands across all its territory. To the East, the Amazon Basin is responsible for hundreds of miles of thick and evergreen forests. But to the west, mystic and magnificent figures stand tall and proud: The Altiplano region.
Blue geysers in the Bolivian desert/ Guillermo Armero
The Latin American Tibet
The Andean Plateau is the most extensive area of the Andes Mountains. It covers part of the northeast of Argentina, the North of Chile, the South of Peru, and the largest part is in the West of Bolivia. It bears the name Altiplano after the location of these rather plain mountains.
The only plateau that can match the Altiplano in height and length is The Roof of the World, The Tibet! Hundreds of years ago, it was the place of origin for several Andean civilizations. The Incas prospered in this region until the Spanish Empire conquered the whole area. Yet, it continues to be a place with strong bonds to the cultures and beliefs of many native societies.
For the indigenous people such as the Aymara or the Quechua, these stretches of mountains go by the name of “Qullaw,” which roughly translates to Land of the Collas or Land of the Wise.
Much like the Tibetan Plateau, its Andean brother has a dry and cold atmosphere. Despite that, it is common for the climate to change between different regions and even throughout the day.
The Bolivian Altiplano covers the most significant territory of the whole Plateau. It comprises four departments of the country: La Paz, Oruro, Cochabamba, and Potosí. In each region, the wonders of the Altiplano make themselves the protagonists.
La Paz, the city of Government for the country, is in the Andean Highlands’ northern and greenest area. Potosí, located in the far North of the Altiplano, is where many of the dryest places of the Plateau are. These locations best portray the true beauty of the Andean landscapes.
For that reason, we decided to showcase five of the best spots you can find in Potosí and La Paz, and while you are at it, you can discover some fantastic Eco-hotels nearby. Each of these safe havens will be the perfect stay for an adventure of a lifetime.
1. The Colored Lagoons from the Sur Lípez province
One of the best natural attractions at the Potosí Department is the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, located in Sur Lípez. This protected area has it all: Erupting volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, and mountains.
But the most beautiful and unique place of interest is a set of colored lagoons! Five gorgeous lagoons make quite the spectacle with their vibrant colors due to the minerals in their waters.
Three lagoons have the name of their colors: Laguna Blanca, Laguna Verde, and Laguna Celeste. Laguna Colorada has a pretty pink hue because of the red deposits in its bottom. And Laguna Hedionda (Stinking Lagoon) earned its funny name for the potent smell that comes out of the high sulfur content of its waters.
Stay at Flamenco Altiplano
Right in front of the shore of Laguna Hedionda, a vibrant and colorful lodge offers its services for every tourist passing by. The Flamenco Altiplano Eco Hotel is a homey and snug spot to rest after a day filled with great experiences. Its architecture has strong indigenous influences, from materials to the colors applied to the facades.
For any bird watcher, this place is perfect for a spectacle of white and pink flamingos. You will wake up with a cold but very fresh and pleasant sight in front of you!
2. Villamar Mallcu
Not very far from the colored lagoons, a small town sits with approximately less than 400 inhabitants. Villamar Mallcu is one of the several villages of Nor Lípez, a province that shares limits with Sur Lípez. This little town is in the middle of several valleys with salt flats and ponds.
A set of rivers also run alongside the small settlement, making it the perfect close location to go for a morning stroll. The real show comes after dark when the clear skies give you a breathtaking sight of the stars above. The peaceful Mallcu might be what you need for a relaxing getaway.
Stay at Jardin Malku Cueva
Outside the town, a cozy hotel awaits for any weary traveler. The warm and comfortable Jardin Mallku Cueva is hard to miss, as they are right next to a compound of huge rocks. Their spaces are as lovely as any Andean household, and for that, every tourist will feel welcome and pleased.
3. Salar de Uyuni
If you are visiting the Department of Potosí, the must-go-to stop is the Salar de Uyuni. The world’s largest salt flat has over 10.000 square kilometers of white and shining salt crust. This magical place was once a couple of prehistoric lakes that slowly dried over time. The ground of salt is a layer several meters thick, covering a pool of water high in salt.
Lucky tourists that happen to catch the rain season will see the flat transform into a lagoon. The calm water becomes the world’s largest mirror, as the clear skies and exceptional flatness of the surface generate a perfect reflection. Uncommon yet magnificent, Salar de Uyuni is something unforgettable.
Stay at Kachi Lodge
In the middle of this gigantic salt flat, the wonderful Kachi Lodge welcomes their guests. A luxurious yet green hotel made out of six dome-shaped suites sits among the crystalline landscape. All suites provide exclusivity and comfort in the most innovative style ever.
Its geometric architecture gives a sense of warmth that matches its interiors, which were the creations of the region’s finest designers and artisans. The small complex rests on top of a wooden platform so you can enjoy the white desert in all its glory.
4. Tunupa Volcano
Following Salar de Uyuni, your best visit would be the mighty Tunupa. This dormant volcano stands on the northern side of the salt flat, right at the Altiplano center. An ancient Aymara legend says it is a deity responsible for creating the Uyuni Flats, so it used to be a place for adoration.
About halfway up the volcano, in a small village called Coqueza, a cave attracts curious eyes. The cave hides the mummified remains of a small indigenous family of pre-Columbian origins. While this sight might seem unsettling to some, the natives pay tribute to them by offering gifts. They are a harrowing reminder of the harsh lives of their ancestors.
Stay at Tayka
On the skirts of the mountain, a small town called Tahua might have what you need for a perfect vacation. A hotel called Tayka de Sal offers the best views of the volcano while providing warm and cozy rooms.
The place is its attraction on its own, as it was built out of salt! The privacy and care that their hosts deliver to every guest is always an exceptional experience.
5. Lake Titikaka
In the Bolivian Department of La Paz, the highest navigable lake of freshwater unites this region with Peru’s lands. The lake has been the home of several native cultures, and it is now a symbol of pride for the whole nation. At its shore, Copacabana’s charming town provides the best experiences to go with an excellent view.
The place is famous for its religious festivals that are open to anyone. But the jewel of the region is a few minutes away by boat, and it goes by the name of Isla del Sol. The pretty southern island of Lake Titicaca is a majestic Inca relic. Most of its hills are agricultural terraces from the Pre-Columbian era. Fountains, stairs, and other structures are as intact as possible after hundreds of years of their construction. It is truly a paradise stuck in time.
Stay at Ecolodge La Estancia
In its soft foothills, the lovely Ecolodge La Estancia offers a stay in their cabins. This project was born to give a spotlight on the island and its people, who are essential to La Estancia’s success.
The islanders’ wisdom was fundamental for the guesthouse’s design, and alongside eco-friendly management strategies, they have managed to create a self-sustainable haven. It is a place to relax and enjoy, but also to reflect and learn.
There are many more destinations that display the beauty of Bolivia and its Altiplano region. The entire Plateau is rich in gorgeous sceneries, culture, and history. A trip to these lands will fulfill you in both emotional and spiritual way.