The land of Bolivia is truly a peek into a lost civilization, and is also a cornucopia of myriad never-before seen sights.
The capital of Bolivia, La Paz, is the highest international airport in the world at 13,000ft. The air here is so rarified that planes find it difficult to take off or land.
The first glimpse of La Paz can take your breath away, the buildings, brick-red in colour cling to the mountain sides and spill over into the canyon below, with the imposing snow-capped Mount Illimani (6,420mt) as a backdrop. The city has several cathedrals, museums and unique markets that should be savoured over a few days, basically by foot. The many quaint narrow streets also allow you to imbibe the local culture and flavours of this beautiful hill station capital.
The industrial town of Uyuni is the gateway to the Salar De Uyuni and other sights in the area. Ranging from 12,00ft to 15,000ft, this area is harsh and savage, with cruel weather conditions, yet amazingly gorgeous. The landscape varies from 11,000 sq.kms of blinding salt lakes to strange islands. Cacti to strange mirages, colourful lakes to geysers and a wide variety of flora and fauna, all of which make for an unforgettable feast for the senses.
This trip, however, not for the faint-hearted, as the roads are treacherous, if at all there are any (1,500km of salt, sand, rocks and water). The tour company has to be a reputed one. Radio transmitters, first-aid kits, a good condition 4×4 and a safe driver is mandatory (the driver is your cook, mechanic and guide, all rolled into one), the sun is harsh during the day, with howling winds and temperatures falling below freezing at night, the accommodation is basic with pathetic toilets and shower facilities, and the food is ordinary.
The Salt Hotel, in a ghost town which looks straight out of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns, and everything here is made of salt, including the walls, tables, benches, floors and beds. Here you can pick a few hats, glasses, Llama wool sweaters, shawls and masks as souvenirs. Clubs, in Bolivia, are mostly hole-in-the-wall spaces. The food is mostly dry and without sauce and curries. Llama, alpaca and guinea pig meat are the specialities that are recommended. Some of the local cocktails, like the Caipirinha, Singani and Pisco Sour are very potent. There is coca leaf tea for altitude sickness, and for those who don’t know, cocaine is processed from these leaves. You can also explore the culinary delights and nightlife with aplomb as well.
Some of the must-visit places are the train cemetery, salt flats, cacti island, salt hotel, ghost town, coloured lagunas, stone tree, geysers and hot springs, wildlife, foxes, llamas and flamencos.
Lake Titicaca ( a few hours drive away from La Paz) is the lake on the Bolivian side. In La Paz, the San Francisco Church and Witches Market are very famous. The topography changes drastically with more greenery and gentler dales and hills. At 3,200sq.mls and 100ft deep, Lake Titicaca, is one of the largest, deepest and highest lakes in the world. Isla Del Sol is the largest island on the lake and is a 2.5 hour boat ride and is steeped in Inca history, also of interest here are the floating islands on the Peruvian side. A stay at Copacabana Beach is magical.
A large number of tourists frequent this place, as this is also the entry point to Peru and Machu Pichu.
—Rahul Dev Shetty, Fashion Choreographer.