Wild wrestling matches, dancing zebras, pink dolphins and witches are just some of the quirky attractions in Bolivia, providing plenty of entertainment to those who make the trip down to this vast South American country.
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Aside from zany antics, Bolivia boasts natural wonders that are unmatched anywhere else on the planet, such as other-wordly rock formations, endless salt flats, barren desert plains and rare wildlife spotting, making this the ultimate destination for combining adventure with a culture kick.
From touring UNESCO sites to walking the path of the dinosaurs, here are 15 unforgettable things to do in Bolivia.
1) Enjoy a new perspective at the Uyuni Salt Flats
Salar de Uyuni is one of the driest places on earth, where the sparkling white landscape is made entirely of salt providing a stark contrast to the vibrant blue sky overhead. The scene is absolutely mesmerizing, especially during the wet season which creates enchanting reflections that are a photographer’s dream.
The Uyuni salt flats are one of the top Bolivia tourist attractions, only reachable by taking a guided trip from the town of Uyuni or on an overland trip from neighbouring Chile. It’s only necessary to book a one day excursion if you just want to do the Bolivia salt flats tour, but if you extend your trip you’ll get to venture out to see volcanoes, a red lake and flamingos.
One of the best things to do during an Uyuni salt flats tour is taking fun perspective photos, and the guides are great at suggesting unique angles and providing props that make it look like you’re eating someone off of a spoon, standing on someone’s shoulder, or even being chased by a dinosaur!
2) Sleep in a salt hotel in Bolivia
While you’re at the Uyuni Salt Flats, why not stay in a salt hotel?
There are a handful of unique hotels made of salt in Uyuni: Hotel Palacio de Sal, Hotel De Sal Luna Salada and Casa de Sal (which is in the town of Uyuni, versus in the salt flats like the other two). Just about everything on site is carved out of salt, including the ceilings, walls, even furniture and sculptures.
It’s interesting to note that since the hotels are built out of salt blocks they need to be rebuilt every 10 to 15 years, since rain causes them to disintegrate over time.
Another perk of staying in a Salar de Uyuni salt hotel is that you’re conveniently located in the heart of this spectacular natural wonder, making it easy to head out on day trips versus having to make the bumpy drive back to the town of Uyuni each night.
3) Go underground in Potosí
While Potosi is one of the highest cities in the country at an elevation of 4,090 metres (second only to La Paz), it’s what’s found underground that’s the real attraction of this spot rich in natural resources.
Industry has played a major role in Potosí since the 16th century, thanks to the silver mines which are extracted using a series of hydraulic mills powered by an intricate system of aqueducts and artificial lakes.
Visitors can take a guided tour down into the still-functioning mines, to learn about the process and chat with the miners.
4) See flamingos in Laguna Colorada Bolivia
Another spellbinding natural attraction worth visiting during a Bolivia trip is Laguna Colorada, also known as the Red Lagoon.
The wetland near the Chilean border is home to three different species of flamingo, who are drawn to the plankton in the lake which gives it its unique hue. The other-wordly landscape looks like somewhere on another planet, making this one of the most unforgettable places to visit in Bolivia.
5) Bike down Death Road
One of the most famous places in Bolivia is North Yungas Road…AKA Death Road which is considered among the world’s most dangerous routes. The 64 kilometer stretch of road drops more than 3,500 metres between La Paz and Yungas, and at one point about 300 people were being killed in crashes on it each year before a safer road was built in 2006.
Today, visitors can join a bike tour along Death Road and enjoy views of the mountains, cloud forest, waterfalls, villages and a thick jungle which is the hardest part of the ride due to the incredibly narrow road precariously carved into the side of a mountain.
Some tours end in Yolosa, where there’s a lodge for relaxing in hot pools and soaking tired muscles before heading back to La Paz. Click here to book
6) Wander through the Moon Valley
Sandstone monoliths jut out of the arid landscape in the Valle de La Luna, making the Moon Valley one of the best La Paz tourist attractions.
Formed by the dry winds breezing over the valley, the bizarre-yet-beautiful area includes inconspicuous staircases and trails that are carved out so visitors can safely walk through the site, and look into the deep caverns.
Admission costs about $2, and two paths wind through the Moon Valley: one that only takes about 20 minutes, and one that’s about half an hour long.
7) Get a great view in La Paz on Mi Teleferico
Bolivia is known for its high altitudes, and visitors can really soak in the views by heading up Mi Teleferico. La Paz’s cable car system is the highest in the world operating at 4,000 metres above sea level, and the colourful gondolas whisk visitors from the city centre out to spots like El Alto and the Moon Valley.
8) Cast a spell at the La Paz Witches’ Market
Have an ailment to heal, need to cast a spell or hoping a certain-someone will fall in love with you? Head to the Witches’ Market in La Paz, found a blocks from the Rosario neighbourhood and up the hill from Plaza San Francisco.
Rows of tiny stalls are packed together, selling potions claiming to cure everything from headaches to infertility, or “cast a spell on your lover.” There’s a dizzying array to choose from, so if you’re looking for relief from say, food poisoning, it’s best to ask the witch for help.
Of course, you don’t need to buy anything to visit the market, but it would sure make a great story to say you were cured by a real life witch!
9) Watch the dancing zebras
Another one of the quirky, fun things to do in La Paz is to watch the dancing zebras. No, these aren’t the kind of zebras you’d see on a safari–instead, they’re actually young locals dressed up in costumes to help curb road rage.
Traffic can be quite chaotic in the capital, so to help keep things moving and stop drivers from running red lights the dancing zebras perform in the intersection while vehicles are stopped. Their slick moves put a smile on people’s faces, and make it quite entertaining for pedestrians to cross!
10) See pink dolphins in Selva Boliviana
The best Bolivia attractions are all about stunning scenery, which is why it’s worth making the trip to Selva Boliviana which is a part of the Amazon basin. To visit this eastern region of the country, start in the remote town of Rurrenabaque and join a guided expedition into the rainforest which typically lasts three days.
During the trip there are plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities, including the Amazon River Dolphin which is known for its unique pink hue. You may also be able to catch sight of crocodiles, monkeys, anaconda snakes and even spotted leopards.
11) Explore the ruins in Tiwanaku
Tiwanaku is one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bolivia, and the archaeological site dates back to pre-Colombian times. Located between La Paz and Lake Titicaca, Tiwanaku once operated as the center of a significant agricultural empire and was home to around 50-thousand people.
Abandoned around 1000 AD, it was rediscovered in the 1500s and the well-preserved site has palaces, temples and stone monoliths. Guided tours are available, and its close proximity to the capital makes this a popular day trip from La Paz. Click here to book
12) Follow the footprints of dinosaurs in Sucre
For a prehistoric adventure, head out to Parque Cretácico near the whitewashed city of Sucre, which houses the world’s largest collection of dinosaur footprints.
Travel back in time some 68 million years, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and most of the surrounding region was at sea level. The museum has an auditorium and series of exhibitions detailing this critical part of evolution, and there’s also a resort at the park so you can stay near the cliff that overlooks the massive, still-preserved dinosaur footprints.
13) Watch a Cholita wrestling match
One of the most entertaining things to do in Bolivia is watching a Cholita wrestling match in La Paz, where women don traditional garments and go head to head in the ring.
The outrageous, high-spirited affair started as a protest against domestic violence, and includes body slams and acrobatic moves even the UFC couldn’t pull off. There’s also plenty of audience participation…even kisses! Matches are held on Sundays at El Alto’s Multifunctional Center, and last about three hours.
14) Sail on Lake Titicaca
Glistening Lake Titicaca sits between Bolivia and Peru, making this a popular destination for those travelling between the two countries.
Its dazzling waters are a deep blue hue, those who take the three hour bus ride over from La Paz can enjoy a scenic drive along winding roads. Donkeys, sheep and llamas graze on the bright green grass on the side of the highway, while traditionally dressed villagers work in the fields.
Most people stop here en route to the fascinating Uros floating islands in nearby Puno, Peru, or take day trip from La Paz which includes a stop in neighbouring Yumani. The highlight of Lake Titicaca is taking the quick boat ride out to Isla del Sol, to see the centuries-old Inca steps and Inca fountain.
15) Bless a car in Copacabana
One of the most unforgettable things to do in Bolivia is watching the ‘blessing of the cars’ in the town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Bendición de Movilidades dates back to the mid-90s, and drivers from as far away as Peru and Colombia make the journey into town and pull up to the bright white Basílica de la Virgen de Copacabana to have their vehicles blessed by a Catholic priest and a witch doctor.
The idea is that for just 200 BOB (about $30 USD) their cars will be safe, and the ritual includes the priest splashing holy water onto the open engines of a lineup of cars which are all decked out with frilly decor, and ends with a jovial celebration that basically involves dousing the hoods and upholstery with beer, Coke or sparkling wine, which definitely makes this one of the most quirky things to do in Bolivia!
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