In focus... Bolivia's natural attractions
Are you considering a trip to Bolivia? Discover its diverse natural wonders below.
Wild and wonderful landscapes characterise Bolivia. Otherworldly, jagged terrain contrasts with lush jungles and spectacular salt flats to create a country that offers a fresh feast for the eyes at every turn.
Today, we will take a look at some of the nation's most unmissable landscapes. Not only are these stunning in their own right, but when seen together as part of a single itinerary, they present a window into Bolivia's astonishing diversity.
Salar de Uyuni
Offering one of Bolivia's most singular and memorable landscapes, Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat. It spans an impressive 12,106 sq km and provides striking views at all times - though exactly what these are depends on the weather.
Indeed, if the salt is wet, its surface veritably shimmers and reflects the sky, making it seem almost as if you are floating. When it's dry, you will be greeted with a vast white expanse, broken only by the line of the horizon.
Whatever you discover, you can explore the salt flats by 4x4. For a more in-depth experience, plan to spend the night here. Retro-style caravans provide atmospheric accommodation for an evening in this remarkable place.
Situated on the border of Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca has a host of superlative titles to its name. Not only is it the highest navigable body of water on the planet, but it is the largest lake in South America.
These shimmering waters are bathed in bright sunlight and indeed, in Andean culture it is held that this is the birthplace of the sun. The tranquil natural landscape here houses traditional ways of life; the crops are still harvested by hand, for example.
To make the most of your time here, stay on Isla del Sol for one or two nights. This island spans approximately 7 sq km and is a wonderful place for hiking, discovering local culture, seeing pre-Columbian ruins and, of course, enjoying the charming views. Just remember to pack plenty of sun cream, as the sun here is very strong.
Valley of the Moon
Cast your mind to a mountainous landscape and you will naturally envisage towering peaks. However, Bolivia is home to mountainous terrain that is rather different. Consisting of jagged, dramatic monoliths, the Valley of the Moon looks almost as if it belongs to another world.
These vast behemoths were once whole mountains, but the passage of time and the adjoining wind and rainfall have eroded these into the shapes you can see today. The effect is striking, and keen photographers will definitely want to arrive with their cameras poised ready to take some wonderful shots.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the landscape's rugged nature certainly comes through on the local paths, so if you decide to indulge in a spot of walking, expect uneven and at times sharp terrain.
Madidi National Park
Lying in the Amazon basin, Madidi National Park gives you the opportunity to explore jungle terrain, as well as see some amazing wildlife, from giants otters to jaguars.
Indeed, a guided jungle walk here has much to offer - particularly as the landscape is often described as archetypal of the Amazon. There are real wilderness areas tucked away in Madidi National Park and, while you will stick to chartered areas with your guide, the knowledge that there is still some unknown terrain to be discovered certainly enriches the experience.
The park spans 18,957 sq km and enjoys astonishing biodiversity - something that its widely varying altitude plays no small part in. Approximately 1,000 species of neotropical birds call the landscape home, as do more than 1,300 vertebrates.
Amboro National Park
Amboro National Park also has much to offer those seeking Bolivia's finest natural attractions. Located in the Andean foothills, it is an excellent place to visit on a day trip from Santa Cruz (one of Bolivia's largest cities).
Like Madidi National Park, Amboro's terrain occupies a breadth of altitudes, which has created much biodiversity. At its lowest point, it is 300 metres above sea level; at its highest, 3,200 metres. This, combined with the vast area the park covers, mean it sees a wide array of temperatures and weather conditions that have resulted in nearly 3,000 species of plants, more than 120 mammals and over 100 reptiles calling it home.
As well as simply enjoying the landscape, hiking, horse riding and canoeing are all pursuits you can try here.