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Plan your gap year to Bolivia with this ultimate travel itinerary

Written by Zoe Faulkner on 15 / 06 / 2022

Gap Year Advice

Bolivia is a perfect country for your gap year travel as it is little visited, refreshingly un-commercial and very welcoming. It is landlocked and covers some of the most extreme landscapes including the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, high altitude desert and lush Amazonian jungle.

Highlights for your gap year travels include the mesmerising Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt pan in the world, Lake Titicaca which is the birthplace of the Inca and La Paz with its winding streets. Visit the whitewashed Spanish colonial architecture of Sucre and the numerous churches and elegant mansions of Potosi, where the silver mines funded the Spanish expansion across the Americas. The population in Bolivia is largely indigenous and the lively markets, processions and festivals, and the brightly-coloured traditional dress indicate how little has changed in centuries.

Here you will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the country, and the welcoming nature of the people.You will need an open mind and relaxed travelling attitude as strikes, demonstrations and road-blocks can pop up disrupting travel plans. Time to acclimatise is also essential as many of the country’s highlights are located at an altitude of between 3,500 and 4,500 metres.

Backpacking Bolivia is best combined with visits to neighbouring countries such as Peru, Chile, or Brazil.

Click here to view it all on the interactive map we have created and read on for the full information.

Start your gap year in La Paz

High up in the Andes, the earth suddenly falls away to reveal a huge, bowl-shaped canyon with a city spread across its floor, this is La Paz. The view and the altitude will literally take your breath away.

It is a fascinating city to wonder through with its cobbled streets, colourful markets and colonial churches. Join the hustle and bustle of the market stalls tended by Aymara women dressed in voluminous skirts and bowler hats. The Witches market offers traditional cures for every manner of ailment and affliction.

Then catch one of the world’s highest cable car lines - a novelty of us Brits. It is a cheap way to get around the city, but it also provides great views from above. Venture out and visit Valle de la Luna, as it says in the name it is a moon like landscape - making you feel as if you are on another planet.

Fancy stretching your legs then head to Muela del Diablo (Devil's Molar) for a hike and to El Choro for a trek to admire stunning scenery. You can also climb the 6,080 metre tall Huayana Potosi - hire equipment locally to do this.

Watch the cholitas wrestlers - wrestling women dressed in their traditional clothing and if you are looking for a fortune telling experience then visit a witch doctor, where all your dreams can come true - make sure you go with a knowledgeable guide.

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For those adrenaline junkies amongst you then have the hair-raising trill of mountain biking down the El Camino de la Muerte (Death Road) with its dramatic mountain panoramas, citrus groves and coffee plantations. Try Gravity Bolivia for bookings.

The best hostel to stay at is Loki La Paz - a great party vibe and many a cocktail hour.

Rurrenabaque

This town is a starting point for trips into the Amazonian area of Pilon Lajas Ecological Reserve or the vast Madidi National Park which encompasses both cloud and rainforest. Here you can spot some of the local wildlife including monkeys, caiman, turtles and macaws. Here you can go swimming with pink dolphins or pirahna fishing.

Lake Titicaca

On the windswept altiplano, Lake Titicaca, stretches out with is famously still and brightly reflective waters. The lake is sacred to the Quechua and Aymara people.

  • Take a hydrofoil to explore the islands and the towns along its shore from the Bolivian side.
  • Take a trip to Sun Island with its past Inca fountains and grazing llama
  • Visit traditional local communities
  • Explore the pilgrimage town of Copacabana
  • Take a trip to the Tiahuanaco site with its giant monoliths carved with snakes, scales and symbols which demonstrates the remarkable archaeological and agricultural superiority that defined this pre-Columbian empire.

Sucre and Potosi

Sucre is the constitutional capital of Bolivia. It is A UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a glorious whitewashed colonial centre of winding narrow streets lined with ornate churches, wooden balconies and colourful hand-painted tiles. Sucre’s has the world’s largest collection of dinosaur tracks embedded in a huge limestone rock nearby.

Three hours from Sucre, melancholy Potosí was once South America’s richest city. Now, sadly, it is a shadow of its former self with grand colonial houses crumbling on wide boulevards. The dominating Cerro Rico (Rich Hill) was where the silver mines bought great wealth for the Spanish at the cost of many lives.

  • Visits to the mines, not for the faint-hearted
  • The Casa de la Moneda, museum
  • The church and monastery of San Francisco, the oldest church in Bolivia, with the best views.

Salar de Uyuni / Salt Flats

A gap year highlight. This isolated town of Uyuni is the starting point from where you can explore the southern altiplano, this is a stark and surreal landscape. This is a challenging yet captivating region, starting at Uyuni’s ‘train cemetery” where the skeletons of steam locomotives rust in the sun. Salar de Uyuni is a blinding sheet of white, the world’s largest salt-lake, where a vast sea of salt contrasts vividly with the often pure blue skies. Sip coca tea on an island covered in giant cacti then take a dip in a natural thermal pool overlooked by volcanoes. Further south, you will pass strange rock formations that rise up from the Dali desert, mud geysers and red, blue, green and white lagoons full of flamingos.

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  • Great for those who want to just backpack, hostel hop

Want the low down on more things Bolivia?

Become a member of Leap VIP and access unlimited consultations with us, travel tips, travel advice, safety information and access to our global network of hosts. Use this Bolivia itinerary as a springboard to planning onward travel, all of which we can help you arrange.

Become a VIP member

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