Bolivia: one stop on my epic South American honeymoon
Chloe Regan, Client
Chloe Regan gives us an insight into her unforgettable honeymoon with cazenove+loyd in South America, during which she travelled around Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay with her husband, Archie. Here, she shares her travel guide to Bolivia:
I fell in love with Bolivia’s unique culture, scenery and people. The country is home to the highest capital city in the world, La Paz, situated around 3,650m above sea level. It also houses the largest salt flat in the world, where you can literally see the curvature of the earth.
You get a real sense of ‘discovery’ when visiting Bolivia, due to the low percentage of tourists versus other South American countries. If you compare the figures, 400,000 tourists visit Bolivia per year compared to around 3.8 million visitors to Peru. This number, however, is increasing year on year, so if you want to get there before the crowds, get booking!
When I would tell friends or family of all the places we were visiting, most people (especially my mum) would say, “be careful in Bolivia”. But our experience of the country was far from the fears expressed by those at home.
We learnt how the current President, Evo Morales, is treasured by the locals, having vastly improved the country during the course of his presidency. The country’s economy has been growing at around 4.9% each year; the number of critically poor has rapidly decreased and infant mortality, which was at 11% 10 years ago, is now at less than 1%.
We crossed the Bolivian border from Peru after a two-hour drive around Lake Titicaca. We were taken from the town of Copacabana – a great place to stay – on a boat across the lake to Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun). Here, we climbed the Grand Inca Stairs to an amazing vista where we had a dreamy lunch.
As I mentioned earlier, La Paz lies at 3,650m above sea level and, interestingly, the more desired houses are at bottom of the valley in favour of the lower altitude over the views. As the city is situated in a valley within the Andes, there was no way of building an underground system, so instead, they built a cable-car transport system that allows people to get across the city in the sky and take in the beautiful scenery.
The salt flats: Salar de Uyuni
The salt flats have been on my bucket list for years, so when we started planning our honeymoon with cazenove+loyd, the flats were number one on my list.
We spent two blissful nights in an airstream camper van, exploring the salt flats, with no phone signal and only each other for company. It is by far the most unique and breathtaking sunset I have ever seen. We were lucky enough to be taken by our guide to some areas of water for incredible reflection shots. This was particularly special as the wind carries the rainwater over the flats, particularly at night, so water can be tricky to find.
While staying in the campers, you are accompanied by an amazing chef who cooks up some seriously unreal meals using local Bolivia quinoa (very millennial). We were very spoilt with the delicious meals as well as the site having a fully stocked bar. There are hotels available to stay at the start of the salt near the airport; these can be a bit touristy but are more economical. We drove just an hour away from them to where the campers were, and didn’t see anyone else for two days.
We visited one of the little ‘islands’ on the salt where we met the now owner of the island. The story goes that he left his wife many years ago and just walked out onto the salt, never to return again. He stumbled across one of the isles and started to live there under its harsh conditions. Truck drivers heading across the salt from Bolivia to Peru, and tourist cars exploring the flats, started to notice there was someone living there and began to drop off food and water for him, originally perhaps much to his despair. However, today he is the owner of a thriving tourist attraction, where he charges per visit and even runs a little shop. Also, to brighten up the story a little, he is now remarried with children, who I believe live in the airport town, not on the island.
The coca leaf
In the western world, the coca leaf is only really seen for its illegal properties – when we hear coca, we automatically associate it with Cocaine. However, it has many beneficial health qualities when chewed or drunk in a tea. These include helping with altitude sickness, acting as a painkiller and helping upset stomachs.
I had no idea about any of this prior to visiting the country, and being an avid fan of crime and drug-trade documentaries, I had many questions for our guide on the topic. It was so interesting learning that Bolivia is the biggest grower of coca leaves in the world. Colombia is generally thought of as the biggest producer, but in reality, it is not; instead, it is just where the coca is mostly transported through to reach the Western world.