With 6,500 m between the lowest and highest point in a country mixing towering mountain ranges, endless deserts and lush, tropical rain forests, Bolivia truly is full of spectacular contrasts. Home to just 11 million people spread across one of the least densely populated countries in the world, there are sights, experiences and adventures to be had in every corner of Bolivia.
As an expat living in Bolivia for over a year now, I have made it a priority to get out and see as much of this amazing country as possible. Based on my experiences, as well as in conjunction with locals who have lived in Bolivia their entire lives, here is the only guide you will ever need to explore and encounter the 7 best treasures on offer.
In Part 1, we discover the first 4 destinations...
7. bB Headquarters in Cochabamba
To kick off the list, we start with the 'City of Eternal Spring' in Cochabamba, home to our amazing bB Team. While our artisans are predominantly based in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, Cochabamba is where the driving force behind the beyondBeanie brand is located.
With the giant, 40 m tall 'Cristo de la Concordia' overlooking the entire city, Cochabamba is the 4th largest in Bolivia, and experiences a lovely, 'spring-like' climate all year round. Also home to 'La Cancha' - one of the largest open air markets in the world - and known as the food capital of Bolivia, Cochabamba serves as both a great place to kick off your adventure, as well as the perfect place to catch your breath.
If you ever happen to pass through, please do come and say hi!
Fancy a drop of wine or local spirit produced at the world's highest vineyards? Welcome to Tarija! Palm-lined squares, tight streets, laid-back feels and lively restaurants, Tarija has just the right amount of cosmopolitan and sophistication. But let's be honest, the local beverages are where it's really at here.
Grown at altitudes of between 1,600 m and 3,000 m above sea level, Bolivia's wine producing region in and around the southern city of Tarija is the highest in the world. Specializing in French-style grape varietals including Tannat, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, this region is also home to Bolivia's national spirit, Singani.
Produced using the muscat grape, Singani is the highest distilled spirit in the world, and is fast gaining international intrigue for its fragrant aroma and soft, mellow taste. And with the average bottle priced at between just $10 to $15, the value for money is spectacular.
At a breathtaking 4,000 m above sea level, Potosi is one of South America’s most important colonial cities, and is a must for those looking to add a little history to their Bolivian experience.
In the 16th century, the city and its region prospered enormously following the discovery of the biggest silver lodes in the Cerro de Potosí mines. Within three decades Potosi's population jumped from a couple of thousand to more than 150,000, becoming both the largest and richest city in the New World.
Fast forward to today and Potosí still retains its colonial charm. Narrow, windy streets pave way for grand churches, ornate architecture and vibrant city squares. The locals are relaxed, easy going, and, as per the majority of Latin America, love their football. Why not attend a match at the 32,000 capacity main stadium; the highest situated stadium in the world, it will take your breath away. Literally.
4. La Paz
Hectic hustle and bustle combines with unique, magical charm in La Paz, the highest capital city in the world. Elevated at 3,650 m above sea level and being overlooked (yes, overlooked) by the enormous triple-peaked Mt Illimani, La Paz literally surrounds you.
A chaotic urban jungle with a subway in the sky that transports you from north to south (a subtle decline of around 1,000 m) before your altitude pill has even kicked in, La Paz features a stunning mix of indigenous domination and cobblestone mazes infused with modern international restaurants and posh hotels popping up around every corner.
And for those seeking even more pulse-firing adventure, why not take a trip down the Camino a Los Yungas, or the more notoriously named Death Road. A 1,200 m descent of windy, cliff-dropping road transitioning from cool Altiplano to lush rain forest, it has become a popular bucket list adventure for thrill seekers all over the world.
And with that, we reach the end of Part 1. Stay tuned next week for my top 3 things to do in Bolivia, where we veer away from general cities and focus on a trio of truly remarkable natural wonders.
You'd be 'loco' to miss it!
Written by Steve Connors
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