ACROSS CENTRAL BOLIVIA (WEST TO EAST).

FIRST PART: PUNO (PERU) – COCHABAMBA

This route crosses the country for its Ecuador from one end to the other leaving behind landscapes and populations of all colors. In the western zone we have the Andes and the altiplano, then the yungas or high jungle, and finally, to the east, the jungle... Some of the most interesting points of the western part are the following:

 

  • Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), Lake Titicaca

  • La Paz and surroundings

  • Carretera de la Muerte (Death Road) and Coroico

  • Cochabamba

  • Torotoro National Park

Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), Lake Titicaca

This legendary lake in the department of La Paz is a must-see for anyone who comes to know Bolivia. More than 4000 meters high, this huge mirror of water extends as if trying to merge with the sky. The tranquility and energy emanating from its waters and lands are unmatched, as well as the authenticity of its locals. To get to Isla del Sol, you only have to go to the port of Copacabana, from where the boats depart. Once on the island, make the most of this unique gift that can be explored on foot. In addition to its peace, you will discover some other archaeological secret.

 

You can also visit other small islands floating on the Titicaca.

La Paz and surroundings

The capital of the homonymous department and seat of government (only legislative and executive power, Sucre retains the judicial) is a diamond in the rough. It is indeed something unique. A huge city at 4000 meters (the highest capital in the world) that enjoys an amazing cultural heritage (indigenous and colonial). As if this were not enough, it is relatively close to many points of interest in the country (Lake Titicaca, Coroico, Oruro, Sajama NP, Cochabamba).

 

Things to do:

 

  • Stroll through the streets enjoying its buildings and its people. Highlights: Plaza Murillo (or Plaza de Armas), the Government Palace (also known as Palacio Quemado), the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Temple and Convent of San Francisco, the bohemian neighborhood of Sopocachi and its mound (good views).

  • “Climb” to El Alto by cable car (the longest and highest cable air transportation system in the world) to get a great panoramic view of the city with the imposing Nevado Illimani (6400 meters) and the rest of the mountain range guarding the city.

  • Browse the wonderful markets.

  • Visit some museum. There are many museums (art, history, indigenous roots, etc), but, given its originality, I would highlight the Museum of Musical Instruments (incredible exhibition of local and world instruments) and the Coca Museum (focused on the importance of this plant in the Andean culture, mainly).

  • Excursions around: Valley of the Moon (10 km from La Paz), Lake Titicaca, Coroico through Death Road, Tiwanaku (ruins of Tiwanacota culture that represent the most important archaeological site in the country, 70 km west from La Paz), climb a mountain (like Huayna Potosí). It is full of places to suit everyone’s tastes!

Death Road and Coroico

This road once frequented by many vehicles (especially trucks) is today closed to traffic due to the high number of accidents (hence its name), but paradoxically has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. It is a downhill bike ride from the highlands to the Yungas. If you manage to survive you will have witnessed some incredible scenery and, above all, you will have experienced one of the most intense emotions of your life. There are many agencies in La Paz offering this tour, taking you and your bike all the way up to the top by van. Try to do it with a good one (not the cheapest), because nobody wants to have their brakes fail in a descent like this... I think it is also possible to do it on your own if you have your own bike.

 

The tour ends a few kilometers from Coroico, before returning to La Paz, but, since this is an interesting place to visit, you can stay there and walk to the town. Best of Coroico, northeast of the department of La Paz, is that you will experience the amazing Yungas. That is, the transition between the high Andes and the Amazon rainforest. This pretty village is in a valley immersed in a cloud subtropical landscape of wooded hillsides. There are several trails nearby for hike, which include waterfalls and hill ascents.

Cochabamba

In the center of the country at 2500 meters above sea level is this interesting and lively city (university city), capital of the department of the same name. It is one of the oldest cities in the country, with a colonial layout of beautiful buildings, squares and wide avenues. The nature of the surrounding area is remarkable, including several relatively close National Parks: Tunari, Carrasco and Torotoro (the latter not so close).

Torotoro National Park

About four hours south of Cochabamba, already in the department of Potosí (right on the border), is this interesting Park, a paradise for lovers of geology and paleontology. Its karstic caves, plateaus and mountains, spectacular canyons and, above all, the finds of dinosaur footprints and fossils (from the Mesozoic era) are calling out for some room on the travelers' agenda. On the other hand, it also features the Inca ruins of Llama Chaqui and cave paintings. The town itself worth a visit. A very different place to visit in Bolivia.

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