Geographically – and some would say metaphorically – the heart and soul of the country, the Central Highlands are a mix of lively urban centers and vast pastoral and mountainous regions dotted with remote villages. Gorgeous whitewashed Sucre is where independence was declared in 1825.
La Paz is dizzying in every respect, not only for its well-publicized altitude (3660m), but for its quirky beauty. Most travelers enter this extraordinary city via the flat sparse plains of the sprawling city of El Alto, an approach that hides the sensational surprises of the valley below. The first glimpse of La Paz will, literally, take your breath away.
Santa Cruz & Gran Chiquitania
The Bolivian Oriente is not what you generally see in Bolivian tourist brochures. This tropical region, the country’s most prosperous, has a palpable desire to differentiate itself from Bolivia’s traditional highland image. The region’s agriculture boom in recent years brought about a rise in income and a standard of living unequaled by any other Bolivian province.
The Amazon Basin is one of Bolivia’s largest and most mesmerizing regions. The rainforest is raucous with wildlife and spending a few days roaming the sweaty jungle is an experience you’re unlikely to forget. But it’s not only the forests that are enchanting: it’s also the richness of the indigenous cultures, traditions and languages that exist throughout the region.
South Central Bolivia & the Chaco
Generally seen by travelers as a way station to several international borders, this region of southern Bolivia sees relatively few tourists. The culture gravitates towards neighboring Argentina and dreams of being closer to faraway Andalucía. Famed for its dances, wines and Mediterranean feel, Tarija especially is worth a visit in its own right.
Everything – and everyone – that sits beside this impressive body of water, from the traditional Aymará villages to the glacier-capped peaks of the Cordillera Real, seems to fall into the background in contrast with the shimmering opal jewel set into the spare altiplano earth.
Oruro is dirty, crowded, the food sucks and there’s not much to do outside of Carnaval season. Yet, there’s something about this gritty place, the largest berg in the region, that endears it to visitors. A miners’ city that takes no slack from anyone, it makes for an oddly atavistic experience that some may find intoxicating.
The conquistador never found El Dorado, the legendary city of gold, but they did get their hands on Potosí and its Cerro Rico, a ‘Rich Hill’ full of silver. A quote from the city’s first coat of arms sums up the Spanish bonanza: I am rich Potosí, the treasure of the world… And the envy of kings.