Bite Size Travel: Highlands of Bolivia

14 Oct 2015

Get lost in the moon like terrain of the highlands of Bolivia

Why you should go?


If you’re an admirer of rugged landscapes and dramatic terrains, this is an experience unlike any other. Accessible via two main points: Uyuni, near the much loved slat flats in southern Bolivia. The other is Tupiza, a small town reminiscent of something from a Clint Eastwood western not far from the Argentinian border. The latter also being the slightly less touristy starting off point and a definite town with character. 

Accessing the highlands requires jumping on a 4×4 tour with one of many operators competing for your business in either town. It also means spending a varying amount of nights (up to 4) cruising the vast and moon like terrains, the majority of which are without roads. It’s an adventure, no doubt. What you’ll see is a treat for the senses. From Tupiza, the first thing you’ll set your gaze up are eroded rock formations of the Quebrada de Palala in multiple shades of red and pink. 

Bolivian highlands near Tupiza

Most of the altiplano (or highlands) are inside the Eduardo Avaroa National Park. And if you haven’t been to the Moon in this lifetime, this may well be the closest you’ll get. Sandy coloured hills covered in tufts of long grass that move in waves with breezes, endless plains of sand backed by snow capped volcanoes, lakes in shades of pink, green, yellow, white and black, all due to algae which is the only thing that survives in the lakes at these heights. You’ll regularly find large numbers of Flamingos wading in those shallow pink coloured lakes which just happen to be surrounded by a pack of Llamas – surreal scenes. You’ll also cross completely barren parts of land with towering rock formations and come across hot springs and sulphuric mud spitting geysers. It’s a kind of natural Las Vegas that has the ability to induce sensory overload of the very best kind.

Don’t underestimate the elevation of 4200 to 5400m you will be traveling at. Make sure you bring spare batteries for your cameras as some things we take for granted in the western world, like electricity, are certainly not taken for granted in the altiplano.

BOLIVIA. Laguna Amarga, Eduardo Avaroa


Best for:

Adventure. Pretending you’ve left earth and have gone to the Moon. Having your mind blown. Llamas and Flamingoes. Seeing Llamas feed off tiny green plants that grow in between rocks and get a little high off these. Seeing huge amounts of Flamingos in mirror flat lakes that make for some of the most incredible photography opportunities. Photos to make your friends very jealous. Multi coloured (pink, green, blue, white, yellow – yes, seriously!) lakes with snow capped volcanoes as backdrops. Meeting some of Bolivia’s gentle indigenous population and getting to spend time with them.

Best to get to:

International flights go to Bolivia’s major hub of La Paz. Tours of the altiplano (highlands) can be booked direct from La Paz, from Uyuni or Tupiza. One recommended tour operator is La Torre tours, who operate offer a large variety of tours of different lengths. Alternatively, an overnight 10 hr bus ride is the way to get from La Paz to Uyuni. One reputable bus company which is aimed at international travellers and has a good standard is Todo Tourismo. Buses have a executive style comfortable seat that fold back to a semi bed. These will allow at least for an attempt at sleep in the often bumpy ride on partly unsealed roads between the towns.

The Uyuni salt flats at sunrise

Bolivia, Slat Flats

Flamingos feeding on algae

Bolivia, Altiplano, Flamingos

Llamas living the high life

Bolivia, highlands, Llamas

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