Bolivia is about as third world as Latin America gets, but it is also one of the most amazing countries in the world. If you are tough enough to handle a few bedbugs and bumpy roads, Bolivia will be a country you will not soon forget.
Throughout history Companies and countries have reaped this country of its resources. Recently Socialist president Evo Morales has attempted to reverse this trend by nationalizing private companies. This makes Bolivia a good country to travel in, but a bad one to invest in.
Geographically Bolivia is about as varied as a country can be. The majority of the population lives on the Altiplano, a massive mesa that varies between 3000 and 5000 meters above sea level in elevation. The eastern part of the country is a great plain known as the Chaco, which continues on into Paraguay, Brazila and Argentina. And in the far north in the Bolivian Amazon
Santa Cruz del la Sierra
Located kms from the Argentine border and 3160 meters above sea level, Tupiza is an excellent spot to stop to acclimatize to the change in altitude before heading higher on the altiplano. It is near here where US-exiled Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid died in 1908.
A miserable town on the windswept altiplano. Uyuni exists only because of the railroad and the nearby salt flats. Suffering from a terminal lack of water, most hotels shut of the water during the day and late at night. But if you are in Southern Bolivia, chances are you will stay here at least one night. Other than the Salar de Uyuni there is an excellent street market and Train Cemetery, a must for train buffs.
A city with a huge and not always so happy history, events in Potosi not only shaped the outcome of Bolivia’s history but also much of the rest of South America as well.
Tours of the mines
A tour of the mines is not for the claustrophobic. This is the real deal, more adventure than tourism. The mines are fully operational and carts laden with ore will wiz past you, sometimes with little warning. Having said that it is an unforgettable experience.
Be forewarned, travel by anything other than airplane in Bolivia can be very uncomfortable. In many cases there is no real first class option. Buses are usually dirty and poorly maintained and almost never leave nor arrive on time. Legroom for anyone over 5 1/2 feet tall will be insufficient, and riding in the back of the bus one’s kidneys can expect to feel every bump.
There is a train network in Bolivia, but only the Villazon / Oruru line arrives or leaves anywhere near schedule. The trains, although painstakingly slow, tend to be more comfortable than buses, but that doesn’t really mean they are really comfortable either.