Bolivia, the wild west of South America
Bolivia… The land of the outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the land of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the land of extremes. From the steaming Amazon to the freezing Alti-plano you will find the largest salt lake on earth, the smallest bird, the highest navigable lake, the biggest bird, the largest sculptured rock, the most amount of dinosaur-footprints, the longest operating silver mine, the largest indigenous population and the most dangerous road in the world.
And all of them are waiting for you to visit them.
Although Bolivia seems a bit scary, it happens to be the safest South American country. Compared worldwide you have nothing to fear except some petty crime in the big cities (not nice if you happen to be the victim), but if you use your brain and avoid hanging around at the bus-station in the middle of the night you have nothing more to worry about than a road-block or a flat tire.
The climate is challenging. In the Amazon basin it is steaming hot and the rain pours down from October to April. The Chaco is just hot. On the Alti-plano (highland) you will be freezing, but it only rains, a bit, from December to March. In the foothills of the Andes (where we live) it is eternally spring and a bit rainy from November to March.
With some 9 million people and over 1 million square kilometers (3½ times the size of Great Britain), Bolivia has around 9 people/km². Most of them live in the 4 major cities.
The north and east, Amazon, is mainly rainforest at an average altitude of 200 to 400 mtr. (650 to 1300 ft.)
The south-east is called the Chaco and consists of very dry savannah and bush. The altitude is the same as the Amazon.
The south-west is Alti-plano. A high mountain plateau at 4,000 mtr (13,000 ft.) with mountain peaks up to 6,000 meters (19,500ft).
It houses the largest salt-flats in the world (11,000 km²) called Salar de Uyuni and is surrounded by volcanoes and geysers.
In between the lowlands and the highlands is a stretch of hills and valleys averaging from 1,000 to 3,000 mtr. (3,300 to 9,800 ft.)
The Rio Grande, and all other rivers north of it, end up in the Rio Amazon. Southern rivers end in the Rio de la Plata.
There are two international airports: La Paz which is located on the Alti-plano at 4.000 meters (13,000 ft.) and Santa Cruz which is a lot warmer at an altitude of only 400 meters (1,300 ft).
It is a good idea to get used to the altitude slowly (to prevent altitude sickness) by landing at Santa Cruz and work your way up gradually.
To help you plan your own tour we made a small table with interesting destinations and their altitudes in meters and feet.