The Uyuni Salt Flats are among my top 5 places in the entire world, although you could say they're of another world, because from the time you leave the town of Uyuni until when you return four days later you won't stop seeing incredible things like island of cactus in a sea of salt, a highway over a mirror of water, cold geysers, hot geysers, petrified forests, colored lagoons of green, blue, red, yellow and the thousands of flamingos that live there, curious animals like the viscacha, and the imposing sight of active volcanos over 5,000 meters high. In winter, the temperatures can sink to -20 degrees, but you still have to wear sunblock because the reflections off the salt are so strong
The Laguna Colorada is one of a number of lagoons of different colors, green, yellow,and red, that there are in the Salar de Uyuni caused by different minerals found in the area. In the lagoon there are hundreds of pink flamingos that live and feed on the food that they find there in suspension in mineral waters
Sun Island is beautiful and the journey from one end to another is a challenge to the senses, your body will say "enooouuughh!". The road is 11 km, hilly, and 4000 m above sea level. If you're not used to the altitude or you're an athlete, it gets difficult in places. The Huayna Picchu and all the other experiences we had on our trip were like strolls in the park! The challenge is worth it for the scenery, though. Lake Titicaca on the island seems much bluer than elsewhere. You reach the island by taking a small boat from Copacabana. However, for me Sun Island seemed extremely commercial and exploited by tourism, which I didn't feel elsewhere in Bolivia. Everything has been sold, even the stones that were supposedly Inca ruins. I hope they were not. In addition, the ruins here aren't well maintained, and people climb over them, nobody says anything to them.
I was in Tiwanaku in November 2007. I went with high expectations, I had read a lot about the sun gate and the Inca rituals which used to be performed at the site. I was stopping in La Paz, and I went with two friends who lived there temporarily. We drove, leaving the Alto was difficult, but once we found our way it was a lot easier. Upon entering, we found a sign that said: "The capital of Tiwanaku empire in classical times was a densely centralised state controlled by top artisans and farmers who supplied a variety of products harvested from different ecological countries." They are still excavating, and I watched how women perform the tasks that are more suitable for men. How they built the walls with stones of different sizes and how they all fit perfectly was really impressive including the blocks for the sun gate and statues. My photos are on flickr and can be seen at http://www.Flickr.Com/photos/celi-online/sets/72157603740144253/
Being a train buff like me, it'll make you really sad to visit an abandoned train cemetery like the one just outside Uyuni, but this place has a beauty and special magnetism, because the desolation isn't only found in these rusty abandoned machines that aren't able to function to carry passengers or freight anymore, but they're also there in a never ending graveyard where it seems like a road to the end of the world.
Our Lady of Peace is the administrative capital of Bolivia and the highest capital in the world! The colonial city that is at the heart of the present city, is lower than other neighborhoods. The streets are much like those of other colonial cities in South America. But because of its mountainous topology, here it was harder to organize the city into blocks that were perpendicular, as in Mexico or Chile . The streets are crooked, winding, go up and down and the air becomes increasingly difficult to breathe. It is a cheap place where you can sleep for 3 euros per night, eating for 1 euro and most visits require no payment. There is a residential zone which is nice, but it's quiet, no activity and not much to see, more than lovely contemporary houses. The main street is named the Prado. In the colonial center, there are many well-preserved houses with wooden balconies and painted in bright colors, is very beautiful. Come to the witches market, to know a little more about Aymara sorcery!
By the sixteenth century, the city of Potosi was considered the largest industrial complex in the world. Silver was extracted with a fairly advanced mine within a couple of miles from downtown. Now the site has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, the area includes industrial monuments of the Cerro Rico, where silver was mined, which then led to Spain to finance wars and life the crown, the colonial city, the church of San Lorenzo, and some houses that remain from this period, of which the mitayo Quarter, where the workers lived. It is very impressive to visit the mines in Potosi because here you will see people still working as they did four centuries ago, working with little security, very difficult conditions and extremely high stress. Potosi is said to be the highest city in the world, is 4824 meters high. The Cerro Rico overlooks the city and is a mountain. It now has very little money because money was taken away for centuries! With work continuously more scarce, the people have been suffering unemployment and poverty. 1546 was the city's most prosperous time when it had more than 200,000 people living there. In those times it was a major city in South America.
These are photos from two separate visits where the sky's colour can be seen. The weather is sunny and cold in June, and cloudy, but not too cold in late September. On the second visit we had the pleasure of renting a little both with three other travellers to get to an island where, legend has it, the ancient shamans performed their rituals.
Amboro Tours is a tour operator that directly operates to all destinations within the region of Santa Cruz. They have specialized tours in the Amboro National Park, the Noel Kempf Mercado and Kaa iya. Besides nature tours, they offer tours to Jesuit de Chiquitos Missions, the Route of Che and others.
Most travelers arriving in Potosí go into the mines to see the miners working. In some city streets there are travel agencies that offer tours of up to 7 hours underground. They also show pictures in the window which, just by the sight of the mines, made me feel really claustrophobic and like I was going to faint. However, it isn´t necessary to go down to the depths of the earth to see what this mining city depends on. Just a few blocks away from the center of Potosi is a very modern tower (the only one in the city and visible from anywhere). You can climb to its highest floor, where there is also a unique revolving restaurant, to see the mines near the city and the mining waste, which is not toxic.
I visited this spot almost a year ago but the highlight was the guided tour of the interior of the Mint. I found spectacular rich history has only one thing that I could imagine if I would visit Potosi.
Although it seems hard to believe, there is an island in the middle of a salt flat, surrounded by tens of kms of salt, almost as far as the eye can see. Fishermen's Island is almost 4,000 ms above sea level, and is full of giant cactus plants. They can grow up to 12 meters high and can live for 1200 years. An amazing landscape in the middle of another even more amazing landscape.
Murillo Square is the main square in La Paz. It was named that in honor of Pedro Domingo Murillo ve lived from 1759 to 1810. He was a Bolivian patriot ve was a precursor to Bolivian Independence. Currently it's in the heart of the city. In the center of the square a monument to immortalize the martyr was erected. Nearby, is the presidential palace, the seat of the Congress and the Cathedral.
The San Francisco Church is situated in La Paz, in the plaza of the same name, dating back to the 16th century. Its architectural style is representative of the mestizo (mixed Spanish), which combines Spanish and pre-Columbian art. It is a very noisy and I liked the contrast of going inside of the church which gives visitors peace and quiet.
Near the southern part, and the most high-end part, of La Paz, you'll find the Valle de la Luna, which is a kind of valley with cannons that can be traveled in one hour. Here we can also appreciate rocky peaks around chimneys and cacti. The visit seemed very nice, aunuqe the route is a bit short.
If you want to see it in full, you'll have to organise yourself carefully and walk briskly, but it's a good idea to do so, as the corn/pineapple roasts are to die for, and a blessing from the shaman can't hurt.
You have to explore the city of Sucre with sunglasses because the colonial buildings are so white that they sparkle. The city is abundant with religious architecture, like the old San Lazaro church from the 16th century. Other churches of note are La Merced, with a beautiful chapel, and the convent of St. Francis Xavier. Sucre was the seat of the Archbishop of La Plata (Chuquisaca), and the home to St. Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca, the Supreme Court and the seat of government of the Republic until the late 19th century. To admire how preserved the historic centre is, with its tiled roofs, you have to climb to the upper area of the city by a seemingly endless staircase.
The Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo is the full name of the cathedral of the constitutional capital of Bolivia. It was built by Fray Diego de Porres during the times of the Spanish Viceroy Toledo. It was rebuilt in 1770 by Bishop Ramon de Grassy, and during the time of Marshal Andrés de Santa Cruz (1838), the old church was replaced by a new eclectic style church. This new church was designed by French architect Philippe Bestres. In the cathedral the most important things are its wooden vaults and the painted decoration over them.