Bolivia Backpacking Guide!

Updated February 17th, 2021.

DRINK! Mate de Coca. You’re high up in the Andean Mountains so altitude sickness may make you a bit sluggish your first couple of days. Drink a couple cups of this tea laden with coca leaves – guaranteed to help clear your head.

EAT! Cuy. We may think of guinea pigs as cuddly pets, but in Bolivia, they fry them up and eat them while they’re hot and crispy!

BUY! All sorts of local concoctions. Anything from hangover cures, aphrodisiacs, love potions and altitude sickness cures – Bolivia is a place to (re)discover herbal remedies for any and all ailment!

DO! Rituals. Make an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) on top of a mountain with a shaman for a ceremony that will last close to two hours!

SPEAK! Quechua. A native South American language, spoken by the majority of the Andean-dwelling population of Bolivia. Also known as ‘Ruma Simi’, or people’s language. Today, the language is often inter-mingled with Spanish.

Backpacking Bolivia Guide

An Introduction to Backpacking Bolivia!

A country that will push you to the extremes more so than most. Slightly rattling, entirely rough around the edges, raw, tangible, and an explosion of ‘grab life by the horns’ experiences.

Travel can be rough, with bumpy roads and far from luxury hostels – while English is spoken little. Be prepared for a challenging, yet rewarding backpacking experience in what is considered the poorest country in South America.

The Andes Mountains set the stage in this interior land-locked country. Expect to find incredible natural scenery, an enchanting (and totally unique) local culture and an openness about life that will consume you entirely. One of the most captivating aspects of Bolivia is the large presence of indigenous populations infused within more modern settings.

Expect to find ‘witch markets’ tucked down side streets in the capital of La Paz, Quechua, traditional Aymara ethnic groups living on the islands of Lake Titicaca, and cuy for sale alongside French fries and pizza in many towns! 

Come inquisitive, but expect to leave even more perplexed than when you started. Bolivia is not a place to find answers, but a place guaranteed to stir up even more curiosity.

Check out this Bolivia itinerary to give you some ideas for planning your trip!

Check out our Travel Guides to Bolivia…

The World’s Largest Salt Flats

Located in the south of the country, near the Tunupa volcano, 3000 metres above sea level, you will find the unbelievable Uyuni salt flats – the largest salt flats on earth, stretching out over 11,000 square kilometres.

An other-worldly landscape where the land and sky seem to merge into one – this is one travel experience in Bolivia that you will not want to miss! Read about seeing the salt flats on a tour or about hiring a car and exploring them independently.

Jeep on the salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia.
The salt flats of Uyuni – a surreal place.

The city of La Paz – The World’s Highest Capital City

A city of immeasurable character and colourful street markets abundant with fruits, vegetables, meats, traditional clothing and everything you can imagine.

A meal will knock you back around $1.50 USD in La Paz, one of the cheapest cities in South America – and every meal comes with rice, pasta and potatoes – guaranteed to fill you up!

Head to Wild Rover Backpacker Hostel for a taste of (rather incongruous) Irish charm and homely backpacker party atmosphere – before heading out to tackle the rest of the country’s riches.

A market place in La Paz, Bolivia.
A marketplace in La Paz, Bolivia.

Death Road & Beyond!

Heralded as the World’s most dangerous road, North Yungas Road, generally known as ‘Death Road’ links La Paz to Coroico in the Yungas rainforest region. It also goes by the names Camino de las Yungas, Camino de la Muerte, Grove’s Road and Fate Road.

At just 61 kilometres in length, the road is renowned for being incredibly dangerous taking an estimated 200-300 lives each year due to its sharp curves and mountain precipices.

Here’s a road hardly wide enough to fit one lane of traffic, mud, fog, hairpin bends – you name it! The road has strangely become a major tourist attraction with mountain bikers and thrill-seekers daring to ride its deadly curves. Be careful which agency you go with though, not everyone has a good reputation for safety. We recommend booking with the incredible Bolivian Bike Junkies here! 

Death Road, Bolivia.
Death Road, Bolivia.

Beyond this, there is much more to Bolivia! From the amazing ‘Isla del Sol’ and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world (3,800 metres above sea level) to the unusual moonscape of Vale de la Luna – backpackers will discover a diverse landscape, friendly indigenous people and quirky personalities.

Don’t miss the famous holiday, Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead or All Souls Day) in November for an interesting mix of cultural ceremony. Read more articles about Bolivia here.

5 Random Facts about Bolivia

  1. The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the largest deposit of salt in the world.
  2. Bolivia has over 36 native cultures and 30 official languages.
  3. Bolivia is the location of the only Bolivianita (ametrine) mine in the world!
  4. Bolivia is ranked as one of the top ten exporters of coffee and cocoa in the world- chocolate and coffee it doesn’t get much better than that.
  5. Bolivia is home to two of the world’s highest cities – La Paz and Potosi.

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