The Road Trip Guide To Bolivia

South America is full of possibilities. All across the continent, there are areas of both natural and manmade beauty waiting to be discovered; the only missing part of the puzzle is you.

Flecked by mountain ranges and scrubland, the country is brimming with treasures. By taking a journey inland, you can begin to understand a little more about the wild beauty of the place. The best way to see Bolivia up close and personal is to hit the road, so make sure you plan your travel trail before you go. Riding through the mountains and village after charming village, you will see a different side of the country than you might have expected; one that is raw, warm, and gleaming with discoveries.

While navigation can be quite a challenge in Bolivia thanks to occasionally poor driving conditions (during the rainy season, landslides can cause road closures — be sure to check the Bolivian road authority website in advance of your travel plans), you can follow any number of its winding road systems in order to experience the country. Heading to the Andes roads might be your first port of call and, indeed, this rugged and wild track system can give way to some truly stunning sights. Crawling upwards into the mountain ranges, the roads of the Andes are not to be taken lightly, and traversing them requires a great deal of patience and nerve. However, following them will take you into the heart of some of the country’s oldest societies, giving you a glimpse of 16th century Spanish culture in the process.

With all of that slow travel planned, you might want to set yourself up at a luxury hotel to offset the bumps and bruises you gather on the road. Along the dusty Andes paths, there are a number of worthy sights; the trick is to pick one that works with your route. One of the prime sleeping spots on the road is Hotel Museo Cayara, located in the site of an old fortress. Thanks to its ancient history, the place is a treasure trove of national finds and stepping into any room in the old house is akin to journeying back in time. It’s easy to rest well here during the night, which is important; the open road awaits.

Along the winding path, you might stumble across the city of Sucre. Befit with whitewashed walls and colonial architecture, it is one of the most elegant cities in South America and is well worth a closer look. Clean, crisp, and eternally bright, the city seems to rise out of the skies, sitting at the very top of the world. The ambience is stately and aristocratic, but this is sharply juxtaposed by a bustling student population, firmly tethering the place to the 21st century.

If you journey further down the road, you will come face to face with Tarabuco, a traditional market town that is worlds away from Sucre’s ageless class. The landscape from the town might seem harsh, but is well worth a visit. Set back from the high peaks of the Andes, the town is raw and dry, demonstrating the brute power of Bolivia’s climate. If you’re journeying here, try to get to the town on market day. With practically every member of the community selling some kind of local good, it’s a treasure trove just waiting to be leapt into.

Continuing further along the road, you will find yourself on the winding path to Potosí. Balancing scale and simplicity, the town feels like it is made up of contradictions and is well worth being seen up close. Like the other towns, Potosí is surrounded by the looming Andes, giving the town a reddish, rustic hue. Once the largest and richest city in the world, it is now a postcard of times gone by, offering glimpses of its colorful history to all who enter.

A country of contrasts, Bolivia is best explored by hitting the road. Equip yourself with an International Driving Permit — a requirement in Bolivia — and explore its hidden gems; you will be more than rewarded.

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Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.