Bolivia Today

Bolivia is a virtual Shangri-la, land-locked in the heartland of South America. It's attempts to attract attention to its many points of interest, have been limited. This all ads up to Bolivia being a country full of adventure opportunities. Adventures that can be enjoyed in comfort, because the infrastructure is excellent.

Bolivia is a rare combination of undiscovered beauty and 5-star accommodations, with surprisingly low price tags. Visit Sucre, its as though you had been time-capsuled back to Spain of 400 years ago. The low-rise colonial buildings are white-washed yearly. It is surround serenity. The Missions of Chuquisaci built by a Swiss Jesuit in the 1500s are a remarkable collection of small churches that resemble Swiss pastry in their design abd decoration.

The Beni offers the most dense Amazon jungle on the continent, with thousands of species of flora and fauna Ancient ruins cover the country, a short drive from La Paz brings you to the spectacular ruins of pre-Inca Tiwanaku which 1,500 b.c. was the largest city in the Americas.

Visit sacred Lake Titicaca the highest navigable lake in the world (Bolivia also boasts the highest golf course and the highest ski resort).This beautiful lake rimmed with snow-capped Royal Andes range is home to the very first community named Copacabana. The lake's Island of the Sun is the legendary birthplace of the Inca empire. It was here that the omnipotent Inca God Viracocha created Manco Capac from the sun and Mama Ocllo from the moon. They were the Inca's Adam and Eve. The Island of the Sun has a charming little hotel at the top, overlooking spectacular scenery. The inca Utama hotel on the shore of the lake offers an extensive cultural complex including a celestial observatory, several museums, a replica of the trans-oceanic reed boat, RAA II, and much more. It is here one boards hydrofoils that smoothly fly across the lake at high speeds, taking you to the islands, and even on to Peru.

Then there's Potosi at the foot of Cerro Rico. In the 1500s Potosi was equal in size to London or Paris. Cerro Rico was the richest mountain in the world having produced thousands of tons of silver. The wealth of Potosi's yesterday, is today reflected in the mansions and cathedrals throughout the city.

These and other equally dramatic vistas throughout Bolivia can be enjoyed in comfort, in what is today known as soft adventure. La Paz ­ Points of interest include the Church of San Francisco, behind the church is the intriguing witch's market, with its colorful collections of holistic medicinal cures and amulets. Plaza Morillio is surrounded by government buildings. Calle Jaen is a charming, blocks long street of old colonial buildings. The Valley of the Moon is a wild landscape just outside the city limits. La Paz is gateway to Lake Titicaca. This enormous, 3.200 sq. mi. Lake has speedy hydrofoil trips to Copacabana, Island of the Sun, Island of the Moon, and to Peru. There are several hotels on the shoreline. Hotel Inca Utama offers a cultural center that includes museums, a replica of Raa II, a celestial observatory, and much more.

A short drive from La Paz takes you to Tiwanaku, the ruins of what was in 1500 B.C., the largest city in the Americas. Also near La Paz are the world's highest golf course and ski resort.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra is the country's financial and industrial center. The ultra-modern airport, Viru Viru, is a hub to many cities in South America's southern cone. From Santa Cruz, comfortable trips can be arranged to the Missions, Samaipata, the Noel Kempff National Park, Valley of the Volcanoes and several other places of interest. The Missions are a delightful collection of churches designed by a Swiss Jesuit, and they resemble Swiss pastry. Samaipata is a carved mountaintop from prehistoric times, overlooking valleys, and rivers far below. The jury is still out as to its purpose. The Valley of Volcanoes is a lush valley surrounded by mountain high stacks of deep red volcanic ash. Santa Cruz itself, is a delightful mix of colonial and cutting edge modern with all the comforts of a North American city.

Sucre is what you would expect of a small Spanish city 400 years ago. Buildings are low-rise, white-washed yearly and built centuries ago. The city boasts the oldest university in South America, the University of San Francisco de Xavier de Chuquisaca was finished in 1624. Recently an area of many dinosaur footprints were discovered at Calorcko, at the edge of town. Museums abound, including a church museum that features the Virgin of Guadalupe, a painting decorated with thousands of precious gems.

The Glorietta is a Moorish palace situated just outside of town. Side trips include Sunday market at Tarabuco, where many native groups dressed in their colorful tribal clothing congregate for a festive day of dancing and shopping in the local market for local goods. A bit farther down the road is Candelaria. This old hacienda has been in the Rojas family for many generations, and has been the setting for period movies. It is unchanged since the 1700s From Sucre it is a two and a half-hour spectacular drive over good roads to Potosi.

Potosi has been given the title Monument of the Americas and Historical World Heritage. In the 1500s it was as large a city as London or Paris. Situated at the foot of Cerro Rico, the mountain that has produced more wealth than any other, has been the source of thousands of tons of silver. It was then the wealthiest city in the world. Churches and colonial mansions reflect the spending sprees of the wealthy who shopped for furniture and fixtures in Paris. La Moneda, now a museum, was the first mint in the Americas, minting silver coins for many countries. The craftsmanship was so good it spawned a saying "Vale un Potosi". This translates to describing any worth while object or thought as being as valuable as a coin from Potosi. The central plaza sports a Statue Of Liberty. Trips into Cerro Rico takes one deep in the tunnels carved by slaves for hundred of years. It's a pretty spooky experience, but very interesting. From Potosi, trips to Uyuni, with its over 10,000 square km, it's the largest salt flats in the world. can be arranged. There you would see a hotel made of blocks of salt and other spectacular scenes. I've been exploring Bolivia for over 20 years and find it's variety of terrain fascinating. The lowlands of the east have some of the Amazon's most impenetrable jungles, with a vast number of species of wildlife, secluded tribes, cattle ranches, and the Missions.

Central Bolivia has agriculture, oil and natural gas wells, plus industry. It also produces small quantities of fine wines that are a bargain in Bolivia. The west has what is known as the Altiplano, a flat high altitude plain surrounded by snow-capped Andes Mountains.

Bolivia has always been and still is a travel bargain.

I have always enjoyed wandering endlessly in La Paz, particularly among it's miles of outdoor native markets. Lake Titicaca is fascinating, with its thousands upon thousands of terraces covering the high surrounding hills, and the ancient ruins scattered here and there. Giant frogs, trout and other fish abound in the lake. The contrast of ancient reed boats and modern hydrofoils is dfascinating. The clear air showcases more stars than I have ever seen elsewhere. The lowland jungle can be traversed by dugout canoe. Here bird and animal life is spectacular and includes the largest fox, almost as tall as a great dane, and capivara the world's largest rodent.

While Bolivia has so much to offer in the way of exotic flora, fauna, and ethnicity, it also has a high comfort level in the form of infrastructure and accommodations.

~ Jack Wood