The Five Wonders of Bolivia
As soon as they set foot on Bolivian soil, tourists realize theyâ€™ve arrived in a very special land. The rarefied air, at over 3,000 meters altitude, breath-taking natural sights and the mixture of ancient and modern cultures make Bolivia one of the most fascinating destinations on Earth. To make sure you donâ€™t miss the best Bolivia has to offer, here are its five most interesting attractions:
Salar de Uyuni
Covering over 10,000 square kilometers, Salar de Uyuni is the worldâ€™s largest salt plateau. It is located in south-western Bolivia, close to the crest of the Andes, at an altitude of 3,650 meters. Salar de Uyuni has become a popular meeting place for photographers from all around the world, who travel to Bolivia to capture the beauty of this immaculate eighth wonder of the world.
During the dry season, Salar de Uyuni is just an infinite desert of white, but the real magic, the one that draws in thousands of tourists, happens during the rainy season. The salt fields are covered by a thin layer of water that reflects the sky, making a person look like theyâ€™re walking on clouds. Some say this is where God comes to see His own reflection.
Salar de Uyuni also hosts the worldâ€™s largest salt hotel, built from giant blocks of salt.
Situated at an altitude of 3,812 meters above sea level, Lake Titicaca is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating lakes on Earth. The Inca people believed this was where the world was created, when the God Viracocha came out of the lake and created the sun, the world and the first people. Isla del Sol, the largest Island on Lake Titicaca, hosts over 180 ancient Inca ruins, that make it worth visiting.
Unique to Lake Titicaca are the famous floating islands of the Uros people. The members of this ancient tribe, that precedes the Inca, build islands out of totora reeds, launch them on the water and live most of their lives drifting around. A trip to Lake Tititcaca is worth it just to hear the legends of how they were actually gods, cast down for mixing with humans.
El Camino de la Muerte
Known as the worldâ€™s most dangerous road, El Camino de la Muerte was built in 1910, by Paraguayan prisoners, to link the northern rainforest of Bolivia to the capital city of La Paz. It ascends abruptly to an altitude of 5,000 along steep hillsides and mountain-top cliffs, before descending again to 330 meters. The Death Road is just 3,2 meters wide and there are no guard rails to protect drivers from plunging to their death, along with their cargos. Estimates say 200-300 people lost their lives every year, before the new Yungas road was finalized, at the end of 2006.
Because of its reputation, drivers rarely venture on El Camino de la Muerte these days, but it has become a popular attraction for thrill-seeking mountain-bikers. There are now many tour operators providing information, transportation and equipment to adrenalin-junkies who fancy a downhill bike ride on the Death Road.
Valle de la Luna
Translated as Valley of the Moon, this natural work of art got its name from the locals, who thought it looked like the surface of the moon. The mountains surrounding the city of La Paz are composed of clay instead of rock and, using the power of the elements, Mother Nature shaped them into one of its most beautiful masterpieces.
What used to be a mountain, now looks like a desert filled with stalagmites, or termite mounds. The mineral composition varies from one rock formation to the other, giving each a different color and creating an optical illusion. Traveling to the bizarre Valle de la Luna, tourists can witness the evolution of Earth, first hand.
The Three Lagoons
Located in Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, near the Chilean border, Laguna Colorada sits at 4,500 meters above sea-level. Known for its trademark dark-red color, with white patches, this amazing body of water is a favorite feeding ground for flamingos. The bizarre color of the lake is given by sediments and algae, while the white spots are mineral borax, a chemical that dissolves very easily.
As the name suggests, the waters of Laguna Verde have a beautiful green color, caused by high concentrations of elements like calcium, arsenic, copper and lead. Despite this seemingly deadly combination, bacteria and planktonic, fauna lives in Laguna Verde.
Situated close to Laguna Verde, at the base of Licancabur volcano, Laguna Blanca has a lower concentration of the elements present in its sister lagoon. Its waters look white, but some tourists say the color changes when the wind starts blowing and the copper is stirred up.