One thing for sure is that Bolivia won’t leave you indifferent. The poorest and less developed country on the continent offers a rough ride to backpackers; and a promise to the most adventurous amongst us. Even in places where tourism is high, comfort is low. Even locations that are easily accessible seem like worlds apart. A country of extremes –like South America is–, Bolivia is both demanding and rewarding. Dive in our Bolivia itinerary to plan 2 or 3 weeks packed with adventures.
There is really no need to book your Uyuni Salt Flats tour in advance. Read here how to visit it.
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How many days do you need in Bolivia?
We just can’t believe some people want to ‘do’ (an expression we cannot stand) Peru and Bolivia in 7 days. We recommend to travel in Bolivia from 10 to 30 days. That depends on how adventurous you feel. Bolivia is an adventure, a country where “todo es posible y nada es seguro“.
There is something that people call the ‘Gringo trail‘. It’s the name given to the route commonly followed by tourists and travellers backpacking in Bolivia. If you look at a map, it means that a large chunk of the country is left aside.
Honestly, if you’ve got only 14 days in Bolivia, it doesn’t make much sense to step out of it. Off-the-beaten path destinations, attractive and wild as they might be, are often secluded; even more so with the lack of proper infrastructure to receive you. Think roads lacking, or cut off during the rainy season, lack of accommodation, and Indigenous people hardly speaking Spanish (let alone English).
If you’re travelling 3 weeks in Bolivia though, things can start getting funky. That leaves you more time to go deeper into the Amazon, for example.
On the other hand, for a 3 weeks in Peru and Bolivia trip, we recommend you spend 1 week here and 2 weeks in Peru.
Bolivia itinerary 2 weeks
This itinerary follows basically the usual tourist route, the best things to do in Bolivia, with a couple of embellishments. We know that many travellers only cross the country on their South America travel, and don’t need a circle route. You can use this Bolivia itinerary either way.
Prepare to be roughed up, exhausted and mesmerised – our 2 weeks in Bolivia travel itinerary takes you to another world.
|Days 1-3||La Paz:|
|Days 4-6||Lake Titicaca:|
2 weeks in Bolivia itinerary
A large part of this itinerary will have you dangle at the top of high Altiplano plateaus. La Paz itself has an elevation of 3,640 m (11,942 ft).
It’s very important that you leave your body enough time to acclimatise, in order to avoid altitude sickness. It’s normal to feel a light but persisting headache or nausea at first. Take it easy the first couple of days, don’t run, avoid drinking alcohol; drink rather a lot of water and coca tea. You can make that yourself, it’s very easy and leaves are for sale everywhere.
All destinations are a night bus journey away from each other, unless otherwise stated.
3 days in La Paz
La Paz is a whirlwind. A constant market life twirling around and taking you in its dance. That’s especially true around Witches’ Market, selling medicinal herbs and llamas fetuses. It’s also a land of cheap street food eaten while standing on the pavement.
Our favourite museums were the National Art Museum, right on the central square; and the Coca museum, which tells the truth about the history and use of the notorious leaf. Find more museums in the pretty Calle Jaén, including the colourful gallery of local artist Mamani Mamani, totally recommended.
When your legs are sore, take in the view from above. The ‘Mi teleférico‘ cable car is the latest feature, the pride of former president Evo Morales. A safe, clean, silent and modern way to cross the city and admire it from the sky. Visit also the 2 viewpoints Killi Killi and Jach’a Apacheta for the best sunsets.
If you’re restless for some nature hikes, take a minivan to Valle de la Luna, or the less famous Valle de las Ánimas. Both offer a moon-like scenery of desert rocks pointing to the sky like dry fingers.
It would be a mistake for a Bolivia travel blog not to mention the infamous Death Road. This head-spinning mountain road has become a major attraction recently, seeing more than 25,000 visitors each year. Why is it so thrilling? Well, because dozens of car accidents killed hundreds of people each year. Honestly, that’s not exactly our idea of fun.
But if that’s your thing, we won’t judge. Many companies in La Paz rent bikes to cycle down the perilous road. You can then be a real gringo and buy a t-shirt stating that you’ve survived it. Yeah!
3 days at Lake Titicaca
Buses to Copacabana, the main town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, only travel by day. We recommend an early start, so you can take the boat to reach the Sun Island in the same day. There’s plenty of accommodation on there, ranging from cosy guest house to derelict shack; whatever your choice, you probably don’t need to book in advance.
Considering that most visitors take day-tours to the Isla del Sol (and nearby Isla de la Luna), spending 1 night on the island gives another perspective. When evening comes and boats have departed, you dive into local rural life like there’s no tomorrow. Note that it costs 10 Bolivianos just to hop off the boat and enter the island.
It also gives you more time to walk around the island, or at least the southern part; two-thirds are currently out of access. There are many trails going in every direction; they lead to rocks, ruins and viewpoints overlooking the magnificent blue of the lake. It’s a place to relax and meditate, a place that has been sacred for centuries and still has many treasures to unveil.
It’s a long ride back to La Paz so we advise to spend one more night in Copacabana. The town itself has not much to offer but is far from unpleasant. Hiking up the Cerro Calvario hill is a must for a last gaze at the lake. Even if you’ve already visited Puno in Peru, don’t miss the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca!
Start dreaming: Our visit of Copacabana and the Isla del Sol
1 day in Cochabamba
Cochabamba is not a common tourist destination. But it’ll be a nice pit stop off the beaten path, on your long journey across the country. It’s a market town where you can lose yourself into the crowd and find cheap souvenirs to bring home.
The main attraction in town is the Cristo de la Concordia, a gigantic statue of Christ that’s the tallest in South America. Yes, taller than the one in Rio de Janeiro. You can climb up its 2,000 steps or ride a smooth cable car, then add it to your LinkedIn profile.
Wait for your next bus sipping a homemade chicha, the Andean beverage of fermented corn. They have prepared it for centuries, long before the White man discovered the land, and it tastes like they’re still using the same batch.
You can also skip Cochabamba and spend one more day in Sucre – we promise you won’t regret it.
2 days in Sucre
This white town is a colonial candy in the heart of Bolivia. Many travellers fall in love with Sucre, and I myself have been guilty of that too. For me, it’s in the top 3 of the best cities in Bolivia. The beauty of its white architecture, the hills rolling around, its shaded squares under the blue sky… Need I say more?
Right, I will. The town centre is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1991; it feels a million miles distant from the chaos of La Paz or the sickening altitude of Potosí.
Sucre has been a university town for centuries and its inhabitants are respectful and educated. Wandering aimlessly is safe and it brings you to many a pretty viewpoint on the city. The most famous one is the Recoleta, but walk around to find others. Alternatively, you can take a walking tour to learn about this historically important city, still to this day the official capital of Bolivia.
As far as viewpoints are concerned, don’t miss the rooftop of the La Merced church, opposite San Felipe Neri. And if you want to know more about the history of Bolivia, pay a visit to the Casa de la Libertad (Freedom House).
Read more: A little something about Sucre
There are frequent buses from Sucre to Potosí and the journey takes only 3 hours.
2 days in Potosí
The grandeur of Potosí has chipped away like the facades of its colonial mansions. This amalgamation of cobblestone streets wrapped around the hills used to be, read our words, the wealthiest town in the world. We’re talking about the XVIth century and the exploitation of silver mines by the Conquistadors.
The past glory is still visible in some baroque buildings and countless churches across town; each of them more ornate than a Russian birthday cake. This history is explained in the very interesting Casa de la Moneda museum.
It’s beautiful to walk around the streets of Potosí, making out from the architecture what the town used to be. Everything here is so compact; you stumble upon square after square, and get surprised at every corner by some traces of magnificence.
Let us tell you about Potosí’s main attraction: the visit to the mines of Cerro Rico. The silver mines dug in the entrails of the mountain have eaten up thousands of Indigenous under the Spanish colons. Enough to be known among them as “the mountain that eats men”.
Nowadays, miners still scratch its bowels for a few grams of metal. They work in disgusting conditions and have a life expectancy of 45 to 50 years. In fact, many men still die each year under the mountain.
And now it’s a tourist attraction? Well, we certainly won’t encourage you to visit a place of suffering.
3 days for the Uyuni tour
Of course you’ll see the Salar de Uyuni, the salt flats that cover the world like an immense white blanket. But what you might not know yet, is the array of natural wonders that surround them. All the deserts and geysers and colourful lakes and crazy rock formations. It’s an otherworldly land that seems inhabited only by flamingos, vicuñas, and obscure birds species.
An Uyuni 1-day tour brings you only to the salt flats and to the train cemetery. That’s good already but clearly not enough, and quite crowded. There are also 2-day tours adding in a desert and a few rocks.
What we highly recommend is the 3-day Uyuni tour. It’s clearly more expensive, but it’s a real adventure that we promise will leave perennial memories. Do you think you’ll ever go back to that desolate part of the world? If not, then go for the full Monty.
We could ramble on about it for hours. This article tells you all about the 3-day Uyuni salt flats tour.
When your tour is over, it’s time to take the night bus ride back to La Paz…
Bolivia itinerary 3 weeks
This route will bring you to different altitudes and climates, from windy plateaus to hot deserts. We’ve built up this backpacking Bolivia itinerary of unique landscapes, colourful city life and unforgettable memories.
Like many things in life, the most demanding is also the most rewarding. Oh, all the stories you’ll get to tell about Bolivia!
|Days 1-4||La Paz:|
|Days 5-7||Lake Titicaca:|
|Days 10-11||Santa Cruz:|
3 weeks in Bolivia itinerary
Make sure you read our recommendations about the altitude in the two weeks in Bolivia itinerary above.
4 days in La Paz
Oh, you could probably spend one week in La Paz! In addition to what we described in our 2-week itinerary, there are several day-trips from La Paz you can consider:
On this site was the capital of an ancient civilisation that probably taught the Incas everything they knew. Just saying. Nowadays it’s pretty bare and not as impressive as Machu Picchu. In fact, it’s not even on a mountain. Someone with a good imagination can daydream at how life might have been in this part of the world in AD 800. There are buses covering the route – they take 2 hours.
- Palca Canyon
If you haven’t been to Valle de las Ánimas or Valle de la Luna, this canyon is a good alternative. The scenery is roughly the same, with impressive rock fingers pointing at the gods. It’s 1 hour by car towards the east.
- Huayna Potosi
As the high mountain that is the closest to La Paz, it’s a popular climb. Apparently it’s accessible even to inexperienced mountain climbers but we didn’t take the chance. You can book to risk your life during a 2 or 3-day tour with an agency from the capital.
3 days on the Titicaca Lake
See the 2 weeks in Bolivia itinerary above.
2 days in Cochabamba
Let’s add to what we said in the 2-week itinerary a day tour to Toro Toro National Park. It’s a good 4-hour drive or bus ride to the South, but it brings you back to a prehistoric world.
Real dinosaur footprints, caves with mighty stalactites, canyons… It’s a series of demanding treks that require good physical condition (especially with that heat: bring water!). At the end of the day, you’re exhausted, but the head full of images from another world. A simple day trip will seem like a long adventure!
2 days in Santa Cruz de la Sierra
One night bus away, the tropical city of Santa Cruz is a trendy cosmopolitan hub flanking one side of Río Pirai. The commercial centre of Bolivia, it attracts more national than international visitors.
The city itself has a lively atmosphere of vibrant nightlife and interesting museums, like the Guaraní museum or the Modern Art Museum. It’s a city of contrasts, where the traditional lives alongside the modern and bustling. It’s totally worth a couple of days of culture and party.
But the real highlights of Santa Cruz lie outside the city boundaries. Lomas de Arena Regional Park is a desert of sand dunes right outside the town’s gates. Rent a 4×4 tour and sand-board down the slopes, or walk off to catch a glimpse of the wildlife.
The tropical vegetation of Amboró National Park ranks it among Bolivia’s greatest nature reserves. An area called Jardín de las Delicias (Garden of Delights), with trails to waterfalls and pools, is the most popular. It’s a great place to escape the sometimes overbearing heat of the city; but you might not be the only one to have that idea.
3 days in Sucre
We’re sure you could spend those 3 days strolling the peaceful streets of Sucre, enjoying its vegan cafes and its precious architecture.
But if you’re into big extinct lizards, know that there’s an area only a stone’s throw away, that counts the highest number of dinosaurs’ footsteps in the world. It’s called Cal Orcko, and it’s very impressive!
2 days in Potosí
See the Bolivia 2 week itinerary above.
2 days in Tupiza
It takes an average bus 5 hours to reach Tupiza. The town isn’t on many travellers’ radar despite its quiet old-town charm. After Potosí, it feels refreshing to explore a place that isn’t packed with hostels and tourists, don’t you think?
But the real attraction here is yet again outside of Tupiza. A desert landscape featuring tall cacti, red rocks and condors that seems straight out of a Western movie. The valleys even bear the typical movie names of Cañon del Duende, Valle de Los Machos, Puerta del Diablo and Cañon del Inca.
Rumour has it that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid escaped here and died under the Bolivian sun. Lose your gaze to the horizon and you could hear the voices of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. But that could also be a sunstroke…
There’s absolutely no need for a tour to visit these places, not even public transportation: just walk out of town. Horse-riding is naturally an option offered by some agencies in town. We recommend using an offline map – Mapps.me is our go-to (and it’s free!).
Careful though, it’s insanely hot here, so dress light, cover your head, and bring sunscreen and water aplenty. And brush your teeth before going to bed.
3 days for the Salar de Uyuni tour
The bus takes 4 hours to get from Tupiza to Uyuni.
Note that the Salt Flats tour is also possible as a 4-day excursion directly from Tupiza. So if you followed our advice and are there already, that could be a good deal.
If you plan on travelling further to Chile, you can also book a 3 or 4-day tour from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama.
Alternative: 5 days in the Amazon
Whoever has not yet experienced the intensity of the Amazon should do so with no further ado. A stay in the jungle has no comparison in terms of life experience. Plus, the wildlife is also pretty rad.
Only problem: this part of Bolivia is hard to access. There are infrequent buses that take days to travel from one town to another. That’s when the roads aren’t blocked by an unfriendly weather. It’s definitely better with a rental car in order to self drive Bolivia.
Your Bolivia road trip through the Amazon could lead you from La Paz, via Coroico, to Rurrenabaque. You’ll explore there the Madidi National Park, the world’s most bio-diverse national park. Carry on east to Trinidad and the curves of River Mamoré. You can then exit in direction of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
Note that the Amazon rainforest is more accessible in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia or Brazil.
More best places to visit in Bolivia
Eager for more? If you’re ready to add for example three days in Bolivia, here are other great places to look into. We want to convince you it’s simply not possible to see Peru and Bolivia in 2 weeks, like many do. So let’s add more destinations to your bucket list!
- Baroque palaces of Tarija
- Samaipata archaeological site
- Sajama National Park
- Carnival of Oruro
- Sama Biological Reserve
- Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
- Maragua Crater
What is the best time to go to Bolivia?
Bolivia, just like Peru, has only 2 seasons. The rainy season runs half a year from November to April. At its peak, it can get quite bad and some roads to the north could even be blocked by heavy rains. Climbing and hiking turns difficult, or downright dangerous.
The weather is dry –but fairly cold on the Altiplano– between May and September. Avoid it if you can, as that’s the high tourist season and prices of tours and accommodations are higher. The best time to travel to Bolivia is therefore the shoulder season in October-November.
2 or 3 weeks in Bolivia budget
The poorest country in South America turned out to be the one where we spent the most, proportionally.
Sure, shopping for food is cheaper here, but restaurants are more expensive than in neighbouring countries. Transportation is cheap, but hitchhiking never works. Accommodation is really affordable, but very few people do Couchsurfing. In short: everything is cheap but everything has to be paid for. At the end of the trip, it all adds up.
Therefore, the cost for 2 weeks of travel in Bolivia, including cheap accommodation (hostel, hotel or camping), bus transportation between destinations, boat return ticket to Isla del Sol, the pricey entrance to Tiwanaku, a visit to Sucre’s Casa de la Libertad and to Potosí’s Casa de la Moneda, and a 3-day Salt Flats tour from Uyuni could be around:
2,200 bolivianos ($ 320 USD / 290 €)
For our 3 weeks in Bolivia itinerary including all of the above, plus the entrance to Torotoro National Park and to Cal Orcko, count with an estimate budget of:
3,000 bolivianos ($ 430 USD / 390 €)
These amounts don’t include food, drinks, city transportation or any souvenir that might find their way to your backpack. But these things are usually cheap, so that shouldn’t be heavy on your budget.
What to pack for 2 or 3 weeks in Bolivia?
On the high plateaus of the Altiplano (Uyuni, Potosí, La Paz), it’s windy and cold all year round. The lowlands (Sucre, Santa Cruz, Tupiza) can get pretty hot, especially in the deserts. A visit to the Amazon is hot and humid and requires long sleeves against mosquitoes and tigers.
So basically you’ll experience all kinds of weather in a country that has only two seasons. That’s why you need to plan your 2 or 3 weeks well, so you know what to wear in Bolivia:
- hiking clothes (technical t-shirt, trousers, boots, fleece & thick socks)
- normal clothes for the city but nothing fancy
- scarf and wind blocker
- rain jacket
- a hat or something to protect your head; sunglasses (obligatory for the salt flats)
- your usual responsible traveller’s kit: foldaway bag, reuse cup, water filter, lunch box, cutlery
- a water bottle is particularly important for hikes in the deserts
- sunscreen: even when it’s cloudy, you’ll often be high up close to the sun
- useful phrases and words in Spanish
- a sleeping bag – for Couchsurfing but also in hotels, where there’s often no heating
Get culturally ready and learn a few words in Quechua, the language of the Andes.
This has been a hell of a trip! You might be charmed by the local customs, fascinated by the unique landscapes, upset by the rudeness of the Andean people or disgusted by the lack of respect for the environment; one thing for sure is that Bolivia won’t leave you indifferent. Probably, the person who’s now leaving the country is different from the traveller who arrived in Bolivia, 2 or 3 weeks ago. Someone more mature, more open-minded. More aware of what’s important in life. A trip to Bolivia has this kind of effect. And we certainly wish this happens to you.
Are you planning a trip to Bolivia? Are you looking for other types of destinations?
Contact us for a personalised Bolivia itinerary!
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