Bolivia, the highest and most isolated country in South America, presents amazing extremes of scenery – from altiplano and arid desert, to lowland Amazon rainforest, from the vast whiteness of the world’s largest salt flat to the soaring heights of the snow-capped Andes mountains. Relive centuries of colonial history as you wander the streets of La Paz, Potosi and Sucre, and observe the little-changed traditional Indian culture when you visit the market at Tarabuco.
A tour of Bolivia when combined with northern Argentina and Chile offers incredible diversity. What Bolivia might lack in luxury accommodation it makes up for in powerful and diverse scenery. The highlight would have to be 3 or 4 nights exploring the Salar de Uyuni.
Bolivia’s most well-known attraction is the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats of Uyuni), a 10,000 km2 dazzling white landscape. The salt flats are formed by the evaporative process of meltwaters from the surrounding volcanic peaks that trickle into what is effectively a large ‘inland sea’. Over many thousands of years a crust of salt has formed that is thick enough to drive on (2-10 metres). Up to 200m of water lie beneath the salt crust as well as the world’s largest deposits of lithium.
There is little local rainfall to weaken the crust, although when it does rain (Nov to Feb) the mirages created by water-covered salt flats are like a surreal scene from a Salvador Dali painting.
The salt flats of Bolivia are spell-binding, magnificent, unique and should form part of any itinerary that heads into northern Chile, Argentina and, of course, Bolivia. A three night stay is a must. There are two simple, but beautiful, hotels constructed almost entirely from blocks of salt, cut from the surround salt flats. It can be bitterly cold and these hotels are are havens of warmth set on the edge of vast salt plains.
NOTE: We ask you understand the very remote location of these properties means that the food is simple, wholesome and of well prepared, but simple with limited options. For us the experience easily outweighs any of the limitations.
Sucre is a fine example of Bolivia’s wealthy colonial period and the architecture is one of the main attractions. Sucre, the official capital of Bolivia, is a very pleasant city with its many white-washed, terracotta-tiled, colonial buildings.
Eduardo Abaroa National Reserve is home to vicunas, rheas, Andean foxes and three species of flamingos; James, Andean and Chilean. But the real stars are the ever-changing colours of the lagoons (Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) and Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon).
Perfectly formed conical volcanoes form an amazing backdrop. Licancabur (5,900m another picture-perfect volcano) holds the Guinness World Record for the highest scuba dive, which was achieved in the lake in its crater. From Laguna Verde it’s only a 10-minute drive to the Bolivia/Chile border and an hour from there to the town of San Pedro de Atacama.
Set at an altitude of 3,636m, La Paz is Bolivia’s commercial capital and is the highest city of its size in the world. Founded in 1548, it lies in a natural basin surrounded by imposing snow-covered mountain peaks and dominated by Mount Illimani (6,402m).
Here you will find a cable car “Teleferico” that locals use on their daily commute. You may wish to take a ride to simply enjoy the beautiful views over the city. There are also many beautiful colonial buildings in La Paz as well as cobbled streets and typical Indian street markets.
The ‘rich mountain’ or ‘Cerro Rico’ that towers over the city of Potosí once held the silver that lured Spanish Conquistadors here. Cerro Rico’s fascinating, and often harsh, history is a very interesting lesson as to some of the effects that colonization had upon the indigenous people of Bolivia. Although the silver is long gone, tin is still mined from Cerro Rico. It’s possible to tour the mines as well as the Casa Nacional de Moneda, a museum that once housed the royal mint.
Set against the backdrop of snow covered mountains, this small saline lake – one of nine on the altiplano – is notable for a variety of high Andean waterfowl, particularly pink and white flamingos (mostly white because the algae that creates the pink colour in the birds is comparatively less in these waters), as well as wild vicunas in their natural habitat. You will pass this lake as you drive south across the Siloli Desert between San Pedro de Quemez and Ojo de Perdiz, on a journey from the Salt Flats heading towards Atacama.The demonstration continues for ten minutes until finally the horse returns to all fours still totally at ease.”
The celebrated Carnival of Oruro, a mining town on the altiplano 210km south of La Paz, has its origin in the ancient Uru people’s beliefs surrounding the festival’s two icons: the benevolent Andean Earth Mother, Pachamama (with a strong link to the Virgin Mary due to the festival’s religious connotations), and El Tio (Uncle) Supay, God of the Mountains, who transforms for this event into the Devil. The indigenous miners believe El Tio is the owner of the mine’s minerals and to avert his anger at their taking his precious metals and to ensure their continued safety, they placate him with dancing and gifts of food and beer. It is this appeasement of the devil that has attracted people to this particular festival for so many years.
The actual Carnival lasts 5 or 6 days (in February or early March) although the celebrations start much earlier and preparations begin throughout the country exactly 40 days before Easter.
Stannum Boutique Hotel & Spa
La Paz, Bolivia
Top class design and the finest facilities. Usually located in a spectacular setting it may be an exclusive hotel in a meticulously restored historic building, or recognised as the leading property of an international chain.
La Casona Hotel Boutique
La Paz, Bolivia
A perfect alternative to the big brand hotels:
exclusive and independently-owned properties with a smaller number of rooms and highly personalised services.
Camino Real Aparthotel
La Paz, Bolivia
High quality with an excellent room standard, a full range of facilities and first-rate service; may be a new property or regularly refurbished with attention to ongoing maintenance.
Hotel Jardines de Malku Cueva
Many of South America’s finest experiences are found when visiting remote, less visited, areas. Jardines Malku Cueva is beautiful, simple, property built into a bluff on the road that links the Salt Flats to Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve (famous for the red and gree lagoon and excellent wildlife) and eventually the Atacama desert in Chile.
Hotel Luna Salada
Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
Set on the edge of the Uyuni Salt Flats this comfortable property is a fabulous combination of ‘Salt Hotel’ and comfortable lodge offering a truly authentic experience. Recently refurbished the lodge/hotel has a range of rooms, all beautifully decorated and many with excellent views across the salt flats.
Palacio de Sal
Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
Very good standard (sometimes not far below first class, or may just have been overtaken by new hotels), has a better range of facilities than Tourist, and is often in a better location.
South America Travel Centre can look after all aspects of your holiday, including flights and travel insurance.
We start by asking you what your interests are and where you are interested in, when, for how long, what standard and style of accommodation (it can be a combination – for example you may wish to celebrate a special occasion while you’re away by staying in a very special property or place). Once we have a good understanding of just what you’re looking for, we can begin to create a holiday to meet your time and budget requirements and, most importantly, that will deliver interest and enjoyment in an experience to exceed your expectations.
Please book early. Many of the hotels, lodges and cruise vessels we recommend are relatively small. This exclusivity combined with high demand means they can be booked out up to 6-8 months in advance.
If you’re thinking of travelling during any major holidays like Christmas, New Year and Easter, or during any festivals, our advice is simply to book as early as you can, even 12 months or more, and we can add flights as soon as they become available.
Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter Peru. You will need to hold a valid passport and have a return ticket when you arrival. Visitors are allowed to stay up to 183 days in Peru.
It is strongly recommended that all travellers to Bolivia be vaccinated for yellow fever before commencing their trip.
Vaccinations are advised for common diseases like Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid as well as Influenza. There are no compulsory vaccinations.
We advise you to consult a Travel Doctor specialist prior to departure to assess any health risks in relation to your medical history and travel plans.
We have access to a wide range of airfares and have excellent relationships with our key airline partners. Our two main airline partners in Latin America are LATAM Airlines, QANTAS Airlines and Air New Zealand. We can also arrange internal flights for you within Latin America.
Irrespective of whether you book directly with us or with your preferred travel agent, we’ll request the details of all of your fights to ensure if there are any changes your transfers and other arrangements are adjusted accordingly.
June to October
You may encounter extremes of temperature – warm during the day and very cold at night – so it is best to pack for all seasons. Spring and autumn (April to early June and September to mid-November) usually have warm and sunny days with cold nights. Winter (June to August) is the dry season but is extremely cold (as low as –10°C at night). Summer (late November to March) is the wet season but it is still possible to travel during these months and conditions will depend on the amount of actual rainfall that has occurred in any particular year.
Each pickup/drop off was on time. My guides were very friendly, had great English, and were passionate about what they did. All hotels were faultless. I would have to say that Andrea from Buenos Aires was the best guide of a fantastic bunch. Andrea was there to greet me on my first arrival into BA, took me to the ferry for my trip to Colonia and made sure I was checked in, and was there to pick me up. She was also there to send me on my way to Ushuaia at the ungodly hour of the morning and pick me up again after the cruise, to sending me on my way the next day to Iguazu. I was most impressed at the efforts the guides went to in order to streamline the check-in process at the airport, making sure I got to the immigration area. I have never seen or experienced such attentiveness or helpfulness. Thank you for putting this trip together for me, it was the best trip that I have been on, and I have done some out there trips. From the hotels, to the destinations, the ground arrangements, everything went off without a hitch. I truly appreciate what you did to make this trip amazing.
Our trip was absolutely outstanding thank you so much for your incredible efforts in what was such an incredibly short turn around. We are so grateful, it was the most amazing trip and every day was as good as the other! Anyone who has asked about our trip or has mentioned they are travelling or wanting to travel to South America I have put them straight onto South America Travel Centre. Thank you for all of your prompt responses, quick turn around and thorough knowledge, understanding, expertise and advice. Your service was second to none. It was outstanding and we are truly grateful. Please pass on our gratitude to the wider team as well for helping pull a once in a lifetime experience together for us in three days! We are so thankful for the afterhours and overtime you put in also, we couldn’t have had the amazing trip that we did at such late notice without you.
Being in our late 70 and having only travelled with groups, never on our own, we were a little apprehensive not speaking Spanish how well we would manage? I have nothing but praise for the service we received from South America Travel Centre. We were met at every destination by a knowledgeable person not always able to speak English but well able to take us to hotels, return us to bus stations and air ports, and check us in. Those who spoke English told us about their town the best places to eat. A wonderful holiday expertly organised and every little detail taken care of. Thank you South America Travel Centre.
We found our itinerary absolutely perfect. By that I mean not only were our superb boutique hotels great, the guides in each city friendly, courteous, well-spoken and knowledgeable but the time in each city or location and the balance between site seeing “work" and leisure time “play” was also perfect. The most difficult question by friends on our return has been “what was the highlight”. An impossible question when considering the merits of, inter alia, Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Christ the Redeemer, Inti Raymi Festival, Lake Titicaca. The purpose of our trip to South America, in truth, was to see as much as we could of the continent with a view to probably not returning as we explored other opportunities. I have to now say that the chance of us revisiting South America is extremely high.
I write to thank you for organising our recent trip to South America. Everything went like clockwork, and the arrangements were very satisfactory. The guides always turned up at the right time, and the people meeting us at the airports were always there. We had a wonderful trip, and we will have to plan another one now, so that we can see Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay and maybe more. But first it’s back to work to earn some more money! For me the greatest highlight was Machu Picchu; it far exceeded my expectations. Once again, thanks so much, Alistair Macindoe.
We had a fabulous time!! The countries we visited have such a rich and fascinating cultural & geographical diversity. We loved learning about the Incans and visiting the ruins in Peru, we loved seeing all the creatures of the Galapagos Islands and the volcanoes of Ecuador. We loved the magnificent scenery of the Atacama. What a fantastic palette at sunset! The adobe hotel, Altiplanico, was wonderful & San Pedro de Atacama was a funky place. We appreciated the structure of our holiday too, there was a nice blend of guided time and free time. It was nice to be in one place on the boat in Galapagos after moving to a different place each day through Ecuador. Some of the haciendas we visited would be lovely to stay for a longer time. Everything went very smoothly in terms of timely airport transfers & pickups, informative and friendly guides/drivers at all times. The local people were very friendly & were helpful with our attempts at speaking Spanish. We enjoyed the cuisine very much & look forward to trying some home-made Locro de papa soup & Pisco sour. Thanks for helping us with a great holiday. Kind regards Della & John
Having local guides and local knowledge was sensational and gave us a great insight into the cities and countries we visited. We loved the whole trip. One very big positive was every single time we arrived at a destination, there was someone already there to meet us and a transfer waiting to take us to the hotel or airport. We didn’t use trains and only used buses in Cuba which were very good for what we were doing. Our SATC consultant and her knowledge and experience was invaluable in both the lead up and the trip itself, with numerous hints and tips being very useful as well. The detail and documentation provided was excellent throughout and we used it extensively on our trip.
One of the most delightful things after travelling long distances is to be met at the airport, bags carried and be taken to the accommodation. It is just so good to see that sign with your name. Our latest itinerary with South America Travel Centre, in June 2016, took us to Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. Costa Rica was about flowers, wildlife, volcanoes and zip lining. Guatemala and Honduras were about Mayan ruins with some wildlife in between. Although it was the rainy season, we found that rain sometimes occurred as a thunderstorm in the late afternoon, lasting about an hour. It was always a delightful surprise to find that our accommodation is not in a multistorey type edifice but in an architecturally interesting building with fascinating décor and views. We found this at each place we visited. Many of the breakfast rooms had a wonderful view of water, forest or volcano where we could sit and enjoy the local tropical fruits. Breakfast always included tropical fruit and fruit juice. We have returned home with photos galore.
The incredible amount of work you put into the planning and organising really paid off. The South America Travel Centre documentation provided in the pouch before the trip was excellent. The selection and sequence of things worked well. The spiral bound book was used a lot during the trip. And on arrival back home, a pleasant surprise CD from your company. The chosen hotels were all very good to excellent to grand, and again the guides always made sure that we were properly checked in. Hotel locations are very important as this allows easy walking around the neighbourhood to explore at one’s own pace. Overall a ‘high five” for you and your team and agents. Thank you very much for your efforts and hope that our paths will cross again at some point in the future.
We have now been back from our wonderful holiday to South America for about 2 1/2 weeks, and I wanted to thank you very, very much for arranging such a fantastic trip for us. Everything went so smoothly, from the airport pickups, to the guides and drivers, to the wonderful accommodation – everything! We kept waiting for some little blip to occur, but it didn’t! You provided us with such a varied itinerary, we kept busy the whole time, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. We both particularly enjoyed the Galapagos cruise, and also Machu Picchu. We all four climbed Huayna Picchu on our second day back at the site, and it was well worth the effort. Our guides and drivers were fantastic; we particularly enjoyed Silvia our guide and driver Marquito for the 5 days Andes experience in Ecuador. Once again, thank you so much for using your talents to give us such a memorable holiday. We will certainly be recommending you to our friends. With best wishes, Tony & Jan BURN
Back home safe and sound after an amazing holiday. Cannot say enough about South America Travel Centre – and will definitely recommend to anyone travelling to this continent. The guides Beatriz, Natoli Mary and 1 gentleman (Puno – cannot remember his name) were delightful, and drivers were very careful and drove to conditions. All accommodation suited our needs – especially loved Arequipa, Colca Lodge, Ollentaytambo and Inkaterra Amazonica!!! The care of your staff was above and beyond when situations arose due to not feeling so good. The day we left Colca Canyon Sue was unwell but Beatriz was amazing and after 24 hours all was ok. John requested medical attention on return to Cuzco and within 20 minutes a Dr appeared and then short time after a nurse appeared with medication – just fantastic. A big thank you to you for all your organisation and for playing a big part in making this holiday such a memorable one for all us.