Travel highlights Bolivia
La Paz is one of the world's most dramatically situated cities, nestling in a canyon at the foot of the imperious Mount Illimani. The centre is compact - sprawling Indian markets juxtaposed with the colonial squares, and overshadowed by parades of glittering skyscrapers. From here, hike or drive down to the citrus orchards of the Yungas. Alternatively visit the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku which are only a couple of hours' drive away.
The sacred Lake Titicaca is shared between Peru and Bolivia. On the Bolivian side, you can visit the charming religious sanctuary of Copacabana, and stay overnight on the peaceful Island of the Sun: traffic free, it sustains the ancient agricultural communities of pre-Columbian times and it is the cradle of the Inca Empire. There are also some good hiking opportunities in the area.
The former mining city of Oruro, 230 km south of La Paz, is best known today for its annual fiesta - El Carnival of Oruro - the most famous in Bolivia and second most important in all South America. The main procession starts with Satan and Lucifer leading hundreds of masked devils in fantastic outfits: dancing, leaping and pirouetting a total of 11 km along the roads.
Lying in a valley at 2,700 metres beside Mounts Illampú (6,362 metres) and Ancohuma (6,427 metres)the small town of Sorata is reputed to be one of the most beautifully located in the whole of Bolivia. Mountain trails challenge adventure seekers, whilst milder souls will be content with strolls through the flower-filled valleys that locals insist were the site of the original Garden of Eden.
Sucre and Potosi
Just a three hour scenic drive apart, these two cities have great significance in Bolivia's history. The simple whitewashed homes and churches of peaceful Sucre belie the city's status as the country's official capital. It serves as a pleasant base for a visit to the traditional market at nearby Tarabuco. Potosí retains the grandiose buildings of an affluent past, and is home to the Imperial Mint. You can visit one of the still functioning if impoverished tin mines.
The splendid ruins of Tiwanaku lie to the south of Lake Titicaca, an easy day trip from La Paz. With origins dating back to around 1600 BC, the site is thought to have been the ceremonial centre of a powerful empire that covered half of Bolivia, through southern Peru to northern Chile and northwestern Argentina.
Uyuni, salt desert
You'll find the largest salt flat in the world, Uyuni on your way through Bolivia, when you take the southern route to Chile. It passes through a landscape of incredible dazzling salt pans, volcanoes, geysers and weird wind-eroded rock formations. The whites and beiges are broken dramatically by the splashes of vivid reds and greens of the mineral-rich lakes, such as Laguna Verde, that punctuate the landscape.
This ecoregion is extremely fascinating from a biogeographic perspective, as it contains what may be the last of the isolated ‘evergreen' forests resulting from Quaternary glaciations (Nores 1992). This region is rich in fauna species, especially avifauna.