Planning Your Time
It is possible to see many of the most memorable sites in Bolivia in 15 days, but you need to fly at certain stages because of the huge distances, and it’s best to start low and work your way up so that you minimize the effects of the altitude.
Start in Santa Cruz. From here fly northeast to the jungle town of Trinidad for a three-day float trip on the Río Mamoré aboard the flotel Reina Enin. The flotel is essentially a large barge with cabins on it; during the day, as you drift, you stop at little villages along the river. Return to Santa Cruz and then fly on to the colonial town of Sucre. Spend the fifth day touring its well-ordered colonial streets and museums. Make sure to visit the market in nearby Tarabuco if you’re there on a Sunday. On your sixth day, take a bus southwest to the colonial mining town of Potosí. Remember to take it easy when you get here, as it’s very high up. Take a walking tour of the city and visit its churches and museums. On Day 7, take a bus to Oruro. Don’t hang about here, but take the overnight train to the Salar de Uyuni. Drive out onto the Salar and stay the night in the salt hotel, then retrace your steps to Uyuni and Oruro, and go on to La Paz. On your 10th day, visit La Paz’s outdoor markets in the morning and then head out to see the Valley of the Moon in the afternoon, or just amble along the Avenida Prado and people-watch. Visit the fascinating ruins of Tiwanaku on the 11th day, and on the same day head to Huatajata on Lake Titicaca and spend the night at one of the hotels there. On the 12th day, catch the early hydrofoil to Isla del Sol to see its sparkling beaches and Inca ruins and spend the night. Wake up for the dawn if you can. On the 13th day, catch the boat back to Copacabana. Have a look at the church, grab a final view of the lake, and then get a bus back to La Paz. For those coming to Bolivia for a side trip from Peru, the most convenient areas to visit are Lake Titicaca’s villages and islands. From Puno (on the Peru side of Lake Titicaca) travel three hours by bus across the border into Bolivia. Copacabana makes a good base. You can catch a boat to Isla del Sol and Lake Titicaca’s surrounding villages. La Paz is 71 km (44 miles) east. Those with time can catch a flight from La Paz up to Rurrenabaque to visit the Madidi National Park, one of the region’s most diverse reserves.
If you’re coming from Argentina, begin by exploring the growing (and already surprisingly good) wine region of Tarija and visit nearby Valle de Cinti to sip singani (local brandy) and marvel at the centenarian vineyards up against the red sandstone cliffs. Then head off into the Salar de Uyuni via Tupiza, which is much less crowded and offers an excellent alternate route.