Guest Story: The High Life in BoliviaShaun Edmond - Product & Marketing
Brian Anderson is a Wirral based lecturer and travel photographer. Over 35 years he has travelled to 66 countries and territories around the world. N to S from the North Pole to Antarctica, and E to W from Japan to Easter Island. He now tells us about the Bolivian leg of his ‘Andean Flamingo : Andes Laid Bare’ trip with Journey Latin America.
South America has always been a favourite destination of mine, having already been to Peru, Chile, Argentina and Ecuador. In September 2023 I returned to the continent for the first time in three years with my partner.
The highlight of our 17 day trip was Bolivia, my first time in this landlocked Andean country. To say I was impressed with Bolivia is quite the understatement - I was blown away by its diverse landcapes, amazing wildlife, colourful culture and proud indigenous people, the Aymara and Quechua.
Vicuña in the altiplano with Cerro Caquella Volcano behind
The Bolivian Altiplano is one of the most extensive high altitude plateaus in the world. For most of our stay, we were at an average of 3,750m (12,300ft) masl, but reached 4,600m (15,091ft), where the oxygen level is 44% less than at sea level.
Previous visits to Peru’s altiplano had not prepared me for Bolivia’s often stark, vast open plains and salt flats punctuated by rugged mountains, colour-striped volcanoes and frigid lakes.
How could life survive in this barren environment, I asked myself. But clearly it does, with vicuña, viscacha, pumas and flamingos adapted to flourish in this surreal, unearthly world.
Flamingos feeding on Laguna Canapa
In Laguna Colorado, for example, the algae which flamingos feed on has turned the freshwater lake red, thus the name ‘colorado’.
Hotel Tayka del Desierto, the world’s highest hotel at 4,600m (15,091ft), was the most remarkable place we stayed at. It lies in the Siloli Desert, an arid place, so red that it could be the surface of Mars. It was quite literally the most breathtaking location we visited.
Hotel Tyaka del Desierto
The nearby Desierto de Dali, stunning in its harsh beauty, is named for its surreal, Dali-esque rock formations. The iconic Tree stone is one that has been shaped by blown sand over thousands of years.
Another highlight of Bolivia’s high plains was the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. It is the remnant of a prehistoric lake that gradually evaporated over 40,000 years ago, leaving behind 11,000 sq km (4,247 sq miles) (half the size of Wales), of white salt, interrupted every now and then by rock formations and cacti-studded islands.
View of salt flat from Isla Incahuasi
The sheer scale of the Uyuni salt flat was overwhelming. If you look carefully at the above image, you can just make out one of our 4x4 vehicles and two drivers, like tiny ants in a white landscape.
The spectacular Isla Incahuasi (Inkawasi) lies in the salt flat. The island is covered with giant Trichocereus cacti some reaching up to 10 m (33 ft) in height. Popular with tourists for its spectacular panoramic views, words fail to describe the utter desolation of this rocky place surrounded by the vast salt desert.
The salt flat looks like a snowy landscape - and for a moment I felt like I was back in Antarctica. Incahuasi was once the top of an ancient volcano sitting in the ancient lake, its fragile coral-like structure sprinkled with fossils. Its name means the ‘house of the Inca’ and locals believe this place was once an Inca settlement since pre-Columbian remains have been found there.
Despite being surrounded by the lifeless salt flat, Incahuasi is populated by small lizards, birds including the Sierra Finch, and small rodents, viscachas. Members of the chinchilla family, they look like rabbits but have bushy squirrel-like tails to help them balance on the rocky terrain.
These are just some recollections and images of the stunning landscapes and amazing wildlife from our 7 wonderful days in Bolivia with Journey Latin America.
One day I hope to revisit the Bolivian high plains, to soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful place once more.
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Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert
After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!
Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert
Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.
Alex Walker - Travel Expert
A globetrotter since her childhood, Alex spent a year studying abroad in Guadalajara and has returned to Latin America countless times since then.
Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert
Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.
Lina Fuller - Travel Expert
Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.