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Travel in Latin America

Things to Do in Bolivia
By:Kent Ninomiya

Bolivia is a landlocked country in South America bordered by Brazil, Peru, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina. Much of the country is at high elevation. The capital of La Paz is at an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet, making it the highest national capital in the world. Lake Titicaca is at an altitude of more than 12,500 feet, making it the highest lake on Earth. Most of the things to do in Bolivia center around La Paz and Lake Titicaca.

The most unusual thing to do in Bolivia is to experience its Indian culture. La Paz is a great place to do this since you can see, feel and taste Indian culture everywhere. There are more than a dozen tribes in Bolivia, each with its own distinct culture. Wander through the different Indian street markets. Each one will offer something unique. Some of the best markets are found near the San Francisco Cathedral and Calle Sagarnaga. You can buy unique Indian goods, dine on a meal of local cuisine and enjoy some Indian dancing and music. Most of Bolivia's tribes were displaced by the Inca and later by Spanish settlers. Their ability to survive to this day is a testament to their enduring traditions.

Visitors to Bolivia gravitate to the Plaza Murillo in the center of La Paz. The Government Palace and National Congress buildings surround it. La Paz also features stunning religious structures like the Cathedral of San Francisco and the Metropolitan Cathedral. The Calle Jaen contains 10 impressive museums. Among them are the Museo Murillo featuring artifacts from colonial times, the Museo de Arquelogia with ruins from Tihuanaco and the Museo Nacional de Etnograpfia y Folklore featuring native cultural collections. The Cementerio General is where Bolivian presidents are buried. The Simon Bolivar house is where the revered founder of Bolivia lived.

Just outside La Paz are interesting geographical and archaeological sites. Moon Valley features spectacular, rose-colored formations of volcanic rock. It really looks like you are walking on the Moon. At Tiahuranacu you can see ancient pre-Inca ruins in an arid setting. The arches and carved faces are remarkably preserved.

Lake Titicaca is about two hours from La Paz. It is a stunningly beautiful body of water surrounded by snow-capped mountains and glaciers. People from all over the world travel there to see the azure water reflecting sunlight. The lake side town of Copacabana is a welcoming place popular with tourists and religious pilgrims seeking the blessing of the Virgin of Copacabana. From there you can catch a boat to Isla del Sol. Going there is like going back in time. There are no cars on the island. Transportation is all by foot and llama. You will only find a few farms, hotels and Inca ruins. Lake Titicaca was a sacred site to the Inca. Their legend tells that the sun god gave birth to the first Inca king there.

Nature lovers will never have a shortage of things to do in Bolivia. The country has devoted a third of its land to nature preserves. The Parque Nacional Sajama is dotted with majestic volcanoes and bubbling hot springs. Parque Nacional Carrasco features haunting clouds hanging among the high altitude forests. Parque Nacional Amboro is famous for its bountiful bird-watching opportunities. To see something truly unique, head to the high desert plateau of Reserva de la Biosfera Sama. Only Tibet has a larger and higher plateau on Earth.

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