By Amanda Little
Take a break from city life to explore the beautiful life thriving throughout all of Bolivia. Go beyond Lake Titicaca and see the vibrant and unique natural landscape gracing the South American country.
Valle de la Luna
Pack your camera for an excursion to Valle de la Luna. Snap photos of bizarre and unusually shaped rock formations caused by winds eroding the landscape and minerals staining the rocks a variety of colors. The adventurous can also seek out the intense hiking trails that wind through the area. Explore the arid peaks and valleys early in the morning, before the sun makes hiking unbearable, and be sure to bring water, sunscreen, and possibly a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Return at night to see a sky full of stars that seem to stretch on forever.
Madidi National Park
Resting comfortably in the upper Amazon River Basin and spreading out over an astounding 10,000 square miles, Madidi National Park encompasses glaciers, mountains, and tropical rainforests. Dedicated to protecting the one-of-a-kind flora and fauna found in the Amazon, as well as protecting the way of life and land of the local indigenous people, the park lives off money generated from tourism.
Established in 1955, the park fights against industrialists trying to destroy the area. It stands under the threat of being flooded by those who wish to build a dam for the water supply in it, as well as exploited for its timber. Luckily, Madidi is the most famous of the national parks in Bolivia, and tourism continues to keep it alive.
Bolivia shares the beautiful - if oddly named - Lake Titicaca with Chile near the capital city of La Paz. This stunning lake sits at 12,500 feet above sea level and is one of the most visited tourist sites in all of Bolivia. Those staying in Copacabana will be able to find easy access to the lake, with daily tours going to the lake and hotel accommodations along the shores.
Cotopata Naitonal Park
A short 20 miles from La Paz, Cotopata National Park protects the Yungas, an expansive forest that contains the unique and magnificent life that inhabits cloud forests. Created as recently as 1993, this park has become a haven for Ocelots, the spectacled bear, and more. Tourists are invited to visit and learn about the amazing creatures and plants that live within the park, and stay in the convenience of the nearby city.
Sajama National Park
Sharing the Andes Mountains border with Chile, Sajama National Park in Bolivia is home to the tallest mountain in the country, Nevado Sajama, which is also an extinct volcano. Ranging from volcanic activity from the Nevados de Payachata, which is two potentially active volcanoes, to the lush wildlife thriving off the volcanic soil, Sajama National Park offers plenty to see in terms of animal spotting and seeking out plantlife. Hiking is a particularly popular activity for those looking to scale 20,000 foot mountains.
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
Skirting along the Bolivia-Brazil border, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is named for Professor Noel Kempff Mercado who was murdered in 1988. In his park are over 620 species of birds, 70 reptile species, 130 species of mammals, and over 4,000 kinds of plants. Host to a staggering five different ecosystems all within the park, it is any eco-tourists dream. Also sporting a magnificent 262-foot high cataratas, the Arcoiris, along with many waterfalls, the Mercado National Park is as breathtaking as it is vibrant.
Torotoro National Park
Covered in lush canyons, thundering waterfalls, and unique rock formations, Torotoro National Park boasts amazing dinosaur bones and fossils, as well as the largest caves in Bolivia. Walking through this park is like walking through a natural treasure trove. Situated a little under a hundred miles from Cochambamba, tourists can visit the park during a day trip from the city. Hiking and camping are the most popular activities in the park, but both are better suited for seasoned adventurers.
Salar de Uyuni
The expansive salt flats that lie in southwest Bolivia stretch for over 4,000 square miles, earning them the title of largest salt flat in the world. The Salar de Uyuni were formed from dried out lakes, and are covered in salt and brine that goes up to 66 feet deep. Allow at least two days to explore the colorful lakes, surrounding forest, and the unique landscape of the flat. Go during the rainy season to see the flats turn into a mirror where the line between heaven and earth seem to blur on the horizon, but be weary of heavy rains cancelling day-trips.