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Home > Media coverage > Bolivia's best landscapes

Bolivia's best landscapes

Bolivia's best landscapes

In Bolivia, both the landscapes and the locals know how to put on a good show. Travel off-beat and off-season for the finest performance, says Gemma Bowes

"Though the landscape was almost flat, we huffed and puffed like 40-a-day asthmatics, our half-empty daypacks weighing heavily on our shoulders. Even here on the lower terrain of Sajama – Bolivia’s first national park, which abuts the Chilean border – the altitude exceeded 4,000m. My friend Anna and I were still feeling the effects despite having spent two weeks adjusting – even the country’s commercial capital, La Paz, sits at 3,660m."

"Incredible landscapes are what draw most travellers to Bolivia. The nation is blessed: from the Andean mountains near Chile to the Cordilleras Real and Apolobamba near Peru, the canyons around Tupiza (former haunt of Butch and Sundance), the low-lying tropical Amazon and the dazzling salt flats at Uyuni, all are examples of the earth’s finest work."

"Back in Sajama we feared we’d missed the main event. No one hands out flyers for cha’lla parties – it’s not Ibiza. You just have to aim for February and hope. But coming into the tiny silent village after our walk, we suddenly sensed – like there was static in the air – that something was about to happen.

People began to emerge from their homes, form little groups and wander down a shabby lane. Following them, we found laughing boys trying to mount wild-looking ponies; women dressed in traditional bowler hats and layered skirts, bright and shiny as sweet wrappers, gathered to dance and sing.

We followed this procession around the village as the people blessed each corner of it, scattering their thanks and prayers into the gritty earth, the ponies stomping out the  year’s miseries. We followed until they disappeared into private parties, taking the unreachable truth of their rituals with them. We were left out in the bitter cold to watch the red-and-gold sunset clash with the volcanoes’ stark, icy white."

The author travelled with High Lives, a new tour operator that specialises in Latin American travel, especially Bolivia. Its 11-day Sublime Summits itinerary, taking in La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Sajama and Uyuni, and including transfers and 4WD trips, costs from £1,450pp, excluding flights.

28/9/2012

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