Lisa Scouts Bolivia

jeep parked on Bolivian salt flat

Regular readers of our blog and newsletter know well that the Southern Explorations team is always out there digging deeper into the destinations we offer. Our constant and consistent scouting is crucial to our trip crafting and is the reason so many of our guests keep coming back to us for their next South America and Central America adventure.

Recently, our own Lisa Malmgren headed off to Bolivia to get better acquainted with the ins and outs of travel to Bolivia.

“It was full on,” she recounted on her return. “Early mornings to late nights. We wanted to make sure I covered everything I could. In the end, the whole thing was amazing.”

She started out at Lake Titicaca, on the Peruvian side of the famous lake. Lake Titicaca is arguably most well-known for its floating islands, and she notes that there are some great home stay options for the more adventurous traveler to check out. Guests can even kayak out to one of the natural islands, Isla Taquile, which also offers a light hike that’s a nice way to work your way into the altitude.

Speaking of the natural islands – Isla del Sol, Isla de la Luna, and Isla Taquile – they were what really blew Lisa away.  

“People are still very much living the way they were 200 years ago,” she explains. “While there’s still traditional “tourism” activities there, you really feel like you’re an entrenched observer. They were stunning. Some of the highlights of my trip.”

And accommodations?

Titilaka!” enthuses Lisa, discussing the experience lodge located on Lake Titicaca. “I think it might be my favorite hotel I’ve ever seen. It’s just really unique. It’s this cool mix of minimalism and incorporating local artisans. And they also hire 80% people that live in the region, which is great.”

She notes that another sleeper accommodation was La Estancia Ecolodge on Isla del Sol.

“It’s simple but beautiful, with incredible service. Charming. There you can take this 30-minute walk to the top of the island and see the sunset over all the different islands and peninsulas. On the other side you’ve got the sunrise over Cordillera Real in the morning. Someone could stay three nights at the end of their trip and be very happy. Even for those who are doing Peru and just want to go into Bolivia for the day, I would encourage them to go to Titicaca and go to Isla del Sol for the day.”

“Another sleeper on my itinerary were these tombs near Puno that were really beautiful. The Tombs of Sillustani, a pre-Incan cemetery. They have these chullpas, which are ancient funerary towers, it’s so many different cultures mixed in there. It’s in a really beautiful place too.”

From Lake Titicaca, Lisa was off to La Paz where, once again, she was impressed.

“Coming into La Paz was sweet. It was a real highlight largely because of Mi Teleferico, which was so cool. Mi Teleferico is La Paz’s system of seven cable cars that people use for public transit. It’s a neat way to see the city. Quiet and pleasant.”
On Lisa’s list of recommendations for La Paz are the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore and the dining scene.

“They have an amazing folk art museum,” she says of the modern museum housed in the 18th-century Marquis de Villa Verde Palace. “You could spend a full day there. It’s fascinating and they have great English-speaking guides. And then there’s a food scene that’s just now in its infancy, but it’s really developing. It’s definitely the best place to get food in all of Bolivia, so it’s best not to miss it.”

Next up was the salt flats. If there’s one thing Bolivia is world-renowned for it’s the salt flats. It should come as no surprise that they were the peak highlight of Lisa’s Bolivian scouting mission.

“I highly recommend using this as the grand finale to a tour,” she insists.

Still, she had her doubts about the experience beforehand because along the way a number of travelers she spoke to had described the trip to Bolivia’s salt flats as “too touristy.” Her guard was up. Southern Explorations travelers like to avoid the over touristy.

“The truth is,” she explains, “if you do the salt flats and find them too touristy, it’s because you are doing them wrong.”

The reality is, as soon as you drive past all the tourists taking those famous perspective pictures and selfies and out into the expanse of the salt flats, most of the time you’ll be the only people anywhere.

“We had a picnic lunch set up in the salt flats. There was no one as far as the eye could see. Our driver was also the guy who made the lunches, set it all up, chose the place and our guy was the best of the best. He just knows everything there is to know. There wasn’t a question we had about the salt flats that he didn’t have the answer for. For people who might be concerned about their safety or their comfort driving around the salt flats, I would say rest assured, there’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

Intrigued by the thought of Bolivia travel? Have questions like “what’s the smartest and easiest way to cross the border from Peru to Bolivia?” Then simply give Lisa a call today 877-784-5400 and get all her insight from her Bolivia trip.