From staggering snow-capped mountains to dense, winding jungles, and everything in between, Bolivia is home to some of the world’s most breath-taking natural wonders. Yet it is only in recent years that Bolivia has begun to receive global recognition as a bucket-list tourist destination.
Perhaps it’s because this country sits (on average) at a breathless 5,000 metres above sea level, that for a long time, only intrepid explorers have been brave enough to venture to. Even Bolivia’s administrative capital, La Paz, which is the highest capital in the world (positioned at roughly 3,625 metres above sea level), is too much for most holidaymakers. But don’t let the fear of the extreme altitude stop you from trekking to this land of fascinating culture and jaw dropping natural beauty.
Bolivia has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to leave visitors in awe of its landscapes. Most notably, it’s home to the world’s largest salt flats, the Salar De Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flats), which stretches out across almost 11,000-sq-km of desert like salt - so impressively flat that NASA uses it to calibrate its satellites from space. And if you’re lucky enough to visit this barren land after rainfall, you’ll find yourself looking at the most heavenly scene; a never-ending optical illusion where it's difficult to distinguish the ground from the sky. A once-in-a-lifetime destination indeed.
So, whether you’re keen to gape at the impressive Andean mountains up-close, voyage across the Uyuni salt flats, or immerse yourself in the ancient indigenous Bolivian culture, there’s certainly lots to see and do in South America’s hidden gem. But choosing the best time to visit can be a little tricky.
Wet and dry seasons
Like the rest of South America, Bolivia’s climate very much varies depending on the region’s altitude, and the season that you’re visiting. The country’s seasons can be easily split up into two halves: the dry season and the wet season.
The dry season in Bolivia runs from roughly May to October; the country’s winter months. Whilst the wet season lasts from November, right through until April, Bolivia’s summer months. In the dry season, visitors can expect clear, sunny days, with colder nights and less humidity in the rainforest regions. Whereas the wet season brings (naturally) steady rainfall, but warmer temperatures both day and night. Generally, it’s thought that the dry season is the best time of year to visit Bolivia, but there are pros and cons to visiting this enchanting land of dizzying heights, dramatic mountains and desert-like landscapes during both seasons.
Are you planning a trip but you’re unsure of the best time to visit Bolivia? Our experienced team here at good trip marketplace have pulled together a handy guide on exactly that. Intrepid explorers, read on…
Dry season: May to October
For many adventurers, May to October is the prime time for traveling to Bolivia. The dry season, as the name suggests, brings bright blue skies, minimal rainfall and colder, less humid temperatures in the jungle regions. Less rainfall also means less travel disruptions, as roads tend to flood and become treacherous to pass through in the wet season.
This is however, the Bolivian winter months, which means that the highlands get very cold, and temperatures reach below freezing in the desert at night - so make sure to pack your thermals, hoodies and wooly hats or beanies if you’re keen to do a Uyuni salt flat jeep tour in June - July time.
It’s also worth mentioning that the peak tourist time is around August, in the middle of the dry season, where the like-minded adventurers begin to flood in. If you’re planning to visit Bolivia at this time of year, our top tip would be to book as far in advance as possible, to keep the costs down.
If it’s trekking through the rainforest, hiking across the Atacama desert, or sailing down majestic rivers, then the dry season may just be the best time to visit Bolivia for you. Here are some of our top recommendations of things to do during the winter months…
Best things to do in the dry season:
- Get your adventure on - Bolivia is home to the Amazon basin and lots of lowland jungle. We’d recommend signing up to a jungle trek to do it right - keep your eyes out for exotic wildlife such as caymans, jaguars, sloths, monkeys and even poison dart frogs!
- Seeking an adrenaline rush? Put your nerve to the test and drive or cycle down the most dangerous road in the world, aptly named ‘Death Road’. If you dare…
- Completed Salar de Uyuni? Make sure to check out the Southwest Circuit, an alien-like land of geysers, bubbling hot springs, snow-capped volcanoes and flamingo-filled red lagoons
- Up, up and away - If you’re not afraid of a little vertigo, hop on one of La Paz’s famous ‘Mi Teleférico’ cable cars to appreciate this vast city from a whole new height
- Set sail - Known as the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca is a must-do when visiting Bolivia. Take a boat from Copacabana to the sacred island of Isla del Sol (the Sun Island), where Incan legend has it, the sun was first born
- Get cultural - If you have enough time, a visit to Bolivia’s official capital, Sucre, is well-worth the trip to explore its colonial history. Plus, Sucre offers the best Spanish schools around if you fancy picking up the local lingo
Wet season: November - April
Whilst most do consider the dry season to be the best time to visit Bolivia, what with its blue skies and sunshine, there is one huge advantage to traveling to this compelling country during the wet season: the Uyuni Salt Flats.
Undoubtedly Bolivia’s most treasured landmark - and for good reason - is the Salar De Uyuni, the vast salt desert which stretches across 11,000 square metres, high up at 3,600 metres above sea level. And when you visit in the rainy season, it’s highly likely that you’ll see the landscape transform into a beautiful optical illusion, which has an otherworldly feel to it.
It’s also worth mentioning that most of Bolivia’s key festivals fall during the wet season, including Carnival and Bolivia’s “Holy Week” (Easter), so make sure these are on your itinerary too.
Best things to do in the wet season:
If you don’t mind a little drizzle, and are keen to see the dreamlike landscapes of the flooded salt flats, then the wet season may just be the best time to visit Bolivia for you. Here are some of our favourite things to do during the wet season…
- Strike a pose against the world’s biggest mirror - If you’re visiting Bolivia during the wet season, the Salar De Uyuni jeep tour should be at the top of your list. Make sure to put your camera in your bag!
- Take a hike - At just 30 km southeast of La Paz, is the magnificent Palca Canyon, where adventurers can hike along its 8 km stretch of incredible rock formations.
- Interested in witchcraft? Take shelter from the drizzle and head to the infamous Witches’ Market nestled in the cobbled streets of La Paz. But beware, these markets are not for the faint-hearted - psychedelic teas and dehydrated llama foetuses are just some of the remedies on offer
- Call all party animals! Many visitors are surprised to find out that La Paz is home to the highest Irish bar in the world. The Wild Rover is a legendary party hostel with an unexpected Gaelic twist; super popular amongst backpackers from all over the globe
- Brush up on your facts - Situated in the southern highlands of Bolivia, Potosí was once the main hub of the Spanish Empire and has a rich history of mining to discover
- Fancy a day trip? Discover the colonial charm of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s largest city and the capital of the Santa Cruz Department
So, whether you’re looking for an action-packed adventure holiday or a slower-paced tour of this enchanting country, there’s certainly plenty to do and see in Bolivia. Whatever the weather, our advice would be to think about exactly what you want to get out of your trip and plan an itinerary well in advance so that you don’t miss out on a single thing. Happy planning!
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