I’m on my way to Bolivia. For the coming two weeks my sister and I will be traveling around the country. To cities, small towns, salt lakes and jungles. I can’t wait!
Bolivia is a country I’ve been wanting to visit ever since I traveled to South America for the first time in 2011. “But why Bolivia?”
The number of times people have asked me this question! Apparently it’s not the first travel destination that comes to mind.
I’m actually not sure if I have a good answer. After all, there are still a lot of other countries I want to visit, including many in South America.
But I guess the way I choose my next travel destination is simply based on curiosity.
Visiting South America for the first time
My 2011 visit to Peru is in my top 3 of most impressive trips I’ve ever made. The diversity of landscapes, the people, the animals, the food, it all made a lasting impression. But also the intensity of traveling at such high altitudes. (Remember, I’m used to living below sea level.)
Highlights of Peru
In 2,5 weeks we traveled from Lima to Cusco, trying to experience as much as possible along the way:
- Sand boarding in Huacachina, a small desert oasis
- Flying over the Nazca Lines in a tiny plane that was missing some (hopefully not essential) control buttons
- Eating the most amazing (and affordable) Peruvian meals in Arequipa
- Seeing condors fly in the Colca Canyon (while feeling terrible because of the 4km altitude)
- Visiting the floating islands on Lake Titicaca
Staying with a local family on the island Amantani on Lake Titicaca and spotting the most stars I’ve ever seen at night.
And of course: walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
You can’t travel to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu. But I’m really glad we decided to do the one day Inca Trail, since – for me – this is what makes visiting Machu Picchu so rewarding.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The start of the one day trail, kilometer point 104, is not an official train stop. The train slows down, warning you to get ready, stands still for a really short moment so you can jump out, and then continues its way.
The landscape and mountains are breathtaking, but it’s also the steep climb in combination with the altitude that literally takes your breath away. I’m in pretty good shape, but every time we climb the high steps laid by the Incas 500 years ago, I struggle to catch my breath due to the low oxygen in the air.
Reaching the end of the trail, we need both our hands and feet to climb to the Sun Gate. We’re literally climbing towards the light that we see at the top. It’s tough, but we know the reward that’s waiting for us. Machu Picchu.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling, but five years later I still remember it vividly. Exhausted, out of breath and sweaty after walking for almost 7 hours, you’re looking down on this historic Inca city surrounded by mountains, that was never found by the Spanish (and therefor never destroyed).
It’s incredible, but I also remember thinking how familiar it looked because of all the photos you’ve seen of it. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have want to miss it for the world. And walking around the old temples is not the same as seeing a picture in a magazine.
But I guess what I’m trying to say is that it didn’t surprise me much. It was…as I expected it to be. Nothing less than amazing, but not surprising. And that’s why I would strongly recommend doing the Inca Trail. Because that entire experience with Machu Picchu appearing in front of you at the end, is something you could never capture in a photo and really have to experience yourself.
Follow me in Bolivia
So back to the question ‘Why Bolivia?’. After Peru I really wanted to see more of South America. But as I said before, there are so many interesting countries to visit… And then I moved to London in 2013, started traveling for work. So here we are, five years later.
I’m hoping to travel to South America more often, but when a friend showed me pictures of Bolivia – especially the salt flats and colored mineral lakes – I decided that I wanted to go here first.