Bolivia has been on my radar ever since I visited South America for the first time. The problem I faced every single time is that 10 days in Bolivia is the minimum required and I couldn’t add that many days to my business trips. The reason for the 10 days is mainly due to the altitude and the not that easy to reach places. My recent trip to Sao Paulo however was different as cheap business class flights weren’t available on most of the days. I had finally 10 days before my business trip and decided to fly to Bolivia. The road trip I did was an Altiplano trip from Sucre to Potosi and onward to Uyuni and finally to La Paz. Join me on this amazing 10-day Bolivia itinerary to the Altiplano!
Bolivia itinerary day 1: arrival & altitude sickness
I arrived tired after several flights in Sao Paulo where my business partner was waiting to take over some of my luggage. I don’t need my suit while travelling the Bolivian altiplano. Bolivia has several small low-cost airlines, but schedules are a bit weird and delays happen often. I decided to fly with Bolivian de Aviation (BoA) which is the country’s major airline. You could even fly direct from Madrid, Europe, to Santa Cruz international airport but their business class wasn’t that appealing to me. The flight from Sao Paulo to Santa Cruz was in the afternoon so I decided to stay overnight in Santa Cruz before flying early next morning to Sucre. This way I was also able to buy a local Hard Rock café shirt for my daughter 🙂 too.
I stayed at the Radisson Hotel Santa Cruz which is very cheap if you have loyalty points with Radisson/Club Carlson. Early next morning I flew, again with Bolivian de Aviation, to Sucre where the airport is well over 3000 meters altitude. Make sure to recognize any acute altitude sickness symptoms and warn a doctor if you think you’re sick. Some headache and some difficulty breathing is normal but if this is getting out of control and other symptoms arise then do contact a doctor. Coca tea or candies work best to relief the pain as regular painkillers won’t help! The headache is gone for an hour or two after eating/drinking. Another option is chewing coca leaves but I preferred the candies which you can buy at the pharmacy.
I count this as the first day of 10 days in Bolivia of this 10-day Bolivia itinerary. I normally don’t count the long-haul transcontinental flights in an itinerary. The remainder of the day I just relaxed adjusting to the altitude. I recommend staying at Hotel Villa Antigua which is located downtown in an old colonial mansion. They have great service!
Bolivia itinerary day 2: Sucre
Sucre is also called the White City due to the many white houses in its the colonial core. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the constitutional capital of Bolivia while most of the actual government is moved to La Paz. The core around Plaza 25 de Mayo is just about 5 blocks in each direction and best explored on foot. I only had one day in Sucre and really wanted to cover all places of interest including some of the beaten track places. I hired a local guide through Candelaria Tours which is a locally owned tour operator. This really helped me explore the city in a day.
Some of the most important places include: Textile Museum of Asur, The House of Liberty (note: closed on Monday), The Monastery of San Felipe Nery, The Monastery of La Recoleta, University Colonial, Anthropological and Modern Art Museum, Bolivar Park, and others.
Detailed day trip article follows.
Bolivia itinerary day 3: Dino prints & Glorieta Castle
I suggest seeing Cal Orcko Parque Cretacico on the second day of this Bolivia itinerary and do the castle on the way to Potosi. In case you fly to Potosi it’s better to see the castle on this day. Take it easy due to the altitude but I can say this will get better on the following 10 days in Bolivia. Cal Orcko Parque Cretacico is a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site as there are hundreds of dinosaur foot prints at the site. There is a dino-bus going there from the Plaza 25 de Mayo several times a day but keep in mind you’ll arrive with a crowd. A taxi is much more convenient but do make sure to arrive at 12PM or 1PM for the guided tour. This is the only way to see the footprints up close on the 70 by 130-meter wall. It’s amazing to see those giant foot prints!
Castillo de la Glorieta or Glorieta Castle is a weird place and the story even more. It was built at the end of the 19th century by Francisco Argandoña, the only prince Bolivia ever had. This princedom only lasted 35 years until he died. The princess Doña Clotilde Urioste continued to develop Sucre but the princedom never returned. Today the pink fairy tale castle remains and is worth a visit for sure. It’s quite empty but the rooms are beautiful and it’s the story that counts here.
Read all about the day trip to Glorieta Castle and Cal Orcko dino footprints here:
BOLIVIA – Must do Sucre day trip: Cal Orcko dinosaur tracks & Glorieta Castle
EXTEND YOUR BOLIVIA ITINERARY: Sucre has an amazing atmosphere! An additional day is easily filled. There are some nearby waterfalls, markets and other nature worth visiting too.
Bolivia itinerary day 4: Sucre to Potosi
The drive from Sucre to Potosi is about 3 hours without any stops. I suggest hiring a private driver. Jorge (email@example.com / WhatsApp: +59 1774 72 534) is very reliable and a safe driver. I had a great time with him when I drove from Sucre to Potosi and Uyuni. I hired him on 4 days during my 10 days in Bolivia.
If you visited the castle on the 2nd day of the Bolivia itinerary I suggest departing Sucre at the end of the morning. Stop in Yotala just outside of Sucre first for lunch. This is a small little town and nice to wander around for an hour. After lunch continue to the Gran Mariscal Antonio Jose de Sucre Suspension Bridge for a photo stop. It’s possible to cross the bridge by foot which all together takes about an hour.
The last part of the day is driving up higher on the Bolivian Altiplano well over 4000 meters. In Potosi I recommend staying at Coloso Hotel Potosi which is a great hotel in the city center. I stayed there two nights and enjoyed my stay.
Detailed day trip article follows.
Bolivia itinerary day 5: Potosi
Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world at an altitude well over 4000 meters. It’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure to visit Sucre or other places at about 2500 meters for a few days first as 4000 meters is too high to fly to from sea level without getting sick. One of the reasons I needed 10 days in Bolivia to make a good 10-day Bolivia itinerary. Potosi is home to the Cerro Rico silver mine which made the area rich under Spanish colonial rule. It’s also home to one of the oldest mints in the world.
It’s possible to see Potosi in a day but its better as I did to see a few things on the day of arrival / departure especially if you want to go inside the mine. The Cerro Rico mine is a must-see in Potosi or in all of Bolivia. One other must-see place is the Casa de Moneda and learn how coins were made in ancient time. Fill the day by visiting churches and monasteries in the old Spanish colonial core of Potosi. They have sometimes weird opening times so check this before going.
Detailed day trip article follows.
EXTEND YOUR TRIP: Potosi is a great town and if you can extend your 10 days in Bolivia itinerary I highly recommend to add an additional day in Potosi. It will make the stay more pleasant as you don’t have to hurry.
Bolivia itinerary day 6: Potosi to Uyuni
The drive from Potosi to Uyuni took up a full day of the 10 days I was in Bolivia. It was well worth the time as I saw some stunning scenery and more mining towns including one that’s abandoned. A ghost town. Flying is possible too but with the waiting time and transit times it will also take a day and you won’t be able to see anything. I suggest going by car in general in Bolivia especially if you follow this Bolivia itinerary. Do depart early morning this day around 10AM so you’ll arrive around dinner time in Uyuni.
There are several nature photo stops along the road which you’ll see when you pass them. I honestly don’t remember how many stops I made but it were a dozen or so. I made a first stop at the active mining town called Porco. It’s much smaller compared to Potosi and much more rural. There is a very small -private- mining museum and if you want you can also enter the mines. As I already went into the Cerro Rico I decided to not do that again. I then continued to Pulacayo which is the second major stop. In between it’s just amazing Altiplano scenery.
Pulacayo is an old abandoned mining town and a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site. I visited Humberstone mining town in Chile several years ago and was excited to check out Pulacayo too. I think it deserves UNESCO status! There are lots of old mining buildings, trains, and equipment on display. If you are lucky check if you can enter the main building where some interesting items are on display. This isn’t open in general but having a local driver helped getting me in! More on that later in a day trip article. From Pulacayo it was still a long drive to my salt hotel Luna Salada de Uyuni located at the edge of the Salar de Uyuni.
Detailed day trip article follows.
Bolivia itinerary day 7: Salar de Uyuni
The Salar de Uyuni was the place I was looking forward to visiting the most. It’s a huge salt flat so large you can’t see the end except some volcanos in a distance. I stayed two nights at Luna Salada de Uyuni at the edge of the Salar de Uyuni so that I could make a full private day trip over the salar. Don’t stay in Uyuni town as there is nothing to do. I highly recommend staying there and having them arrange the tour including sunset with a glass of wine and tapas. Just amazing!
A day tour is enough to see the salt museum / workshop and drive over the salar. Make sure to make some of those awesome perspective photos, visit cactus island and the old salt hotel. You won’t have time to cross the salar and see some of the lagoons and other natural phenomena. I will, someday, see those places of interest when I will drive Uyuni – Salta – Atacama. Now I only had 10 days in Bolivia and I wasn’t able to extend. I already visited the Atacama desert and northern Argentina too which is also part of the Andes and Altiplano.
Read all about my Salar de Uyuni day trip in the following article:
BOLIVIA – Must do: a luxury Salar de Uyuni day tour with sunset & wine
Bolivia itinerary day 8: Uyuni to La Paz
It’s possible to drive from Uyuni to La Paz but this part I decided to fly. There is mostly nature on the way which is similar to what I had seen already, and I didn’t feel the need to see more. The other reason was simply that I didn’t have time. I arrived around noon in La Paz which gave me a bit of time to wander around La Paz. I will return one day to see more of La Paz and cross into Peru.
Bolivia itinerary day 9: La Paz / Tiwanaku
Tiwanaku is a Pre-Columbian archeological site just a 2-hour drive from La Paz. I decided that I wanted to see the remains of this civilization after my visits to the Egyptian pyramids and Mexican Maya cultures. The buildings give a good idea of the Tiwanaku civilization of that time. There are various artifacts on display in the museum which are amazing with lots of detailed carvings and images. The Tiwanaku dates back several centuries BC and thrived until it’s collapse in the 12th century. I decided to go on a day trip to Tiwanaku from La Paz in my quest to see all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Another reason was that I’ll probably stop by in La Paz another time when flying around that area of the world. I really enjoyed the old stepped pyramid, steals and the gate of the sun. It’s an impressive site!
Read all about my Tiwanaku day trip in the following article:
BOLIVIA – Back to the Tiwanaku Empire; a day trip from La Paz
Bolivia itinerary day 10: Departure
My Bolivia itinerary ended in La Paz with a flight to Santa Cruz and onward to Sao Paulo. My 10 days in Bolivia passed by very quick as I saw so many new things. Amazing Altiplano nature, Spanish colonial architecture in Potosi and Sucre. The Salar de Uyuni was amazing as it’s so huge and looks like you’re on another world. The altitude was not a problem for me personal as I knew how my body would react to it after my trip to Tibet where I was on even higher altitudes. Do keep the risk of altitude sickness in your mind!
I hope to return to Bolivia one day soon to do a trip from Santa Cruz trough the Tropical Lowlands including the various Spanish missions. I also want to go to Noel Kempff National Park but that will take some planning as it’s so remote it only sees about 12 tourists a year. If you have experience going there, please do let me know in the comments below!Stay tuned for more stories and subscribe to the newsletter or follow CTB on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram including Instagram stories; on all social media you can find CTB @christravelblog) to get updated information.
Did you visit Bolivia and what itinerary did you do too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!