There is no other lake so deeply steeped in myths and legends as the famed Lago Titicaca in South America. In many ways, this natural wonder is unique. If one needs to describe it, only the superlatives come to mind: the deepest lake located in the high mountains, the largest freshwater lake in South America, the highest navigable lake in the world, and, of course, the most mysterious lake on our planet.
Lying on the south-eastern shore of the legendary Titicaca Lake, Tiwanaku Archeological Site is the only living testimony to one of the most powerful empire states in pre-Columbian America. Today, little is known about the people who inhabited the area 1000 – 1500 years ago. A lot of what is known is surrounded by myths and fantasies. However, no matter how scarce and incomplete the remaining physical evidence is, it attests to the greatness of civilization that was advanced beyond its age.
Inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000, Tiwanaku has been a site of extensive excavations for more than 100 years. Even though the remaining ruins do not have the grandeur of Machu Picchu, visiting Tiwanaku on a one-day tour from La Paz is a must, particularly, if you are a history geek or, like me, fascinated with ancient indigenous cultures. There are a few things that will definitely keep you wondering about the secrets of this mysterious civilization.
Just like the whole country, Bolivia’s de facto capital La Paz gives its visitors mixed feelings. On one hand, the moment you set your foot here, the polluted streets and decrepit buildings remind you that you are in a third-world state. On the other, the strong influence of traditional Andean culture on the metropolis and its inhabitants creates a mystical ambiance that immediately enchants you. The picturesque location in the highlands of the Altiplano and breathtaking views also add to the city’s unique character.
While many travelers come to La Paz as a convenient transit point between numerous historical sites in Bolivia and Peru, the distinct ethnic touch, rich colonial past, striking natural scenery, and vibrant nightlife make it worthy of a much longer visit. That is why I have written a little guide to help you explore Bolivia’s principal city.
Santiago usually serves as a gateway to Chile’s top tourist attractions: incredibly beautiful nature spots and world-famous national parks. In fact, Protected Wilderness Areas make nearly 20 % of the country. That is why most visitors usually pass through the Chilean capital either on the way to the snowy wonders of Patagonia in the South or to the otherworldly landscapes of the sun-dried Atacama Desert in the North. Few travelers come to the city for its own sake. And, indeed, Santiago’s rather monotonous skyline dominated by modern skyscrapers does not strike you as a particularly remarkable or unconventional place. Instead, this South American megalopolis has a pretty unassuming character that takes time to open up to you.
Yet, it would be a pity to miss on the chance to get to know Chile’s most important city and appreciate its discreet charm. So here is a brief guide to Santiago’s best places to visit during a short stay.
There are few places on our planet where you can literally watch the Earth breathing. In my opinion, El Tatio in Northern Chile is definitely one of the best locations to experience this rare phenomenon. With the concentration of 67 geysers and more than 300 hot springs within an area of 30 sq.km., it is the third-largest geothermal field in the world, after the Yellowstone National Park in the US and the Valley of Geysers in the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia. It has also become a popular destination for tourists to observe geyser activity amidst the awe-inspiring volcanos of the Andes Mountains.
If you have ever fantasized about traveling in space and visiting the other planets, taking a trip to the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile is so far the closest you can get to realize your dream. Wedged between two mountain ranges, the Andes in the east and the Cordillera de la Costa in the west, this desert plateau is the driest non-polar place on Earth. For millions of years, the extreme aridity and strong winds have shaped its surface into the stunning otherworldly landscapes that draw comparisons to Mars and offer scientists opportunities for interplanetary research.
In the Bolivian Altiplano, there are a lot of places that can dazzle you with their beauty. The Salar de Uyuni is, certainly, the most famous among them. Yet, it is not the sole attraction that draws the hordes of travelers to the region. In my post about the Salt Flats Salar de Uyuni: Where Heaven and Earth Meet I mentioned that your Salar de Uyuni tour would not be complete without seeing a few other local gems such as, for example, the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve.
If you ask me to name just one place on earth that impressed me most, without a second thought, I would say Salar de Uyuni. Well, at least, among all those places that I have visited myself. This extraordinary nature’s paradise is one of those rare sights that will look in real life exactly like the mind-blowing landscapes from National Geographic.
Hidden among the highlands of the Atacama Desert, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat. Even today, this natural marvel has preserved its pristine beauty and looks completely untouched by modern civilization. It is Bolivia’s number one destination for travelers and a must-see on your South American tour. The vast expanses of the flats that seem to have no bounds will surely take your breath away and capture your imagination.