Palmier co-founder Chloe gives an insight into her unforgettable honeymoon in South America where she travelled around Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay. Here she shares her travel guide to Bolivia.
I was lucky enough to visit Bolivia while on my honeymoon and fell in love with its unique culture, scenery and people. Bolivia is home to the highest capital city in the world, La Paz, situated around 3,650m above sea level. It also houses the largest salt flat in the world where you can literally see the curvature of the earth.
You get a real sense of "discovery" when vising Bolivia, due to the low percentage of tourists vs other South American countries. If you compare the figures, 400,000 tourists visit Bolivia per year vs around 3.8 million visitors to Peru. This figure however, is increasing year on year - so if you want to get there before the crowds - get booking!
My Time to Show Off a Bit of What We Learnt
When I would tell friends or family of all the places we were visiting, most people, (especially my mum), would say, 'be careful in Bolivia.' Our experience of Bolivia was far from the fears expressed by those at home.
We learnt how the current president, Evo Morales, is treasured by the locals, having vastly improved the country during the course of his presidency. The country’s economy has been growing at around 4.9% each year; the number of critically poor has rapidly decreased and infant mortality, which was at 11% 10 years ago, is now at less than 1%.
We crossed the Bolivian border from Peru (another blog post to follow at some point) after a two-hour drive around Lake Titicaca. We were taken from the town of Copacabana (a great place to stay!) on a boat across the lake to Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun). Here we climbed the Grand Inca Stairs to an amazing vista where we had a dreamy lunch, and my husband spent his last day of his 20's looking pensive, see below!
La Paz (pictured below - from Google, sadly my pictures did not do the city justice.)
I mentioned earlier it is set at 3,650m above sea level and interestingly, the more desired houses are at bottom of the valley in favour of the lower altitude over the views. As the city is situated in a valley within the Andes, there was no way of building an underground system. Instead, they built a cable car transport system that allows people to get across the city in the sky and take in the beautiful scenery.
The Salt Flats - Salar de Uyuni
The salt flats have been on the bucket list for years, so when we started planning our honeymoon with the amazing travel agency Cazenove & Loyd, the flats were number one on my list.
We spent two blissful nights in an airstream camper van, exploring the salt flats, with no phone signal and only each other for company. . It is by far the most unique and breathtaking sunset I have ever seen. All my photos are completely unedited and unfiltered - which is hard to believe I know! I of course, used the unique setting as a backdrop for some Palmier footage (bomber featured heavily in these pics) and we were even lucky enough to be taken by our guide to some areas of water for incredible reflection shots. This was particularly special as the wind carries the rainwater over the flats, particularly at night, so water can be tricky to find!
While staying in the campers you get an amazing chef who cooks up some seriously unreal meals using local Bolivia quinoa (very millennial). We were very spoilt with the delicious meals as well as the site having a fully stocked bar!
There are hotels available to stay at at the start of the salt near the airport - these can be a bit touristy but are more economical, so still well worth the visit. We drove just an hour away from these hotels to where the campers were, and didn't see another tourist for two days.
We visited one of the little 'islands' on the salt where we met the now-owner of the island. The story is, he left his wife many years ago and just walked out onto the salt, never to return again. He stumbled across one of the islands, (Archie and myself at the top of it below) and started to live there under its harsh conditions. Truck drivers heading across the salt from Bolivia to Peru and tourist cars exploring the flats started to notice there was someone living there and began to drop off food and water, originally perhaps much to his despair! However, now he is the owner of a thriving tourist attraction where he charges per visit and even runs a little shop. Also, to brighten up the story a little, he is now re-married with kids, who I believe live in the airport town not on the island!
One word of advice I would have on the salt flats is, if you are just looking to do a day tour, really do your research into the company you are going to use. Our guide, who was with us for the duration of our time in Bolivia, told us of various horror stories about untrained drivers or drivers who pay for their own petrol so refuse to take clients too far, barely scratching the surface of what the salt flats have to offer.
The Coca Leaf
In the western world, the Coca Leaf is only really seen for its illegal properties - when we hear coca we automatically associate it with Cocaine. However, it has many beneficial health qualities when chewed or drunk in a tea. These include helping with altitude sickness, acting as a painkiller and helping upset stomachs.
I had no idea about any of this prior to visiting the country and being an avid crime / drug trade documentary fan, I had many questions for our guide on the topic. (To all my friends that know... you know!)
It was so interesting learning that Bolivia is the biggest grower of coca leaves in the world. Columbia is generally thought of as the biggest producer, but in reality, it is Peru and Bolivia - Columbia is where it is mostly transported through to reach the Western World.
Three Questions with Archie:
1) What three words would you use to describe Bolivia?
Expansive, Unique, Wild
2) Advice for someone visiting Bolivia?
Don't be afraid of anything. Hard to find more welcoming or hospitable country.
The sun setting on my 20s with my wife on the salt flats.
Travel Agent - Cazenove & Loyd
When we began discussing what we wanted to do for our honeymoon, we both decided South America would be the ultimate dream. However, we quickly learnt, after asking for recommendations from friends, that anyone who had visited the vast continent had a 'must see'.
A friend suggested we speak to the company that she works at, Cazenove & Loyd, who would be able to help bring our dream honeymoon to life... she was not wrong there!
Neither of us have used an agency before, so we were unsure about what to expect, but I can honestly say our trip would not have been as seamlessly organised and unique if we had not used Cazenove & Loyd... 10 flights, two trains, 11 transfers later, we could not have executed.
Milly at Cazenove was amazing, she worked to our budget as well as offering suggestions on activities, hotels and places that were lesser known. The details of our itinerary (27 pages including an app with all your travel documents), as well as the amazing guides suggested, were all of the highest quality, we could not recommend them more, which is why I am including them on this post.
Disclaimer: all the above is my personal opinion and I cannot guarantee that everything I say is factually correct as well as each travellers’ safety. Cazenove and Loyd did not offer discount or pay to be included in this post!😊