High in the Andes, a Humming Metropolis. Low on the Plains, an Old Way of Life
Relatively undeveloped compared with its neighbors, Bolivia is a destination off the beaten path, brimming with the rewards sure to attract the truly intrepid. Called “Tibet of the Americas,” Bolivia is situated below a plateau of the Andes mountains, over 11,000 feet above sea level. Oxygen-deprived visitors will notice locals chewing native coca leaves or making them into teas. The mild stimulant can be found in all of the teeming marketplaces of the country's capital, La Paz, and counters the effects of altitude sickness. Make time for a spectacular decent into the subtropical hamlet of Coroico: flanked by breathtaking vistas, a narrow trail winds its way from the blasted, arid Andes peaks nearly 12,000 feet down into its verdant folds. The 3,000-feet drop-off from the crude path has earned it the nickname “the World’s Most Dangerous Road.” The brave few who take a day-long mountain bike tour down the infamous highway will not soon forget the experience. The southern provinces offer less extreme thrills, their sleepy rural villages a mish-mash of indigenous culture and Spanish colonial influence: the smattering of ornate Catholic churches alone will delight art and history buffs alike.