Bolivia is not the first country that comes to mind when people talk about visiting South America. I can’t tell you how many times people would ask me “where’s that?” when I was growing up. So, let me educate those of you who are asking yourself the same thing … it is located in central South America. It’s kind of squished off center by several other countries.
Honestly, I never even would have put it on my list of must-see places if it weren’t for my dad being born and raised there and having my grandparents still living there. I had previously visited when I was about 21 and still in college but with having a family of my own to travel with now, it was hard to pass up an opportunity to go back.
Our schedule was so busy leading up our trip. We left right after the holidays, which was pure chaos around the house. We were traveling with a plus on, my dad, who met us in Chicago (he lives in Austin). The flights to get there were soooo long. From Chicago, we had to hop on a plane to Miami where we had a seven hour lay over going both ways … Nightmare! Then from Miami, we took a flight to Santa Cruz, where we boarded another flight to the city of La Paz.
Sound crazy?? It was! Try doing that with a one year old!
The problem is that La Paz is so unique in that it sits on a plateau surrounded by the Andes mountains, making it the highest capitol in the world, so there is no direct flight into the city.
In total we traveled about 22 hours …. (there and back). Can you say tired?! But landing makes it all worth it cause in that moment it was all worth it!
Our drive down into the city from the airport was breathe taking! You can see the mountain range stretching across in all directions. And if you can believe it or not, there are houses going all the way up! At night, it is just a sea of twinkling lights. It is the most gorgeous site to see. And the architecture there is just incredible! Justin was in architectural heaven.
Our first stop on the agenda was to get in a little r&r at my grandparent’s house. My grandparents, to this day, still live in the home that my great-grandfather built out. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have cozy accommodations so far away from home. The only downfall I can say is that there’s no central heating which can make for a very cold night and even some cold days during the summer.
First thing on Day two, we had planned to go visit a few of the local artisan markets but things took an unexpected turn for us. Kaeden woke up super congested (I’m talking, snot dripping down his nose congested) and was running a temp. We didn’t want to push it that day, because we were worried about him possibly having altitude sickness so we cancelled our plans for that day. Up until that point, we had been up so lucky that Kaeden had never gotten sick back home. It was so disheartening that our little guy fell ill the second we took a chance to go out of the country.
Unfortunately, our little monkey got worse from there. For the next few days, all of our plans to explore had been cancelled. Kaeden’s fever wasn’t going away and he was still so congested that he could barely breathe or sleep. Being in a 3rd world country, they do not have a lot of the amenities that we are so used to back home. It became so emotionally and physically draining trying to get our son basic care. I can’t tell you how badly I felt that I couldn’t just run downstairs to our garage and grab a humidifier for our little guy. But we improvised, waking up with him at all hours of the night to sit in the steamy bathroom with him so we could suction out what we could.
You know those moments, where you are trying to keep yourself as calm as possible but inside you are breaking apart because you feel so helpless. That’s what those first four days were like. Thankfully, we were able to track down a private clinic that was able to give us some medicine for our poor babe which seemed to help him enough for us to start enjoying our trip.
With everything that had happened, we wanted to take it slow after our whole ordeal but slow was a bit of an understatement since we only had 2.5 days left in Bolivia to squeeze everything in that we had planned on doing. So first thing we did was go up to El Valle De Luna … (Moon Valley).
The ‘Moon Valley’ is basically an area of erosion that left behind these tall clay pillars. It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. What was so cool to see was this tiny city of houses right next to us! Crazy! I can’t even imagine trying to build a stick house that high up let alone something that I am going to live in.
From there, we drove down to the artisan markets for some much needed retail therapy. These ‘pop-up’ shop esque markets are just the cutest and the best place to find some hidden gems. The greatest thing about Bolivia is that there is nearly one one within walking distance wherever you go and you can find anything from leather goods, to shoes to jewelry. My favorite’s are the clothes and handmade goods made with the traditional vibrant colors you typically see in South America. Justin loved the Alpaca sweaters and ponchos. They seriously are the warmest!
The next part of our trip, we ventured out to Copacabana. The drive was about 4 hours from La Paz, with all the stops and construction that they had going on. I don’t know how we survived the journey with a one year old and only one bathroom stop …. but we did. Along the way, we had to cross Lake Titicaca which made for an interesting boat ride across in our car. But this lake was so gorgeous! If you ever plan a trip here, this is a MUST see!
It’s tradition for us once we make it into Copacabana that we climb up El Calvario. This is a hill that has stations of the cross set up for religious purposes but oh my gosh, the view from up there is unlike any other. Sadly, there is no road to the top so you do have to put in the work to get to the top and let me tell you, it is a brutal steep climb up. Oh boy, do you feel it! Once you reach the top, you can see the city and lake for miles. It is a dream!
We spared ourselves the drive back that day and just spent the night in Copacabana. The next morning, we got ready to go at the crack of dawn so that we could make a trip over to the ruins. Justin was super excited to go these. He loves all the alien theories out there (I think he might be one, hehe!).
The ruins are literally in the middle of nowhere, but seeing such inginuity and massive stone structures just blows my mind every time! Seriously … how the hell did they make those huge statues! Makes you wonder what it was really like back then.
My all time favorite part? THE LLAMAS! I had been searching for these bad boys high and low and I was sooo excited that at the end of our trip I FINALLY found them! Who doesn’t love llamas?!
We squeezed so much out of our short, healthy time there but I am so grateful that we were able to see some this countries beauty. Our journey may have started off rough and it may not have been the dream of our dreams but we made the most of the time that we had.
It may not be home, but this country will always and forever hold a special place in my heart.
Until next time Bolivia!