Bolivia is home to a wide variety of spectacular natural wonders, including the Amazon jungle, the world's largest and most picturesque salt flats, towering Andean peaks, and multicoloured lakes that look like they belong on another planet. This unassuming region of South America may not be as well-known as Peru or Patagonia, but that's not for a lack of stunning scenery.
If you are travelling to Bolivia then don't miss out on these amazing natural attractions the country has to offer.
Just 10km (6 miles) from La Paz, Bolivia's capital, is a natural wonder known as the Valley of the Moon. It is a restricted zone within the Mallasa municipality. It is reported that Neil Armstrong gave this mysterious location its moniker, "Valley of the Moon," because of the striking similarities between it and the lunar craters he observed during his mission. After this, locals from La Paz began capitalising on the area's new moniker by turning it into a popular tourist destination.
This stunning and distinctive scene of white chimneys was sculpted over the years by the sun, wind, and rain. It is mostly clay and sandstone in the Valle de la Luna, so don't go looking for rocks there. A stark and unforgiving landscape, it's reminiscent of the Valle de Animas in its geological make-up. Different mountains in the region have varying mineral compositions, giving them a wide range of colours (from brown and beige to deep red) that serve as a striking visual feature.
The Salar de Uyuni (salt flats) in Bolivia is often regarded as one of the most dramatic and stunning landscapes in all of South America, if not the entire planet. The world's largest salt flat, covering an area of the Altiplano greater than 10,480 square kilometers (4,050 square miles) in size, is a relic of long-gone, long-dry lakes. A thick layer of salt covers the landscape here, and the ground is covered in quilted, polygonal patterns.
The salt flats are one of the best sights in Bolivia since become a breathtaking reflection of the sky when adjacent lakes overflow at specific periods of the year. Salt and lithium, the element that powers computers, smartphones, and electric cars, are mined profitably from this alien landscape. The area is populated not just by the locals who harvest these minerals, but also by road-tripping visitors and the world's first salt hotel.
The emerald hue of the water inspired the name "Green Lake," or Laguna Verde, Bolivia. The beautiful and distinctive colour of the lake's water comes from mineral suspensions of arsenic, magnesium, carbonate, and calcium that seep up from the subsurface. Depending on how much the lake's sediments at the bottom are disturbed by the wind, the lake's colour can range from turquoise to dark green. The lake is full of toxic arsenic, so you won't see any flamingos, but the barren, alien landscape makes for stunning photographs.
The majestic Lincancabur Volcano provides a breathtaking backdrop to Laguna Verde. This famous mountain stands at an impressive 5,916 metres in height, making it the ideal backdrop for the lake.
The stunning 60 sq km (23 sq miles) Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) is located near the border between Bolivia and Chile, and has been dubbed "Bolivia's most amazing natural wonder," joining the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in such illustrious company. Taking into account its stunning aesthetics, unique character, and breathtaking location, it's easy to see why. The lake is only a metre deep, but its water magically transforms between shades of blue and crimson. While some believe the intense red colour of the water is the result of the blood of Gods, it is actually due to red sediments and algae.
Islands made of white borax stand out against the striking shades of the lagoon. Photographers from all over the world visit Laguna Colorada, trying to get the perfect shot of the lake's vibrant colours against the backdrop of the blue sky and the distant snow-capped Andes mountains.
Those interested in seeing flamingos should plan their visit for the summer, when the lake is at its fullest. During winter only a small number of flamingos remain, unable to muster the energy to leave due to the extreme cold.
Another natural attraction to experience in Bolivia are the Termas de Polques, which can be found in the Bolivian Altiplano between San Pedro de Atacama and the Uyuni salt flats. The Polques Hot Springs were created when the adjacent Polques Volcano became active. After spending a night in the freezing salar, you will find this little hot spring pool to be a veritable paradise. The thermal waters aren't particularly hot, but they're warm enough to soak in, and some claim that they can ease the pain of arthritis and rheumatism. Expect a far-from-luxurious experience at these changing facilities, which cost roughly 5 Bolivianos to enter.