Bolivia is a fascinating country to cycle in. Where else do you get to cycle across salt pans? Here's some information about bicycle touring in Bolivia.
Cycling in Bolivia
I cycled in Bolivia in 2010 as part of my bike tour from Alaska to Argentina. During that tour, I wrote a blog post a day. You can find links to these Bolivia travel blogs at the end of this post.
I found Bolivia to be a really interesting country to cycle in. There's great scenery such as the salt pans, the challenge in the altitude, and a feeling you're very much in a country different from those surrounding it.
Cycling Bolivia – Route
I'd arrived into Bolivia from Peru, and so my starting point for the Bolivia leg of my cycling trip was Copacabana by Lake Titicaca. From here, I would cycle to La Paz via Huarina.
From La Paz, I had several options, and decided to take the quiet roads towards Oruro and then the Salar de Uyuni, wild camping along the way.
Here, you'll notice that Google maps isn't much use to you! There's a lot of unpaved roads in the area, and road conditions are pretty adventurous to say the least!
Then, my bikepacking route through Bolivia would take me to Uyuni, Tupiza, and finally into Argentina.
The first digital nomad traveling by bicycle in Bolivia
During my time in Bolivia, I also dabbled with working online for the first time. Keep in mind that this was 2010 in Bolivia, and I was working from a netbook with a screen size of about 9 inches!
I don't know if that made me one of the first digital nomads – certainly one of the first working from Bolivia and traveling by bicycle!
The lessons I learned helped me create an online business that nearly 10 years later enables me to perfectly combine travel and work.
Highlights of my time in Bolivia
It goes without saying that cycling across the salt pans was the real stand-out moment of biking Bolivia.
Camping out on them was made even more memorable when I found a long abandoned can of beer half buried in salt that I celebrated with!
I also bumped into President Evo Morales when he visited Uyuni – quite literally! I don't think his security detail were pleased with my presence!
I've included a photo below. Maybe you can just about pick him out.
And I spent a lot of time working online, developing my writing skills, and learning that it was in fact possible to earn a living online. Even in Bolivia.
So, if you're thinking about how to fund long term travel by bicycle, I'd suggest starting to look into what jobs you can do online before you leave. You never know if it might prove to be useful.
Why I didn't cycle death road in Bolivia
Death road is labelled as one of the most dangerous roads in the world – I guess the clue is in the name!
I didn't pass through here as it was not on my route. Besides, I'd been up and down so many unpaved routes in the mountains by this point, taking a bike ride with a tour company on the actual death road didn't seem really worth it!
Bike Touring in Bolivia
As mentioned, I wrote a blog post a day when cycling in Bolivia, although there was also a significant amount of time spent not cycling. My bicycle touring blogs for cycling in Bolivia are listed below.
Start at the first one, and at the bottom of each page, you'll find a navigation taking you on to the next.
- Cycling from Juli to Copacabana, Bolivia (Peru to Bolivia)
- Copacabana, Bolivia
- Cycling from Copacabana to Huarina
- Cycling from Huarina to La Paz
- Time off in La Paz
- Virgen del Rosario
- Cycling from La Paz to Patacamaya
- Cycling from Patacamaya to near Oruro
- Cycling from near Oruro to Oruro
- Day off in Oruro
- Cycling from Oruro to just before Corque
- Cycling from just before Corque to just after Huachacalla
- Cycling from just after Huachacalla to Coipasa
- Cycling Across the Coipasa Salt Pan to Llica in Bolivia
- Cycling from Llica to La Isla de Pescado
- Cycling from the Isla de Pescado to Colchani
- Cycling from Colchani to Uyuni
- Day off in Uyuni
- President Evo Morales visits Uyuni
- Time off in Uyuni
- Budget Travel Guide to Uyuni – Does Uyuni have an ATM and other tips!
- Cycling from Uyuni to Atocha
- Cycling from Atocha to near Tupiza
- Cycling from near Tupiza to Tupiza
- Day off in Tupiza
- Time off in Tupiza
- Freelance Writing
- Leaving Tupiza At Last
- Cycling from Tupiza to nr, Mojo
- Cycling from nr. Mojo to La Quiaca (Into Argentina)
Practical Information For Cycling Bolivia
Here's a few obvious and not so obvious insights, experiences, hints and tips that might help other cyclists plan a route across the Bolivian altiplano.
- It's high up! Don't just arrive in Bolivia and head straight out on a bike. You'll need a little time to get used to the altitude. La Paz is at around 3600m, and even if you're not planning on cycling anywhere near as high as that, it's worth getting used to the thinner air gradually. I had gradually acclimatized during my entire bike tour, so was ok cycling at heights below 4300 metres. Higher than this, and I had to take my time!
- Google maps isn't much use. In fact, it's often wrong! Nowadays there's far better mapping available than when I did the trip. Much of it is by other cyclists. If I do it again, I'll make better notes!
- Ground water is hard to come by. Take every opportunity to fill up your water bottles. Even if you're not thirsty, drink regularly, as you'll need the water to stop you getting altitude sickness.
- It gets cold at night. I had some really low temperatures. Bring some warm clothes for camping, and make sure your sleeping bag is up to the task.