Bolivia - Off the beaten track
This fiery red lake in the far southwest of Bolivia is in a remote highland area surrounded by a surreal treeless landscape spotted with gentle hills, which resemble spilt chocolate sundaes. Birdwatchers will be particularly interested in the rare James' flamingos that inhabit the lake. Temperatures drop below -20°C (-4°F), but the bitterly cold air is heavily perfumed with the scent of yareta, a shrub used as a fuel. Fifty kilometres (31mi) south of the lake is the 4800m (15,745ft) Sol de Mañana, where a geyser, bubbling mud pools and hellish fumaroles fart and belch stinky sulphurous fumes into the fresh mountain air.
This stunning blue-green lake, situated at an elevation of 5000m (16,400ft), is tucked into the southwestern corner of Bolivia, almost 100km (62mi) from Sol de Mañana. Behind the lake rises the 5930m (19,450ft) cone of Volcán Licancabur, whose summit shelters an Inca crypt. If you get goosebumps up here, it may not just be the weather. Young Inca men were marched to the summit without protective clothing and forced to freeze to death as a sacrifice to the gods.
This bustling little frontier settlement on the Río Beni, 300km (186mi) north of La Paz, is the loveliest of the Bolivian lowland villages. The original inhabitants of the area - the Tacana - were one of the few lowland tribes who resisted Christianity and Western-style civilization. The surrounding rainforest is abundant in Amazonian wildlife, and jungle trips from the village are unbeatable.
Salar De Uyini
This 12,000 sq km (4680 sq mi) saltpan at an altitude of 3650m (11,970ft) was once part of a prehistoric salt lake which covered most of southwestern Bolivia. It's estimated to contain 10 billion tons of fine salt reserves and produces 19,700 tons per year, largely using traditional methods. Isla de Pescadores, in the middle of the saltpan, has spectacular stands of cactus and is home to a stranded colony of vizcachas (long-tailed rodents related to the chinchilla). The village of Uyini, southeast of the saltpan, is the best base for excursions. Northwest of Salar de Uyini is the Salar de Coipasa, on whose northern shore is a unique Chipaya Indian village. Residents of this village may be descendants of the lost Tiahuanaco civilization. If you travel this far off the beaten track, be sensitive to local culture; photography of people in this region is discouraged.
This one-mule village in the southern Altiplano would be of no particular interest if it were not the place where the legendary outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid supposedly met their demise at the hands of the Bolivian Army in 1908. There are several contending last resting places of this infamous pair, but if you buy into the tale, then this trip should be a pilgrimage.