I first visited Bolivia in 1989, and for a 17 year old kid who’s been sheltered in Iceland most of his life it was another world. I stayed there for 10 months so I got to know the people and their culture quite well.
Bolivians are about 11 millions, very proud of their Inca heritage, hardworking and pleasant people. Their weathered faces show hardship and determination and it’s never a good idea to piss them off… I tried that, but that is another story 😉
Bolivia is a poor country, robbed of most of their resources by the Spaniens throughout the centuries. The heart of the mining industry in Bolivia is in Potosi, once there was a lot of silver but it’s all gone now. One of the mines is in a mountain called “Cerro Rico” (Rich Mountain) but now it’s more like a huge tombstone, a monument of its glorious past. There is however still a big mining industry in Bolivia, but now there are only cheaper minerals like: tin, zinc and lead. The main export of Bolivia is Gas, Zinc and Soya.
After I took up Landscape Photography and started to lead Photo Tours it was in the back of my mind to organise a Photo Workshop in Bolivia, so in February 2017 I decided to gather a small group of people and do a scouting expedition to decide the route and hire locals. It took us 14 days and it’s one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken!
Even we did not do any long hikes it was a challenging trip due to the altitude. The travel took us through the Altiplano (Highlands) of Bolivia on difficult roads, sometimes long drives in altitude of from 3500 meters to over 5000 metres. To operate in this altitude can be very difficult and you should always check with your doctor before taking a trip like that.
February is summertime in Bolivia, but in this altitude the weather is harsh, it can be very windy, warm during the day and cold nights, it can drop below 0° Celsius, and with the wind chill factor… well, you do have to take that into account.
Despite all of this, it’s by no means an extreme trip, but you do have to prepare for it, and I strongly advise you not to travel the Bolivian Altiplano alone. The vast plains, the endless mountain ranges and the lack of roads and infrastructure, calls for an expert in the area. The car can brake down, people can get sick from the altitude and not everybody you meet are necessarily nice people… so if you travel there do hire an expert and always check his credentials. I couldn´t have done any of it without my expert driver Demetrio and his local expertise.
So now it’s clear, a Photo Tour like that is NOT a relaxing vacation… you have to work for your photos, but if you’re up for that you are in for a treat!
For a landscape Photographer Bolivia is a paradise. The Andes mountains, from green valleys with beautiful streams to a dramatic desert landscape, endless Salt Flats which in the rainy season creates the world’s largest mirror so you don’t see where the earth stops and the sky begins… it feels like you are standing nowhere and everywhere. There are no words to describe the Salt Flats, you have to experience it.
On top of all that there is plenty of wildlife: Flamingos, Mountain Lions, Condor, Viscachas, Ostrich and Vicuñas to name a few… and of course the Lamas are not wild, but they are great models 🙂 Just take into consideration that locals are superstitious and do not like it if strangers take photos of the Lamas without permission. The Lamas are highly respected and stealing a photo whether it´s of a Lama or people is considered a theft of their soul. Remember to be respectful and polite, ask for permission…. you do not want to start a fight.
In my opinion you have not seen it all until you have been to Bolivia, it is an adventure you will never forget!
To see the route we took on a day to day basis look at our itinerary here: https://www.enroute.is/tours/bolivia-photography-workshop-altiplano/