Unity with nature: Altiplano, Bolivia

Anna Gibiskys, a master of landscape photography, discusses where the portal of communication with nature opens and how to use it correctly. Anna's talent has repeatedly won awards at major international landscape photography competitions. She currently organizes photo tours in South America, teaches the art of photography, and is a speaker at events. As the plane emerges from a layer of cumulus clouds, tree-covered hills alternating with deep gorges appear in the porthole. Suddenly the landing gear touches the runway, and the plane plunges smoothly into the ridge of one of the hills. Already on the ramp, the intoxicating scent of eucalyptus trees envelops us on all sides. Fresh, cool, and piercingly light air instantly gives a feeling of freedom. At the tiny Juana Azurduy de Padilla airport, guests are greeted by a representative dinosaur monument, and luggage is quickly released on a single conveyor belt. Smiling, overweight cab drivers dressed in classic knitted plaid cardigans, slacks, and polished patent leather shoes wait outside the airport. Welcome to Sucre, the capital of Bolivia, a country nestled in the foothills of the Andes. With an elevation of 2,800 meters above sea level, Sucre is so good for acclimatizing and preparing for a trip to the Altiplano region, where the average height is 4,000 meters above sea level.


Getting to the Altiplano takes work. Before heading out, you must undergo mild acclimatization to prepare for being at altitudes above 3,500 meters. But you can take advantage of this to explore Sucre properly. For three days, you can walk around the white stone city, the spacious Plaza 25 Mayo with its stores, benches, and bars, the beautiful roofs of the Catholic cathedrals, and the Sunday markets of the Yampara Indians. Locals call Sucre the "White City" because of the many well-preserved white monuments of colonial architecture. The hospitable capital of Bolivia welcomes tourists with beautiful buildings, old churches and cathedrals, and distinctive local cuisine. Every cafe or restaurant here serves traditional Indian treats with a Spanish flavor. Meat dishes (including alpaca), corn, and potatoes are always on the menu. It is worth trying the local dessert - fried sultanas cakes filled with melted chocolate- and the national drink - corn beer chicha. I recommend staying at the Parador Santa Maria La Real Hotel 5*. The spacious suite is furnished with antique French furniture of the XVIII and XIX centuries, including a restored bronze bed and a beauty table of the Elizabethan era in the bathroom. You'll appreciate this hotel for its interiors and first-class service and the chic rooftop sunrises with views of the colonial city center.


After acclimatizing to the thin air, we are ready to go on a jeep expedition. Fortunately, these days trips are much more comfortable and accessible than they used to be. On the Altiplano, you can stay in hotels built from salt mined at Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt marsh in the world. The Wi-Fi will only be in the hotel, as most of the Altiplano is a wilderness of animals and birds. The Altiplano is a world of high-mountain cold deserts stretching across four countries: Southern Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Northern Argentina. It is a world of colorful mineral lagoons, volcanoes rising up to 6,000 meters, and magnificent landscapes, as if Salvador Dali painted them. In the absence of communication and reduced oxygen levels, you will first encounter your soul. Outside, you will be completely absorbed and enthralled. In an unfamiliar environment, your body quickly goes into a mode of lowered energy expenditure: you are smoothly immersed in zen and contemplation of the surrounding beauties, exploring the local natural sights and letting everything pass through you. This is a special therapy of natural beauty.


The Uyuni Solonchak rises 3,650 meters above sea level. It is a place of silence where the sky merges with the horizon, which awakens a sense of peace in the soul. Uyuni is in two states: in the fall, it stands dry with a polygonal grid of salt lozenges, and in the spring, it is covered with a thin layer of water that reflects the sky. Both states are worth visiting Bolivia twice, certainly in the off-season. After all, the rest of the year is either the rainy season or winter. I have been photographing the salt marsh for eight years now, and each time it gives me incredible scenes of sunsets and sunrises, allowing me to think creatively in a space.


At 4,278 meters above sea level, the Colorada Lagoon is famous for its ultra-red watercolor, one of Bolivia's main natural treasures. The waters, colored with algae and minerals, attract thousands of pink flamingos; listening to their nibbling at dawn is an incomparable pleasure. The edge of the lagoons is huge; to see the most colorful of them, it is worth choosing long itineraries of jeep expeditions. Visit Celeste Lagoon, which got its name for the color of its water, similar to the shade of the sky, or the ultra-green Verde Lagoon, whose waters contain arsenic.


The canyons in the country's south are still the least visited places, but that's why they deserve attention. In 2015, I began to include the majestic Roman City Canyon in my photo tour itineraries. Since then, some basic refugios have appeared, where you can stay overnight, and local Quechua Indians pave a hiking trail deep into the canyon. The canyon's erosive landscape is shaped by the destruction of monumental rock formations, which range in color from white to red, transitioning to shades of ochre and gray. Snow-covered volcanoes surround the canyon, and the usual unafraid alpacas graze in the meadows. The geothermal field "Morning Sun" (Sol de Manana) recommends visiting at dawn, when the pots of boiling mud under pressure gush out clubs of warm air, turning orange in color. A true work of natural art can be called the only "stone tree" Arbol de Piedra in the world - a sculpture carved out of soft volcanic rock by the wind for centuries. It is worth carefully selecting an expedition team to make the trip comfortable. No universities here teach the basics of tourist services, so the Quechua Indians learn from the tourists. We started with the basics: making expedition menus, inspecting mountain hotels, and training sessions for expedition drivers. Moreover, to get the most out of a trip like this, go to the region with a photo tour. Then you will be provided with all the sunsets and sunrises because, at this time, nature shows all its beauty and fragile serenity.