Photograph courtesy Ecolodge La Estancia
The most authentic and unique hotels in Bolivia, chosen by National Geographic Traveler editors for the 2011 Stay List
Operating in one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet, Chalalán is way off the beaten track, within Madidi National Park. Thatched-roof cabins in the jungle forest. Traditional dug-out canoes that can seat six, made by local artisans, provide a good means for getting out on the water to explore. More authenticity: Everything in the gift shop comes from the indigenous community of San José de Uchupiamonas, known for their carving. Well-trained and well-versed guides lead treks (you could see a jaguar) and boat trips. A healthy portion of the lodge's profits goes back into the community to improve education and health. 14 rooms; from $320, incl. meals and most activities. Two-night minimum.
Andean in style outside (adobe, thatch, stone) and in (textiles, ceramics, furniture). Accommodations and restaurant built over restored pre-Inca terraces and trails; all electrical wires sit underground. The result: a time machine Indian village on the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca. Very basic rooms. Boat rides to ancient ruins; hiking. The lodge is surrounded by high-Andes fields planted with potatoes, quinoa, lima beans, and more. Solar panels heat water; passive solar warms guest rooms. Recycling of gray water. All organic waste becomes garden compost. 15 rooms; from $80, incl. dinner and breakfast.
Old World vibe—the place was built in 1557, in farm country (there's a dairy farm to this day). Clay-tile roofs; rich red adobe walls. Lots of art and heavy wooden furniture inside. A fireplace in every room. Good rainbow trout river on the property. Day trips to the thermal springs in Tarapaya. Highlight: Ojo del Inca, a perfectly circular hot water lake fed by underground springs. This lake was a favorite of Inca Emperor Atahualpa and his court. 14 rooms; from $60, incl. breakfast.
A late 18th-century whitewashed home amid a wealth of historic buildings becomes a hotel in 1997—replete with Wi-Fi (free) in each antiques-bedecked room. First guests: dignitaries in town for the ninth meeting of the Andean presidents, including the president of Bolivia. Fruits and vegetables served at the restaurant are sourced at the local market in this charming colonial city of about 300,000 inhabitants. 23 rooms; from $41, incl. breakfast.
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