Information About Bolivia
Discover South America has assembled Basic Information about Bolivia. We have Travel Information divided into several sections for easier viewing. This sections are: Summary, Cuisine, History, Culture, Weather, Natural Aspects and Travel Tips.
Bolivia – home of the highest capital city in the world at 3,660m (12,010 ft); Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest commercially navigable lake; the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat at 4,085 square miles (10,580 km2); the city of Potosí, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is claimed to be the highest city in the world at 4,090 meters (13,420 ft); and the Yungas Road from La Paz to Coroico – the famous Bolivian Highway of Death.
We hope you enjoy all the information about Bolivia, its Cities and Tourism Destinations that we put together for you.
About Bolivia – Summary
The most distinguishing characteristic for Bolivia in comparison to other countries is its height above sea level. It’s in Bolivia where you can find various superlatives of the earth linked with the altitude of the country, e.g. “La Paz” is the highest capital of the world and the most famous Bolivian lake “Titicaca” is the highest shippable lake of the world. Even the highest mountain in Europe doesn’t reach the altitude of this lake.
Thanks to the little contact to the neighbor countries, Bolivians could until today preserve their unique way of living. During three centuries of Colonial Ruling, Bolivia’s individuality of architecture, language and religion has been influenced by the Spanish but the marks are less visual than in other colonial countries. The Bolivian way of life seems as though nothing has altered at all in the last few hundred years. Traditions in this country almost haven’t changed during the last centuries.
People are strongly influenced by their climate protecting themselves with thick colorful clothes made of the wood of llamas. These characteristic clothes and the characteristic music of the Andes are combining perfectly with the charm of the country and add an extra value to it. In Bolivia you don’t have to visit museum to understand the culture of the country because the original culture is outside in the streets and in the countryside – it is still alive. This phenomenon – a world which is still based on nature, faith and traditions makes Bolivia so exceptional and creates the special fascination for the country.
Getting to know the purity and simplicity of Bolivian people means entering a different world. You will get involved in a reality which has never existed in this way in our western world. The Bolivian fusion of people, colors and landscape is out of the ordinary and you will never find it again in another place.
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You can also click on the links below to learn more about the most breathtaking places in Bolivia.
- Rurrenabque – the beautiful indigenous village with fantastic trips into the jungle and the pampas
- La Paz – the highest capital in the world surrounded by impressive volcanoes
- Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake of the world in an fantastic scenery of snow-capped Andean peaks, pretty island and tiny bays
- Parque Kempff Mercado – most isolated national park with best wildlife watching possibilities
- Santa Cruz – the wealthiest city of Bolivia in the tropics with many historical links to “Che Guevara”
- Cochabamba – the market capital of Bolivia with unique historical and archaeological sights
- Oruro – the mining town with the most colorful and imaginative carnival in Bolivia
- Potosi – the highest city of the world with an ancient wealth of colonial buildings and churches with an interesting silver mine to visit
Sucre – the lovely colonial city, with European architecture and many historical sights to discover
- Salar de Uyuni – one of the must see attraction – the dry salt lake region with amazing lakes, flamingos and mountain chains. A landscape which even has inspired Salvador Dali to paint
- Southwest – impressive “witch” region with irreal, natural beauties like the red “Laguna Colorada”, the green ” Laguna Verde”, volcanoes and geysire
- Tarija – the colonial city surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes in a picturesque valley
To all who visit the country, the variety of rich Bolivian cuisine will excite anyones tastebuds. It is characteristic of the region to serve a full lunch, which usually consists of an appetizer, main dish, dessert, and coffee. Breakfast consists of coffee, cake, cookies, and fruit. Supper is less sophisticated than lunch.
With the many wonderful and unique national dishes, it is important to point out the Saltenha, a meat and vegetable pie, the Chunhos (chunky potatoes dried in the cold), satja (chicken sauce covered with spicy peppers), stuffed potatoes (very spicy), Ihaucha pacenha, typical of La Paz (cheese bread), stuffed tomatoes (spiced meat and/or vegetables.) Meat (sheep, llhama, or goat) also is a specialty and is accompanied by potatoes and rice. In the interior, potatoes are substituted by mandioc (a root) or by regional vegetables.
In the Lake Titicaca area, they often serve trutas and fish (robalo, dourado, and surubim are also found in Bolivian waters). In some areas, they also eat monkey and alligator. Bolivia has a spicy sauce that is well liked by its people – the llajhua, which contains tomatoes and locotos.
With regard to drinks, the primary ones are coca mate tea and api (made from corn). Chicha (made of corn, fruits, or grains) is also very popular along with beers that vary with each different area of the country – the higher the altitude, the more foam the beer will have. Wine is another drink that is consumed and appreciated in Bolivia.
Like most Latin American countries, Bolivia was conquered by foreigners in search of new land and increased riches.
Before colonization, during the thirteenth century, Bolivia was part of the Incan Empire, an ancient culture whose technical understanding was ahead of its time. Incan artefacts are still found all over the country. With the coming of the Spanish, in the sixteenth century, Bolivia’s silver-rich territory became the home base for the Spanish government, incorporating itself with the Peruvian empire and later to the empire of Plata.
Bolivia’s fight for independence began in 1809, however only in 1825, did the Bolivians manage to defeat their Spanish rulers and declare their long-awaited independence. They changed the name of the city Alto Peru to Bolivia in honor of their liberator Simon Bolivar, who would become the first president of the country.
The political situation in Bolivia remained calm during the following years. In 1928, Andres de Santa Cruz, rose to power and formed a confederation with Peru, trying to restore the values of the ancient Incas. This partnership soon dissolved when Chile protested and declared war against Bolivia. Chile defeated Bolivia which began political chaos in the country.
It was difficult for the country to return to democracy. The constant power shifts and lack of capable leaders seriously affected the economic state of the country, leading Bolivia to extremely high inflation rates. During this process, Victor Paz Estensoro, rising for the fourth time to power (1984-1989), attempted several reforms to control the country’s inflation.
During the 90s, there was no improvement on the political or economic scene. On the contrary, societal pressures resulted in the constant trading of political leaders, continually reversing positions of power. The new president Eduardo Rodriguez, tried to stabilize the situation by offering a transitional government to arrange a new round of elections to try to rise above the difficult phase the country was going through.
The traditions of the ancient peoples in Bolivia have produced an incredible variety of music and dances that have developed from the pre-Incan, Spanish, Amazonian, and even African influences. The native, hand-made instruments bring a happy, fun sound that is being used in melodies around the world. For each region, there is a different type of music with contrasts between happy and colorful, and melancholy and sad.
Bolivias traditional dance is called the cueca. Among the most popular dances are the auqui-auqui or the huayno, the chapaqueada (famous in the fancy balls), and the macheteiro. The dances also are performed in the folklore shows that are shown with great aplomb in the Oruro and Tarabuco Carnivals and in the most important carnival of the country, the Santa Cruz. Bolivian folklore is one of the most original in the world integrating the varied ethnic and cultural differences that reside in this beautiful country.
During the Carnivals, they also dance the Diablada de Oruro Ball of African origin. The criole dances are surprising in their incorporation of distinct characteristics from the European grand court balls.
The Andean population still conserves a good part of its traditions which are seen in the colorful manila shawls and Borselino hats, and also in the richness of their handmade arts and crafts that date back to ancient times. There are many museums, shops, churches, temples, and ruins in the Bolivian territory that can help you learn to appreciate the old and rich culture of Bolivia.
Even though Bolivia is situated on the Tropic of Capricorn, it has great climactic shifts, with wide differences between day and night, due to its variations in altitude. The temperature of Bolivia is regulated by its latitude as well as its altitude in relation to sea level. At a higher altitude, the temperature has a tendency to diminish, and at a lower altitude, it tends to increase. On the average, the temperature will drop 0.55 ºC for every 100 meters of altitude you climb.
In the Cordillera mountain range area, which is regulated completely by altitude, it is extremely cold. There you can find snow caps on the mountains that never melt at temperatures as frigid as those encountered at the poles, while in the Amazonian region, you will encounter a more tropical climate, with an average temperature of 22ºC.
Bolivia Natural Aspects
Located in southwestern South America, Bolivia is the country with the highest elevation on the continent. Surrounded by Peru, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, its total area is approximately 1,098,581 km2. The country’s high altitude creates great geographical diversity with plains, valleys, plateaus, and mountains, as well as a varied climate. There are three distinct climactic regions within Bolivia:
The Andes Region: covers 28% of the territory with an area of 306,000 km2. It is located 3,000 meters above sea level and is the home of the Titicaca Lake which is 8,100 km2 and can be navigated by large ships. It is in this region that you find the Oriental Cordillera (mountain range) where there are some of the highest mountains in the Americas.
Sub-Andean Region: This area is located between the Andes region and the Plains; it covers 13% of the Bolivian territory. In this region, you will find valleys and agricultural productivity.
Plains: cover 59% of the entire territory and are located to the north of the Cordillera. Here you will find extensive forests, rich in vegetation and wildlife.
The Bolivian flora and fauna are very diverse due to the geographic differences. Great desserts, high mountains with snowy peaks, extensive and prosperous valleys make this a special place to visit. Animals that are prominent are condors with their magnificent flight, the ostrich, the parina (a species of flamingo that only exists in Bolivia), and the llhama which is characteristic of the country and is also its symbol.
The coca leaf is one of the most commercialized and lucrative products in Bolivia. The plantations were introduced to the country by the Spanish who used its stimulating power to lengthen the work days of the indians. Now there are more than 60 hectares of coca in the country. This is important in the Bolivian economy.
To preserve and conserve their ecosystem, they created several Ecological parks, reserves, sanctuaries, and biological stations with strict rules and codes that impede the destruction of natural habitat: Condorini National Park, Cerro de Sajama National Park, Mallasa National Park, Beni and Pando Lakes National Park are only a few of these.
If you are looking for a country, where you can leave the western world behind and experience something really different, Bolivia is the land which waits for you.
Lying in the heart of South America, it is surrounded by the Andes to the north, south and west, and by nearly all the other South American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru without any contact to the sea.
Maybe you wonder what makes this isolated country so interesting. In fact, it is the originality of all the natural sights and its people what makes it one of the mysterious and exciting countries of the world. The Bolivian landscape embraces a surprising range of landscapes and climates. Deep rainforest, desolated salt lakes, majestic snow-covered mountains, high-altitude deserts of the Andes and fertile highland valleys are just some examples of the incredible diverse shape of the Bolivian countryside.
It is not a land, where you get coincidently. There are no direct flights from Europe and the roads of the country are bad and dusty. But taking all upset of transport beside, you will get to know one of the most fascinating and most beautiful countries of the earth.
Bolivia Travel Tips
- Bolivia Consular Travel Visa – It is not necessary to have a visa to enter the country.
- The official currency is the Bolivian BOB. The exchange rate is BOB$ 1 = US 100 cents. American Dollars are accepted anywhere in the country.
- Water – In general, the water is safe, however it is wise that you only drink bottled water. Be especially careful to only drink bottled water when you leave the larger cities and visit less populated areas. As in all countries, the hygiene or the cleaning of the food depends on the place where you will eat. In general, there are not severe problems with cleanliness.
- In Bolivia the tip varies from 10 to 15% of your tab.
- There is an airport tax for both national and international flights.
- The official language is Spanish. Half of the Bolivian population is composed of indians that speak Quechua and Aymara.
- Catholicism is the official religion.
- The electric current is 110/220 volts at 50Hz. Plugs are the American type, however, you may need transformers and adaptors.
- You will need comfortable clothes and shoes, and we recommend you take jackets, especially in the winter.
- Check with the Bolivian consulate closest to your home for visas and vaccinations before travelling.
- Rules and requirements are subject to change without warning, thus, it is wise to contact your doctor before travelling.
- In general, to travel to Bolivia, no vaccinations are necessary. However, if you are going to visit the city of Santa Cruz, you will need to have been vaccinated against Yellow Fever. We recommend taking a prophylaxis against Malaria if you are thinking of travelling in the jungle areas.
- It is possible you might experience difficulty due to the higher altitudes.
- The lack of oxygen and atmospheric pressure can cause headache, nausea, shortness of breath, and weakness for some people. It is recommended you drink a lot of water and rest if you are affected by the altitude. Very strong coffee also is a good solution, as are the coca mate teas (excellent for digestion).
- Be alert for thieves watching for unprepared tourists. Don’t take unnecessary risks.