Bolivia

Bolivia is one of the few places on earth where ethnography and ecology are preserved in their original state or very close to its original condition.

Bolivia is also unique, intriguing and colorful, yet remains largely undiscovered by tourism.

This bizarre country, culturally diverse, geographically exceptional and striking in so many other ways is the ideal destination for an authentic cultural experience in the Americas.

Bolivia’s unique blend of cultures and climates are due in part to its long-standing isolation from the rest of the world, thanks to its land-locked location and low immigration rates.

As such, Bolivia’s indigenous religions, languages, clothes, dances, music and medicine remain all intact, untouched by the passing of time and are an integral part of daily life. Also, the country’s diverse landscapes set it apart from any other. Indeed, in many ways, Bolivia is two countries in one: the high-altitude Western area and the lowland tropical Eastern area. The contrast between these two extremes could not be more marked: from mentality to lifestyle.

As a land of staggering contrasts, Bolivia is home to an astonishing range of landscapes and sights; from snow-covered peaks of the Andes Mountain Range to windswept deserts, spectacular salt flats, lush valleys, tropical and subtropical rainforests and ancient historical treasures.

The country where McDonald’s failed, where the Spanish left the living legacy of their colonial conquest and where ancient cultures still exist shoulder to shoulder with the trapping of modernity.

It is this clash of cultures that makes Bolivia such an authentic, unique and intriguing touristy destination.


Most visited sights

Lake Titicaca

The sacred Lake of the Incas is a must in any touristic itinerary of Bolivia.

This gigantic inland sea of sapphire-blue water covers 8,000 square-kilometers and is the highest navigable lake in the world. It straddles Bolivia and Peru. The towering peaks of the Royal Range of the Andes Mountains surround the Lake to the east, and all around, there are various traditional villages where ancient myths and beliefs are intact and Spanish is a second language.

The Island of the Sun was the birthplace of the Inca Empire and the Incas believed that the sun itself was born there. The island features many Inca sites such as the Pilkokaina Palace, the Inca Staircase, the Fountain of Youth, the Chinkana Complex with the Sacred Rock.

The Sanctuary of Copacabana, which is nestled between two hills on the shores of the Lake, is the home of the famous dark virgin. Even today, Copacabana is the main pilgrimage center of Bolivia.

Inti Wata

The most important private touristic attraction of Bolivia.

It is situated a few meters away from the Inca remains at Sun Island. It includes an underground museum with the largest collection of Sun Island archaeological and anthropological items. The Incas made agricultural terraces with a demo variety of Andean crops and medicinal herbs. There are also Andean Cameloids (llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos) in their natural habitat, a Tiwanaku altar where authentic Sun Island Kallawayas (witch doctors) perform a ceremony to greet visitors, a reed ship building display center, a traditional Medicine and Witchcraft display Center and the Inti Wata vessel, that is a 40-passenger totora reed raft. Aboard the Inti Wata, visitors can enjoy a fascinating sailing journey, experiencing Titicaca primitive navigation.

La Paz

The city of contrasts, both topographically and culturally.

Topographically, La Paz has an impressive setting and the view is staggering. It lies at the bottom of a huge canyon with triplepeaked snow-covered Illimani Mountain providing a dramatic backdrop. It belongs to the same scenic league as Rio, Cape Town, San Francisco or Hong Kong.

The multicultural and multiethnic contrast is also fascinating. In no other capital of Latin America are there such differences between their inhabitants; from indigenous women in traditional bowler hats and voluminous skirts, selling Andean crops on the sidewalks, to businessmen hurrying to their modern office buildings.

Tiwanaku

It was one of the world’s greatest and largest running empires, as well as, the oldest civilization in the Americas - the cradle of America man that comprised nearly half of present-day Bolivia, southern parts of Peru, the Northwest section of Argentina and nearly half of Chile.

The site, which was once the capital of this empire, is just one hour away from La Paz.

At one time, over 20,000 people lived in this city and the Tiawanakean people were many centuries ahead of Europe in technology and farming until the civilization mysteriously disappeared around 1,150 B.C.

Yungas

The Yungas is a subtropical mountain jungle between the high Andes mountain range and the lowland jungle basin of the Amazon.

The paved road from La Paz to the Yungas is a dramatic change of ecosystems and geographical zones. From perennial glaciers at almost 5,000 meters above sea level, to lush green hills with tropical fruits, coffee beans and coca plantations at less than a thousand meters above sea level. All these scenery changes and spectacular views are seen in just one-and a-halfhour drive.

One of the main attractions is the cozy laidback town of Coroico with warm climate.

There are numerous treks that follow ancient Inca trails descending from the Andes into the Yungas, as well as the world most dangerous road used now for downside mountain bike tours.

Uyuni Salt Flats

This is the largest and highest salt lake in the world - 12,000 square kilometers: twice as big as the Great Salt Lake in the United States. It resembles an impressive, overwhelming and solitary white ocean; bright blue skies contrast with the blindingwhite salt crust and in the rainy season the lake is covered with a small layer of water that adds a surreal experience. In the interior of this sea of salt there are islands with giant cactus.

This spectacular natural attraction takes five hours drive from Potosi, six hours drive from Oruro and a seven-hour -journey by train from Oruro.

South of the Salt Flats, towards Chile is the Avaroa National Park featuring some of the world’s most beautiful and bizarre landscapes. It is empty and desolate, yet it has multicolored lagoons that brim with bird life.

Sucre

It is the historical capital of Bolivia, which was declared Historical and Cultural Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO. Long isolation has helped the city to preserve its courtly charm and give its citizens a certain air of self-importance. Sucre’s colonial architecture and museums are a reminder of the history, culture and traditions that have thrived in this city and have influenced a wide region of South America. Until now, all the buildings in the center core of the city must be either white washed or painted white.

Near the city, there are two sights worth seeing: the largest fossilized dinosaur tracks in the world at Cal Orck and Tarabuco Village, home of the most colorful and authentic native Sunday market of Bolivia.

Potosi

It is the highest city in the world, declared Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO. The renown Potosi, its history and splendor, as well as its tragedy and horror, are inextricably tied to silver. Any city with a mountain of silver in its backyard attracts attention and Potosi in the 18th Century grew into one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world, rivaled only by Paris, London and Seville. But this silver mountain also claimed the lives of countless native slaves. This painful history can be witnessed by going inside the centuriesyear- old mines that surround Potosi.

Madidi National Park

Bolivia’s Amazon Basin accounts for over two thirds of the country – most of this vast region has not been touched by man to date, and it is covered by steamy jungles and flat savannah lands, bursting in all manner of wildlife.

Bolivia’s newest and best ecotourism destination is the Madidi National Park. It covers 4.7 million acres and encompasses 6,000 glaciers, rainforests, pampas, cloudy and dry forests.

“Boasts the greatest biodiversity of any protected area on earth” (Footprint Handbooks).

“Manu National Park in Peru is widely thought to be the best eco-tourism destination in the Amazon, but Madidi beats Manu hands down” (National Geographic).

Jesuit Missions

The Jesuit Missions are a series of villages in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia, known for their dazzling cathedrals of incongruous architecture intending to represent a Christian voice in the wilderness.

The Jesuits came to the region in the 16th Century with the aim of converting the indigenous people to Christianity. The Jesuits worked with the locals rather than forcing religion upon them, built churches in the region, that at the time were the largest in the Americas. Jesuits also taught the indigenous how to play unfamiliar instruments, such as harps and violins and the settlements now have their own orchestras, where operas and concerts take place. This deep cultural meaning and the high artistic level of the churches motivated UNESCO to declare the Jesuit Missions Cultural Heritage of Mankind.

Andes Mountain Range

The Andes mountain range runs from Colombia to Chile and passes through the western area of Bolivia. The two hundredkilometer long Royal Range is Bolivia’s most prominent range and also the most imposing of the Andes. It provides a constant backdrop across the High Plateau, especially in Lake Titicaca and La Paz and it offers the best mountain climbing in the world outside the Himalayas, as well as numerous opportunities for trekking and mountain biking.

The Western Range is the home of the Sajama National Park with the world’s highest forest. The extraordinary biodiversity along with thermal springs, historic colonial churches and isolated villages make up impressive scenery.

Both the Royal Range and the Western Range (Sajama National Park) are amazingly close to La Paz, and a one-day trip is all it takes to provide a spectacular view of the mountains, lagoons and small isolated villages.


Bolivia at a glance

Bolivia is situated in the heart of South America bordered by Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru and it covers 1,098,581km2 (428,446 square miles).

Climate:

Bolivia has an extreme range of climates depending on the altitude. Summer / rainy season falls between November-April and winter/dry season from May to October.

Capitals:

Sucre (constitutional), La Paz (administrative). Bolivia is a democratic Pluri National State.

Population:

Approximately 10,027,254, with 7 inhabitants per km2 (11 per square mile)

Language:

Spanish followed by Quechua, Aymara, plus many other indigenous languages.

Religion:

95% Roman Catholic but many people also hold traditional Inca and Aymara beliefs.

Currency:

The Boliviano rate of exchange; 7 Bolivianos = 1 U.S. Dollar

Time:

4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Bolivian time is constant throughout the year and throughout the country.

Electricity:

La Paz runs on both 220v and 110v. The rest of the country is 220v.

Business hours:

From 9:00 to 12:00 in the morning and 14:30 to 18:30 in the afternoon.

Tipping:

A 10% tip is expected

Getting to Bolivia:

By air, there are direct non stop flights from Spain, the United States, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Panama.

By land, the most common and suitable entry point is Peru, crossing Lake Titicaca. The Catamaran Cruise ships offer daily connections between Puno (Peru) and La Paz (Bolivia). The two other land entryways used by tourists are from San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) to the Uyuni Salt Flats and from La Quiaca (Argentina) to the city of Potosi.

Public Holidays:

New Years Day, January 1st

Creation of the Plurinational State, January22nd

Carnival, February/March

Good Friday, Friday before Easter

Labor Day, May 1st

Aymara New Year, June 21st

Corpus Christi, May

Independence Day, August 6th

All Saints Day, November 2nd

Christmas Day, December 25th