Top events in Bolivia

July
31

Fiesta Patronal is a similar folkloric festival to Carnaval and Gran Poder, although this one pays homage to patron saint San Ignacio, and takes...

August
06

This lively public holiday celebrates the country’s independence from Spanish rule, declared on August 6, 1825. Patriotic parades fill streets...

August
15

One of the biggest national fiestas, the Fiesta of the Virgin of Urkupiña in Quillacollo attracts up to half a million visitors, many of whom take...

Laguna Verde, Bolivia
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Laguna Verde, Bolivia

© www.123rf.com / Javarman Javarman

Bolivia Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,100,000 sq km (424,164 sq miles).

Population

10.4 million (2012).

Population density

9.3per sq km.

Capital

La Paz.

Government

Democratic republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1825.

Head of state

President Evo Morales since January 2006.

Head of government

President Evo Morales since January 2006.

Electricity

Most of Bolivia is 220V/50Hz as well having 110V and 220V supplies. Plugs are two-pronged with round prongs (European) and flat-pronged pins (US).

Bolivia is a land of diverse clashes: from ice-capped peaks, coloured lagoons and flamingos, to rugged lowlands, Amazonian rainforest, beautiful valleys and colonial cities, the innate magic of this country will not fail to dazzle. Landlocked at the heart of Andean Latin America by Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay, Bolivia is dominated by its varied geography, the soaring Andes and its distinctive culture.

Throughout its three centuries of colonial history, Bolivia was known as ‘Upper Peru’, and lost almost half its territory (including its Pacific Coast to Chile), until Simón Bolívar led the country to independence in 1825, when it was named in his honour. Now, it could not be more different to its neighbours. Those who venture beyond the mass tourism of Peru and the European-like cities of Chile and Argentina will find a country offering a far more authentic take on Latin American culture. Indeed, Bolivia’s mysterious exoticism remains the main attraction for travellers who dare to go off the beaten track.

While upscale hotels and international-standard restaurants do exist, there are also plenty of long bus journeys along rugged mountain passes, rough-and-tumble jeep trips across empty landscapes and chilly nights at high altitude in low-frills hotels under llama wool blankets. Though rich in natural resources, Bolivia remains one of Latin America’s poorest countries. The infrastructure may need some work, but the country's inherent charm and unwavering spirit lives on despite its overwhelming poverty.

Its charm lies in its staggering breadth of contrasts. The de facto capital La Paz (the official capital is Sucre) mixes both traditional and modern culture in a frenzy of collisions. Weave your way through the maze of streets where European restaurants and lively bars mix with witch markets, peaceful protests and hectic minibuses. Similarly, La Paz’s Eastern counterpart Santa Cruz offers much of the same but in a tropical, low-lying metropolis. The colonial cities of Sucre and Potosí are a chronicle of Bolivia’s past – white wash houses and historic plazas – while Tupiza and Uyuni offer something different altogether: the somewhat tragic and isolated culture of Altiplano towns.

Bolivia’s endless geographical diversities cause it to feel almost otherworldly. From jungle greenery to vast white salt plains and a bustling capital city set in a mountain valley, the sweep of landscapes can be impenetrable: one day you can find yourself walking through a canyon of rock formations, the next volcanic geysers and endless stretches of white salt. It is this smorgasbord of remarkable features which keeps trips to Bolivia varied, alive and unforgettable.

With around two thirds of the population being of indigenous origin – the largest percentage in any Latin American country – the authentic culture has not been watered down, still breathing through its cities. Native religions, dialects, traditional dress, music, medicine and the sacred coca leaf all form part of the daily life on the street. While the Spanish influence is still evident in the colonial architecture and language, Bolivia remains close to its roots.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 29 July 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Ongoing conflicts in the town of Uyuni can lead to blockades, which disrupt road travel in the area and can affect the supply of food and fuel. Seek local advice before travelling to/from Uyuni.

In advance of the national elections planned for 12 October, the frequency of road blockades has increased throughout the country. These have caused significant disruption to road travel, including access into and out of a number of towns and airports. It’s likely that further blockades will continue in the lead up to the elections. Some of these blockades could potentially become violent. Seek local advice before travelling.

Social conflict is common in Bolivia and blockades may occur along the main roads. Public transport can be disrupted at very short notice and strikes may result in widespread road blockades, including on roads to and from airports. You should never try to cross a blockade. See Road travel and Road blockades

There is a risk of ‘express kidnappings’. Take care when travelling around Bolivia, particularly when you first arrive. If you take a taxi, use a registered company.

There is a low threat from terrorism.

Carry a photocopy of your passport, including the personal details, entry stamp and disembarkation card with you at all times in case it is requested by immigration officials or the police.

Parts of Bolivia, including La Paz are at high altitude.

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