BOLIVIA


Bolivia is located in the heart of South America and offers the traveler a unique, authentic travel experience.

Although it is far less visited than its more developed neighbours it is an incredible country full of beautiful scenery, wonderful culture and unmissable activities.

It is bordered by Peru to the north, Argentina to the south, Chile to the west, Brazil to the north & east and Paraguay to the south-east.

Here you will find some background info on this fascinating Andean nation.

If you are just looking for the tour options though you can find them here:

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

History of Bolivia

Ancient Times

Many hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spanish the area of present day Bolivia was already home to great civilisations.

The ancient city of Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco), that was founded about 400 BC and existed for about 600 years, is thought to have had as many as 50,000 habitants at its peak and its rulers commanded an empire that stretched across Bolivia and southern Peru.

Around 1000 AD the empire of Tiwanaku dismantled, the reasons why are not confirmed, and there was a period of small independent states ruled by local chiefs.

The next great civilisation to arrive was the Incas in the 15th century who conquered large parts of South America from much of Ecuador, Peru, western & southern Bolivia, areas of northern Chile and parts of northern Argentina.

The Incas are famed for their skills in road building, stone masonry and organisation and left a legacy of incredible sites. The remains of many Inca roads are evident in Bolivia including the some fantastically preserved example near the start of the Takesi trail.

One of the most important Inca sites is Isla del Sol, an island on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca near Copacabana, that the Incas believed to be the birth place of the Sun God.

Inca Paving on the Takesi Trail

Inca Paving on the Takesi Trail

Colonial Times

The beginning of the fall of the Incas started when Francisco Pizzarro and his fellow Spanish conquistadors landed on South American soil in 1532.

By 1535 they had already taken the Inca capital of Cusco and set their sites on the lands further south.

With just a small army of around 160 led by Diego de Almagro and aided by the devastation amongst the native population caused by the western diseases the Spanish had brought to the continent, they quickly took control and by 1938 they founded the city of La Plata.

This new city grew quickly and was proclaimed capital of the Audencia de Charcas in 1559 and, many years later, was to become the current capital of Bolivia, Sucre.

Other cities were established across the territory that was then known as Alto Peru, such as La Paz in 1548 , but the city that was to become the most important of the era was Potosi which was founded in 1545.

It was the mountain that stood over the city of Potosi that was the reason for its growth and the discovery of what was possibly the largest deposits of silver in history within its mines.

“Cerro Rico” (Rich Mountain) as it became known, supplied seemingly endless amounts of silver for shipping back to the Spanish crown and the city that grew beside it became famous for its wealth.

By the 1600s Potosi was the largest city in South America with a population of over 150,000 people and it remained the most important city for hundreds of years.

The mining of silver and other minerals provided the financial back bone for the growth of the Spanish empire across South America.

It was only when the veins of silver that ran through Cerro Rico began to flow at a slower pace did the decline of Potosi and Alto Peru begin in the late 18th century.

Falling silver prices and calls for independence from Spain accelerated its fall from grace in the following decades.

Cerro Rico from Potosi City

Cerro Rico from Potosi

Cities & Departments

Capital

The constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre, which is also the Judicial capital, but La Paz is considered the 'de facto' capital and is the seat of government.

Historically the reason Sucre is the official capital is because it was originally the capital of Alto Peru , which later became the country of Bolivia,  after gaining independence from Spain.

In the early twentieth century however, it was decided to move the seat of government to La Paz due to its location being better suited and the fact that the areas close to Sucre, such as Potosi, had declined in importance.

There have been calls, such as prior to the writing of the new constitution that was ratified in 2009, to declare La Paz as the capital but this was met with fierce opposition from Sucre and other areas so the idea was abandoned.

Departments

Bolivia is split into nine departments each with its own adminsitrative capital. 

Santa Cruz is the most populous city and the fasest growing although La Paz and El Alto (the city that sits on the plain directly above La Paz) combined have a greater number of people in total.

DEPARTMENT CAPITAL
LA PAZ LA PAZ
PANDO COBIJA
BENI TRINIDAD
COCHABAMBA COCHABAMBA
ORURO ORURO
SANTA CRUZ SANTA CRUZ DE LA SIERRA
POTOSI POTOSI
CHUQUISACA SUCRE
TARIJA TARIJA

Since the implimentation of the constitution in 2009 the country has been going through the process of allowing more autonomy to each of the departments decentralising the control of certain responsibilities from the central government.

Cities have an elected Mayor (Alcalde) that has responsibility for a number of municipal services.

Climate

Bolivia has a very varied climate due to its vast size, large differences in altitude between regions resulting in a range of different ecosystems.

Additionally, the countries proximity to the equator means it does not experience 4 seasons like some countries but it is often said to have two -  rainy season and dry season.

Although you will find variations in opinion, dry season is considered to be from April or May through to September or October and the rainy season from October / November through to March / April.

Of course, weather is unpredictable and cannot be defined in exact terms but the above is a pretty good guideline as to what to expect.

Usually the heaviest rain period falls during Jan/Feb/Mar and after sustained periods of rain the country can suffer from problems such as damaged roads and, in some areas, flooding. This is also the best time to see the mirror effect on the Uyuni Salt Flats.

During the dry season, the days are often sunny and the skies clear. At night time though the temperatures are colder than other times of the year, especially in the high-altitude areas.

During July / August for example temperatures can drop below -30 degrees C in the Laguna Colorada area that is visited on the Salt Flats tours.

Large parts of eastern Bolivia are lowlands and experience a hot climate year-round with temperatures typically in the 25 to 35 degrees C range.

The northern areas of this eastern part are home to rainforests and humid semi tropical areas, whilst the central areas have more open savannas with low rolling hills resulting in a slightly humid environment with more wind.

The southern section is often very dry for many months of the year but can be prone to flooding during the rainy season.

People & Languages

Bolivia is home to an incredibly diverse range of people and languages.

It is also the South American country that has the largest percentage of the population being considered indigenous with over 60% belonging to one of the 36 officially recognised indigenous groups.

The two predominant groups are the Aymara and the Quechua. Around 30% of the population are considered mixed European & indigenous and are referred to as mestizo. In the south the Guarani people are the fourth largest.

Throughout the Amazon region there are various distinct ethic groups such as the Chiquitano and Tacana.

The Uru-Chipaya group are possibly the most ancient of all peoples in the region having a history of around 4000 years living in a remote area of the altiplano in between the Sajama area and Uyuni Salt Flats. Unfortunately, their existence is under threat as people leave the harsh area to live and work in the cities.

In the Yungas are there are communities of Afro-Bolivians, numbering around 30,000 in total,  that are descended from slaves that were brought by the Spanish in the 16th century.

Those visiting the Santa Cruz region will notice a number of Mennonites whose families immigrated to Bolivia around a 100 years ago and whose population is now around 30,000 spread across 25 settled communities in the area.

So whilst the official primary language of Bolivia is Spanish, in which most administration tasks are performed, there are 36 recognised official languages and even more spoken.

Travelling around the country you will likely hear Spanish, Aymara, Quechua, Guarani, Low German and various other languages as well as a multitude of others from foreign residents that have settled here with it being common to hear English, Portugese, Dutch, German and  Chinese in cities such as La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.

  • Bolivia
  • Flag of Bolivia
  • OFFICIAL NAME

    Plurinational State of Bolivia

    POPULATION

    10887000 Estimate 2017

    LAND AREA

    1,098,581 SQ KM

    LANGUAGES

    Spanish (primary administrative) & 36 Indigenous Languages

    CURRENCY

    Boliviano (BOB)

Bolivia

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  • Todo Turismo Buses & Perla de Bolivia Salt Flats Bundle
    Visit world-famous Salar de Uyuni with top operator Perla de Bolivia starting with a tourist bus from La Paz and including return bus after the tour. We are the number one official agency for Todo Turismo and Perla de Bolivia and decided to offer this bus & tour combo option to allow you to book both services all at once. You cannot find this combination for a cheaper price anywhere!. Book now to secure your places!

    Regular Price: $264.00

    Special Price $255.00

  • Flight Sucre to Santa Cruz (BoA)

    Catch a direct flight from Sucre to Santa Cruz, the fastest and most comfortable way avoiding a 12 hours bus ride. This flight is operated by BoA Airlines (Boliviana de Aviación). Flight schedules change from day to day but as a general guide there are four flights per day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon.

    $42.00
  • Todo Turismo Buses & Red Planet Salt Flats Bundle
    Visit world-famous salar Uyuni with the most popular operator Red Planet starting with a tourist bus from La Paz and including return bus after the tour. We are the number one official agency for Todo Turismo and Red Planet and decided to offer this bus & tour combo option to allow you to book both services all at once.You cannot find this combination for a cheaper price anywhere!. Don't miss out!

    Regular Price: $284.00

    Special Price $279.00

  • Pampas Tour Indigena Tours 3 Days

    This is the classic 3 day pampas tour for the budget backpacker. Extremely popular tour leaving daily with lots of wildlife that is easily spotted. Much of this tour is spent exploring the open wetlands in a motor canoe making for a relaxing yet adventurous experience. Bolivia is the cheapest place in South America to go on this type of tour.

    $185.00
  • Uyuni Salt Flats Tour (Standard Plus) - 1 Day

    Our standard plus 1 day salt flats tour is with maximum 7 people to a vehicle and a Spanish-speaking guide. Classic 1 day salt flats tour for the budget backpacker - extremely popular tour leaving daily from Uyuni. A unique place in the world and a must on any trip to Bolivia. This is the best option if you are travelling on a budget but don't want to miss out on this amazing experience.

    $38.00
  • Todo Turismo Bus La Paz to Uyuni

    Todo Turismo tourist bus from La Paz to Uyuni with heating, toilet, comfortable seats (semicama and cama) and attendant service, meals and drinks. Departs at 21.00 everyday. This bus is usually full several days in advance - please give as much notice as possible to have the best chance of getting a seat on this bus. You can catch this bus and start your Uyuni salt flats tour the same morning you get in - bus gets in at around 7.30, tours start at around 11.00.

    SEE UYUNI TO LA PAZ TODO TURISMO BUS
    $37.00
  • Todo Turismo Bus Uyuni to La Paz

    Todo Turismo tourist bus from Uyuni to La Paz with heating, toilet, comfortable seats (semicama or cama) and attendant service, meals and drinks. Leaves 20.00 nightly. This bus is usually full several days in advance - please give as much notice as possible to have the best chance of getting a seat on this bus. All of our salt flats tours get back to Uyuni early enough to catch this bus the same evening.

    SEE LA PAZ TO UYUNI TODO TURISMO BUS
    $37.00
  • Red Planet Salt Flats Tour Uyuni - 3 Days

    Red Planet Expeditions are the most popular choice for travellers visiting the salt flats of Uyuni. This is our  best selling, mid-range salt flats tour option and includes an English-speaking guide. Red Planet are one of the most experienced, safe and reliable companies for the Uyuni Salt Flats and have been for a number of years and for this reason they do fill up in advance. First night in double or triple room accommodation. We are the number one booking agency for Red Planet Salt Flats Tours and can highly recommend this option.

    $210.00
  • Red Planet Salt Flats Tour Uyuni - 3 Days + Transfer to Chile

    Red Planet Expeditions are the most popular choice for travellers visiting the salt flats of Uyuni. This is our  best selling, mid-range salt flats tour option and includes an English-speaking guide and a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama. Red Planet are one of the most experienced, safe and reliable companies for the Uyuni Salt Flats and have been for a number of years and for this reason they do fill up in advance. First night in double or triple room accommodation. We are the number one booking agency for Red Planet Salt Flats Tours and can highly recommend this option.

    $210.00
  • Red Planet Salt Flats Tour Uyuni - 1 Day

    Our mid-range 1 day salt flats tour option including English-speaking guide/driver operated by Red Planet. This is a classic and safe salt flats tour that will also take you to the foot of the stunning Tunupa volcano located on the northern side of the salt flats.

    $80.00
  • 3-Day Pampas Tour (Mashaquipe Ecolodge)

    This is our 3 day pampas option operated by Mashaquipe. Visit the animal rich pampas on a certified eco-tour and see the wonders of the Amazon rainforest. We work with "green action" certified operator Mashaquipe to offer quality eco-tours in the Yacuma pampas. Upgrade to private single/double/triple rooms available.

    $240.00
  • 5-Day Jungle & Pampas Tour (Mashaquipe Ecolodge)

    This is our jungle & pampas 5 day combo tour operated by Mashaquipe (Wabu & Dolphin Program). Visit the fascinating Madidi National Park and the animal-rich pampas on a certified eco-tour and see the wonders of the Amazon rainforest. We work with "green action" certified operator Mashaquipe to offer quality eco-tours in Madidi and in the Santa Rosa del Yacuma pampas. Upgrade to private cabins with shared bathroom in the jungle and private bathroom in the pampas available.

    $420.00
  • Flight La Paz to Rurrenabaque to La Paz

    Order a round trip ticket from La Paz to Rurrenabaque. The La Paz to Rurrenabaque to La Paz flight is a stunning journey over the Cordillera Real mountains and down to the Amazon jungle. Each way takes around 45 minutes. The flight is operated by Amaszonas Airlines. We recommend you book early in busy season as spaces fill up quick.

    $195.50
  • Flight La Paz to Uyuni to La Paz (Amaszonas)

    The La Paz to Uyuni to La Paz flight is the most comfortable way to get to Uyuni and back. Each way takes around 60 minutes and this means you can avoid the 10 to 12 hour overnight bus journey. These flights are now scheduled to go everyday from La Paz International airport and back. This flight is operated by Amaszonas Airlines.

    $155.50
  • Quechua Connection Salt Flats Tour Uyuni - 3 Days

    This is our 3-day sunset salt flats tour option including English-speaking guide operated by Quechua Connection. Quechua Connection are a very popular choice for travelers visiting the salt flats of Uyuni and they get consistently good reviews. During dry season a bonus biking on the salar is also included. Daily departures from Uyuni. We are an official agent for selling Quechua Connection salt flats tours.

    $190.00
  • Quechua Connection Salt Flats Tour Uyuni - 3 Days + Transfer to Chile

    This is our 3-day salt flats "sunset" tour option including English-speaking guide and transfer to Chile operated by Quechua Connection, a very popular choice for travelers visiting the Salt Flats Tours of Uyuni. Daily departures from Uyuni. We are an official agent for selling Quechua Connection salt flats tours.

    $200.00
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