With its great diversity and dramatic differences in topography and climate, Bolivia is one of the world’s most unique countries. It offers a wide range of ecosystems from low-lying wetlands and dense rainforests to high plateaus and dry forests. Bolivia, which boasts Amazonian rainforests and the snow-capped mountains of the Andes, offers an unforgettable adventure in the midst of beautiful natural landscapes. It is also rich in history and tradition, with a total of 36 native cultures. On the whole, this creates an exciting experience, heightened by Bolivia’s warm and generous people.
Today, Bolivia, under the leadership of President Evo Morales Ayma, has made historic improvements not only in its economy, which has one of the strongest growth rates in the region, but also by taking the lead on environmental protection, which is inherent in its ancient culture, and by proclaiming the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. As Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca has stated, the key to the philosophy of “Vivir Bien” or “Live Well” is Bolivia’s traditional indigenous respect for the Mother Earth, which is vital in preventing climate change.
Bolivia offers a variety of places to visit where you can find high-adrenaline adventures, wild natural landscapes, magical experiences and incredible cities. Here, we list a number of those attractions.
Death Road: This single-lane road connects the capital of La Paz to the Coroico Valley. The scenery quickly changes from the cool Altiplano terrain to the Yungas rainforest, with steep hillsides and dangerous cliffs as high as 600 metres. It is a breathtaking experience, with waterfalls and abundant vegetation, ideal for nature lovers and mountain-biking enthusiasts.
Cordillera Real: The Cordillera Real is one of the most beautiful landscapes. Its mountain chain extends for more than 40 kilometres, with rock- and ice-filled valleys and more than 80 peaks that soar to 5,000 metres above sea level. This area is especially attractive to hikers who would like to take in the beauty of the mountains surrounded by small traditional indigenous communities.
The pre-Hispanic roads: Also known as the Inca Roads, they navigate through the ancient Incan Empire, where one can discover the remarkable architectural abilities of the Incas. The Incas overcame many challenges and their infrastructure remains, complete with stoned streets, hanging bridges, stone stairways, fences and ceremonial centres. In 2014, the road system became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visiting this site is a great opportunity for those who love history and architecture.
Uyuni Salt Lake: In the south of Bolivia, this is a place where the sky and the Earth come together to challenge the senses. It is the world’s largest salt flat, stretching over an area of 10,000 square kilometres at 3,600 metres above sea level. The lake is formed by a few metres of salt crust that cover an area containing more than 65 per cent of the world’s lithium reserves.
Madidi Park: This park is where you can breathe the cleanest and purest air on Earth. It is a place where nature, animals and people live in perfect harmony, preserving traditions and culture. This is one of the most bio-diverse natural reserves in the world with an ecosystem that supports endemic plant life and one of the largest varieties of bird species. The Madidi National Park offers ecological and cultural tour experiences to visitors.
Lake Titicaca: Known also as Sacred Lake, this is one of the bluest and highest lakes in the world (at 3,800 metres above sea level). There are archeological ruins, agricultural terraces and islands in which the local people still make ritual offerings to Mother Earth and the sun god. The culture reflects one of the most important pre-Incan civilizations in Bolivia. The lake is the best place to eat fresh trout (the unique pejerrey), the crispy ispies (small sardines) and nutritious Karachi soup, which is made from the spiny fish with the same name. You can expect cultural exchanges with members of the local Aymara indigenous communities of the area.
Jesuit Missions: For those who want to enjoy Baroque music, the Jesuit Mission in eastern Bolivia is an extraordinary legacy of Jesuit missionaries. Their work is reflected in the architecture and culture of the Guarani communities surrounding the churches. An International Baroque Music Festival is held here every spring and attracts visitors from around the world.
Samaipata: This is the last known remnant of the Incan Empire. The site, located near the city of Santa Cruz, contains a temple constructed in a large carved rock with hidden natural waterfalls. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Tiwanaku: The Tiwanaku Civilization is one of the oldest Andean cultures and is famous for its stunning architecture and amazing natural monuments. The most famous architectural marvels of the area include the sculpture of the Puerta del Sol, which features engravings that represent the calendar of the Andean world; the Kalasaya Temple, a subterranean temple; and the Akapana Pyramid.
Potosi and Sucre: These two large cities, located in southwestern Bolivia, have a full history, with colonial architectural features.
Sucre, also called the White City, is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Latin America. It is a living museum showing what life was like for the Spanish colonial aristocracy. Its history, warmth, musical diversity and mild year-round climate make this a hard place to leave.
Potosi: The city of Potosi is located at the foot of the Cerro Rico, which is famous for its history as the richest silver mine of the modern era. These mines operated during colonial times and created the greatest wealth in the region. The architectural style is known as Andean Baroque. The colonial culture of the city is characterized by its narrow streets and historic museums, churches and convents.
The Oruro Carnival: This colourful religious festival is one of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It is an indigenous festival that incorporates a Christian ritual with traditional dance. Throughout the festival, more than 100 groups of folk dancers, specializing in 20 different folk dances, perform a pilgrimage to the sanctuary.
The heavy masks and highly embroidered, colourful costumes imitate pre-Colombian dresses made by local craftsman, while different dances and music tell stories about the traditions of the area. For example, the Morenada dance was inspired by the sufferings of the African slaves brought to Bolivia to work in the Silver Mines of Potosi. The Oruro carnival is an exciting event where you can experience the bliss, joy and passion of the dancers, musicians and festival participants.
A new Bolivia invites you to see more of its culture, history, archeology and bio-diverse landscape. My country awaits you.
Pablo Guzmán Laugier is ambassador of Bolivia.