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Contrasts and Adventure

The beautiful Andean state of Bolivia, also known as the “Tibet of South America”, lies in the middle of South America, between its neighbors Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Bolivia owes its nickname to its exceptional location with the highest territory of the Andean countries. The real name in honour to the independence fighter Simon Bolivar. Correctly, it says: "Plurinational State of Bolivia", because about half of the population is made up of different indigenous ethnic groups and the other half is made up of mestizos and descendants of Europeans. The size of the country is roughly twice the size of Spain (683.508 square miles).

Bolivia is home to more than 10 million people, most of whom live in rural areas. The capital Sucre, home to 240.000 people, is also called "the white city" due to its beautiful, colonial historic centre (since 1991 UNESCO World Heritage Site) and is known for its chocolate production. You thought La Paz was the capital of Bolivia? Not right, but not entirely wrong either: La Paz is home to the seat of government in Bolivia. About 760,000 people live there, which is rather small for a South American city. The altitude is remarkable: 3,200 to 4,100 meters above sea level.

The largest Bolivian city is the beautiful Santa Cruz de la Sierra with just under 1.4 million inhabitants.

For most people, Bolivia stands for plateaus in the Andes, coca tea for altitude sickness and women in typical highland costumes with hats that resemble the English “melons”. But Bolivia is surprisingly diverse:  Besides the high Andean peaks (up to 6.400m) and the plateaus, there are the Amazon lowlands and large areas of tropical rainforest in the east, bordering Brazil. In fact, the highland makes up only about a third of the country, but it is so well known, because around 60% of the Bolivians live there.

Bolivia shares the world-famous Lake Titicaca with Peru, the highest navigable lake in the world. With floating islands of indigenous people and pre-Columbian ruins at Isla del Sol, the lake is an absolute "must-see" on every South America tour.

Here are a few highlights that you shouldn't miss on your Bolivia trip:

  • The Uyuni Salt Lake: A natural highlight at 3,600 meters above sea level, especially breath-taking after rain – a place for the most incredible photos!
  • Laguna Colorada is a red lagoon inhabited by flamingos at 4,300 meters above sea level - don't forget to use sunscreen! Otherwise, you will quickly look like a flamingo yourself 😉
  • La Paz and the Teleferico: Admiring Bolivia's beautiful seat of government from above is definitely worth it! You will also find the best guinea pig dishes in the country there (…if you are open towards new culinary experiences …)
  • Santa Cruz: The largest and wealthiest city in Bolivia has numerous universities and cultural attractions. It is also worth taking a detour to the surrounding area, for example to the spectacular waterfalls of the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park.
  • Madidi National Park: One of the places with the greatest biodiversity on earth.
  • El Camino de la Muerte: The "death road" along the Yunga valleys is only for hard-boiled adventurers. This narrow, mostly muddy road (of course without crash barriers, who needs those?) is one of the most dangerous roads in the world and can even be used by death-defying mountain bikers. Be careful, better just watch, this street has taken many lives so far.

Although Bolivia is one of the poorer countries in South America, its cultural and natural wealth is unique. Religious customs and old traditions of the locals mixed with the influences of the Spanish conquerors ensure an exciting mix of culture and languages and fascinate foreign visitors. Approximately 50% of the population is indigenous, there are Quechua, Aymara, Chiquitanos, Guaraní and other small, partly isolated ethnic groups.

The national language of Bolivia is Spanish, but each region has officially recognized at least one of the 36 indigenous languages as a second official language. Travelers are excited by the mix of different lifestyles, rituals, myths and customs. The diversity of the landscapes between Altiplano and the Amazon region with its impenetrable jungle are being appreciated by more and more travellers. However, Bolivia is still an insider tip and therefore, particularly attractive for visitors who want to avoid mass tourism.

In addition to the interesting culture and history, it is certainly the breath-taking landscapes and the unique wildlife that make a trip to Bolivia worthwhile. Between the Andes and the jungle, you can observe magnificent birds, exotic plants, insects and rare mammals, some of which are threatened with extinction.

Since Bolivia is a very large country in terms of area and at the same time a very sparsely populated and developing country with only 9.86 inhabitants per km², large parts of the country are fortunately still untouched and unexplored. Bolivia is indeed one of the best places to see the exciting flora and fauna of South America. Animals such as jaguars, llamas, anteaters, chinchillas, monkeys, the condor and the rare spectacled bear can be found especially in the Madidi National Park.