Bolivia: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
It is a developing, democratic country situated in the heart of South America that offers multi-ethnic culture, geographical diversity and beautiful landscapes that are worth visiting if one is looking out for a great vacation spot away from the daily hustle and bustle of the routine life.
Bolivia was named after the great leader Simón Bolívar who played an instrumental role in the Spanish American wars of independence.
One third of Bolivia comprises of the Andes mountain range. Its largest city and principal economic centers are located in the Altiplano. Apart from that, there are also the Eastern lowlands in the Amazon Basin. Sucre is the constitutionally recognized capital of Bolivia and La Paz houses the seat of the Bolivian Government.
Constitutionally, it is a democratic republic divided into nine departments viz. La Paz (which has the largest population), Santa Cruz (which has the largest area), Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, Oruro, Potosi, Beni, Pando (which is least populated) and Tarija (which is the smallest in terms of area).
Bolivia has a high amount of mineral resources, with tin being its primary mineral. Other economic activities include agriculture, fishing, forest reserves, mining, manufacturing clothes, refining metals and petroleum products.
Before the Spanish took control of the region in the 16th century, the Andean region of Bolivia belonged to the Inca Empire which was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. Independent tribes inhabited the northern and eastern lowlands of Bolivia. During most of this time, the administration of Bolivia was done by the Royal Court of Charcas and was known as Upper Peru. The Spanish empire was built to a large extent on the silver extracted from the Bolivian mines.
The Bolivian Republic was established on 6th of August 1825 after 16 years of war following the first call of independence in 1809.
Even after independence, Bolivia has struggled with political and economic stability including loss of its peripheral territories like Acre and parts of the Gran Chaco to its neighbors, poverty, social unrest and drug production.
Apart from resolving the above issues and waging an anti-corruption campaign, the goals of the current government led by President Evo Morales are to attract foreign investment and strengthen the educational system.
It has a population of approximately 10 million which includes Mestizos, Europeans, Asians, Amerindians and Africans with the racial and social segregation arising during the Spanish rule continuing even today despite the modernization. There are total 36 officially recognized languages which include Guarani, Aymara, Quechua with Spanish being the main language.
Due to the difference in altitude, there is a drastic difference in the climate of one eco-region to another in Bolivia. Tropical climate is common in the Eastern Ilanos territory whereas the Western Andes has a polar climate. East is humid whereas West is dry. The summers (November through March) are usually warm but temperature, wind, atmospheric pressure, evaporation and humidity levels are subject to change if it rains. Another phenomenon that causes drastic changes in the weather conditions is El Nino which is the warming phase of the periodical variation in windsand sea surface temperature over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean affecting much of the tropical and sub-tropical areas. Autumn is dry in the non-tropical regions. Windy days are common in the west although winters (April through October) are very cold with snow in the mountain ranges.
Geographical location and boundaries
Bolivia is located in the central zone of South America. Brazil touches the northeast borders of Bolivia whereas Peru is towards the northwest, Argentina towards the south, Paraguay towards the southeast and Chile towards the southwest. It shares control of Lake Titicaca (which is the world’s highest navigable lake) with Peru.
It can broadly be classified in three regions: (1) Altiplano which includes La Paz, Oruro and Potosi; (2) Sub-Andean Bolivia which includes Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and Tarija and (3) Tropical Lowlands which include Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando.
The major cities of Bolivia include:
- La Paz is the administrative city and also the seat of the government
- Sucre is the constitutional capital and the seat of the judiciary
- Rurrenabaque is a small town offering a tropical surrounding close to the Madidi National Park
- Cochabamba is Bolivia's third-largest city with a pleasant and moderate climate
- Oruro is famous for its carnival
- Potosí once happened to be one of the wealthiest cities in the world because of its silver mines
- Santa Cruz was the second-largest and most affluent city of Bolivia
- Tarija is the smallest city in terms of area
- Tupiza Capital of Sud Chichas Province has beautiful red rock formations, mild climate and many tourist attractions.