The Country of Bolivia
Travel where the truly authentic can still be found!
Bolivia, a country filled with contrasts to dazzle any visitor, is considered by many to be the “cosmic synthesis of the world”. One traveling there can see national parks filled with the awesome beauty of nature as well as an extensive bio-diversity, such as the Noel Kempff, Amboró, Carrasco, Pantanal (low wetlands) and Madidi.
The Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Lake) and Colored Lagoons, the Royal and Apoplamba Mountain Ranges, the Tupiza and Toro Toro Canyons, the Amazon and the manmade hills of Beni also provide breathtaking sights. The tropical mountain forests, or Yungas, of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and La Paz, are visited by an increasing number of birdwatchers each year.
In addition to these environmental wonders there are remarkable historical sites that have been carefully preserved throughout the last two centuries. These include the cities if Sucre and Potosi along with the Jesuit Missions. In contrast with more recent history, one can visit the ancient, world renowned ruins of Tiwanaku, the oldest culture yet discovered in Latin America and considered to be the cradle of the Inca Empire; or the giant pre-Amazonian carved monolith in Samaipata which is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Bolivia is a must-see destination for any and all nature lovers, for birders and for those who are passionate about experiencing contact with other cultures. Come, and you will be taken by the genuine splendor; you will vibrate with the mystery and excitement of adventure; and most of all, you will be overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality of a people who long to make your stay an unforgettable one.
Come to discover Bolivia! or… Return with friends and family to enjoy the increased possibilities for tourist activities and accommodations!
Official Name, Republic of Bolivia
What is the origin of the name of Bolivia? Bolivia was named after Simon Bolivar who was Commander in Chief of the Liberation Army and Venezuelan by birth. He began his crusade for the independence of his country and then extended his efforts throughout the entire continent. In 1825, Simon Bolivar declared the independence of the Alto Perú (Upper Peru) and later of Lower Perú. Bolivar took office at that time, and then later, in the year 1830, the fragile alliance that he had created between Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, finally dissolved. A few months after that at the age of 47, Bolivar died.
The independent life of Bolivia began on August 6, 1825.
Population and Total Area
Bolivia has 8,274,325 inhabitants scattered across 1,098,581 Km² or 424,194 square miles. This represents about 8 inhabitants per square kilometer.
Bolivia is a unitary republic that has chosen a democratic and representative leadership for government. The Bolivian Estate is formed by three branches, each of which is independent of the other. They are the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches. The President of the Republic of Bolivia is chosen by democratic election every five years. The Vice President of the Republic is The President of Congress.
Officially 95% of the population is Apostolic and Roman Catholic, but there is freedom of religion.
The official language is Spanish, but the main native languages of Bolivia are Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní. Amerindians, mostly Aymara and Quechuas then Guaraní, represent 52% of the population, but there are 30 other minorities living in the Republic. The half-caste represents 27% of the population and the white population is 21%. The Afro-Bolivian population, mostly descendants of slaves brought in to work the mines of Potosí is a total of 20,000, most, which live in the region of Yungas in the north of La Paz.
The official currency of Bolivia is the Boliviano (Bs.). In the country there are coin denominations of 10. 20, and 50 cents as well as 1, 2 and 5 Bs. Paper currency values are of the following: 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Bs. American dollars are accepted at major hotels and restaurants, along with many tour operators, car rentals and gasoline stations. Very few businesses accept Euros.
The country of Bolivia is located in the heart of South America, between 57°26’ and 69°38’ western longitude from the Greenwich Meridian and parallels 9°38’ and 22°53’ south latitude. Toward the north and east is Brazil and toward the southeast is Paraguay. Toward the south is Argentina, toward the southwest is Chile and toward the west is Peru.
Bolivia is divided into nine Departments; Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca, La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, Potosí, Tarija, Pando and Beni. According to the political constitution, the capital of the republic is Sucre, located in the Department of Chuquisaca. The government’s main offices and the administrative capital of the nation are located in the city of La Paz within the department of La Paz.
An Uncommon Landscape
The Bolivian territory is divided into three clear geographical zones:
The zone of the Andes constitutes about 25% of the national territory. It has an approximate total area of 274,645 Km² (254,516 square miles). This area includes the Departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosí. The Andean Zone is known for its Western or Volcanic Mountain Range and Eastern Mountain Range. The Altiplano or High Plateau is located in the middle of these two mountain ranges. The lowest temperatures of the entire country are registered in this region, where it can drop to -20° C. The average temperature is 10° C. The Altiplano varies in altitude from 3,500 to 4,200 meters above sea level.
The Sub-Andean Zone differs in that it contains many fertile valleys and temperatures that at times can range from warm to hot. It consists of about 16% of the national territory, approximately 175,772 Km² (67,871 square miles) and includes the Departments of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, Tarija and a portion of the Department of Santa Cruz. The average temperatures here vary from 16° to 20° C. The zone is the center of Bolivia at about 1,000-3,000 meters above sea level.
The Eastern Lowlands lie at the foothills of the Eastern Mountain Range on the northeast side of the country, where the climate is warm and tropical with average temperatures of 22 to 25° C. This zone occupies around 60-64% of the national territory, totaling 659,149 Km² (254,516 square miles). It extends fro, the north of the Department of La Paz to the eastern parts of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz and includes the Departments of Beni and Pando.
Even though the country of Bolivia is located between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, it experiences every type of weather known to mankind. The average temperatures are not only determined by the actual geographic locations but also by the altitude of the area above sea level. Therefore, in Bolivia at any given hour one may encounter many different types of weather, depending upon the geographic location of the visitor. To the north near the Equator, the four seasons of the year are not clearly defined. There is a great deal of rainfall there from November to March; yet, in the regions of the Amazonian lowlands and the Pantanal, rainfall is registered throughout the year. In the lowlands the climate is warm and humid where the average temperatures are around 25° C (77° F) at altitudes that vary between 200 and 400 meters above sea level. In the valleys the climate is moderate and dry with temperatures averaging 15° C (50° F) at altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 meters above sea level. The Altiplano has an average temperature of 10° C (40° F) at altitudes that reach from 3,500 to 4,200 meters above sea level.
This period began around the year 2,000 B.C., with some of the first civilizations in the Altiplano, including the Tiwanaku, among the most important prior to the Colonization of the Americas. Later on other cultures surfaced, such as the Uru, Chipaya, and the Inca, the last which was widely expanded throughout South America. During this time interval, in the lowlands impressive agricultural/ hydraulic systems were developed by Amazonian societies like the Moxos, while imposing temples were being created in the valleys by the Amazonian ancestors of the Chané and Mojocoyas.
Far reaching territories were occupied by Spanish colonizers and the inhabitants were subjected to harsh labor such as the mining of precious metals and minerals. They also were used to build magnificent cathedrals and cities like Potosí and the Royal Counsel of Charcas which is today known as Sucre that were located near located near economic-productive centers. Such was the wealth extracted from Cerro Rico in Potosí, that it is believed that a bridge made of silver could have been built over the Atlantic between the city of Potosí and Spain, or just as well a parallel bridge could have been built with the bones of dead Indian slaves. In 1572, Indian uprisings began against Spanish denomination that included thousands of men and women lead by Tupac Amaru and Tupac Catari, but were they were eventually defeated in the mountains by the Spanish. Between the 16th and 17th centuries the Jesuits created towns in Eastern Bolivia where they also enforced drastic changes there in the lowlands. This evangelical men’s religious order, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, introduced livestock production as well as developing a tropical architecture made almost entirely from local wood. Legacies from this period include the restored churches in the mission towns of Chiquitania, the musical pieces recovered from those years, along with the talent evidenced today by local craftsmen, lathers and musicians. Together, they have yielded a Baroque Music Festival in the area every two years with performances in each mission.
Independence and Creation of the Republic of Bolivia
In the year 1809, many of the first independence movements began throughout Latin America. Sixteen years later, after Simon Bolivar’s victory in Peru and the battle of Ayucucho lead by Antonio Jose de Sucre, Bolivia’s independence was declared on August 6, 1825. Simon Bolivar was the first president of Bolivia followed by Antonio Jose de Sucre, who contributed the by establishing the basis for the Estate. This would be further supported by Andres de Santa Cruz, who incidentally was in favor of creating a Peruvian-Bolivian confederation. This initiative was later dissolved, in the year 1839.
The Wars That Confronted Bolivia
In the hundred years that followed independence, Bolivia lost more than fifty percent of its national territory. In the 1879 war with Chile, Bolivia cede rich portions of land containing saltpeter and other precious minerals, but most important, relinquished its sea access, leaving the country totally landlocked. Then, in 1900, after a bloody confrontation, Bolivia was forced to yield to Brazil a huge region named Acre in the northern part of the Amazon.
In June 1930, a civil revolution occurred which led to the government being seized by the military. This eventually led to Bolivia’s bloody, undeclared war with Paraguay known as “El Chaco” over large portions of a region known then as the Chaco Boreal. In this case, as with all other international conflicts in which it was involved, Bolivia was forced to concede and lost a substantial part of its southeastern lands known as the Grand Chaco.
The National Revolution, the Dictatorship and the Democracy
After the El Chaco war, a nationalist revolutionary movement began, that would lead to the revolution of April 9, 1952. This rebellion brought about the “Nationalization of the Mines”, the “Agricultural Reform” and the “Universal Vote”, among other changes. The government at that time was led by Victor Paz Estensoro, who would be elected four times as president of the nation. During the decades of the sixties and seventies, the country went through a long period of rule by military dictatorships that concluded in the year 1982, when the country finally recovered its status as a democracy. Then on August 24, 1997, for the second time in history, a military leader would lead. Retired General Hugo Banzer Suarez assumed the presidency of the Republic of Bolivia, the office he would retain until he stepped down because of illness in 2001. He was replaced by his vice president, Jorge Quiroga Ramirez until the end of March, 2002, when the National Elections Court called for a presidential vote. After no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 2002 presidential election, the task of choosing the president fell to the Bolivian congress. The legislature selected former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, who had finished first in the June ballot. As president Sánchez de Lozada alienated many segments of Bolivian society including farmers, students, and the Native American majority. People in Bolivia, especially indigenous peoples, faced extreme poverty, and many held Sánchez de Lozada partly responsible because of his efforts to introduce free-market reforms and privatize state companies during his first term. In addition, farmers did not support the government’s continuing efforts to eradicate coca. Protests erupted in September 2003 when Sánchez de Lozada proposed to build a pipeline to transport Bolivia’s natural gas to a port in Chile and sell the gas to the United States and Mexico. Many people feared that Sánchez de Lozada’s plan would only benefit the small elite, not the majority of the Bolivian people. After a month of protests during which more than 80 people were killed, Sánchez de Lozada stepped down from office and his vice-president, Carlos D. Mesa Gisbert, became president. Mesa asked Bolivians for time to resolve some of the country’s economic problems, and he pledged to hold new presidential elections. Currently, Evo Morales Alma, also elected democratically, now guides the country as president of the republic.
A Cultural Mosaic
Bolivia has generated a highly valued asset, one of culture. Its geographic location, characterized by a variety of altitudes and climates, has been the stage for an assortment of settler types. Together, they have yielded a fascinating and diverse culture, rich in ethnicity. Bolivia embraces a range of 32 ethnic groups, each holding a wealth of traditions, folklore and mystical practices and each providing characteristics of the region they inhabit. The people of the Andes are gathered into two major nations: the Aymara and the Quechua, most of who reside in the Altiplano region and in the valleys of Bolivia. The Tacanas, Pano, Arauco, Chapacura, Chimane, Guaraní, Izoceño, Chiquitanos, Ayoreo and Botocudo as well as some others, inhabit the warm northwestern region of the Royal Mountain Range and some of the areas in the southeast of Bolivia. Most Afro-Bolivians reside in Las Yungas of La Paz. They are the descendants of African slaves brought to Bolivia to work in the mines and to mint coins in the Cerro Rico de Potosí (The Rich Mountain of Potosí. The presence of so many ethnic groups has created a culture of its own, an asset, both diverse and unique, all living in one nation to make a people both progressive and vigorous, a rare social syncretism not readily found elsewhere in the world. We invite you to discover it
The Jesuit Missions
During the time prior to the existence of the colony, the wonderful area of Chiquitos was populated mostly by various indigenous tribes from the jungle who were evangelized by the “Compañía de Jesús” (Company of Jesus). Shortly after, various Spanish communities sprung up in the midst. They included a variety of Jesuit missions, founded between 1691 and 1767. These missions have remained intact, and after hundreds of years, they are a marvel to the entire world. Today they are considered a valuable legacy from the time of the colony and the main source of praise falls to the temples constructed there. Most have a classic Baroque style with strong influences of Bolivian “half-breed” décor. Inside, one can find murals, golden altars and series of wooden carvings painted with gold as well as pulpits, chests of drawers and impressive columns.
Arriving in Bolivia
Requisites for Entering and Leaving the Country
To enter one must present; Valid passport. Appropriate Visa of the country of origin. To leave the traveler must present: Valid passport. En route rote or transit. Resident foreigners must pay a fee of 70 Bolivianos.
Yellow fever vaccination mandatory to enter Bolivia everybody over 12 months old.
Time of Presence
In case of staying longer than that originally approved upon entry into Bolivia, the visitor should pay a fine of 10 bolivianos for each additional day. Minors and students should pay 5 bolivianos.
Underage national and resident visitors traveling alone or with one parent must carry a travel authorization granted by the Juzgado de Partido de la Niñez y Adolescia.
In order to enter Bolivia, visitors must have received the international vaccine against yellow fever.(Mandatory from March 2008).- This vaccine must be administered 10 days previous to the person’s arrival into the country. All other vaccines depend on the region that the applicant plans to visit and relates to the activities in which he or she might be involved. The malaria vaccine must be administered -but optional-, if the visitor plans to visit tropical-rural areas. As a preventative measure, we suggest (optional)the following vaccines be administered as well: Hepatitis A, Hepatitus B, Tetanus, Diptheria and Measles Booster.