A Destination to Discover!
As a hidden "treasure”, this country of many contrasts, is waiting to be discovered by nature lovers and those who are in search of exciting adventures or close encounters with unique cultures. Its richness in natural resources and cultural values could be comparable with the most sophisticated tourist destinations on the planet, with the advantage that it has not been yet invaded by tourists' multitudes.
A 1,098,581 Km² wide surface, equivalent to Spain plus France together, only inhabited by little more than 8.2 million people, makes Bolivia one of the countries with the lowest population density in the world, a fact that with its slow development, has allowed to maintain multiple cultural manifestations and enormous extensions of intact territory, fundamental bases to affirm that in this nation... the authentic thing still exists!.
Because of its geographical position, between the 10 and 23 grades southern latitude, in the "heart" of South America, Bolivia is as much a temperate as well as a tropical country, which offers an impressive natural and cultural variety, able to satisfy and even surprise the most daring of the adventurers, the most curious among the searchers of cultural attractions and the most sophisticated nature lovers. In other words, it is a worthy destination for segments like Ecotourism, Cultural Tourism and Adventure Tourism.
Among Bolivia’s principal natural characteristics, we have:
1. It possesses two natural and culturally well differentiated macro-regions: The Western Highlands, representing 35% of the national territory under Andean influence; and the Eastern Lowlands, embracing the remaining 65% characterized by tropical and subtropical climates, but in their majority of Amazon character.
2. The Bolivian territory links five of the most excellent biogeographical regions of the world: westwards, the mystic Andean area; to the north and northeast, the exuberant Amazon; eastwards, the famous Pantanal and the dry Cerrado savanna, while in the south we have the enigmatic and semi-arid Northern Chaco.
3. The geological processes have awarded a particular topography in which three main regions stand out:
3.a) The one dominated by the impressive Andes Mountain Range whose ever snow covered peak reaches 6.542 meters above sea level, like the Nevado Sajama, the highest peak in the country and the fourth highest in South America.
3.b) The scenic Altiplano, covered with arid deserts, with an average altitude of 3.500 meters above sea level, where natural marvels as Uyuni Salt flat and Titicaca Lake stand out. The first one is with its 10.582 Km² surface the biggest salt desert in the world, where you can find as well thermal baths and geysers . The second is the highest navigable lake in the world, since it is located at an average altitude of 3.810 meters above sea level.
3.c) And finally, the area occupied by the infinite Plain, exuberant to the north and semi-arid to the south, whose altitudes go from 500 to 100 meters above sea level, which implies an impressive difference of 6.442 m between the lowest and the highest altitude!
4. A varied physiography composed by 27 big landscapes and 162 different landscapes. The highlights are High Montañas with more than 114 peaks between 5.015 and 6.542 meters above sea level, enormous Plains, spectacular Geysers, indomitable Deserts, extensive Savannas, pristine Swamps, beautiful Mountainous Country, attractive Valleys, immense Rivers and impressive Lakes.
5. Three climatic macroregions: the Tropical that represents 5% of the territory; the Subtropical which embraces 55% and the Temperate occupying the remaining 40%. There are also ten different climatic areas, going from the Tropical and always Humid areas, with up to 6.000mm rainfall per year, to the Polar regions of the High Mountains with temperatures reaching down to minus 26 ºC.
6. A hydrographic system compound for an impressive fluvial net with more than 184 main rivers, of which there are more than 7000 km navigable, being River Mamoré, with almost 2.000 km length and widths of 420 m the biggest in the country. Its basin contributes with 34.5% of water for the fluvial system of the Amazon River! Also, about 816 springs have been identified with sulfurous and thermal water, some 400 lagoons of varied sizes and forms, 6 lakes in which the Titicaca highlights with its 8.300 km² surface and the Poopó with 1.500 km², and 7 wetlands or marshy areas, being the biggest, the one that corresponds to the Bolivian sector of the Pantanal for their 15.000 km². This has been considered by international eminent scientists as having a better biological quality than the Brazilian section of this impressive marshland.
7. The Bolivian territory has 12 Ecoregions in which 199 different ecosystems have been identified! Also, there are located at least six of the Terrestrial Ecoregions and three of the Fresh water Ecoregions, identified by the Global Initiative 2000: the most complete strategy for biodiversity conservation in the world led by the World Wildlife Fund.
8. Such a mixture of biogeographical aspects and a rich mosaic of natural landscapes make Bolivia one of the most impressive biological resorts in the world. That is why it has been declared officially, in the last Summit of the Earth (Johannesburg-2002), one of the 10 to 15 most biodiverse nations on the planet!
9. As for the vegetation, up to 20.000 species of Angiosperms have been described, 1.200 of Ferns and related, 1.200 of Mosses and Hepatic and 20 species of Gymnosperms.
10. The diversity of Orchids is surprising, because until today they have been classified more than 2.000 species in 190 genera, what represents 25% of the total genera of the world! 35% of them are endemic. That is a very high percentage, but nothing compared to the 46% of endemics between the Bromeliaceae or the over 70% endemism in Cactaceae.
11. Bolivia is considered the Center of Origin from the wild relatives' of a great quantity of domesticated plants, being worth to highlight Quinua, Corn, Amaranth, Potatoes, Beans, Peppers and Chilies, Peanut, Yucca, Pineapple, Passion fruit, Papaya, Cocoa, Vanilla and Tobaco.
12. As for the vertebrates, they have been able to register 1.398 species of Birds, 600 of Fish, 356 of Mammals, 266 of Reptiles and 204 of Amphibians.
13. Such a quantity of species of birds makes of Bolivia the sixth country in the world in ornithological wealth. There are not only some 16 endemic species, but true rarities like the Suri or "Lesser Rhea" and the Pava Mutún “Horned Curasow”, re-discovered in 1989, after being considered extinct for more than forty years!
14. In the Mammals stand out some 17 species that are endemic and 11 near endemics, from which it is necessary to highlight two species of primates. In the heart of the continent, in this Mediterranean country, occur two subspecies of fresh water dolphins.
15. At the level of spineless groups stand out the Butterflies, which are considered with some 3000 species, what locates the country among the four diversest in this group at world level!
16. The most amazing in the previous data is that most of them are not definitive, because in most of the plant and animal groups there is still a lot to discover, since Bolivia is still a virgin country for the taxonomic inventories. Therefore the feasibility of new findings is high, even of new species for the science. A single example is enough to illustrate the above-mentioned: after a month of field work in the Amboró National Park, Dr. Esteban Lavilla managed to collect 79 individuals hard for him to locate taxonomically, expecting that about 15 were new species for the science! This is hard to equal in other countries of the planet.
17. The Paleontology doesn't lay behind, since in spite of the few studies that have been carried out, the discoveries have been surprising, because they have not only been enormous fossil deposits, in which several Cretacic and Quaternarian registered species resulted new for science, but also impressive places have been discovered. Examples are the dinosaurs’ footprint fields of the Paleontological Natural Monument at Cal Orcko, whose rarity and beauty competes with the best in the world in its gender! And an area of remainders of these archaic reptiles, which is more than 20 km long, was found in the sinclinal of Maragua.
18. That much natural wealth is protected in one of the widest protected area systems of the world, since the 21 areas that today conform it embrace 17% of the national territory, about 176.000 km², what implies little more than three times the size of Costa Rica! Six of these are considered to be between the largest in the world. They are mega reserves with over 1 million Ha, as the National Park Kaa Yaa with more than 3.5 million hectares! Others among the most diverse in the globe like Madidi and Amboró National Parks, the first one with larger bird lists (1100 species) and the second one with most registered amphibians of the planet, respectively.
19. The following Bolivian Protected Areas achieved international recognition by their ecological importance:
- Noel Kempff National Park (Natural Patrimony by UNESCO).
- The Beni Biological Station (Biosphere Reserve).
- Pantanal-Otuquis National Park (RAMSAR site)
- Laguna Colorada in Eduardo Avaroa National Park (RAMSAR site)
- Area Pilón Lajas (Biosphere Reserve).
Concerning cultural values, Bolivia has an impressive historical and contemporary cultural baggage, in which the following aspects stand out:
20. The Cultural cosmos is amazingly diverse since more than 30 Ethnic Groups are recognized whose languages have their roots in 13 different linguistic families. For some of the ethnics, the time has not passed and they continue living as their ancestors. This is the case with the nomadic Ayoreos who live in the remote region of the Chaco avoiding the contact with the "Man Blanco."
21. The Island of the Sun and the Island of the Moon, both in the Lake Titicaca, were of enormous importance for the Inca culture. Therefore they established their most important ceremonial centers on them. On the first one, considered by the Inca to be the main sacred Island from the Empire and the humanity's cradle, stand out precolombian monuments, such as the Pilkokaina Palace, the Chinkana, the Perron of Yumani and the fabulous Incan Terraces. On the Island of the Moon stands out the Iñak Uyu Palace, a cloister or Ajllawasi where the selected virgins of the sun lived.
22. In the surroundings of the Lake Titicaca live the Aymaras, who still maintain their cultural traditions, standing out its ability to build rafts of totora plant, skill for what they were chosen to build the ships used in famous transoceanic expeditions as Kon-Tiki, RA I and RA II.
23. Some of their archaeological sites, as the Ceremonial Centers of Tiwanaku and Samaipata, have been recognized internationally as Humanity's Cultural and Historical Patrimonies. Samaipata is also considered one of the biggest carved rocks of the world!
24. Archaeologically also stands out the impressive settlement complex of the Moxos Culture, considered the biggest agriculture-hydraulic system in the world, by means of which the moxeños dominated the waters of the flooded savannas in the Beni region. Among their works are dams, channels and even islands and enormous artificial lakes!
25. Colonial cities as those of Sucre and Potosí have been recognized because of their beauty and historical importance as Humanity's Cultural and Historical Patrimonies.
26. Faithful and ancestral manifestations are testimonies of the rich and varied cultural patrimony of Bolivia. One of the most impressive, the Carnival of Oruro, has not only achieved international fame, but has also been declared Intangible Cultural Patrimony of the Humanity.
27. Bolivia is one of the New World’s nations where the Jesuit left the unmistakable print of their actions, being The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos the most excellent, not only because of its historical value, but by remaining "alive" and in community with their respective towns, which made them worth of the declaration to Humanity's Historical and Cultural Patrimony Site.
28. In the missions there can be found a file with more than 5000 scores of Baroque music that are worth reflection of the syncretism between the Jesuits and the native chiquitanos. They are also an attraction and fundamental base for the Baroque Music's International Festival that takes place every two years, an appointment for hundreds of musicians and thousands of followers of this gender in the planet!
29. A wide and exquisite range of typical dishes, spirited dances, rhythmic music, as well as colorful and elaborated garments characterize the folklore of multiple Bolivian regions.
30. Rich and varied handicrafts, as for example elaborated of beautiful textiles, leather, stone, clay or wood, are able to satisfy the most demanding shoppers.
The above-mentioned is not more than a brief summary of what Bolivia offers to the visitor. It is a country with many other advantages that make it an excellent option for those who are looking for a new and different holiday destination, but overall natural and authentic!
Come and live the experience of those who marveled by this impressive natural and cultural wealth and have left their print in diverse ways. Such is the case of the famous explorer Alcides D'Orbigny, whose affirmation about Bolivia being "... the most beautiful country in the world or a microcosms of the planet" is more than eloquent. Or as the writer Erick Van Danicken who could not avoid the temptation to relate UFOs to the Ceremonial Center of Samaipata; and the explorer Percy Fawcett whose suggestive stories about the impressive plateau of Huanchaca, in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, inspired the famous creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to write his masterpiece "The Lost World"
BOLIVIA’S beauties and mysteries are waiting for you!