Flexible Booking Plan: We understand the world is uncertain right now so to help we've introduced our "Flexible Booking Plan" for new bookings. Read more here.

Bolivia is a magical travel destination that offers truly adventurous and memorable travel experiences.

Bolivia's rugged and rural landscape make it one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth, its altitude makes it one of the highest countries on Earth, and the Salar de Uyuni and Bolivia's altiplano deserts adjacent to Chile's Atacama desert make it one of the driest places on earth... Bolivia is a unique country.

With geography ranging from the high Andes Mountains to the lowland Amazon basin, some of the most stunning landscape to be found anywhere on the planet, and with a warm and friendly people who are rightly proud of their rich indigenous heritage, Bolivia is a vivid and vibrant country waiting to be explored...

History

Although the Andean region of Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire, just like much of South America during the height of the empire, the history of Bolivia dates back much further.

The Aymara people, indigenous people from the high Andes altiplano region, first established themselves in this region around 1500 BC, and built their capital city of Tiwanaku (sometimes also spelled Tuhuanaco) in 1200 BC.

Although Tiwanaco started out as a small village settlement, by around 600 AD the city was of major cultural and political importance in the region, with a population of up to 30,000 people. From 400 AD onwards the society at Tiwanaco became dominant and underwent a period of expansion west into what is now modern-day Peru, and east into the Yungas of Bolivia. By 600 AD Tiwanaku was the force in the region.

From around 950 AD the Tiwanaku culture drammatically declined due to a period of persistent drought in the region which reduced the ability of the inhabitants to grow crops and ultmiately left much of the land uninhabitable.

In the late 15th century the western region of Bolivia, including Lake Titicaca, would come under the control of the Inca Empire during their expansions through the region, however Inca control of this part of Bolivia would not last long, as the Inca succumbed to the Conquistadores and the Spanish colonisation of South America.

Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador who had conquered the Inca Empire, had given control of the southern part of the empire to Diego Almagro, a former friend and ally of Pizarro; however Almagro seized Cusco, an act which started a civil war between the two conquistadores. Pizarro defeated Almagro, but would ultimately be assassinated less then 3 years later by supporters of Almagro. Gonzalo Pizarro, the brother of Fancisco Pizarro, took control of the Bolivian region after the death of Francisco, but only for a short period as he was executed in 1548 which allowed the Spanish to regain control of the region.

In 1545 silver was discovered in the town fo Potosi in the mountain, Cerro Rico, near the town. A mine was built into the mountain that would go on to yield extremely high quantities and qualities of silver, transforming Potosi into one of the richest cities in the world and financing much of the Spanish Empire.

Over the next few hundreds years the indigenous populations slowly started to get increasingly frustrated with the Spanish colonial rule, and this frustration reached a climax in 1780 when Tupac Amaru II, an indigenous Bolivian who was a distant descendant of Tupac Amaru the last Inca ruler, started a rebellion against the Spanish. Although this act would turn out to be unsuccesful when Tupac Amaru II was killed by the Spanish, the seed had been sown and the uprising of the Bolivian population would continue, eventually sparking a full-blown war of Independence that would last for 16 years.

Bolivian independence was eventually proclaimed on 6th August 1825 with Simon Bolivar, who had also liberated Peru, named as the first president.

During the following century Bolivia lost significant territory through concurrent wars, losing 350km of coastline to Chile leaving it a land-locked country during the War of the Pacific, losing land to Brazil during a war over control of the Acre region, and losing land to Paraguay in the 1935 Chaco War.

Through the latter half of the 20th century Bolivia underwent periods of revolution and political reform. In 2005 President Evo Morales was voted as President of Bolivia, a former coca farmer and the first President of Bolivia to have come from the indigenous population. 

Geography

Bolivia is a land-locked country in South America that shares borders with Chile and Argentina in the south, Peru in the west, and Paraguay and Brazil in the east. Bolivia's geography is defined by two major geographical features: the Andes Mountains, and the Amazon Jungle.

The northern and eastern region of Bolivia, including the city of Santa Cruz and Madidi National Park, sit within the Amazon Rainforest, a hot and humid environment populated by indigenous villages, jungle towns, fabulous wildlife such as piranha and caiman, and endless jungle landscape.

The giant Andes Altiplano, which translates as high plain, dominates the southern and western region of Bolivia. At an average altitude of around 3700 metres above sea level this giant plateau is where the cities of La Paz and Potosi, the famous Lake Titicaca, and the Salar de Uyuni can be found. Here the mountain peaks can exceed 6000 metres above sea level, and the climate is arid and barren but incredibly stunning.

Time Difference

GMT - 4hrs.

Top Attractions

The incredible Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world, is the top attraction in Bolivia.

Other popular attractions include the city of Potosi and its mine, Bolivia's capital city La Paz - the highest capital city in the world, the Tihuanaco ancient ruin, and the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca including Isla del Sol.

Population

Approximately 11 million, of which almost 2.5 million live in the metropolitan area of La Paz.

Sports

Like its South American neighbours Bolivia is football mad, and La Paz is famous for being one of the highest altitude locations in the world to host international football games.

In La Paz and other altiplano regions of Bolivia female wrestling is an increasingly popular sport.

Religion

Bolivia is a Catholic country and around 95% of Bolivian people declare themselves as Catholic.

Indigenous beliefs also still exist in co-existence with Catholicism, based on Inca or natural traditions, such as Pachamama - the Earth Mother.

Bolivia in the Movies and on TV

The 2011 movie Blackthorn, which stars Sam Shepard and is a fictional account of the later life of Butch Cassidy, was both set in and filmed in Bolivia and is not only a very entertaining Western style film, but also features some absolutely stunning landscape cinematography of the Bolivia landscape. The movie was filmed on location in Uyuni, La Paz, Potosi, and the Salar de Uyuni and the landscaped regions of the high altiplano nearby.

Even The Rain, a 2010 movie starring Gael Garcia Bernal, received excellent reviews and was filmed and set in Bolivia in the city of Cochabamba.

Director Steven Soderbergh's biopic "Che", about the life of Che Guevara, was partly filmed and set in Bolivia.

Michael Palin travelled through Bolivia during his Full Circle journey in 1997, travelling from Chile through Bolivia to La Paz, then onwards to Copacobana on the shores of Lake Titicaca, before reaching Peru.

Bolivia is also a frequent location for wildlife, adventure travel, and general interest documentaries and has featured in episodes of Top Gear amongst others.

Famous Bolivian People

Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia.

Raquel Welch was half-Bolivian, with her father originating from La Paz.