Our recommendation to visit Bolivia and neighboring countries
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Bolivia Travel guide
Events and festivals in Bolivia
Due to the mix of ancient indigenous cultures and the traditions of Catholicism, Bolivia plays host to a wide array of festivities throughout the year.
From astrologically based New Year celebration in the ruins of ancient Inca cities, to pious religious ceremonies in honour of holy figures, all of Bolivia’s festivities are delightfully joyful and colourful, with a big emphasis on costumes, masks and dance. Communities come together for many celebrations and street parties are a common occurrence, with tourists and visitors almost always being welcome to join in the fun.
Santa Semana (Easter Holy week) - March and April
In Bolivia, Santa Semana marks a week long celebration in the run up to Easter Sunday and it is a celebration that is enjoyed throughout Latin America. One of the most eye-catching celebrations of the week are the Palm Sunday, or Domingo de Ramos, processions, where huge parades pass through the streets, laying palm throngs along the ground.
On the Thursday of the following week almost all the churches and cathedrals in Bolivia open their doors to the public; a great opportunity for visitors and tourists to discover the interiors of some of the numerous beautifully decorated churches throughout the country. Good Friday is marked by a delicious 12-course meal enjoyed by all devotees and shared with families and friends. The festival ends on dawn of Easter Sunday, where followers pray and give thanks to God.
Aymara New Year - 21st June - Tiwanaku Ruins
Probably the biggest celebration and a national holiday in Bolivia, the festival of Aymara new year marks the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Aymara are an indigenous population concentrated in the south and west of Bolivia and the tradition of celebrating their New Year goes back many centuries and is something deeply rooted in the culture of the country. The most prominent destination to celebrate the coming of the New Year is the ancient Inca site of Tiwanaku, where followers gather in their thousands to watch the sun rise over the ancient megalithic structures.
San Juan - June 23rd
This catholic festival, which celebrates the biblical figure of St. John the Baptist, is traditionally celebrated by lighting huge bonfires and burning in the flames items which are no longer needed. Nowadays, due to safety concerns, bonfires are not so common in Bolivia, but instead almost everyone heads out into the streets to celebrate with loud and colourful fireworks and by lighting barbeques to cook food to share amongst the community. Wherever you are in Bolivia on the night of San Juan, you can expect to see lively street parties and celebrations.
Oruro Carnival- February and March
In the usually tranquil town of Oruro, located on the vast Bolivian altiplano a world famous festival erupts into celebration every February or March. It is a popular festival with travellers, who make their way to this isolated town to join in with the lively dancing, exuberant costumes and to enjoy the party, which, some years, goes on for almost 20 hours! As well as the boisterous celebrations, artisans take the opportunity to set up their stalls to sell their crafts so it’s the perfect place to pick up an authentic souvenir to remember the wonderful celebrations at Oruro.
Virgen de la Candelaria - 2 to 5th February - Copacabana
Every year, thousands of Bolivians, tourists and visitors make a pilgrimage to the sparkling shores of vast Lake Titicaca and to the nearby village of Copacabana to celebrate this holiday, which merges both traditional Catholic beliefs with ancient Andean traditions.
According to folklore, the Virgin Mary is said to have saved fishermen caught in a storm on Lake Titicaca, and this celebration is to give thanks to her. The three-day festival consists of religious processions, prayers and delicious traditional food is served for the pilgrims in the streets.
Fiesta de Gran Poder - May and June - La Paz
This religious festival is celebrated in honour of Jesus and the most festive celebrations can be found in the huge metropolis of La Paz. Visitors are treated to a sea for colourful costumes and intricate masks as thousands of dancers compete with each other in the street to give thanks to Jesus.It is considered the largest of all religious festivals in Bolivia and the whole of La Paz comes to a standstill as everyone gets involved in the celebration.GO TO EVENTS
Food in Bolivia
You probably don't know what to eat in Bolivia, since perhaps this South American country is the least well-known. However, Bolivian cuisine is very varied, and not only that, the quality of meat and potatoes is much higher than in many other countries.
To get started on the food of Bolivia, the first thing you have to know is that in this country more than two hundred varieties of potatoes are grown. The richness of the typical dishes of Bolivia is so extensive that we could not cover all its dishes. Take note of some of the most typical and tasty you'll find during your tour in Bolivia.
The anticucho is one of the typical dishes to eat in Bolivia, no matter what, this dish is a kind of meat brochette with potatoes. It is cooked on the grill and served with a spicy peanut sauce. It is a very tasty and cheap dish, which is customary to eat with your hands.
This traditional Bolivian dish consists of veal tongue with a spicy touch. It is served with dehydrated potato or chuño, with coriander, onion and tomato sauce.
If you like Milanese, you're in luck because this dish is made with meat pastry, served with fried eggs, potatoes, white rice and carrot, and beetroot salad. One of the best dishes to eat in Bolivia to regain strength.
This is undoubtedly one of the simplest, but most peculiar, dishes of Bolivia. To make the yucca sonso, a cassava puree is mixed with cheese. The particularity of this dish is that it is prepared on a grill, which gives it an exquisite smoky flavour.
Tamales are also typical of Bolivian food, in this case, Bolivian humintas are sweet. They are usually served for breakfast or a snack, and are made by mixing grated sweetcorn with cinnamon, sugar, raisins and sometimes cheese. All this stuffing is wrapped in corn leaves (tamales) to be steamed, or grilled.
The pig is in the form called grilled pork, but this time it is a whole pig which is cooked over a very slow fire. Over the fire, the whole pig is placed to be cooked for eight or twelve hours, normally throughout the night. It is one of the typical dishes to eat in Bolivia on holidays and special celebrations.
In La Paz, you'll find this traditional pork sandwich. Inside a round bread, a good piece of crunchy pork leg is placed, which is accompanied by chili, onion and tomato slices. A snack which you should try during your trip to Bolivia.
Cuñapé is a bread made of cheese which is made in Santa Cruz, its peculiarity is that it is made with cassava flour and baked cheese. It's delicious, so if you try it, you'll want to have it more than once.
This Bolivian dish is typical of the valleys region and to add to it frayed beef is used, which is cooked with: tender beans, potatoes, onion and hard egg. It is served with an onion, tomato and chili sauce, which makes it very tasty.
To make this dish, ground corn (corn typical of the country) is used, which is cooked with potatoes and pork skin. The result is a thick and consistent broth with a lot of flavor.
For lovers of meat, the male pique is one of the dishes to eat in Bolivia, since it consists of minced meat, chorizo, fried potatoes, and tomatoes. Locotos are added to the dish, a kind of hot peppers which give a special touch.
Within the food of Bolivia there are also sandwiches. On this occasion they are prepared with chicken or beef, and potatoes, peas, olives and onions are added. The result is very consistent and rich sandwiches.
Masacos are typical of the eastern part of the country, to make this dish cassava or ground green banana are used, which are mixed with pork chicarrón.
Another typical dish of the eastern part of Bolivia is the majadito, which consists of a dish of toasted rice with dried meat. It is served with fried eggs, accompanied by a tomato and fried plantain salad.
And we could go on like this almost forever because Bolivian gastronomy is as rich as its cultural identity. The same could be said of the traditional drink, just to mention the best known: Guarapo, Chicha, Tojorí, Chanfaina and Singani are unique for their flavour.
Surely your trip to this country of religious and cultural syncretism will make you discover new flavors which you did not know existed.GO TO GASTRONOMY
Shopping in Bolivia
Of all the traditional items that represent the country that you can buy in Bolivia, ponchos and hats are the classics. But because of the multicultural nature of this country, there is a great variety of traditional products.
Rather than being a nation, this Latin American country where 37 official languages are spoken, is more like a group of nations. That is how it is recognized in its Constitution, by integrating the original indigenous nations as proper entities. This characteristic makes Bolivia a very culturally-rich country, and this extends to its traditional products.
Traditional Bolivian ponchos are perfect for keeping you warm in cold places, such as the Andes. Most of these are made from alpaca wool, which is the native animal of this country. The ponchos are of high quality, and therefore they make the perfect gift to take back home.
Many travelers choose textiles from Bolivia as their preferred souvenirs. Brightly-colored textiles are used for the traditional costumes for both men and women. Shoes, handbags, hats and an endless amount of accessories are also manufactured. You can buy these attractive textiles in the markets by weight and by the meter.
Continuing with the textiles theme, the aguayos are traditional Bolivian cloaks. These cloaks are made by Bolivian women artisans and the textiles are used both as bags in which to carry goods as well as to carry their babies. Of all the Bolivian souvenirs, this is an attractive example of artisan work which can be used in a number of ways.
Among all the traditional Bolivian products, the hats worn by the women are particularly special. These bowler-shaped hats are not only attractive, but they provide information about the marital status of the wearer. You can find them in many markets and street stalls, and they come in different designs and sizes.
These colored woolen hats are as Peruvian as they are Bolivian, and they are known almost everywhere. Surely an attractive chullo is the perfect travel souvenir from a country that is so multicultural and alive.
Alpaca wool is used to manufacture not only clothing, but also tapestries, rugs, dolls, keyrings, and a whole range of souvenirs. In general, if you barter, you will get very good prices, particularly for good quality alpaca clothing.
One of the quintessential traditional products to buy in Bolivia is the stone carved talisman. These can depict anything from totems to animal figures, as well as strange faces of ancestral gods. Bolivian talismans are the perfect souvenir of Bolivia to bring good luck to your friends and family.
If you visit the Salt Mines at Uyuni, you can’t leave without buying a souvenir made from salt. On the market stalls, you will find numerous objects made with this mineral. You also have rock salt for cooking, which is something different to buy in Bolivia and something that will surprise cookery aficionados.
You will find the country’s traditional pottery in all the markets. There are jugs, pots, containers, etc. painted with exquisite designs or simpler ones in the original clay color. Whichever you decide on, you have lots of objects that you can buy in Bolivia if you want to take a ceramic souvenir from the country back home with you.
Ametrine is also known as Bolivianite Stone and is a mixture of amethyst and citrine. You can only find this natural treasure in Bolivia, so if you are looking for a special gift as a souvenir of the journey, this gem is the answer. What better treasure to buy than a gemstone that is unique to Bolivia. With this souvenir of your journey, you will never forget the uniqueness of the country.
An extravagance that you can indulge in during your trip to Bolivia is getting a tailor to make you a made-to-measure jacket. Bolivians work extremely well with this material, so you will have a stupendous leather jacket for a good price.
Of all the things to buy in Bolivia, you probably haven’t thought about an ointment for your health. Well, Mentis is one of the most popular souvenirs among travelers, as it relieves coughs, muscular pains and animal and insect bites. It is made with a base of menthol, pine, and eucalyptus and is a bit reminiscent of the famous Chinese Tiger Balm.
To finish, the Supay is one of those traditional Bolivian products that you can only find in this country. It is an unusual alcoholic beverage due to its spicy aniseed flavor. You will recognize it by its label, which is decorated with the face of Supay, the god of death. That should give you an indication of the strength of this Bolivian liquor.
Bolivia offers you a whole world of experiences, colors, and the most original items. Don’t miss the opportunity. Make sure you leave some space in your rucksack to take a little bit of this fascinating Latin American country back home with you.GO TO SHOPPING
Bolivia tourist attractions
More information about Bolivia
A country of extremes, ranging from rainforested lowlands to snow-capped Andean peaks, Bolivia is a favourite of adventure travellers. This high-altitude destination is known for its natural wonders and its gravity-defying metropolis of La Paz. A landlocked nation, surrounded by Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay, Bolivia is home to one of the largest indigenous populations in South America, allowing visitors on a tour of Bolivia, to experience unrivalled cultural insights, surrounded by pristine and unique landscapes.
Although La Paz is Bolivia’s most widely known and largest city, it is, in fact, Sucre, in the south of the country, which claims the title of capital. Whether your idea of the perfect trip involves scaling heady Andean peaks, trekking through the rainforested Amazon basin or soaking up the local culture in one of Santa Cruz’s eminent museums, a holiday to Bolivia is sure to be a high-energy, yet rewarding, venture.
Foodies enthusiastic to tantalise their tastebuds can feast on a variety of traditional delicacies in La Paz, home to a thriving food scene, whilst those who fancy a tipple can explore the wineries of the fertile region of Tarija, known for its wine production. A true gem of South America, Bolivia invites you to get in touch with your sense of adventure.
History of Bolivia
Bolivia was once part of the mighty Inca Empire, which Lake Titicaca, rich in Inca heritage and an unmissable stop on a tour of Bolivia, lays testament to. In earlier history, Bolivia was home to the great empire of Tiwanaku, one of the most influential civilisations in the Andes. On a tour of Bolivia today you can visit the ancient ruins of the city of Tiwanaku in the west of the country. In 1533, Spanish conquistadors conquered the Inca Empire and, after finding precious silver reserves in Bolivia, it became a valuable source of wealth for the Spanish Empire who founded cities such as La Paz, Cochabamba and Oruro.
Due to the enforced labour imposed on the indigenous population a general feeling of unrest exploded into full-scale rebellions and uprisings against the conquistadors in the 18th-century. The Great Rebellion of Bolivia was ultimately unsuccessful and was crushed by 1782, but in 1809 there emerged a more organised rebellion, coinciding with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.
Following 16 years of war, a Bolivian Republic was declared in 1825, named in honour of the South American liberator, Simon Bolivar. The 20th-century saw an increase in tin mining, replacing the prominence of silver in Bolivia, but the conditions of the general population were poor, despite the relative prosperity of the country as a whole. In 1952 a revolution, led by the Revolutionary Nationalists Movement, introduced reformed to improve the quality of life of the masses, but this was not long-lived. The remainder of the century played host to many more coups and political instability. Democracy in Bolivia was finally restored in 1997.
Nature in Bolivia
Bolivia is huge; in fact, it’s the fifth largest country in South America and boasts some of the most diverse landscapes imaginable. If you’re looking to step outside of your comfort zone and witness some of the world’s most unique natural wonders, then a trip to Bolivia is for you. Here, you can experience climatic zones ranging from humid and tropical to knee-knocking cold in just one day. A holiday to Bolivia is also a great eco-travel choice as the country famously protects its wildlife and pristine landscapes with the ‘Law of Rights of Mother Earth’.
The breathtaking Salar de Uyuni is perhaps the most famous natural attraction in Bolivia. Exquisitely photogenic and simply otherworldly, these salt flats, which stretch for over 4000 square miles, are the largest in the world. Formed from ancient lakes, your experience when visiting Salar de Uyuni can vary depending on the time of year. During the seasonal rains, the flats transform into a mirror-like surface, reflecting the crisp Andean skies.
At other times, you’ll encounter a salty, textured landscape, like something from another planet. Talking of out of space, the Valley of the Moon is another must-see sight on a package holiday to Bolivia. A Mars-like landscape with strange rock formations, it is a popular hiking destination. You cannot visit Bolivia without making the journey to Lake Titicaca, the famous body of water that Bolivia shares with neighbouring Peru. The highest navigable lake in the world, situated at an amazing 12,500 feet above sea level in the Andes, most visit Lake Titicaca to unearth its fascinating Inca heritage. In the north of the country, you’ll find the Amazon basin, home to unique wildlife such as pink river dolphins. Other native wildlife includes the elusive jaguar, the spectacled bear and the iconic Guanaco, a llama-like animal found in the Altiplano.
Culture in Bolivia
The indigenous peoples of the Andes and lowlands make up a large proportion of the country’s population, thus their traditions and ways of life are integral parts of Bolivian culture. Being such a multi-cultural country, Bolivia has an amazing 36 official languages, besides Spanish. Culture is proudly celebrated and if you stay in a city or town when you visit Bolivia you’re sure to feel as is street celebrations and parades are a constant feature of Bolivian life. It’s true that Bolivians love to celebrate, whether it be a religious ceremony, a commemoration of an important historical date or a festival in honour of a much-loved deity. If you travel to Bolivia you’re sure to notice the colourful nature of everyday life; from the vibrant clothing of the locals to the live music played in city plazas and the national arts and crafts scene. Santa Cruz is known as the centre of Bolivian art so be sure to visit if you’re interested in the artistic traditions of Bolivia’s indigenous cultures.
A dream destination for those with a sense of adventure, a holiday to Bolivia is a chance to explore isolated Andean communities and witness the wildness of nature at first hand. Bolivia stands out amongst other South American countries for its remoteness, which is surely part of its appeal.
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