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Tourism in Bolivia - History

Tourism in Bolivia - History


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Bolivia

In 2017 974,000 tourist visited Bolivia. That is up 2.1% from the year before. 313,000 jobs were related to the tourist industry, cotributing 6.3% to the total employment in the country. In 2017 tourism contributed 7.2% of the GDP


Tourism in Bolivia - History

Where is Bolivia

Home to the world’s largest navigable lake filled with peerless natural beauty, Bolivia is located at the heart of South America. While sharing control over Lake Titicaca with Peru, Bolivia is bordered by Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay. The climate varies as you go from east to west. In the summers, the capital faces an average temperature of 9°C with November being the hottest month. In winters, an average temperature of 5°C with June being the coldest month is observed.


The former economic center of the Spanish empire, Potosi used to be one of the biggest cities in the world due to its silver-rich Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain). These days, a visit to Potosi provides a fascinating insight into Spanish Colonialism and mining history. Many travelers join a guided tour to gain firsthand experience of the horrendous working conditions in the country’s most notorious mine.


Contents

Salar de Uyuni is part of the Altiplano of Bolivia in South America. The Altiplano is a high plateau, which was formed during uplift of the Andes mountains. The plateau includes fresh and saltwater lakes as well as salt flats and is surrounded by mountains with no drainage outlets. [12]

The geological history of the Salar is associated with a sequential transformation between several vast lakes. Some 30,000 to 42,000 years ago, the area was part of a giant prehistoric lake, Lake Minchin. Its age was estimated by radiocarbon dating shells from outcropping sediments and carbonate reefs and varies between reported studies. Lake Minchin (named after Juan B. Minchin of Oruro [13] ) later transformed into Paleo Lake Tauca having a maximal depth of 140 meters (460 ft), and an estimated age of 13,000 to 18,000 or 14,900 to 26,100 years, depending on the source. The youngest prehistoric lake was Coipasa, which was radiocarbon dated to 11,500 to 13,400 years ago. When it dried, it left behind two modern lakes, Poopó and Uru Uru, and two major salt deserts, Salar de Coipasa and the larger Salar de Uyuni. Salar de Uyuni spreads over 10,582 km 2 , which is roughly 100 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States. Lake Poopó is a neighbor of the much larger Lake Titicaca. During the wet season, Titicaca overflows and discharges into Poopó, which in turn, floods Salar De Coipasa and Salar de Uyuni. [14]

Lacustrine mud that is interbedded with salt and saturated with brine underlies the surface of Salar de Uyuni. The brine is a saturated solution of sodium chloride, lithium chloride, and magnesium chloride in water. It is covered with a solid salt crust varying in thickness between tens of centimeters and a few meters. The center of the Salar contains a few islands, which are the remains of the tops of ancient volcanoes submerged during the era of Lake Minchin. They include unusual and fragile coral-like structures and deposits that often consist of fossils and algae. [15]

The area has a relatively stable average temperature with a peak at 21 °C in November to January and a low of 13 °C in June. The nights are cold all through the year, with temperatures between −9 °C and 5 °C. The relative humidity is rather low and constant throughout the year at 30% to 45%. The rainfall is also low at 1 mm to 3 mm per month between April and November, but it may increase up to 80 mm in January. However, except for January, even in the rainy season the number of rainy days is fewer than 5 per month. [8]

Located in the Lithium Triangle, the Salar contains a large amount of sodium, potassium, lithium and magnesium (all in the chloride forms of NaCl, KCl, LiCl and MgCl2, respectively), as well as borax. [15] With an estimated 9,000,000 t, Bolivia holds about 7% of the world's known lithium resources most of those are in the Salar de Uyuni. [16]

Lithium is concentrated in the brine under the salt crust at a relatively high concentration of about 0.3%. It is also present in the top layers of the porous halite body lying under the brine however, the liquid brine is easier to extract, by boring into the crust and pumping out the brine. [ citation needed ] The brine distribution has been monitored by the Landsat satellite and confirmed in ground drilling tests. Following those findings, an American-based international corporation has invested $137 million to developing lithium extraction. [17] However, lithium extraction in the 1980s and 1990s by foreign companies met strong opposition from the local community. Locals believed that the money infused by mining would not reach them. [18] The lithium in the salt flats contains more impurities, and the wet climate and high altitude make it harder to process. [19]

No mining plant is currently at the site, and the Bolivian government does not want to allow exploitation by foreign corporations. Instead, it intends to reach an annual production of 35,000 t by 2023 in a joint venture with ACI Systems Alemania GmbH. [20] [21] [22]

Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tonnes (9.8 billion long tons 11 billion short tons) of salt, of which less than 25,000 t is extracted annually. All miners working in the Salar belong to Colchani's cooperative. [ citation needed ]

Because of its location, large area, and flatness, the Salar is a major car transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano, [12] except when seasonally covered with water. [ citation needed ]

Salar means salt flat in Spanish. Uyuni originates from the Aymara language and means a pen (enclosure) Uyuni is a surname and the name of a town that serves as a gateway for tourists visiting the Salar. Thus Salar de Uyuni can be loosely translated as a salt flat with enclosures, the latter possibly referring to the "islands" of the Salar or as "salt-flat at Uyuni (the town named 'pen for animals')". [ citation needed ]

Aymara legend tells that the mountains Tunupa, Kusku, and Kusina, which surround the Salar, were giant people. Tunupa married Kusku, but Kusku ran away from her with Kusina. Grieving Tunupa started to cry while breastfeeding her son. Her tears mixed with milk and formed the Salar. Many locals consider the Tunupa an important deity and say that the place should be called Salar de Tunupa rather than Salar de Uyuni. [15]

A part of Incahuasi Island inside the Salar, featuring giant cacti

Vicuñas near the Salar De Uyuni 2017

The Salar is virtually devoid of any wildlife or vegetation. The latter is dominated by giant cacti (Echinopsis atacamensis pasacana, Echinopsis tarijensis, etc.). They grow at a rate of about 1 cm/a to a height of about 12 m. Other shrubs include Pilaya, which is used by locals to cure catarrh, and Thola (Baccharis dracunculifolia), which is burned as a fuel. Also present are quinoa plants and queñua bushes. [15]

Every November, Salar de Uyuni is the breeding ground for three South American species of flamingo feeding on local brine shrimps: the Chilean, Andean, and rare James's flamingos. About 80 other bird species are present, including the horned coot, Andean goose, and Andean hillstar. The Andean fox, or culpeo, is also present, and islands in the Salar (in particular Incahuasi Island) host colonies of rabbit-like viscachas. [15]

Hotels Edit

Salar de Uyuni is a popular tourist destination, and consequently a number of hotels have been built in the area. Due to lack of conventional construction materials, many of them are almost entirely (walls, roof, furniture) built with salt blocks cut from the Salar. The first such hotel, named Palacio de Sal, was erected in 1993–1995 [23] [24] in the middle of the salt flat, [25] [26] and soon became a popular tourist destination. [27] However, its location in the center of a desert caused sanitation problems, as most waste had to be collected manually. Mismanagement caused serious environmental pollution and the hotel had to be dismantled in 2002. [28] [29]

Train cemetery Edit

One major tourist attraction is an antique train cemetery. It is 3 km outside Uyuni and is connected to it by the old train tracks. The town served in the past as a distribution hub for the trains carrying minerals en route to Pacific Ocean ports. The rail lines were built by British engineers arriving near the end of the 19th century and formed a sizeable community in Uyuni. The engineers were invited by the British-sponsored Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Companies, now Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia. The rail construction started in 1888 and ended in 1892. It was encouraged by Bolivian President Aniceto Arce, who believed Bolivia would flourish with a good transport system, but it was also constantly sabotaged by the local Aymara indigenous Indians who saw it as an intrusion into their lives. The trains were mostly used by the mining companies. In the 1940s, the mining industry collapsed, partly because of mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned, producing the train cemetery. There are proposals to build a museum from the cemetery. [15]

Salt flats are ideal for calibrating the distance measurement equipment of satellites because they are large, stable surfaces with strong reflection, similar to that of ice sheets. As the largest salt flat on Earth, Salar de Uyuni is especially suitable for this purpose. [2] In the low-rain period from April to November, due to the absence of industry and its high elevation, the skies above Salar de Uyuni are very clear, and the air is dry (relative humidity is about 30% rainfall is roughly 1 millimetre or 0.039 inches per month). It has a stable surface, smoothed by seasonal flooding — water dissolves the salt surface and thus keeps it leveled. [30]

As a result, the variation in the surface elevation over the 10,582-square-kilometer (4,086 sq mi) area of Salar de Uyuni is less than 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) normal to the Earth's circumference, and there are few square kilometers on Earth that are as flat. The surface reflectivity (albedo) for ultraviolet light is relatively high at 0.69 and shows variations of only a few percent during the daytime. [7] The combination of all these features makes Salar de Uyuni about five times better for satellite calibration than the surface of an ocean. [5] [6] [31] Using Salar de Uyuni as the target, ICESat has already achieved the short-term elevation measurement accuracy of below 2 centimeters (0.79 in). [32]

By using data from MISR to perform passive optical bathymetry when the flat is flooded and calibrating the resultant water depth model with topographical data from the laser altimeter of ICESat, it has been shown that the Salar de Uyuni is not perfectly flat. The 2006 analysis revealed previously missed features: ridges between 20 and 30 centimetres in height that are roughly sinusoidal with a wavelength of 5 km (clearly visible in 1973 and 1975 LandSat images, and still in the same places decades later), and a moat around the periphery that is 1–3 km wide and 20 to 50 cm deep. They originate from the variation in material density, and thus the gravitational force, beneath the Salar's sediments. Just as the ocean surface rises over denser seamounts, the salt flat surface also rises and falls to reflect the subsurface density variations. [31] [33]


Bolivia - History

The early inhabitants of Bolivia were the Aymara people who settled the lands surrounding Lake Titicaca.  The lake became the ceremonial centre for the Tiahuanaco civilisation, developing into the religious and political centre of the Alto Peruvian Altipano before being conquered by the Incas between 1438-1527 with their last great expansion.  Inca control was relatively short-lived as the once great empire had grown weak and European explorers were about to arrive.

The Spanish began to arrive in the 16th century and immediately set out to explore and then settle their new land.  For present day Bolivia, this resulted in the establishment of La Plata (later known as Sucre) in 1538.  La Plata became the Spanish capital of the Charcas region.  Six years later, silver was discovered in Potosi and the Spanish were quick to settle a town there to take advantage of this new wealth.  Potosi grew rapidly, and with 160,000 residents, it was the largest city in the western hemisphere.  At the time, Potosi’s silver mines were some of the wealthiest in the world and helped to fuel Spain’s economy for many years.

With the money from Potosi going directly to Spain and not to Bolivia, the country faced many economic troubles.  Local populations grew frustrated and disenchanted with their European leaders culminating in the Great Rebellion in 1780-82.  This rebellion was lead by indigenous people and was followed by the Independence War at the beginning of the 19th century.  Early in the 1820s, General Simón Bolivar, a Venezuelan military and political leader set about liberating both Venezuela and Colombia before heading to Ecuador and then Bolivia.  The newly formed Republic of Bolivia was named in his honour. 

The young country faced many struggles as the wars required to gain independence had significantly weakened both the economy and infrastructure and initial leaders established military dictatorships.  The country began to lose territory to its neighbours including its coast to Chile and areas vital to the rubber boom went to Brazil.  Finally, a border dispute in 1932 saw even more territory taken by Paraguay in the Chaco War.

After the Chaco War the country entered into a period of relative stability which is, in many cases attributed to President Victor Paz Estenssoro who was in power between 1952-56 and again in 1960-64.  He focussed on rebuilding the country making and significant changes like introducing universal suffrage and a national workers’ union.  Despite this, the 1970s proved to be a turbulent time for the country with various coups and military dictators.  Victor Paz Estenssoro was reelected in 1985 and once again set about to revive the country’s economy.  When Jaime Paz Zamora took over in 1989, the hyper-inflation that had plagued the country was significantly less.

The new millennium bore witness to unrest and protests, however, in December 2005, Bolivia elected their first indigenous president, Juan Evo Morales Ayma who was quick to initiate important change and was reelected in 2009.  Despite being known as one of the poorest countries in Latin America, there is great optimism present in Bolivia.  More tourists are coming to explore this land of contrasts and beauty and tourism has continued to grow since the 1990s.  For those willing to venture off the beaten track, they will find not only stunning landscapes but also incredibly unique cultural opportunities packed into this small, but fascinating country.

Bolivia Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy to navigate travel information section dedicated to Bolivia.

Learn about the history and culture of Bolivia, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Bolivia's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Bolivia for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Bolivia tours today!

Extend Your Trip

Book your Bolivia tour with Goway! 

LATIN AMERICA by Goway is an exclusive division that specializes in planning and organizing Bolivia tours, vacations and experiences. Choose from a simple city stopover, a Holiday of a Lifetime, an independent travel module, and much more.  We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to Bolivia.


Packing for traveling in Bolivia

The sun can be blindingly fierce and the nights cold at altitude in Bolivia, such as on the Salar de Uyuni.

Pack for all seasons &ndash the climate is confusing

A trip through Bolivia is a trip through multiple climate zones.

In the span of one day, you can travel from an icy, snowy highland climate to a hot, humid jungle. When visiting the Andean regions of Bolivia, be sure to pack plenty of layers.

In the mornings and evenings, temperatures can drop to below freezing, while when the sun is shining in the afternoons you&rsquoll be comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt.

Also, rain storms can pop up at any moment, especially during the rainy season (between November and March), so be sure to carry a rain jacket in your day pack.

If you&rsquore planning on backpacking in Bolivia, I highly recommend investing in good rain gear. A waterproof jacket (check them out on REI|Backcountry|Amazon), water proof pants (have a look on REI|Amazon) and waterproof but lightweight hiking boots (check mine out on REI|Backcountry|Amazon) will make your multi-day trek much more enjoyable, and can actually help you pack lighter since you won&rsquot have to takes tons of extra pairs of clothes to replace the soaked ones.

A lightweight waterproof jacket is also a good choice for the Amazon jungle as it can get very, very wet in places such as Rurrenabaque and Madidi National Park.

The sun can be brutal at high altitudes, such as the Salar de Uyuni or Bolivian salt flats. Even with low temperatures, you can still get sunburned, so make sure to pack hats and sunscreen. Don&rsquot let the snow-capped mountains deceive you! Your skin will thank you for the protection.

Another packing tip is to use a backpack, even if you don&rsquot plan on trekking. Between bus travel and wandering up and down city streets, a backpack is much more convenient than a roller suitcase or duffel bag. Osprey are an durable and reliable brand (check them out on REI|Osprey|Amazon).


About Bolivia

Officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, the country is geographically the largest landlocked country in the Americas and one of South America's most diverse and unique nations. Bolivia is named after Simón Bolívar, a leader in the Spanish American wars of independence. It is equal in size to California and Texas combined. It is bordered to the North and East by Brazil, to the Southeast by Paraguay, to the South by Argentina, to the Southwest by Chile, and to the Northwest by Peru.

Bolivia has more than 13 different types of geography - making it one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world and causing the climate to vary drastically with altitude and from one climatic zone to another. The climate in Bolivia ranges from humid and tropical to cold and semiarid.

The Oriente is a lowland region ranging from rain forests to grasslands and wetlands. It comprises the northern and eastern two-thirds of Bolivia. In the he western part you will find the great plateau of the Altiplano, enclosed by two mountain chains of the Andes. Almost half the population lives on the plateau, where you will find the cities of Oruro, Potosí, and La Paz. Lake Titicaca near La Paz is the highest commercially navigable body of water in the world. The Salar De Uyuni in the South-West is the largest salt desert in the world, and a truly unique sight not to miss.

Is La Paz the capital of Bolivia?

Actually, the constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre, while La Paz is the seat of government. Sucre used to be called La Plata and was proclaimed the provisional capital of the newly independent Alto Perú (now Bolivia) on 1st of July, 1826. The city was renamed in honor of the revolutionary leader Antonio José de Sucre by President José Miguel de Velasco on the 12th July, 1839 and proclaimed the capital of Bolivia. The seat of government moved to La Paz at the start of the 20th century after the Federal Revolution of 1899 and due to Sucre's remoteness from economic activity following the decline of the silver mines in Potosí.

The current Constitution, approved in 2009, assigns the role of national capital to Sucre, not referring to La Paz in the text. The Supreme Court of Bolivia is also located in Sucre, making it the judicial capital as well. However, The Presidential Palace (Palacio Quemado), seat of the Bolivian executive power, is located in La Paz, as are the National Assembly and the Plurinational Electoral Organ (OEP).

La Paz, with a population of about 1,715 million, is the second largest city in Bolivia after Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which is the principal economic and financial center. La Paz is the highest administrative capital city in the world, definitely worth a day or two to visit.

So, in case you are confused: Sucre is the constitutional capital, La Paz is the seat of government and the administrative capital and Santa Cruz is the economic center. Oh, and Cochabamba is where the Souht American Parlament is located.

Tourism in Bolivia

Many people think of Bolivia as primarily Andean country or think of Lake Titicaca or the Uyuni Salt Flats first. What they do not know is that the Andean region covers less than a third of Bolivia. Don't miss out on the other two-thirds of the country with beautiful tropical destinations such as rainforests and waterfalls, amazing national parks, the largest city in Bolivia, wonderful historic sites, all influenced by some of the less known ethnic groups in Bolivia such as the Moxos, Guarayos, Ayoreos, Guarani and Chiquitanos.

What you need to know before you travel:

Safety
Even though Bolivia is one of the least-developed countries in South America criminal statistics are quite low. In general, if tourists take basic security precautions, they may walk the streets in most areas of major cities without becoming victims of crime.

Traveling with children in Bolivia is also generally safe and fun, if you take into consideration the altitude, take shorter trips and choose the destinations with the climate in mind.

Health
It is always important to take care of your health, but there are additional concerns to keep in mind when you're traveling. Whether you're taking a quick trip with your family or studying abroad for several months, it's easier to get sick when you're in a new place because your body hasn't had a chance to adjust to the food, water, and air in a new environment. Traveling can bring you in contact with things that your body isn't used to. Three of the most common health problems that you may experience when traveling are jet lag, altitude sickness, and diarrhea. When you fly across time zones, the differing amounts of light can change your internal body clock, resulting in a condition known as jet lag. Jet lag may cause symptoms like an upset stomach, insomnia, and tiredness.

Some areas of Bolivia reach extremely high altitudes, like La Paz, which ranges from 3,400 to 4,000 meters above sea level. Western Bolivia, including the Salar de Uyuni, Lake Titicaca and the cities of Potosi and Oruro, is also at a high level. High altitude can cause a number of health concerns, even for those in excellent health.

The subtropical areas of Bolivia carry a risk of yellow fever. You're advised to get vaccinated for this at least a month prior to traveling. Some neighboring countries, including Brazil, require anyone entering from Bolivia to have proof of a yellow-fever vaccination.

In addition to the medical issues, you must dress appropriately for the conditions. Especially consider the temperature fluctuations that occur in mountainous areas, particularly during the day compared to night. The sun in Bolivia is very strong and it is easy to get a bad sunburn very quickly, especially at high altitudes where the air is thinner and the cooler temperatures make you forget that you are in the tropics. To protect yourself from excessive sun exposure, stay out of the midday sun, drink plenty of fluids and avoid strenuous exercise in high temperatures. Always wear sunglasses and a hat. Use sunscreen with with both UVA and UVB protection. It should be applied generously to all exposed parts of the body approximately 30 minutes before sun exposure and should be reapplied after swimming or vigorous activity.

Visas
To enter Bolivia your passport must be valid for six months beyond the date of entry. Personal documents – passports and visas – must be carried at all times, especially in lowland regions. It's safest to carry photocopies rather than originals, but if you are going anywhere near a border area (even if you don't actually cross) you should have your real passport with you.

US citizens need a visa to visit Bolivia (a 90-day visa valid for 10 years costs US$160). Theoretically it is possible to obtain the visa upon arrival in Bolivia, but some airlines will not let you board your flight without one. Avoid problems and get one before you travel.

Weather and the best time to visit Bolivia
The weather in Bolivia depends much more on the altitude and topography of the region you plan to visit than the actual season of the year. At higher elevations, temperatures will vary from quite warm during the day to freezing cold at night. In the lower areas, the rain can seem unending even during the "dry" season. The valleys seem to live in an eternal spring and the mountains in everlasting winter. The best time to visit Bolivia depends on the places and sights you want to see, the tours you would like to take, and the mode of transport you wish to take.

Winter (dry season): June - July - August

Best for visiting the Bolivian Amazon (Rurrenabaque), Salar de Uyuni.

From April to October the weather is typically colder and drier. The coolest month tends to be July.

Summer (rainy season): December - January - February

Best chance of seeing the famous 'mirror effect' in the Salar de Uyuni.

From November to March the weather is typically warmer and wetter, though in some regions November may be quite hot and dry.

The altitude of cities like La Paz, Oruro and Potosi keeps things cool despite their tropical latitude, and warm clothing is advised year-round. In winter temperatures can drop significantly below freezing.

Santa Cruz, Rurrenabaque and other low-lying cities are usually "hot destinations" during most of the year.

Currency
The Bolivian currency is the Boliviano, and its symbol is Bs or BOB. Bills come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 bolivianos in coins of 1, 2 and 5 bolivianos, and in 10, 20, and 50 bolivian cents.

The mid-market exchange rate USD to BOB has remained fixed by the Bolivian Central Bank for several years now. It currently stands at 1 USD = 6.96 BOB.

There are banks and exchange booths within the airport where you can exchange your currency for bolivianos. Street money-changers also buy sell currencies, usually at a marginally better rate than banks. Potentially counterfeit bills can be a problem though.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) are found in Bolivia's main cities. Be careful though, they don' always work! Also, there is a general limit of 200 USD per withdrawal`per day, so if you need to spend more cash, take precautions.

The most widely accepted credit cards in Bolivia are American Express, Visa, and Master Card.

Foreign currencies, in cash and travelers checks, can be exchanged in banks, "casas de cambio" (exchange booths or stores) and hotels. Banks only accept USD bills in absolutely perfect conditions (no markings, tears or even excessive dirt), so you may have a hard time paying with worn dollar bills anywhere.

The majority of transactions that take place are with American dollars and Euros, although in some places transactions are also done with less common foreign currency.Exchange rates for these is usually less favourable.

Time
The official time in Bolivia is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-4). Bolivia does not follow daylight savings time therefore the time is the same year round and does not vary from one geographic region to another.

Food
Contrary to what many may say, food in Bolivia is so much more than just rice and fried chicken. Using mainly a mixture of Spanish cuisine and indigenous ingredients, traditional dishes in west (high) Bolivia are generally suited to the high, cold climate in the Altiplano. Gustu in La Paz by the famous Danish chef and co-founder of Noma en Copenhagen Claus Meyer offers interesting culinary experiments with typical Andean ingredients. Don’t miss out on llama steaks and quinoa, an Andean super-grain!

In lower (tropical) regions, the main local ingredients are yucca, fried bananas, river fish, and even turtles and crocodile tail (see below).

One of the best ways to experience the local cuisine in any city is to eat at the local markets where you can get a quick, tasty and satisfying meal for as little as 2-3 USD.

Holidays
Bolivians are rather fond of holidays. It would be a near impossible task to list all regional and local holidays when many activities are suspended, the official holidays when banks and offices are closed are:

January 1 - New Year's Day
January 20 - Constitution Day
Varies (February-March) - Carnival
Varies (March-April) - Semana Santa (Holy Week)
May 1 - Labor Day
June 14 - Corpus Christi
June 21 - Winter Solstice, Aymara New Year
August 6 - Independence Day
November 2 - Todos los Santos (All Saint's Day)
December 25 - Christmas
Please note that whenever a holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday is usually declared a day off. Additionally, if it happens to fall on a Thursday or Friday, don't expect many people to be working until Monday.

Gran Poder Festival - The Gran Poder Folkloric entrance is a traditional festival that takes place in the well-known Ch'ijini neighborhood of La Paz city since 1974. The "greatest Andean festivity" gathers approximately 30000 dancers of 60 folkloric dance groups, which dance along a 6 kilometer route inside La Paz city. The festival takes place between the months of May and June.

Winter Solstice - Aymara New Year - The winter solstice is celebrated in Tiwanaku on every June 21st. This date marks the Aymara New Year or Machaj Mara it also marks the beginning of a new agricultural year. The winter solstice indicates that the earth is at its farthest point from the sun. The Amautas (Andean priests) celebrate gratitude ceremonies to the Sun and the Pachamama (mother earth).

Carnaval de Oruro - Oruro Carnival - The Oruro Carnival is a distinctly religious festivity in devotion to the Virgin of Socavón. Every year folkloric dance groups from all over Bolivia and the world meet up in Oruro to play tribute with their music and dances to the Virgin of Candelaria also known as Socavón. The dancers make a journey of several kilometers, culminating at the Sanctuary of the Virgin to whom they offer their dance as sacrifice in exchange for the granting of a wish.

Official languages and people
Bolivia's population, estimated at around 11 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians and Africans. It is also the most indigenous country in the Americas, with 60% of its population being of indigenous descent. After the Spaniards conquered the Incas in the 16th century, Bolivia's predominantly Indian population was reduced to slavery. The remoteness of the Andes helped protect the Bolivian Indians from the European diseases that decimated other South American Indians.

Spanish is the official and predominant language, although 36 indigenous languages also have official status, of which the most commonly spoken are Guarani, Aymara and Quechua languages.

Although the official religion is Roman Catholic, and the majority of the population claims to be Catholic, freedom of religion is accepted in Bolivia. Ties with the Catholic Church have remained strong through agreements and pacts between Bolivia and the Vatican.

Geography
Bolivia has a territory of 1,098,581 Km2.

Bolivia's geography is comprised of in broad terms the Altiplano (High Plains) with mountain ranges between 3000 and 6000 meters above sea level, valleys between 1500 and 3000 meters above sea level and tropical areas at around 200 meters above sea level. Two thirds of the Bolivian territory are tropical areas and more than three quarters are fertile lands for agriculture.

When traveling from the Altiplano to the Amazon, you will have a hard time believing you are still in the same country.


1. Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku is an impressive archaeological site housing the capital of pre-Inca empire. Much about Tiwanaku remains a mystery and the subject of ongoing academic debate.

The people of Tiwanaku built a magnificent city spanning approximately 2.3 square kilometres with monuments, temples, homes and public buildings. It was still flourishing in 900 AD, however by the time it was discovered by the Incas in the mid-fifteenth century, it was entirely abandoned, probably having declined in the twelfth century.

That which remains is incredible and has resulted in much excited speculation over the years. For example, the many carved heads on the “Templete” or Small Semi-Subterranean Temple were probably meant to represent humans, but have been said to resemble aliens. This has led to some ‘alternative’ theories as to who – or what – built Tiwanaku.

Today, Tiwanaku is a popular tourist site and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitor can view its many monuments, gates – such as the well-known Gateway of the Sun – and statues, all of which attest to the importance of this once ceremonial city.

2. Train Graveyard

Just outside the town of Uyuni, in Bolivia, lies the train graveyard. Here lie the remains of dozens of steam engines, dumped when the railways in South America were dismantled. It is literally the end of the line.

The railway system was built in the middle of the 19th century by mainly European engineers, to join the east of of the continent to the west,a huge and ambitious task, having to cross the Andes to reach Chile, but the steam engines became obsolete and were discarded at Uyuni.

These beautiful old steam engines lie, unloved and rarely visited, preserved by the dry air of the cold desert. Uyuni is quite isolated, and it is advisable to go with someone who is familiar with the area. There is no charge for a visit.

3. San Vicente Museum

San Vicente Museum, also known as the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Memorial Museum, lies in a small mining town in Bolivia which is believed to be the site of the last stand of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Although legends have grown up around this pair of bank robbers, it is almost certain that they met their end here on November 7th 1908, at this small and insignificant town about a four hour drive along a dirt track from Uyuni.

There are no paved roads in this part of Southern Bolivia. The landscape is bleak, and the altitude is high on this pilgrimage to the sad end of Butch and Sundance, (or not, if you believe the legends) so romantically played in the 1969 film by Paul Newman and Robert Redford. If you do make it to the end of the trail, you are rewarded by a small museum with some facts and photos of these outlaws.


7. Convento de San Felipe Neri

Sucre is known as the ‘White City of the Americas’ and Convento de San Felipe Neri contributes to the title. Originally a monastery, the stone structure was later covered with a layer of stucco, and now functions as an all-girls parochial school. Neoclassical in style, the building was constructed between 1795 and 1799 by Friar Antonio de San José Alberto.

Although the building is open to the public, the gate remains locked and visitors have to ring a bell on the right to be let in. The entrance leads to a large inner courtyard surrounded by beautifully preserved corridors. One of the most popular attractions in Sucre, Convento de San Felipe Neri provides breathtaking views of the city from its bell tower and tiled rooftop.


15. Uyuni Salt Flats

World’s largest salt flats, the Salar de Uyuni lies near the crest of the Andes in the Daniel Campos Province in Potosi in southwest Bolivia. An eerie yet stunning landscape, the salt flats are a result of the transformation of a giant ancient lake. During certain months the rain pours and covers the landscape with a thin layer of water converting the land into an expansive mirror.

Salar de Uyuni is a breathtaking vista and a dreamscape for photographers and visitors alike. In 2007, a hotel named Palacio de Sal was constructed entirely with salt blocks in the Uyuni flats.


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