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Bolivia is known for its diverse and rugged landscapes and rich ancient and cultural heritage. It is one of two land-locked countries in South America (the other is Paraguay). Bolivia’s neighbors are Argentina to the south, Chile in the west and southwest, Peru on the west and northwest, Brazil in the north and in the east, and Paraguay in the southeast. The surface area covers 1,098, 581 sq km/424,164 sq mi, two thirds of which are tropical and semitropical in the northern and eastern lowlands.
The better-known highland region is in western Bolivia, an area that encompasses the Andes, the Altiplano and highland valleys and inter-Andean valleys known as the Yungas (semi-tropical mountains on the eastern side of the Andes). Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of the Incas and sits at 3,810 m/12,500 ft and is shared with Peru (60%). The eastern lowlands are the economic engine of the country with agriculture, beef, mining and oil and gas production, as well as numerous beautiful natural wonders around every corner.
Andes Mountains and Altiplano:
Bolivia boasts a significant portion of the Andes Mountains, which extend through its western region and is the widest expanse of the Andes in South America with two major branches embracing a high plateau called the Altiplano. This high-altitude plateau (often compared to Tibet) has an average height of 4,270 m/14,000 ft and is located between the eastern and western Andes. It is 805 km/500 mi long and 130 km/81 mi wide. It is famous for its unique and breathtaking scenery and ancient cultures – like the Tiwanaku, Inca, Aymara and Quechua. The Andes Mountains in Bolivia offer unparalleled and captivating experience, blending stunning landscapes, vibrant cultures, and diverse ecosystems and abundant exotic wildlife.
The city of La Paz is the seat of government (although Sucre is the proper capital of Bolivia). La Paz has been the capital city a few times over its close to two centuries of independence from Spain. It is known as one of the highest cities in the world and is the center of the Andean economic region in Bolivia. Its dramatic setting and vibrant street life make it a fascinating destination for photographers and adventurers.
The Uyuni Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) in southwestern Bolivia are a natural wonder. This vast expanse of salt creates a mirror-like reflection during the rainy season, making it a stunning subject for photography. During the dry season, it displays large natural hexagonal patterns made of evaporated salt crystal. It is the world’s largest salt flat and encompasses 10,580 sq km/4,085 sq mi and is in the center of the Altiplano, at a height of 3,660 m/12,000 ft above sea level, same height as downtown La Paz!
The Sud Lipez region is the wild southwestern region of high-altitude deserts, volcanoes, lava canyons, wildlife, and multi-colored lagoons, like the Red and Green. There is an abundance of rugged natural landscapes with eroded mountains displaying colored mineral layers and an abundance of Andean wildlife from pink flamingos and foxes to viscachas and wild vicuñas.
In contrast to the high Andes, Bolivia also contains a sizeable portion of the Amazon Rainforest in its northern region. In the Department of La Paz is Madidi National Park, considered one of the most biodiverse protected areas in the world, offering incredible opportunities for wildlife and nature photography. The Pampas, located in the northern part of the Amazon basin, provide the chance to capture photos of unique wildlife, including jaguars, caimans, capybaras, pink river dolphins, and thousands of unique reptiles, insects, and birds.
Bolivia is home to a diverse array of indigenous cultures, each with its own traditions, languages, and customs. The vibrant markets of places like La Paz, Sucre, Tarabuco and Cochabamba offer opportunities to capture the colorful textiles, crafts, daily life, and rituals of these communities showcasing the rich heritage of this Andean nation. The town of Copacabana on Lake Titicaca is a pilgrimage site and the hub of Andean culture. The local Aymara people have preserved their customs and rituals, and the stunning landscapes around the lake provide excellent photography subjects. The famous Carnival in Oruro is a colorful spectacle with traditional dances and costumes, and traditional food and drink. The Quechua group is found across the rest of the Andean chain and into the lower valleys towards the east.
National Parks: This is a sample of the best known protected areas in Bolivia.
Overall, Bolivia’s diverse landscapes, indigenous cultures, and natural wonders provide an abundance of photographic opportunities and unforgettable experiences. Whether it’s capturing the majestic Andes, the vast windswept Altiplano, the lush tropical Amazon basin, or the rich tapestry of native cultures found in all corners of this magical land, Bolivia has something for everyone. It has all the modern development in the bigger cities and it may be a bit rough around the edges further afield, but the magic and the opportunities to find something unique and rarely seen is part of the allure of this land in the heart of South America.