Not sure what Bolivia is known for? You’ve come to the right place then because this list covers all the things this country in South America is famous for all over the world!
Bolivia is known for its dizzying altitude, loads of llamas, and deadly roads that wind through the jungle. It is also famous for its gigantic salt flats, a mind-blowing range of flora and fauna, and a diverse range of landscapes to visit.
Read on to learn more about them, and to see all the other things that Bolivia is famous for internationally!
La Paz is the third-most populous city in Bolivia and the seat of the government. It’s not the official capital of the country, but it is the administrative capital and one of the largest cities in Bolivia. It sits at an altitude of more than 3,500 meters on the Altiplano plateau in the Andes and it is very close to Lake Titicaca.
And if it is one thing you will notice when you arrive in La Paz it’s the altitude! With the Andes mountains running down the West coast of South America, a lot of places are at altitude actually. But that is why it is a country with one of the highest airports in the world and is actually the highest national capital too. So, if you visit La Paz, be on the lookout for altitude sickness. It strikes many a traveler when they first arrive.
La Paz is a big city, popular for its spectacular viewpoints, historical landmarks, and fascinating natural attractions. Mount Illimani can be seen from nearly anywhere in the city, and it’s a striking sight in the background of the city buildings.
Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, even though it’s smaller than La Paz. It’s best known as the home of Casa de la Libertad (Freedom House), where Bolivia’s declaration of independence was signed back in 1825. Sucre is also the seat of the judiciary government, and it is home to Bolivia’s Supreme Court of Justice.
Just like La Paz, Sucre sits at a pretty high elevation of 2,810 meters. The high altitude is the reason for the subtropical highland climate in the city, which results in quite cool temperatures year-round. The city is even classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of its architectural heritage, as well as the millenarian history of the Charcas region.
It’s strange to think having no access to an ocean would make Bolivia famous.
There are two landlocked countries in South America – Bolivia and Paraguay. Bolivia borders Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, and the largest body of water in the country is Lake Titicaca. And, even that lake is shared with Peru.
Interestingly enough, Bolivia still has a navy although it’s a landlocked country. The Ministry of National Defense established River and Lake Force in 1963, and Bolivia actually maintains a naval presence in the lake. Bolivia never really got over the loss of its coastline to Chile, and the navy maintains its presence in the hopes that they could regain the lost territory one day.
Bolivia is known for the Andes – the world’s longest continental mountain range. The Eastern Andes Mountain range runs through Bolivia, bisecting the country from north to south. The abundance of mountains makes the country popular for all sorts of outdoor adventures, and Bolivia delivers with its scenic trekking trails and excellent ski resorts.
Since there are a lot of mountains in Bolivia, it should come as no surprise that the country is also home to a lot of the world’s highest attractions – the highest navigable lake, the administrative capital, salt flats, golf course, cable car, and many others.
It is hard to imagine Bolivia to be full of animals, especially given the altitude and low humidity, but there is actually a lot of jungle on the east side of the country in places like the Santa Cruz department.
Bolivia actually boasts 40% of all animal and plant life on Earth. And one of the best places to see this is in Madidi National Park. This National Park is home to an insane number of bats, snakes, fish, and plant life.
You can even see the mind-blowing Pink dolphins if you head out to the Amazon. And given species like this, it’s no surprise Bolivia has designated more than 17 percent of the entire country as protected areas.
Lake Titicaca is definitely something that has made Bolivia famous. It is a freshwater lake on the border between Bolivia and Peru, and it is the highest navigable lake in the world. It’s at an altitude of 3,812 meters above sea level, and it also happens to be the largest lake (by volume) in South America. It’s deemed the highest navigable lake because of the various vessels that sail on it, but it’s important to note that there are smaller bodies of water on higher elevations throughout the world.
In 2000, a team of divers and archeologists found the ruins of an underwater temple in Lake Titicaca. It’s estimated that the temple was between 1000 and 1500 years old and built by the Tiwanaku people.
Llamas are native to the South American Andes region, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the llama is the national animal of Bolivia. It’s estimated that there are some 3.1 million llamas and alpacas in Bolivia, which is the highest number anywhere in the world.
Locals use llamas to transport goods up steep mountains, and they also farm them for wool, leather, and meat. Llama wool is very soft, and it is often used to make sweaters and other woolen clothing.
Turbulent politics are common in South American countries and Bolivia is no different. The partisan divide is so strong in the country that it led to a civil war between conservatives and liberals in the late 19th century. The latter were victorious and the liberal era lasted for some 30 years, until 1920.
That was the point when Bolivia started to move towards a more secular country. Catholicism was no longer the only religion recognized by the state, and civil marriage got adopted in 1911. However, it wasn’t until a referendum in 2009 that Bolivia officially became a secular state.
Such a strong political divide is evident in the numerous protests that are held around Bolivia frequently. The country is particularly known for the 2019 protests, which were violent and resulted in dozens of deaths.
Freddy Mamani is to Bolivia what Antoni Gaudi is to Spain – a famous architect with a distinct style who is considered a master of his craft. The key difference is that Mamani is still alive – he’s actually quite young as he was born in 1971.
Mamani is considered a pioneer of the Neo-Andean architectural style, which is characterized by bright colors and geometric shapes. He has designed more than 60 Neo-Andean buildings in El Alto, Bolivia’s second-largest city.
Most Bolivians don’t like it when their country is associated with drugs, but the fact remains that Bolivia is the third-largest producer of cocaine in the world. Coca leaf farms are the main source of income for lots of Bolivian farmers, but very few of them actually turn to pure cocaine production. That business is still reserved for the elites, who enjoy significant protection from politicians and the police.
In the last couple of years, there have been attempts to restrict and suppress the production of coca, which hasn’t been received well by the farmers.
Yes, Salt has definitely made Bolivia famous!
The Salar de Uyuni is a lake in the Andes mountains right at the edge of the Atacama Desert, in southwestern Bolivia. It is known as the world’s largest salt flat with a dried lake that is 10,000 square kilometers in area.
You might have seen pictures of it like the one above, with stunning hexagonal shapes on the surface. They’re a result of salt crystallization from evaporating water and they look incredible.
After the rain, a thin layer of calm water appears on the surface, transforming this incredible lake into the world’s largest mirror. The reflective surface is a fascinating sight, and it should come as no surprise that these salt flats attract numerous visitors from all over the world. Uyuni Salt Flat is also an extraction site for lithium and salt, as well as home to the first Salt Hotel in the world.
North Yungas Road, better known as the Death Road, is the most dangerous road in Bolivia, and South America. It’s estimated that 200-300 people die on this road every year, which is what earned it the title of one of the world’s most dangerous roads. Nowadays it’s mostly a cycling route for tourists since an alternative road has been built for cars, but it remains as dangerous as ever.
The road was originally built in 1930, as a way of transporting goods between the highlands and lowlands. It’s only three meters wide without any railing and it features constant curves and serpentines. Also, the Death Road is quite susceptible to weather conditions and rain can often cause landslides.
Depending on where you’re from, you might already be familiar with zebra crossings on the road. The interpretation of this phrase is quite literal in Bolivia – in 2001, the government decided to implement humans dressed as zebras to help regulate the chaotic traffic in the major cities.
Two decades later and the zebras are now a common sight on most pedestrian crossings in Bolivian cities and they’ve even gotten local heritage status. They’ve proven to be quite effective at raising awareness about rules of transit and helping children and the elderly cross the road in a safe way.
San Pedro prison is the largest prison in La Paz and it’s famous for being a walled society. It’s home to some 3,000 inmates, plus all their wives and children that live with them inside the prison walls. The inmates at the prison have an unusually large amount of freedom and at one point the prison was even open for visitors. This didn’t last too long because of the violence towards the visitors, but it’s still possible to get inside the prison if you just bribe the security guides.
All the inmates have jobs and they must rent or buy accommodation. There are even elected leaders in the prison society, and they often enforce their rules through stabbings. The prison is so weird and unique that it’s been immortalized in two different books, and a famous tourist attraction. It attracts dozens of visitors every day, despite the dangers!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.