Geography of Bolivia
Bolivia is the only Andean country without an exit to the sea. It is estructured in three big regions. In the west we can find the Andes, which are divided in two mountain ranges: the western, volcanic one; and the eastern, mainly formed by metamorphic and granitic rocks. In the middle of these mountain ranges rises the popular, arid and wide high bolivian plateau, located at an average height that surpasses the 4.000 meters range, where the biggest salt mine, the popular Uyuni salt mine, is located. In the Andean east side we can find the subandean valleys, known as the Yungas. They are productive areas with a mild climate that are the entrance to Los Llanos region, the largest in the country, which includes the plains where Santa Cruz city is located, as well as the Amazonian basin, with beautiful national parks as the Madidi National Park or the Noel Kempff National Park.
The mountain ranges
The Royal Mountain Range is the main focus of mountainous activity in Bolivia, with peaks as popular as the Illimani, the Huayna Potosí, the Illampu o the Condoriri. The biggest summit is, however, the western mountain range, where Sajama volcano rises 6542 m. Other unknown mountain ranges harbour deserted landscapes where mountain activities can be enjoyed. They are the Apolobamba mountain range, located in the north of Titicaca lake and adjacent to Peru, where the highest mountain is the Chaupi Orco; and the Quimsa Cruz mountain range, located in the south of the Royal Mountain Range and the best area in Bolivia to climb over the rocks. This zone offers beautiful trekking routes and lonely landscapes covered by the snow, with just a few climbs.
Bolivia has one of the most rooted indigenous cultures all over South America: the aimara community, direct descendent of the old tihuanacotas, who lived in the plateau 2000 years ago. During our community tourism programmes in Bolivia you will have the chance to get to know and live with five different communities spread all over the country’s geography. Communities at Titicaca Lake, in the plateau near Potosí, at the foot of one of the most important snow-covered lands in the Royal Mountain Range, in the Yungas and in the bolivian Amazonia.
The climate in Bolivia is lukewarm, with big variations depending on the region and its altitude. There are lots of contrasts between the day (high temperatures) and the night (when the thermometer goes down sharply), especially in the montanious areas. The raining season goes from November to March, and that’s why the recommended season for tourism and mountain activities goes from April to October.
Places to visit
Titicaca Lake – The city of Copacabana, located in the shore of this mythical lake, is the nerve centre for the activities in the lake. Visiting the Sun Island is compulsory, as well as walking through its paths.
La Paz –Capital city of the country, located over the plateau and shadowed by the big mountains. La Paz has an interesting old part and a good gastronomic offer. In the outskirts of the city there are some areas where you can enjoy external activities as hiking or climbing, as the Ánimas Valley, the Devil’s Molar or the Aranjuez mountain range.
The Yungas – They are the subtropical, fertile and rainy valleys which form the last peaks before we reach the Amazonian plain. They offer interesting visits and walks as the trekkings through precolombine paths or the descent, by bike, through the Death’s Road to Coroico.
The Royal Mountain Range – Is the main mountain range in the country and here you can find several peaks that surpass the 6000 meters range. The most popular are the Huayna Potosí and the Illimani. There is a high number of climbs and trekkings that you can enjoy through the valleys and peaks of this magnificent mountain range.
The Apolobamba and Quimsa Cruz mountain ranges – Two forgotten, wild and unique mountain ranges. They are worth a visit for the mountain and nature lovers. Nowadays, you can still climb to virgin peaks and walk through its valleys in total loneliness. They are ideal for the lovers of magnificent spaces which are out of the commercial routes.
Sucre and Potosí – Colonial cities of Bolivia par excellence. The old capital city, Sucre, is an architectural outdoors museum full of white houses, brown roofs, many squares of all sizes, churches, parks, etc. Potosí, mining centre of Bolivia, offers interesting visits to museums, churches and the experience of visiting the cooperative mines in order to understand the harsh job of the bolivian miner.
The Uyuni Salt Mine and Eduardo Avaroa’s Natural Reserve – The deserted south area of the country hides natural gems as the big Uyuni Salt Mine or the wonderful multi-coloured lagoons located in the Lípez’s Desert.
Sajama’s National Park – Here you can find the most impressive and highest volcanos of the country, the Sajama (6542 m) and the Parinacota (6342 m) and Pomerape (6222 m) twin volcanos. Hot baths, puna and a big amount of wild fauna.
The Amazonian East – Two out of three parts of Bolivia are covered by jungle and Amazonian plateau. Here we can find true primary jungle forests and many protected zones and national parks where we will be able to observe the fauna, live with the natives and sail through the main rivers of the area.