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Bolivia is not on most travelers’ radar. It’s also not well-known to many people.

This fascinating country is often associated with violence and drugs in movies and T.V. shows (I am looking at you, Scarface and Bullet Train).

But the real “Tibet of the Americas” is much different than this.

It is a place with breathtaking landscapes, unique geography, history, and rich cultural heritage. 

We have collected 21 of the most fascinating Bolivia facts to illustrate just how fascinating this country really is. Once you learn about Bolivia, you’ll want to pack your bags immediately.

Let’s see how the Plurinational State of Bolivia can surprise you.

Psst: Brush up on your La Albiceleste knowledge by reading these fun facts about Argentina.

21 Interesting Facts About Bolivia

1. Bolivia is the Highest and Most Isolated Country in South America

Flag of Bolivia

Bolivia sits at 16,732 ft (5,100 m) above sea level. And La Paz is the highest capital city in the world, reaching 11,740 ft (3,580 m) above sea level.

It’s truly a country of extremes and various terrains. One single country includes:

  • The Amazon River
  • Dense rainforests
  • The Andes Mountain range
  • The Atacama Desert

These extremes are challenging to live in, making Bolivia so isolated.

Since Bolivia is high in the mountains, the air is much thinner, which could cause altitude sickness. If you are not acclimatized, you might feel breathlessness, nausea, and headaches.

2. It’s Home to the World’s Largest Salt Flat – Salar De Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Bolivia’s famous Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat!

It is also one of the most notable natural wonders of the country.

Let me tell you how it was created.

Several salty prehistoric lakes evaporated tens of thousands of years ago, leaving behind 4,050 square miles of otherworldly-looking salt flats stretching over the Altiplano. 

It is fascinating how the Salar de Uyuni reflects the skies above and the landscapes surrounding it.

Fun Fact: The Salar de Uyuni salt flat is the world’s largest natural mirror.

Also, don’t miss playing with forced perspective to create amazing photos like this one I took when I visited.

Salar De Uyuni Perspective, Bolivia

3. Bolivia is a Landlocked Country With a Navy

Why does landlocked Bolivia have a navy? 

It is a very interesting story!

If you look at the Bolivia map before 1883, it had sea access. The country used to own 250 miles (402 km) of South America’s Pacific Coast. 

However, it was forced to give up that land after the War of the Pacific (1879 – 1883) against Chile.

This is how Bolivia became one of the landlocked countries of South America. However, it is still trying to get its shoreline back. So, the navy remains a symbol of their effort.

4. Lake Titicaca is the World’s Highest Navigable Lake and Largest Lake in South America

Lake Titicaca in Bolivia

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 ft (3,810 m) above sea level in the Andean Altiplano. It is also the largest freshwater lake in South America.

What’s more impressive is how old this lake is — it’s been around for a million years. In fact, it is one of Earth’s last 20 ancient lakes. Lake Titicaca is also the birthplace of the Inca empire, with many ruins left from this ancient civilization.

5. Bolivia is One of the Most Biologically Diverse Countries

Laguna Colorada in Bolivia

Did you know that 40% of all animal and plant life on Earth can be found in Bolivia? 

The Andes Mountains and Lake Titicaca, on one end, and the Amazon River and dense rainforests, on the other, create a unique ecosystem.

And its world-renowned Madidi National Park is popular among wildlife and nature enthusiasts for its incredible biodiversity.

The protected areas of the park are home to species like:

  • Freshwater pink dolphins
  • Andean condor
  • Jaguar
  • Sloth
  • Spectacled bear
  • Puma
  • And many more!

The plant life includes the walnut tree, the mountain pines, brazil nuts, and many others.

6. Bolivia’s Two Capital Cities – “La Paz Sucre Argument”

The “La Paz Sucre argument” is a huge debate in Bolivia. So, which one is the capital? 

Many people think La Paz is Bolivia’s official capital. And they would be partially right. It functions as the administrative capital and is the government and finance center of the country. 

However, Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia. Essentially, this incredible country has two capital cities – one on paper and another in practice.

Interestingly, neither of the two capitals is Bolivia’s largest city. This title belongs to Santa Cruz.

7. Bolivia Has the Largest Indigenous Population in Latin America

Indigenous People in Bolivia

55% of the country’s population is indigenous. In fact, Bolivia has the largest population of natives in Latin America. So, you’ll have plenty of history and local culture to absorb if you ever visit this incredible country.

Bolivia recognizes 36 indigenous groups, including:

  • Aymara
  • Guaraní
  • Chiquitano
  • Moxeño
  • Quechua. 

The Bolivian population is also broken up into three main groups:

  • Indians (indigenous people)
  • Mestizos (mixed-race people of Indian and European descent)
  • Europeans (mainly Spanish)

Minority groups include Afro-Bolivians, Japanese, and non-Spanish European groups. 

This diversity is the reason for the country’s rich cultural heritage.

8. Bolivia Has 37 Official languages

Bolivia is a multiethnic and multilinguistic country thanks to all the indigenous, mestizos, and minority groups.

Spanish, Aymara, and Quechua used to be the only 3 official languages. 

But today, Bolivia has 37 official languages, including:

  • Baure
  • Ayoreo
  • Puquina
  • Kallawaya
  • Araona
  • Canichana

…and the list goes on!

This diversity creates a unique Bolivian culture. However, Spanish is still the most widely spoken language in the country.

9. Bolivia Got its Name from the Prominent Political Figure, Simon Bolivar

Simón Bolívar's Painting
Image from Wikipedia

Simon Bolivar led the Wars of Independence and liberated five South American countries from Spanish rule.

He freed Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia. So, the country was renamed after him. 

Bolivar was also the first official president of Bolivia.

Related Read: Fun Facts About Ecuador

10. San Pedro Prison Was Once a Tourist Attraction

This is one of the most interesting Bolivia facts. San Pedro Prison, or Saint Peter’s Prison, in La Paz was once open for tourism. 

People wanted to see how inmates could live in a walled society with their families. 

However, this program was shut down because inmates often attacked tourists. Today, this jail still houses 1,500 prisoners.

11. Guinea Pig is a Bolivian Delicacy

Three Guinea Pigs

Did you know that Bolivians love to eat guinea pigs?

It’s true! I know it sounds repulsive, but Guinea pig or “cuy” is a traditional food in Bolivia, especially in the Andes region. It is often consumed fried, broiled, or roasted.

And I’m afraid to say they taste good!

12. Bolivia Was Once Known As “Upper Peru”

The Spanish were the first to colonize Bolivia in the early 1500s while on the quest for gold and resources.

Conquerors called the country “Upper Peru.” The name changed after the Bolivian War of Independence on 6 August 1825.

13. El Alto is the Highest Administrative City in the World

El Alto is the second-largest city in Bolivia and the highest city in the world, sitting at 13,615 ft (4,150 m). 

It is also Bolivia’s youngest city, separated from La Paz in 1985.

14. Bolivia is Home to a Famous Witches Market

La Paz hosts The Witches’ Market, also known as Mercado de las Brujas. This bizarre and mythical market looks straight out of a Disney movie!

This extraordinary place sells everything from medicinal herbs, amulets, lucky charms, and talismans to mummified frogs and owl feathers.

The market is also a hub for spiritual workers and healers who read your fortune and help conduct offerings to Pachamama (an Inca goddess that translates to ‘Mother Earth’).

15. Cholita Wrestling is Unique to Bolivia

Cholitas Wrestling in Bolivia
Image from Wikipedia

Cholita Wrestling is a unique cultural attraction practiced in Indigenous communities that really surprised me.

The match unfolds with a male attacking an indigenous woman (Cholita), who always triumphs by body-slamming her opponent. 

The Cholitas dress in signature bright, puffy skirts and braided hair. Sometimes, they also wrestle other women.

This Bolivian tradition is believed to provide stress relief and a sense of community to victims of domestic abuse.

16. Santa Cruz Has the Biggest National Park in Bolivia

Parque Nacional del Gran Chaco Kaa-Iya is a vast Integrated Management Natural Area. This park is the biggest in Bolivia and one of the biggest among Latin American countries.

In fact, the park has a larger surface area than Belgium, covering a massive 13,286 square miles (34,411 square kilometers).

If you want to see wildlife in this incredible county, visit Kaa Iya National Park.

Here, you can see: 

  • Jaguars
  • Pumas
  • Maned wolves
  • Giant armadillos
  • And many other exotic animals and plants

17. Bolivia Has Two Flags

The official Bolivian flag, known as “La Tricolor,” has three horizontal stripes:

  • Red at the top – for the brave soldiers who fought for Bolivia’s independence
  • Yellow in the middle – for the nation’s mineral wealth 
  • Green at the bottom – for beautiful nature

However, there is a second Bolivian flag – the indigenous Wiphala flag.

It has 7 different colors, representing Bolivian cultural diversity.

Read Next: Interesting Facts About Puerto Rico

18. Bolivia Has 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Old City of Potosi, Bolivia

A UNESCO World Heritage site preserves and protects a country’s cultural and natural heritage. Bolivia has 7 of those sites:

  • City of Potosí (1987)
  • Fuerte de Samaipata (1998)
  • Historic City of Sucre (1991)
  • Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos (1990)
  • Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (2000)
  • Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture (2000)
  • Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System (2014)

The City of Potosí is the most popular. It has a long mining history, dating back to the discovery of silver in 1545. You can visit the Cerro Rico mine – one of the most dangerous silver mines in the world. Read my experience in the mines of Potosí here.

19. The Unique Bolivian River Dolphin is Only Found Here

Amazon pink dolphin

There are four freshwater river dolphin species in South America. 

However, Bolivian pink dolphins are the most unique among them.

Their unique skin tone does not result from eating too much shrimp like the flamingo. No, there’s a much funnier reason behind it.

These dolphins are born with grayish tones that later turn pink due to scar tissues resulting from rough play and fighting.

Male dolphins play a lot more, so they are strikingly pinker. From personal experience, I can say these dolphins are pretty playful and love to nibble on your feet, which is scary when you’re swimming in murky waters in the Amazon. This is how my experience camping in the Amazon went.

20. You Can Cycle Down the Most Dangerous Road on the Globe in Bolivia 

Biking death road

North Yungas Road, aka “Death Road,” claims around 300 lives a year.

The 40-mile (64 km) route near La Paz has: 

  • 11,500 feet (3,500 m) elevation change
  • Sudden cliff drops
  • Landslides
  • Fog 
  • And other factors are making this road incredibly dangerous.

Despite that, about 25,000 tourists visit the Death Road for an exciting adventure every year. You can read my experience biking down Death Road!

21. Bolivia is Home to the World’s Largest Butterfly Sanctuary

Blue Butterfly in Sanctuary

Bolivia has multiple butterfly sanctuaries, including one of the largest in the world. 

You can see these beauties flap their wings at Guembe Biocenter in Santa Cruz.

The country’s butterfly farm breeding system reproduces 52 native species.

21 Interesting Facts About Bolivia
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