Country profile

About Bolivia

Bolivia is the undiscovered gem of South America, with a population not much bigger than London or New York, living in a country bigger than France and Spain combined. Perhaps this explains why Bolivians are such a welcoming people, greeting tourists with genuine warmth, backed by a real pride in their nation and its rich traditions.

Bolivia is located south west of Brazil nestled between Paraguay and Argentina in the south, with Chile and Peru in the west.  Officially known as the Republic of Bolivia, the country has a range of geographical regions and is an excellent location for trekking, fishing, jungle tours and mountaineering with most patients choosing to do their exploring and travelling pre-surgery so they can rest and recuperate afterwards.

Bolivia has two capital cities; La Paz (the administrative capital) and Sucre (home of the judicial branch of the government), while Santa Cruz de la Sierra, dubbed the tropical paradise of Bolivia, is the country's largest city and where a big proportion of plastic and cosmetic surgeries are located.  Bolivian highlights include the colonial town of Potosí - the highest city in the world - located in south-west Bolivia at 4070 metres above sea level and nominated a cultural asset of humankind by UNESCO.  The Cerro Rico (the Rich Mountain) silver mine is also a must-see as it is where a wealth of silver has been mined since the sixteenth century (the mines produced plenty of wealth for the Spanish empire but unfortunately the country went into decline when the price of silver dropped in the 1980's).

Bolivia is a country of contrasts, with the relatively modern cities of La Paz  and Santa Cruz bustling with industry and high finance, while other areas are slower and still show evidence past colonial glories and the stunning whitewashed architecture of days gone by.

This is also a country of geographical contrasts, from unexplored rainforest to the high Andes, from lush valleys to remote mountain desert plains. Wherever you visit, the scenery is spectacular. Take in the famous Lake Titicaca and you’ll be awed by the soaring, snow-covered peaks that surround you. Visit the Amboro National Park and you’ll be blown away by the diversity of the wildlife, with more bird species in the one park than the whole of the US and Canada put together.

Wherever you are in Bolivia make sure you sample some local specialities; dishes like empanada salteña (diced meats, potatoes, chives, raisins, a hot sauce and pepper baked in dough), or lomo montado, fried tender loin steak with two fried eggs, rice and fried banana are great washed down with a Cruzena, considered one of the best beers around.

Although the sabre rattling of the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, and headline grabbing stories of drug trafficking, have given Bolivia a poor image in the international consciousness, in reality, it is one of the safest countries in South America for travelling and tourism. It is also one of the cheapest, with tourism relatively new and prices yet to rise to take advantage. Staying and seeing Bolivia is significantly cheaper than its neighbours such as Brazil or Argentina. Factor in the lack of crowds at the big attractions, and the warm welcome offered to tourists, and you’ll find Bolivia is a brilliant way to get an authentic South American experience.

One thing is for sure; Bolivia is a colourful country, with many indigenous people whose way of life has changed little over the centuries. Rich in folklore and folk music, the mountain peoples of Bolivia have a unique culture all their own. If you get the chance to experience one of their traditional festivals, and there are plenty of them all year round, don’t miss it! It will be an unforgettable experience of sound and colour, dancing and excitement, and the endearing smiles will stay with you forever.


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Quick facts

Population: 11 Million
Currency: Boliviano
Capital: Sucre
Languages: Spanish, Aymara, Guaraní
Religions: Catholic (78%), Protestant (19%)