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Bolivia

Main attractions

Laguna Verde, Potosí
Laguna Verde, Potosí / Pedro Szekely, / CC BY 2.0

It would be modest to say that Bolivia is an exciting country: Bolivia IS full with unexpected, pleasant surprises!

This country has an amazing natural diversity - from highland deserts and snow capped mountains to wast lowlands covered with tropical forest. Here are found all kinds of landmarks. Some landmarks are well known internationally, many (undeservedly) - not, and many still are waiting for their discovery.

Almost every kind of monuments in Bolivia is represented with outstanding examples, but the most interesting could be:

  • Archaeological monuments - Bolivia is a home of several exciting ancient cultures, including the great Tiwanaku civilization, here are located some of the most important Inca sites, as well as sites of many other known and unknown cultures. Some of the most interesting sites are Tiwanaku with the nearby mysterious Puma Punku, Samaipata and Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca with Chincana labyrinth and Pilcocaina palace.
  • Historical churches and monasteries. True wonders are the churches in the old Jesuit Missions in Santa Cruz department - few centuries ago here met the artistic traditions of local people and Europeans and the result is brilliant. But many more churches and monasteries in the country are surprising. Stunning is the portal of San Lorenzo de Carangas Church in Potosí.
  • Landscape and living nature of plateaus in eastern Santa Cruz - endless forests filled with hundreds of species of orchids and other flowers, with incredibly tall, vertical cliffs rising up in the clouds, magnificent waterfalls and countless archaeological monuments waiting for their explorers.
  • Volcanic plateaus with salt lakes in Oruro and Potosí - some of the tallest volcanoes in the world with geothermal fields, the largest salt flats in the world with otherwordly landscape, lakes in different colors, geysers and omnipresent monuments of ancient cultures.

Well, may be here had to be included the incredible scenery of Yungas, the unique cultural landscape around Lake Titicaca, the highest historical cities of the world... The list could go on and on.

Natural landmarks

Geothermal fields

Sol de Mañana, Potosí
Sol de Mañana, Potosí / Phil Whitehouse, / CC BY 2.0
  • El Desierto geothermal field - Potosí, southern rim of Salar Empexa, near El Desierto sulphur mines. A site where at least one geyser has been noticed erupting approximately once per day. Here flow very acidic warm springs, temperature 31° C.
  • Sol de Mañana - Potosí. Visually impressive field of sulphur springs, contains pools with boiling mud. Some abandoned boreholes emit a pressurized steam up to 50 m high.

Canyons and rock formations

  • Árbol de Piedra - Potosí. Amazing cliff formation - a mushroom / tree formed rock in the desert, standing on a thin "foot".
  • La Torre de Chochís - Santa Cruz. Giant hoodoo - granite column in orange brown color, rising hundreds of metres tall. A site of legends. Nearby are the extremely tall, vertical Sierra de Chochis cliffs - more than 400 m tall.
  • Toro Toro Canyon - Potosí. Magnificent, up to 300 m deep canyon. Area is rich with interesting attractions including caves, cave paintings, prehistoric Quechua ruins, fossils (dinosaur trails and turtle cemetery),
  • Valle de Tucuvaca - Santa Cruz. Visually impressive landscape with amazing cliff formations - natural arches and caves. One of the best preserved stands of Chiquitano dry forest, with numerous rare species of plants, including numerous species of bright flowering trees and orchids.

Waterfalls

Country has countless waterfalls but many magnificent waterfalls are little known.

  • Ahlfeld Falls - Santa Cruz. Impressive, 25 - 45 m tall and approximately 60 m wide waterfall. Located in a dramatic and pristine natural setting in Noel Kampff National Park.
  • Arcoiris Falls - Santa Cruz. Magnificent, 88 m tall and approximately 50 m wide waterfall, located in dramatic and pristine natural setting in Noel Kampff National Park, on the rim of exotic tableland.
Ametrine crystals
Ametrine crystals / Jimmy Giles, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Gemstone finds

  • Anahí Mine - Santa Cruz. Richest find of the best ametrine in the world. Ametrine is a rare variety of quartz in golden and purple colors.
  • San Jose Mine - Oruro. A mine of silver ore, rich with beautiful specimens of collection minerals. Here are found some of the best samples of andorite, plagionite and other minerals.

Ecosystems

  • Incahuasi Island - Potosí. Unusual monument of nature - stony island (25 ha) in the middle of Salar de Uyuni - the largest salt flat in the world. Island is covered with a grove of gigantic cacti Echinopsis atacamensis ssp. pasacana (F. A. C. Weber), what together with the surrounding unusual landscape creates eerie sight. Similar groves of cacti are on other nearby islands as well, f.e. Isla del Pescado.
  • Nevado Sajama queñua forests - Oruro. Stands of queñua (Polylepis tarapacana) trees growing up to 5,200 m height. This might be the record altitude for trees.

Other natural landmarks

Laguna Colorada, Potosí
Laguna Colorada, Potosí / Valdiney Pimenta, / CC BY 2.0
  • Cal Orck'o dynosaur footprints - Potosí. 68 million years old footprints in volcanic ash, left by dynosaurs. Trail is seen over 581 m length.
  • Humajalanta Cave (Umajallanta) - Potosí. 4,600 m long cave system, rich with stalactites, stalagmites and other cave formations. Cave is partly under the water, contains waterfalls, blind fish. River Umajallanta flows through it.
  • Laguna Colorada - Potosí. Shallow salt lake with interesting geology. The water of the lake is colored by algae in red and orange colors. In the lake have formed borax islands in white color. Here live the rare James's flamingos (Phoenicoparrus jamesi) - this is the highest habitat of flamingos.
  • Laguna Verde - Potosí. Shallow lagoon 4,300 m above the sea level. The water of this salt lake is rich with magnesium and, reportedly, with copper, giving a bluish green hue to the water.

Man made landmarks

Ancient cities and towns

Ruins of Tiwanaku, Bolivia
Ruins of Tiwanaku, Bolivia / Rafael Gorski, / CC BY 2.0
  • Incallajta - Cochabamba. Magnificent ruins of Inca settlement, built in the late 15th century. Administrative centre of Tahuantinsuyo - Inca state. The fortified town was built in remote ravine. Largest remnants belong to Kallanka temple, with up to 12 m tall walls still standing.
  • Iskanwaya - La Paz. A Bolivian "Machu Picchu" - a ceremonial centre and settlement in dramatic mountain setting, developed since approximately 800 BC and rebuilt in its current form in 1145 - 1425 AD. Now ruins of several hundred buildings remain.
  • Khonkho Wankane - La Paz. Second largest known centre of Tiahuanaco culture, developed around 100 BC - 500 AD. Contains two subterranean temples - Khonkho and Putuni. In this site were found three monoliths of red sandstone covered with stone carvings.
  • Tiwanaku - La Paz. A capital of the pre-cursor of Inca Empire, developed in 300 -­1000 AD. Ancient pilgrimage center of high spiritual importance. Remnants of monumental, megalithic stone architecture with carved sculptures. Near Tiwanaku is Puma Punku - a site which contains amazing stone "details" - giant stones carved in complex forms, up to 131 tons heavy.

Ancient burial sites

  • Chusaqueri - Oruro. Prehispanic necropolis with chullpas - burial towers. Several burial towers have preserved their polychrome painting.
  • Jachapasa - La Paz. Ancient pre-European fortress with underground passage, inhabited in the 14th century. Site contains some 100 chullpas - round, conical burial towers made of stones.
  • Kani Chosi chullpas - La Paz. Group of 52 wonderfully preserved, more than 4 m tall chullpas - pre-European burial towers.
  • Kulli Kulli chullpa "town" - La Paz. A group of 70 towers, built of adobe and straw, 3 - 7 m tall. This is a cemetery of Aymara noble people, buried here in the 13th - 14th century. In earlier times here were some 150 such towers.
  • Pirapi Chico chullpa - La Paz. Round, 8 m tall burial tower, built in the 14th century.

Ancient shrines

Samaipata, ring shaped incision in the cliff, Bolivia
Samaipata, ring shaped incision in the cliff / Harold Armitage, / public domain
  • Chincana Ruins - La Paz, Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca. Ruins of a complex building, similar to a labyrinth, most likely built by Inca.
  • Iñakuyu - La Paz. Ruins of Inca temple on the small Koati island in Titicaca Lake. One of the main Inca temples of Moon, called also "Palace of Virgins". Remaining a complex with 35 rooms, made mostly of uncut stone blocks.
  • Pilcocaina palace (Pilco Kayma) - La Paz, Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca. Ruins of an enormous Inca structure, unique in its character - possibly used as a residence of Inca rulers during their visit to the sacred Isla del Sol. Built around 1500 AD.
  • Samaipata - Santa Cruz. Ceremonial centre of Mojocoya and Inca people, located on the top of mountain. Includes the largest known sculpted rock in the world - a 250 m long, 60 m wide, horizontal area covered with carvings in sandstone. Around the summit are located ruins of different buildings. Built in the 3rd - 16th centuries.

Prehistoric cliff art

Prehistoric cliff art is present in most areas of Bolivia where are found cliffs. There are thousands of sites and below is just a short list of some characteristic ones:

  • Prehistoric cave paintings around Santiago de Chiquitos - Santa Cruz. Dozens of caves around this small town have prehistoric paintings and other artefacts. Notable are the easily accessible Motacú and El Banquete caves.
  • Qala Qala Cave - Oruro. Cave paintings, considered to be a work of Wankarani culture (around 800 BC - 400 AD). Drawings show mainly llamas.
  • Sajama Lines - Oruro. Many thousands of lines cut in the ground for thousands of years and forming a web like pattern. Lines cover 22,525 km² large area.
  • Tutacachi petroglyph site - Oruro. Group of interesting petroglyphs - embossed imprints of hands.

Cities and towns

Potosí, Bolivia
Potosí, Bolivia / Jenny Mealing, / CC BY 2.0
  • Potosí - Potosí. A historical mining city next to the largest silver mine in the world. Located at 4,090 m height. In the 17th century was one of the largest and richest cities in the world, numerous very ornate and interesting structures were built in the city in this time.
  • Sucre - Chuquisaca. Well preserved historical city with numerous buildings from the 18th and 19th century. Here started the South American independence movement.

Jesuit missions in Santa Cruz

  • Concepción Jesuit Mission - Santa Cruz. This Jesuit mission was established in its current site in 1722. The church and belltower of the mission is stunningly beautiful and well preserved.
  • San Francisco Xavier Jesuit Mission (San Javier) - Santa Cruz. Small village - former Jesuit mission, founded in 1691, developed in its current site in 1708. The richly decorated temple has been preserved and is in a good state.
  • San Ignacio de Velasco Jesuit Mission - Santa Cruz. This Jesuit mission was established in 1748. The church is beautiful, richly ornamented and well maintained.
  • San Miguel de Velasco Jesuit Mission - Santa Cruz. Well preserved and ornate church with massive belltower.
  • San José de Chiquitos Jesuit Mission - Santa Cruz. Mission founded in 1696. The church and other buildings of this Jesuit mission are built of stone and represent a unique adaptation of Baroque architecture. Church built in 1747, bell tower in 1748, ossuary in 1750, collegy and workshops - in 1754.
  • San Rafael de Velasco Jesuit Mission - Santa Cruz. This Jesuit mission was established in 1721. One of the most beautiful wooden churches worldwide, meticulously restored and well maintained. The church decoration is unique fusion of European and indigenous arts, performed with sophisticated taste.
  • Santa Ana de Velasco Jesuit Mission - Santa Cruz. Mission established in 1755. This Jesuit church is comparatively less ornate, but nevertheless represents a very interesting monument of architecture, as this is the original, almost intact church, built shortly after 1767 only by indigenous people. Santa Ana de Velasco is considered to be the most authentic of the Bolivian Jesuit missions.

Other churches and monasteries

Detail of San Lorenzo de Carangas Church portal, Potosí
Detail of San Lorenzo de Carangas Church portal, Potosí / Idobi, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana - La Paz. Large and visually impressive shrine, built in Renaissance style in 1550 in the site of Inca cult site. Rebuilt in 1610 and 1651, plundered during the independence wars but nevertheless very impressive and interesting.
  • Carabuco Church - La Paz, at Lake Titicaca. A Salesian church, built around 1785. Interior of this church is adorned with gaudy, beautiful frescoes.
  • La Recoleta in Sucre - Chuquisaca. Well preserved Franciscan monastery, founded in 1601 and extended over the later years.
  • Metropolitan Cathedral, Sucre - Chuquisaca. Large and very ornate cathedral, built in 1551 - 1633 in Renaissance - Baroque styles, with local influences.
  • Santa Barbara Church, Sucre - Chuquisaca. The only church in Bolivia in Renaissance style. Interior is much later, in Neo-Gothic style from 1887.
  • San Lorenzo de Carangas Church - Potosí. Ornate church, built in 1548 - the 18th century. Notable is the sumptuous ornamentation of portal.

Other man made landmarks

  • Casa de la Libertad - Chuquisaca, Sucre. Old Jesuit college building, built in 1621. This building has a huge symbolic importance for Bolivia - here was proclaimed the independence of the republic.
  • Cristo de la Concordia - Cochabamba. Statue of Jesus Christ, one of the largest statues in the world. Height - 34.2 m. Built in 1987 - 1994.
  • National Mint of Bolivia (Casa de la Moneda) - Potosí. Ornate structure with huge historical importance - a place where silver mints were made to be shipped to Spain. Built in 1757 - 1770, now houses a museum.
  • Prefecture palace of Chuquisaca - Chuquisaca, Sucre. Beautiful, ornate building in Ecclectic and Art Noveau style, built in 1892 - 1896.
  • Torre de la Compañía - Potosí. Visually impressive, ornate bell tower, built in 1707 in Baroque style.

List of described attractions by departments

Bolivia is divided into 9 departments:

Beni
Chuquisaca
Cochabamba
La Paz
Oruro
Pando
Potosí
Santa Cruz
ArrowArcoiris FallsWaterfalls
ArrowCola de Caballo FallsWaterfalls
ArrowFrederico Ahlfeld FallsWaterfalls
Tarija

Links

  • Amboro Tours - your possibility to see the Bolivian national parks in real life!

Map of Bolivia

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