Follow our footsteps to Bolivia to explore the culture, the terrain and the history of the fifth largest South American country
Words: Emily Georgieva
Photography: Roberto Nickson
19 February 2019
From Tupiza to La Paz valleys, Bolivia is a land that can offer something to everyone. Getting to Bolivia is relatively easy, but you need to be prepared if you ever plan on travelling there on an overnight bus. The nighttime temperatures can sometimes drop to below zero degrees Celsius. Make sure to wrap up.
The fifth largest country in South America has a lot of traditions that can be explored and culture that can be discovered. Some areas are very mysterious and not a lot is known about them. Those are a bit of virgin places with huge potential and represent a big part of the country's identity. It is interesting to know that some of the highest parts of Bolivia have once been part of the Incan Empire. This has influenced local's culture, which is symbol of who they are as a nation.
Once upon a time, after the country fought for independence, it was finally established in 1825 from the Spanish colonial rule. The capital, Sucre, is the birthplace of Bolivia's independence. But it took a lot longer for democracy to be accepted as a necessity. The country had some political difficulties but since the 1950's it is officially a democratic land.
Bolivians are creative people, and this shows in almost every aspect of their expression. The Bolivian architecture is known as Mestizo Baroque. There is a lot of the history reflected in this style of building. It is a combination between the locals' values and the Spanish colonizers, which is what gives it a religious influence.
Art is highly valued and often celebrated. Bolivians are known to have created a lot of paintings, pottery, sculptures and music. For a long while, however, there weren't any museums build in the country, but this is changing already. New art galleries have opened in Santa Cruz, as it is known to be an artistic city, and there are plans for more museums to open doors soon. From artists such as Arturo Borda to Euzman de Rojas and Marina Núñez del Prado, Bolivia has a lot to be proud of and has contributed greatly to the global art scene.
Bolivians know how to party. There are different carnivals held annually across the country. They are loud, colourful and very expressive. All of the festivals held there are different and unique in their own ways. There are Festivals of the Virgen de la Candoloria, All Saints' Day (Todos Santos), Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) and the Carnival in Oruro just to name a few.
It is worth experiencing the local food. From the fresh juices to the rice dishes and the traditional Yungas coffee, the culinary scene in Bolivia is interesting. When shopping from the markets it is important to arm yourself with patience as long waits in lines can happen but be nice to the people selling food. It is usually home-grown and locally sourced, and the people work long hours for very little pay.
There is a lot to be see in the cities. The Bolivian Christ of Peace, known with the local name of The Cristo de Concordia is in Cochabamba and it is 34 meters tall. This makes it 4 meters taller than the statue in Rio, but must be taken into consideration that it was build and modelled after it. Away from the appeal of the city, you can escape to the jungles where you can see coral snakes or the Bluebeard bird, which only exists in Bolivia. The territory of Bolivia varies from rock formations to rivers, nectar bots and caves. You can go hiking in the Lake Titicaca - 3812 meters high, it opens to a must-see view.
Bolivia once had an ocean. This was in the times before the War of the Pacific took place. It used to be where Chile is now located. But this is not the only magic that happened there. Bolivia holds an estimated 50% - 70% of the planet's lithium. It is buried below the photogenic landscape of the sea fields of Solar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat, home of the pink flamingos.