/Bolivia 101: Where to Go in Bolivia
photo of a llama in Bolivia

Bolivia 101: Where to Go in Bolivia

Roughly the size of Texas and California combined, The Plurinational State of Bolivia is divided into nine different political and geographic divisions called departments – similar to states in the US or provinces in Canada. Each department is comprised of different provinces, divided further into additional sections called cantons and municipalities. Each department in Bolivia has its own capital city where the departmental seat of government is located.

The departments are unique in terms of their environments, geography and cultures; offering visitors every kind of experience imaginable traveling through Bolivia. The different regions and departments of Bolivia offer a wide variety of climates, environments and experiences. Each is unique and offers its own particularities, including cultural oddities and distinct landscapes. The diversity of its regions is one thing that makes Bolivia wonderful place to visit!

Beni

jungle trek bolivia madidi national park
Madidi National Park

Beni is the second largest department in Bolivia, located in the northeast section of the country. Sitting in the lowlands region, it is on the border with Brazil and comprised of tropical, humid environments and hot temperatures.

Mainly covered by rainforest, it is home the Madidi National Park, and the nearby pampas where lush grasslands and swampy terrain offer visitors the chance to glimpse the department’s vast array of wildlife. Its many rivers are home to over 400 species of fish (the third largest concentration in all of South America) including the dreaded piranha along with caiman and the rare pink dolphin.

Read about the four best tours in Beni, the Bolivian Amazon.

Pando

pando department bolivia
Pando Department is one of Bolivia’s poorest and most remote

Located in the far north reaches of Bolivia, Pando is situated on the Brazilian border in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Known for its wet landscape and high temperatures (commonly above 26 degrees Celsius, 80 degrees Fahrenheit) this department thrives in the agricultural, timber and cattle industries.

Relatively isolated due to the lack of roads into the region, the area suffers from a lack of accessibility to both the rest of Bolivia and bordering Brazil. Tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever are common in this region, making a voyage into this remote stretch of habitat in the Amazon Jungle that much more hazardous.

La Paz

Nestled high in the Andes at over 12,500 ft. above sea level is the Governmental Capital of Bolivia, La Paz.

A department rich in geological and cultural variety, it encompasses some truly amazing landscapes and famous destinations. Located on the western stretches of Bolivia, this department is home to Los Yungas region to the north, where the Andes Mountains give way to a sub-tropical range consisting of deep valleys and high peaks leading into the Amazon Basin.

It is home to the famed Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world at over 13,000 ft. above sea level. Sitting on the border of Peru, it shares ownership of the Altiplano (or High Plateau) made famous by its thriving culture and breathtaking views of the towering Andes. From the sticky heat to the north, to its cold and unforgiving mountain peaks, this department is the epitome of the ecological and environmental variety available within the borders of Bolivia.

As the most visited department in Bolivia, La Paz is a great place to begin an adventure through this beautiful country.

Visiting La Paz? Here’s our tips for how to get away from the crowds and spend a day like a local.

Santa Cruz

The tropical city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Located in the eastern stretches of Bolivia, Santa Cruz is the country’s largest department with Brazil to its east and Paraguay to its south. The comfortable, tropical savanna climate and average temperature of 23 °C (73 °F) makes a visit here well worth the trip. Rich in history, the flourishing metropolitan capital of Santa Cruz offers much to see and do when traveling through the beautiful city.

One of the fastest growing cities in the world, the city of Santa Cruz is home to 70% of the total population in the department; making it easy for a traveler to find something to do in this busy destination.

Cochabamba

Cochabamba, Bolivia’s often overlooked second city

Smack in the middle of Bolivia, the Cochabamba Department is known as the “granary” of the country because of its prosperous agricultural industry. Its capital city is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” and “The Garden City” because of its year round Spring-like temperatures.

Attractions in Cochabamba include an adventure off the beaten path through the Toro Toro National Park, a hike up Tunari Peak, the Incachaca waterfall and El Cristo de la Concordia (a towering statue of Christ standing 33m. tall).

Oruro

Oruro is best known for its annual Carnival celebration

An important region for mining in Bolivia, Oruro sits in the southwest of the country directly below the La Pa Department. Its capital city holds one of the biggest and most celebrated religious festivals in all of South America – Carnaval de Oruro – dating back more than 2000 years. Generally cold throughout the year, this departmentis just north of the salty lakes of Uru Uru and Poopó and well as the famed Salar de Uyuni.

Known mainly for its mining, Oruro is the place to be in February to experience the festivities of one of the biggest parties in all of South America.

Potosi

Potosi Bolivia was built on the largest silver deposit in the world

The department’s capital city of Potosí is one of the highest cities in the world, sitting over 4,000 m. (13,420 ft.) above sea level. The capital is rich in colonial architecture and history, and was once the richest city in all the Americas due to the Spaniards’ exploitation of the city’s famed Cerro Rico (literally Rich Mountain) where massive amounts of silver were extracted.

This department in the southwest corner of Bolivia also boasts the beautiful Salar de Uyuni in the southern Altiplano where the highest and largest salt flat in the world resides; known also as the flattest place on earth. Accompanied by the deserts, lagoons and hot springs, the region is one of the most visited in all of South America for its beautiful and bizarre landscapes.

The Department of Potosí is comprised of large mountain ranges, valleys and the flat desolate regions to the far south, making a trip to this region one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Heading to the Salar de Uyuni? Here’s the four craziest things you’ll see in this crazy place.

Chuquisaca

Chuquisaca is home to the city of Sucre, the White City of Bolivia

Located in south-central Bolivia, Chuquisaca is home to Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia. Known as the “White City” for its colonial style building that are painted white, Sucre is a great place to visit for the history buff and architectural enthusiast.

Crisscrossed by the high ridges of the Andes, and parts lying within the basin of the Amazon River, Chuquisaca offers a stunning landscape and a wonderful city in Sucre.

Tarija

Tarija, Bolivia’s wine capital

At the southern-most reaches of Bolivia sits the Department of Tarija hugging the border of Argentina to its south and Paraguay to its east. Sharing the same lands as the famous vineyards of Argentina, Tarija has quickly made a name for itself as a prominent wine producer.

With a pleasant, mild climate perfect for agriculture, Tarija has put itself on the map rivaling many of the top wines in the world. Travel to Tarija and take part in many of this region’s wine tastings, trek around the Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve or just relax in the city taking in the friendly locals and pleasing climate.

Get a Buzz on in Tarija, Wine Capital of Bolivia.