Top Ten Bolivian Attractions

    Top Ten Bolivian Attractions

       Bolivia is a landlocked country in central South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile by the south west, and Peru by the west. Prior to European colonization, the Andean region of Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century. During most of the Spanish colonial period, this territory was called Upper Peru and was under the administration of the Viceroyalty of Peru, which included most of Spain’s South American colonies. After declaring independence in 1809, 16 years of war followed before the establishment of the Republic, named for Simón Bolívar, on August 6, 1825.Bolivia has struggled through periods of political instability, dictatorships and economic woes. Its geography is varied from the peaks of the Andes in the West, to the Eastern Lowlands, situated within the Amazon Basin. It is a developing country, with a Medium Human Development Index score and a poverty level around 60%. Its main economic activities include agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining and manufacturing goods such as textiles, clothing, refined metals and refined petroleum. The Bolivian population, estimated at 10 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans and Africans. The main language spoken is Spanish, although the Aymara and Quechua languages are also common and all three, as well as 34 other indigenous languages, are official. The large number of different cultures within Bolivia has contributed greatly to a wide diversity in fields such as art, cuisine, literature and music.

  1. Tiwanaku (Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture)

           Tiwanaku is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia, South America. Tiwanaku is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately five hundred years. The ruins of the ancient city state are near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca in the La Paz Department, Ingavi Province, Tiwanaku Municipality, about 72 km (44 miles) west of La Paz. The site was first recorded in written history by Spanish conquistador and self-acclaimed “first chronicler of the Indies” Pedro Cieza de León. Leon stumbled upon the remains of Tiwanaku in 1549 while searching for the Inca capital Qullasuyu. Some have hypothesized that Tiwanaku’s modern name is related to the Aymara term taypiqala, meaning “stone in the center,” alluding to the belief that it lay at the center of the world. However, the name by which Tiwanaku was known to its inhabitants may have been lost, as the people of Tiwanaku had no written language.
    Links: Top 100 Ruins, Top Ten Gates,,
  2. Pumapunku

           Pumapunku is part of a large temple complex or monument group that is part of the Tiwanaku Site near Tiwanaku, Bolivia. In Aymara, its name means, “The Door of the Cougar.” The complex consists of an unwalled western court, a central unwalled esplanade, a terraced platform mound that is faced with megalithic stone, and a walled eastern court. The Pumapunku is a terraced earthen mound that is faced with megalithic blocks. It is 167.36 m wide along its north-south axis and 116.7 m long along its east-west axis. On the northeast and southeast corners of the Pumapunku it has 20-meter wide projections that extend 27.6 meters north and south from the rectangular mound. The eastern edge of the Pumapunku is occupied by what is called the “Plataforma Lítica.” The Plataforma consists of a stone terrace that is 6.75 by 38.72 meters in dimension. This terrace is paved with multiple enormous stone blocks. The Plataforma Lítica contains the largest stone slab found in both the Pumapunku and Tiwanaku Site. This stone slab is 7.81 meters long, 5.17 meters wide and averages 1.07 meters thick. Based upon the specific gravity of the red sandstone from which it was carved, this stone slab has been estimated to weigh 131 metric tons. The core of the Pumapunku consists of clay. The fill underlying selected parts of the edge of the Pumapunku consists of river sand and cobbles instead of clay. Excavations at the Pumapunku have documented “three major building epochs, in addition to small repairs and remodeling.” At its peak, Pumapunku is thought to have been “unimaginably wondrous,” adorned with polished metal plaques, brightly colored ceramic and fabric ornamentation, trafficked by costumed citizens, elaborately dressed priests and elites decked in exotic jewelry. Our understanding of this complex is limited due to its age, the lack of a written record, the current deteriorated state of the structures due to treasure hunting, looting, stone mining for building stone and railroad ballast, and natural weathering. The area within the kilometer separating the Pumapunku and Kalasasaya complexes has been surveyed using ground-penetrating radar, magnetometry, induced electrical conductivity, and magnetic susceptibility. The geophysical data collected from these surveys and excavations have revealed in the area between the Pumapunku and Kalasasaya complexes the presence of numerous man-made structures. These structures include the wall foundations of buildings and compounds, water conduits, pool-like features, revetments, terraces, residential compounds, and widespread gravel pavements all of which now lie buried and hidden beneath the modern ground’s surface.
    Links: Top 100 Ruins, Top 100 Symbols,,
  3. La Paz

           Nuestra Señora de La Paz, “Our Lady of Peace,” is the administrative capital of Bolivia and the second most populous city after Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It is located in the western part of the country at an elevation of 3,650 m (11,975 ft) above sea level, making it the world’s highest “de facto” capital city or administrative capital. The official capital of Bolivia is Sucre and it is the seat of Justice, though La Paz has more government departments, hence the “de facto” qualifier. The city sits in a “bowl” surrounded by the high mountains of the altiplano. As it grows, La Paz climbs the hills, resulting in varying elevations from 3,000 meters to 4,100 meters (9,840 ft to 13,450 ft). Overlooking the city is towering triple-peaked Illimani, which is always snow-covered and can be seen from several spots of the city, including from the neighboring city of El Alto. As of the 2001 census, the city had a population of 877,363. La Paz Metropolitan area, formed by the cities of La Paz, El Alto and Viacha, make the most populous urban area of Bolivia, with a population of 2.3 million inhabitants, surpassing the metropolitan area of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
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  4. Carnival of Oruro

            The Carnival of Oruro, is a religious celebration and a cultural process of intercultural and intangibility that is over 2,000 years old. Through creativity, continuity and ritual it has come to constitute a model of “Masterpieces of Oral Heritage and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” (UNESCO) capable of generating similar cultural events in other geographical areas. The Ito festival was transformed into a Christian ritual, the Virgin of Candelaria (Virgin of Socavón) on February 2nd, and the traditional “Llama llama” or “Diablada,” became the leading traditional dance and Oruro in Bolivia. Throughout the festival involving more than 48 sets in 18 specialties folk dances they perform their pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Tunnel every Saturday of Carnival in the traditional “Input.”
    Links: Top 100 Events of the Year, Top Ten Carnivals,,
  5. Historic City of Sucre

           Sucre, also known historically as Charcas, La Plata and Chuquisaca has a population of 247,300 (2006) and is the constitutional capital of Bolivia. Located in the south-central part of the country, Sucre lies at an elevation of 2750m (9,000 ft), which gives it a cool temperate climate.
  6. Lake Titicaca

           Lake Titicaca is a lake located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It sits 3,811 m (12,500 ft) above sea level, making it the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. By volume of water, it is also the largest lake in South America.
    Links: Top Ten Lakes, Top Ten South American Lakes,
  7. Noel Kempff Mercado National Park

           Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is a national park in northeast Santa Cruz Department, Province of José Miguel de Velasco, Bolivia, on the border with Brazil.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks,,
  8. City of Potosí

           Potosí is one of the highest cities in the world by elevation at a nominal 4,090 meters (13,420 ft) and it was the location of the Spanish colonial mint, now the National Mint of Bolivia. Potosí lies beneath the Cerro de Potosí, sometimes referred to as the Cerro Rico (“rich mountain”), a mountain popularly conceived of as being “made of” silver ore, which has always dominated the city. The Cerro Rico is the reason for Potosí’s historical importance, since it was the major supply of silver for Spain during the period of the New World Spanish Empire. This silver was taken by llama and mule train to the Spanish Main, where it was then taken to Spain on the Spanish treasure fleets. Cerro de Potosí’s peak is 4,824 meters (15,827 ft) above sea level.
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  9. Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos

           The Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos are in the Santa Cruz department of eastern Bolivia. The missions are distinguished by the fusion of European and American Indian cultural influences. The missions were founded by the Jesuits in the 17th and 18th centuries to convert the Indians to Christianity. The interior region bordering Spanish and Portuguese territories in South America was largely unexplored at the end of the 17th century. Dispatched by the Spanish Crown, Jesuits explored and founded eleven settlements over 70 years in the Chiquitos region of Spanish America. They built churches in a unique and distinct style that combined elements of Indian and European architecture. The indigenous inhabitants of the missions were taught European music as a means of conversion. The missions were self-sufficient, with thriving economies, and virtually autonomous from the Spanish crown. After the expulsion of the Jesuit order in the mid-18th century most of the Jesuit reductions in South America were abandoned and fell into ruins. The Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos are unique because the settlements and the associated culture have survived largely intact and are the last remaining Jesuit settlements in Bolivia. A large restoration project of the missionary churches began in the second half of the 20th century. The Jesuit Missions continue to experience growing popularity and have become a tourist destination. A government sponsored biennial international musical festival and cultural activities within the missions contribute to the popularity of the site.
  10. Cristo de la Concordia

    Links: Sculptures, Top 100 South American SculpturesTop Ten Statues of Jesus,
  11. Fuerte de Samaipata

           El Fuerte de Samaipata, “Fort Samaipata,” is located in the Santa Cruz Department, Florida Province, Bolivia. It is situated in the eastern foothills of the Bolivian Andes and is a popular tourist destination for Bolivians and foreigners alike. It is not actually a military fortification but it is generally considered a pre-Columbian religious site, built by the Chané people, a pre-Inca culture of Arawak origin. There are also ruins of an Inca city built near the temple; the city was built during the Inca expansion to the southeast. Both Incas and Chanes suffered several raids from Guarani warriors that invaded the region from time to time. Eventually, the Guarani warriors conquered the plains and valleys of Santa Cruz and destroyed Samaipata. The Guaranis dominated the region well into the Spanish colonial period. The Spaniards also built a settlement near the temple and there are remains of buildings of typical Arab Andalusian architecture. The Spaniards abandoned the settlement and moved to the nearby valley were the town of Samaipata is currently located. The archeological site at El Fuerte is unique and it encompasses buildings of three different cultures: Chanes, Incas and Spaniards.
  12. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Bolivian Hotels, Top Ten Bolivian Restaurants,,

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