While Bolivia has much to offer the curious traveler, it is still one of the lesser-visited South American countries. For this reason, there are many things people don’t know about the destination. To peak your interest in one of my personal favorite travel spots, here are 15 fascinating Bolivia facts you didn’t know.
1. It Has The Tallest Monument Of Jesus On Earth
The “Cristo de la Concordia” in Cochabamba is 112.2 feet tall, making it the world’s tallest Jesus Christ statue if you don’t count the high crown on the “Christ The King” statue in Poland. Visitors can walk the steps or opt for a scenic cable-car ride to the top.
2. The Country Is Home To The World’s Only Bolivianita Mine
This precious gem is a mix of yellow and purple, and is created when citrine and ametrine come together. According to Behindastory, the legend goes like this: “It is said that hundreds of years ago a beautiful Ayoreo princess named Anahí fell in love with a Spanish conqueror. This angered the members of her tribe so they plotted to kill the Spaniard. Anahí found out and warned him to leave for his safety. The members of her tribe, in an attempt to kill the Spaniard, accidentally killed Anahí instead. The two fused colors represent Anahí’s broken heart, divided between her love for her people and her love for her Spaniard, to whom she gave the gem as she lay dying.”
3. The Women’s Traditional Pollera Skirt Was Once A Symbol Of Their Repression
The traditional dress of an indigenous Bolivian woman includes a long, pleated pollera skirt and a bowler hat. While the skirt is a symbol of pride today, it was once an item of clothing that was forced upon them by Spanish colonial authorities.
4. La Paz Is The Highest De Facto Capital In The World
Nuestra Señora de La Paz (La Paz), which translates to “Our Lady Peace,” sits at an elevation of about 11,975 feet. While not the official capital of Bolivia, which would be Sucre, La Paz has more government departments. This is why they say “de facto.” The highest legal capital in the world is Quito.
5. Locals Believe A Dead Llama Fetus Can Bring Them Luck
Visiting the “Witches’ Market” in La Paz allows you to browse some interesting items. One that sticks out to most tourists is the mummified llama fetus. These are used in a good luck ritual for new home owners, where the fetus is buried under the foundation of the new house as a good luck offering to Pachamama, or “Mother Earth.”
6. Visitors Can Come Here To Bike The Planet’s Most Dangerous Road
One of my favorite Bolivia facts, since this was one of my favorite activities! From La Paz, you’ll have the opportunity to bike the planet’s most dangerous road, Death Road. This 40-mile downhill path is extremely narrow, with a precarious and steep ledge. Before 2006, Death Road was the only connection between La Paz and the jungle. During this time there were about 25 cars and about two bikes per year that would fall over the edge. If you climb down the steep valleys – which I don’t advise – you can still see some buses that fell over the edge. While today it is safer as there is less traffic, buses and bikers are still known to fall over the cliff side, so choose a safe company when doing this activity.
At 12,382.5 feet above sea level, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, as well as one of the deepest. Located in the Andes, it is also the largest lake in South America by volume. You can visit this beautiful natural site from Copacabana.
8. The Country Has The Largest Population Of Indigenous People In Latin America
About 55% of Bolivia’s population is indigenous, which makes it an interesting place to visit when trying to learn local culture, customs and history. There are over 30 indigenous cultures, and about 5 million people identify with their heritage.
While Brazil gets all the attention when it comes to Carnaval, Bolivia’s indigenous Oruro Carnaval is wild. This religious festival dates back more than 2,000 years, and is one of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Attendees witness 48+ folk dancing groups perform a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Tunnel every Saturday of the event. Marching bands compete, actors perform medieval mystery plays and musicians get visitors dancing to traditional beats. In all, there are over 28,000 dancers, about 10,000 musicians in 150 bands and 400,000 visitors stretching over four miles.
10. Over 30 Languages Are Spoken In Bolivia
One of the more fascinating Bolivia facts, these include Araona, Aymara, Ayoreo, Baure, Callahuaya/Callawalla/Kallawaya, Canichana, Cavineña, Cayubaba, Chiquitano, Guarani, Iñapari, Itonama, Leco, Machiguenga, Movima, Moxos, Pacahuara, Plautdietsch, Puquina language, Quechua variants (Ayacucho Quechua, Qusqu-Qullaw, South Bolivian Quechua and Southern Quechua), Reyesano, Saraveca, Sirionó, Spanish, Tacana, Tapieté, Toromona, Uru-Chipaya, Western Argentine Guaraní, Wichí Lhamtés Nocten, Wichí Lhamtés Vejoz, Yaminawa and Yuracaré.
11. Bolivia Is Home To The World’s Largest Salt Desert
With over 64 million tons of salt, the Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest deposit of salt in the world. You can visit it by doing a 4×4 jeep tour across the Soleli Desert beginning in either Uyuni, Bolivia, or San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. And under all that salt is the…
12. Planet’s Largest Lithium Deposit
In fact, according to the US Geological Survey, Bolivia’s Uyuni Desert has 5.4 million tonnes of lithium.
13. It’s Home To The World’s Highest Beer Spa
At The Adventure Brew Hostel in La Paz, travelers can relax in the world’s highest beer spa. According to the venue’s creator, Remo Baptista, the unique spa was the reult of having a large surplus of beer from Sayabeer brewery. There are two old hot tubs with brick chimneys that staff heat the water with wood underneath. The tubs are then filled with three gallons of beer plus water for many health benefits. Spa-goers can opt for the service free of charge with the purchase of a jug of beer.
14. The National Motto Is “La Unión es la Fuerza”
This means “unity is strength.”
15. Bolivia Is Equal In Size To California And Texas Combined
It’s total is 424,200 square miles.
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