Top 3 Cities in Bolivia
Visit the Top 3 Cities in Bolivia for their Friendly People, Colorful Vibes, Diverse Landscapes, and Rich Culture
I. All About Bolivia
Let’s first talk about the facts that you need to know in order to fit in when visiting Bolivia.
Origin of the word ‘Bolivia’
‘Bolivia’ is derived from the surname of Simon Bolivar, a leader in the Spanish American Wars of Independence. He actually has two countries named after him: Bolivia and the Bolivarian Republic of Valenzuela. He must’ve been so powerful and have had so many connections to make that happen, don’t you think? And as far as history books go, he was more of a dictator than a nationalistic leader.
Capital City of Bolivia
Here’s where it gets tricky. The 3 branches of government are divided between two cities: Sucre and La Paz. Sucre is for the judicial branch and La Paz is for the executive and legislative branches. Since La Paz has more politics and authority on its plate, it’s the capital of Bolivia.
Where to Find Bolivia on a Map
You don’t know where to pinpoint Bolivia on the world map? Or you haven’t even heard of the country Bolivia before? Don’t worry as that’s why this article will guide you! Bolivia is a country in South America. Now, where to find Bolivia on a map? It is below the U.S. in the middle of the countries Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. You can’t miss it as it actually is quite big compared to its surrounding countries.
Their currency is called Bolivian Boliviano. As of June, 2020, one U.S. dollar equals to 6.98 Bolivian Bolivianos.
Population of Bolivia in 2020
Bolivia has 11,686,318 inhabitants (worldometer, 2020) as of June, 2020.
Now that we’ve got the quick facts out of the way, lets head on to the culture of Bolivia in order to prep you up and avoid culture shock.
Before going to Bolivia, make sure to understand and remember that their traditional culture is mostly influenced by Indian, Spanish and Portuguese cultures. Although most of Bolivia has been globalized and now wears the typical fashion of jeans and a tee, there still are Bolivians in the rural areas that like it old-style. You’ll be seeing a lot of color and accessories worn, but they’re all very functional. Just like women’s shawls and hats.
Their shawls are tied around them to carry fresh market products or babies while their hats of different shapes and textures are indicators of whether they are single or married! Pollera is the name of females’ long but colorful skirts and the males have their usual ponchos and vests. But of course, these are only traditional fashion. If you’re planning to stay and tour the urban parts of the country, you might miss out on these.
If their history is heavy packed, so is their cuisine. It is based on native Andean ingredients and the influences of Spanish, German Russian, Italian, Croatian and Polish immigrants.
If you’re planning to converse and make friends with the locals, what you have to keep in mind is that they are socially conservative and focused on family. It’s at the degree where one household usually includes the extended family, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and children. Even getting married is a commonplace expectation for all Bolivians.
Why Visit Bolivia
Calling all mountain climbers and hikers as Bolivia is littered with mountains. Sajama, a dormant volcano, is the country’s tallest mountain and highest peak at 21,463 feet above sea level. Although, it also has deserts and rain-forests. Talk about an all-in-one, huh? Bolivia is the perfect place for all you thrill-seekers and expeditioners to hit not just two, but three birds with one stone.
Since Bolivia’s economy is rising from importing natural resources (i.e. oil, natural gas, arable land, and the nation’s scenery) and is rich in cultural resources and attractions, Bolivia is now a part of tourist’s bucket list. So, here are the cities that demonstrate their wealth and culture that put them on the map.
II. List of 9 Departments (or States) and Their Cities in Bolivia
You know how they call each city a state? Well, a state in Bolivia is called a department! Yes, like the departments that divide up an institution. Don’t worry, a city is still called ‘city’, but make sure to know that some cities and states have the same name (i.e. La Paz City and the Department of La Paz, Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Department of Santa Cruz, etc.). Now that that’s all cleared up, let’s check out the Departments of Bolivia and their cities.
1. Cities in the Department of Beni
- San Borja
- San Ignacio de Moxos
- Santa Ana del Yacuma
2. City in the Department of Chuquisaca
3. Cities in the Department of Cochabamba
- SIpe Sipe
4. Cities in the Department of La Paz
- El Alto
- La Paz
5. Cities in the Department of Oruro
6. City in the Department of Pando
7. Cities in the Department of Potosi
8. Cities in the Department of Santa Cruz
- Ascensión de Guarayos
- El Torno
- La Guardia
- Puerto Quijarro
- Puerto Suárez
- San Ignacio de Velasco
- San José de Chiquitos
- San Julián
- Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz de la Sierra)
- Yapacaní (Villa Germán Bush)
9. Cities in the Department of Tarija
- Yacuíba (incl. San José de Pocitos)
III. The 3 Largest Cities in Bolivia
After reading all about Bolivia and if you now want to go out of your way and productively interact with its historical icons, attractions and diverse landscapes, then this list is tailor-made for your needs! Here are the best cities to visit based on their population.
3. La Paz – Department of La Paz
Population: 812,799 inhabitants (worldometer, 2020).
2. Cochabamba – Department of Cochabamba
Population: 900,414 inhabitants (worldometer, 2020).
1. Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Department of Santa Cruz
Population: 1,364,389 inhabitants (worldometer, 2020).
However, the 3 largest cities based on the land they possess are the following:
3. Oruro – Department of Oruro
Area: 630.5 square miles
2. Sucre – Department of Chuquisaca
Area: 682.6 square miles
1. Trinidad – Department of Beni
Area: 1,833 square miles
IV. Top 3 Best Cities in Bolivia
By best cities I mean the cities tourists pay to visit and placed Bolivia on the map.
It used to be a suburb of La Paz, but it was gained autonomy in the 1980’s. It is called the City of Eternal Spring simply because it’s like spring all year round when you’re in Cochabamba city.
If you check the appendix, you’ll see that TripAdvisor recommends Cochabamba thrice. It just means that the attractions in this city is just a must-see. The travel website recommended Tunari Peak, EL Cristo de la Concordia, and Palacio Portales.
Tunari Peak is a mountain that allows hiking and trekking in high altitudes, specifically 16,480 ft high. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is a great tourist spot to see the white sheet covering a dangerous the hiking grounds, but the hiking part should be best left to the professionals.
Bolivia is around 95% Catholic. Hence, having a 33-meter statue of Jesus Christ is not off topic. This towering statue is 33 meters representing the number of years old he was before his death. If you want a closer look, just walk or drive by Av. Las Heroinas.
A 19th century mansion isn’t something a country rich in culture and historic attractions dating back to the 15th century would brag about, but they made an exception. The Palacio Portales used to be a mansion designed by the architect Eugene Bliault for the wealthy. It had been built with Carrara marble, French wood, Italian tapestries and delicate silks. Materials readily available then. But it is now used as an arts center.
This is on the list mostly because of one place- Salar de Uyuni. It is the largest salt plain in the world! It is 10,582 kilometers long and weighs around 10 billion tonnes. It gets around 24,000 visitors a year. Also, this attraction can transform into another one- the world’s longest mirror. When a thin sheet of rainwater covers this enormous salt plain, it becomes a whole other attraction. You got to keep your timing right and keep an eye on the weather to see this one. I’ll give you a head start: March and April are the rainy months in that area. And don’t worry about getting lost because when you visit this place, you can only go through it in a 4×4 vehicle.
1. La Paz
This city may not be the biggest, but it definitely is the most popular city among them all. La Paz houses two of Bolivia’s branches of government. That makes it the highest administrative capital in the world at 3,650 meters above sea level. But that’s not why it’s the hottest tourist spot.
The Eleferic Cableway is one of La Paz’s leverages against all the other cities as it literally leverages sightseers and tourists into taking in the beauty of the maroon and colorfully roofed, urban city. It goes around the city and is actually used as a means of transportation by the locals. Well, who can blame them as it gets you to places in a jiffy while enjoying the stunning view of the pride and joy of Bolivia.
V. Main Takeaways
Quick Facts About Bolivia:
- ‘Bolivia’ is derived from the surname of Simon Bolivar.
- La Paz is the capital of Bolivia.
- Bolivia is a country in South America that is in the middle of the countries Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru.
- Their currency is called Bolivian Boliviano.
- Bolivia has 11,686,318 inhabitants.
- Bolivian traditional culture is mostly influenced by Indian, Spanish and Portuguese cultures.
- Bolivian cuisine is based on native Andean ingredients and the influences of Spanish, German Russian, Italian, Croatian and Polish immigrants.
- Bolivians are socially conservative and focused on family.
The 9 departments or states of Bolivia Are:
Beni (and its cities are Guavaramerin, Riberalta, Rurrenabaque, San Borja, San Ignacio de Moxos, Santa Ana del Yacuma, and Trinidad), Chuquisaca (and its city is Sucre), Cochabamba (and its cities are Cochabamba, Colcapirhua, Punata, Quillacollo, Sacaba, SIpe Sipe, Tiguipaya, and Vinto), La Paz (and its cities are Achocalla, Caranavi, El Alto, La Paz, Patacamaya, and Viacha), Oruro (and its cities are Challapata, Huanuni, and Oruro), Pando (and its city isCobija), Potosi (and its cities are Llallagua, Potosi, Tupiza, Uyuni, and Villazón), Santa Cruz (and its cities are Ascensión de Guarayos, Camiri, Concepción, Cotoca, El Torno, La Guardia, Mineros, Montero, Pailón, Portachuelo, Puerto Quijarro, Puerto Suárez, Roboré, San Ignacio de Velasco, San José de Chiquitos, San Julián, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz de la Sierra), Vallegrande, Warnes, and Yapacaní (Villa Germán Bush), and Tarija (and its cities areTarija, Villamontes, and Yacuíba).
The 3 largest cities in Bolivia depending on population are Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cochabamba and La Paz. While the 3 largest cities depending on land size are Trinidad, Sucre and Oruro. The best and most popular cities are La Paz, Potosi and Cochabamba.
Worldometer (2020). Bolivia Population (LIVE). Retrieved July 30, 2019 from https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/bolivia-population/.
Worldometer (2020). Population of Cities in Bolivia (2020). Retrieved July 30, 2019 from https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/cities/bolivia.
Figure 1 | How I got the top 3 best cities in Bolivia
|Rank||TripAdvisor (best thing to do)||E&T Abroad (best places)||A World to Travel (best cities)|
|1||La Paz||La Paz||Copacabana|
|2||Salar de Uyuni (Potosi)||Salar de Uyuni (Potosi)||La Paz|
|3||Santa Cruz||Reserva Eduardo Avaroa||Cochabamba|
|7||Cochabamba||Santa Cruz de la Sierra||Tarija|
Figure 2 | How I ranked the best cities in Bolivia
|Rank||City||Averaging of rank|
|1||La Paz||Top 1 + Top 1 + Top 2 = 4 / 3 = 1.33|
|2||Uyuni||Top 2 + Top 2 + Top 6 = 10 / 3 = 3.33|
|3||Cochabamba||Top 4 + Top 8 + Top 2 = 14 / 3 = 4.67|