10 Things you Didn't Know about Bolivia

| © Sahitya Kakarla/ upsplash
Harry Stewart

Chances are there are plenty of things you don’t know about this seldom explored South American nation. A land of superlatives, Bolivia has countless ‘highest’ and ‘largest’ world records to its name, diverse culture and ethnicity, a turbulent political history and a belief system that is downright bizarre to the outsider. Read on to learn 10 new facts about the compelling country that is Bolivia.

Cochabamba has a bigger Jesus statue than Rio

We’ve all seen pictures on Facebook of a mate with outstretched arms, mimicking the pose of Christ the Redeemer – Rio’s signature giant Jesus statue. But did you know there’s one in Cochabamba that’s even bigger? The mammoth Cristo de Concordia (Christ of Peace) towers 112 feet (34 meters) above it’s pedestal, a good 13 feet (4 meters) higher than Rio’s celebrated icon. Unfortunately, Poland wins first prize with a statue some 6.6 feet (2 meters) taller than Cochabamba’s. They’re kind of cheating though, as Poland’s Jesus is wearing a crown.

Cristo de Concordia

La Paz is not the Capital City

La Paz

1. Salar de Uyuni has the world's biggest lithium supply

Most people have seen the Salar de Uyuni in photos of backpackers pretending be be eaten by toy dinosaurs. But what you may not know, is that the world’s largest salt flat has immense riches lying just beneath its surface. An estimated 50-70% of the planet’s lithium reserves are buried below this photogenic landscape, which has the potential to completely revolutionize Bolivia’s struggling economy. This precious chemical element is a sort-after commodity for its use in batteries, but political and environmental issues have so far delayed it from being exploited to its full potential.

Incredible diversity

The word Bolivia evokes images of a highland Andean nation, full of bowler hat wearing cholitas, llamas and stunning glacial mountains. In reality, a huge portion of the country lies within the humid Amazon basin and the inhospitable Chaco desert. Some 36 different languages are spoken throughout Bolivia, which was declared a Plurinational State in 2009 to recognize its ethnic diversity.

Amazon kid

It has the highest lake in the world

The highest navigable lake anyway, which basically means not counting the small amounts of water that get trapped in the craters of dormant volcanoes. Lake Titicaca is stupendously large, incredibly old and astonishingly high, at 12,500 feet (3812 meters). This awesome natural wonder also has amazing Pre-Colombian history and is a great place to chill out or go hiking for a couple of days.

Lake Titicaca

It once had an ocean

Bolivia wasn’t always landlocked. Before the War of the Pacific, it had an ample coastline spanning hundreds of miles in what is now northern Chile. A dispute over Guano (bird poo), potassium nitrate and taxes led to an all out war with Chile, resulting in Bolivia losing its entire coast. Bolivia still cries foul over this century old war and is taking the matter to the international court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Early indigenous inhabits were seriously ancient

The Incas are renowned for having the largest empire in the Americas and building breathtaking cities like Peru’s Machu Picchu. But did you know Bolivia’s Tiwanku people pre-date even them? No one is sure exactly when, but most archaeologists agree that the Tiwanaku empire evolved around the birth of Christ, a good 1,300 years before the Incas. These weren’t just primitive nomadic people either; the Tiwanku built a massive city of 70,000 inhabitants and mastered advanced agricultural techniques.


It has had a lot of political instability

Bolivia hasn’t always been the peaceful country that tourists can safely visit today. Throughout its history, the nation has suffered through a series of dictators, violent conflicts, human rights abuses, hyperinflation and general political and economic instability. The country has had 80 different presidents in under 200 years, many of whom lasted just a few months or even days.

Bolivian riot police

2. The clock on the Legislative Palace runs backwards

The clock on the Legislative Palace, in La Paz’ Plaza Murillo, has been configured to run backwards. The logic behind this is that clocks were originally based on sundials and Bolivia resides in the Southern Hemisphere. There has also been a lot of rhetoric from government about ‘recovering Bolivian identity, returning to the old path and breaking away from imperialist hegemony.’ Thankfully, other clocks in the country still run in the traditional clockwise direction.

Bolivians believe some pretty weird stuff

From burying llama fetuses under houses, to pouring alcohol over cars as a blessing, to punching your friends in the hopes of a good harvest; there are plenty of weird and wonderful beliefs that Bolivians hold dear to this day. This predominately catholic country still retains much of its indigenous belief system which makes for some pretty interesting examples of modern day syncretism.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article