11 Things Bolivia is Famous For

Bolivia's 'Death Road'|© ktorquem/Shutterstock
Bolivia's 'Death Road'|© ktorquem/Shutterstock
Photo of Harry Stewart
31 March 2018

Every country is famous for something. Whether it be the Swiss and their perforated cheese or the Canadians and their tendency to be polite, we’ve all got our own unique characteristics that set us apart from the rest. And even though Bolivia may not be so well known on the international stage, there are a few quintessential traits that personify the nation. Here are 11.

A multitude of mountains

Bolivia conjures up images of the epic Andes, a towering mountain range characterized by countless snow-capped peaks.

Mt. Huayna Potosi, Bolivia | © Justin Vidamo/Flickr

Dizzying heights

It’s not just the Andes that stretch into the sky. Bolivia has the highest salt flats, lake, administrative capital city, golf course, Irish pub, road, and cable car in the world. At these lofty heights, altitude sickness is a given.

Mi Teleferico Red Line | © Eneas De Troya / Flickr

Lots of llamas

With such altitude comes an abundance of furry alpacas who can be seen wandering through the mountainous terrain with their traditionally dressed shepherds in tow. Equally famous are the colorful alpaca wool jumpers which serve as the perfect Andean souvenir.

Llamas at Lake Titicaca | © Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr

A cornucopia of cocaine

Bolivians won’t want to hear this, but it’s undeniable many outsiders associate the country with the cocaine trade. Bolivia produces the third largest crop of coca leaf in the world (after Peru and Colombia), yet most locals think poorly of the destructive derivative that is cocaine.

Cocaine | © lespritrock/Flickr

Political unrest

South America has had its fair share of dictators and Bolivia is certainly no exception. Throughout its turbulent history, the country has seen revolutions, uprisings, riots, and a revolving door of presidencies.

What was once ours will be ours once again | © Dentren / WikiCommons

A plethora of protests

A response to this political turmoil is the people’s penchant to protest. Blockades and marches have become a quintessential Bolivian pastime and an almost weekly occurrence in the legislative epicenter of La Paz.

Bolivian police | © Eneas De Troya/Flickr

Hardline socialism

Bolivia’s latest president Evo Morales shook up the political scene upon arrival in 2006, touting a fiery socialist and anti-imperialist message which certainly hasn’t won him any favors in Washington.

Evo Morales | © Joel Alvarez/Wikipedia

Bowler hats and frilly dresses

Indigenous culture is alive and well in Bolivia, a country where the vast majority of inhabitants are of native descent. Even today, the traditional bowler hats and puffy dresses of indigenous cholita women can be admired at every turn.

Local woman wearing traditional clothing in front of a store in a street of the city of La Paz, in Bolivia | © Peek Creative Collective/Shutterstock

Those massive salt flats

Bolivia boasts many breathtaking sites, although the most famous is undoubtedly its otherworldy salt flats. Known as the Salar de Uyuni, this spectacular great white expanse is the largest and highest in the world.

Salar de Uyuni | © Yellow531/Flickr

The world’s most dangerous road

Every other backpacker in South American will dispense brave tales of how they survived a bike ride down the Death Road. Despite being a tourist attraction for over a decade, this death-defying route really hit the big time when it was covered by Top Gear in 2009.

Bolivia's 'Death Road' | © ktorquem/Shutterstock

Traffic commanding African mammals

Thanks to John Oliver, Bolivia’s traffic controlling zebras have become international superstars.

Bolivia zebras | © Free Wind 2014 / Shutterstock.com

One very crazy prison

Inmate-run restaurants, shops, and real estate businesses are all par for the course in San Pedro, a loco La Paz prison which became immortalized with the classic backpacker novel Marching Powder in 2003.

Prison swimming pool | © Danielle Pereira/Flickr

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