Bolivia Country Facts

Capital city Sucre / La Paz
Surface 1,098,581 km²
Population 11,218,000
Road network length 62,479 km
Length of highway network 27 km
First highway 1977/1978
Motorway name autopista
Traffic drives Right
License plate code BOL

Bolivia (Spanish: Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia) is a country in South America. The country has approximately 11 million inhabitants and is approximately 26 times the size of the Netherlands. The capital is Sucre, the government is in the more famous La Paz. The largest city is Santa Cruz de la Sierra.


Bolivia is an inner state, it is not located by the sea, in the west of the central part of South America. The country borders Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. The country measures a maximum of 1,400 kilometers from north to south and 1,200 kilometers from west to east. The country is dominated by the Andes and has three zones, the Atamaca Desert on the Altiplano in the southwest, which is a very high plateau, mostly at 3,500 to 4,000 meters above sea level. Higher mountains rise above this plateau, the 6,542 meter high Nevado Sajama as Bolivia’s highest mountain is located in this area.

To the east, north-south through the center of the country, lies the transitional mountains from the Andes to the lowlands. This mountain range has large differences in height and makes transport difficult. The transition from the plateau to the lowlands is usually 150 to 250 kilometers wide. The highest mountains in the north are permanently covered with snow. The large Lake Titicaca is also in this border area. The east and north of Bolivia consists of lowlands, with tropical forests and savanna. This covers more than half the area of ​​Bolivia, but is a relatively sparsely populated region, almost all the larger cities are located at the foot of the Andes and no further in the lowlands. Major rivers flow north to the Amazon.

Due to its varied landscape and geography, Bolivia has a highly variable climate. The country is located in the tropics, but a tropical climate only prevails in the lowlands in the north and east of Bolivia. The Altiplano, the large plateau, has a cold desert climate. Snow and frost occur every month. The transition from the Altiplano to the lowlands has a more temperate climate, variable according to the position of the valleys. The average maximum temperature in La Paz is between 14 and 17 °C all year round. Located in the lowlands, Santa Cruz de la Sierra has much higher temperatures, ranging from 23°C in June to 31°C in December.


The population of Bolivia grew from 3.1 million in 1950 to 8.3 million in 2000. Since then there has been a fairly strong population growth. About two thirds of the inhabitants live in the cities. The largest city is Santa Cruz de la Sierra, located in the lowlands. The constitutional capital is Sucre, the de facto capital is La Paz. There are 12 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, but only 1 city has more than a million inhabitants: Santa Cruz. As a suburb, El Alto has more inhabitants than La Paz itself. The 4 largest cities in Bolivia are distinctive: Santa Cruz, El Alto, La Paz and Cochabamba. The other cities are considerably smaller and often have no more than a regional function.

Bolivia has a very diverse population. There are several dozen Indo-American population groups, they make up half to three quarters of the population of Bolivia. Bolivia therefore has the largest share of Indo-Americans of all South American countries. The mix between Europeans and Indo-Americans are called Mestizos, they make up a quarter of the population. Whites make up about 15% of the population and mostly live in the cities. Due to the multicultural society, many languages ​​are also spoken in Bolivia. The constitution lists 36 official languages ​​in addition to Spanish. Spanish is spoken by two-thirds of Bolivians and is the country’s lingua franca. The governments, private and public institutions, the media and the business world are Spanish speaking.


Bolivia is rich in raw materials and its exports consist largely of oil, gas and mining products. The economy of Bolivia is therefore strongly determined by raw material prices on the world market. Inflation and corruption are a major impediment to the economy. Income per capita is lower than in many other South American countries, but extreme poverty has fallen substantially in the 21st century. Despite this, Bolivia is often cited as the least developed country in South America. 32% of the population still works in agriculture, while agricultural products are only a limited export product. Tourism plays a relatively small role in Bolivia, most tourists go to the salt lakes on the Altiplano. The economy is hampered by the lack of infrastructure.


In the 15th century, the Inca Empire controlled much of the Altiplano of Bolivia. The rest of what would later become Bolivia was only mined to a limited extent and was not under the control of the Incas. In 1524, the Spanish colonization of the Inca Empire began. It quickly became clear that Bolivia possessed many raw materials. Founded in 1545 as a mining town, Potosí soon became the largest city in the Americas. The Spanish colony was then governed from Lima. In 1809 the first uprising against Spanish rule began in Sucre, it was the first rebellion against the Spanish Empire in Latin America. A period of conflict and warfare followed over the next 15 years, with control over Bolivia changing. In 1825 the Republic of Bolivia was proclaimed.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Bolivia had regular conflicts with neighboring countries, especially Chile. During the Pacific War from 1879 to 1844, Bolivia lost the southwest to Chile. The country thus lost access to the sea, a national trauma to the present. The country also lost the north to Brazil, which left the state of Acrebecame. After Bolivia lost its access to the sea in 1884 after the Pacific War, it looked for another way to the sea, passing through the Gran Chaco to the río Paraguay. In 1932, Bolivia invaded the Gran Chaco, leading to the Chaco War from 1932 to 1935. This was the bloodiest conflict in South America during the 20th century. The war was difficult for both countries and eventually a peace agreement was signed in 1935, with Paraguay being allocated two-thirds of the Gran Chaco. Bolivia lost about half of its territory after independence.

At the beginning of the 20th century, silver exports became less important and tin took over this function. Revolutions and dictatorships alternated from the 1950s onwards. The military dictatorship was supported by the American CIA and in 1967 the revolutionary Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia. Fluctuating commodity prices had a major impact on the Bolivian economy. From 1982 Bolivia became more democratic after a series of irregularities in previous elections. They tried to open up the country more to foreign investment. Except for the mines, most state-owned enterprises were privatised. However, the political situation also remained unstable in the 1990s and early 21st century.

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