At Journey Latin America we use cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on our website.
Find out more

2013 and earlier

Bolivia: a beginner's guide

Bolivia’s history is about silver and sea views.

The sometime southern half of the Inca heartland was renamed Alto Perú – Upper Peru – by the Spaniards in 1538. Home to the Cerro Rico mine at Potosí, it was one of the main sources of silver, which was mined to help the Spanish crown pay off its debts. On July 16 1809, Pedro Domingo Murillo led a revolt by Creoles and mestizos (those of mixed ancestry) in La Paz and proclaimed an independent state, but royalist forces were only finally overcome in 1824, at the Battle of Ayacucho. Following later wars with Paraguay and Chile, Bolivia lost part of its eastern lowlands and, more problematically, access to the sea, which has hindered it ever since. Bolivia is still one of Latin America's poorest nations.

Top five attractions 

  • Colonial Potosí and its silver mine in the Cerro Rico – and the local mint is one of South America’s best museums.
  • The Star Wars landscapes of the Uyuni salt flats, best explored by 4WD.
  • The islands of Lake Titicaca.
  • Las Yungas, a transitional zone between the high plain and Amazonia, where there are pockets of Afro-Bolivian culture.
  • The Unesco-listed archaeological site at Tiwanaku, home to an important precursor of the Inca civilisation.
Best city 
It’s not pretty, but the capital, La Paz, is bustling, vibrant and breathtaking (in all senses) with the colossal Illimani mountain as its backdrop.

Souvenir to buy 
A garishly coloured pinhead-shaped wool hat with earflaps and a repetitive llama pattern.

Quirky Bolivia 
It is customary for tourists to give miners in the Cerro Rico gifts of cigarettes (including a lighted cigarette for the devil-spirit of the mines) and dynamite.


‘Marching Powder' by Rusty Young – the story of Thomas McFadden, a small-time British drug smuggler arrested in Bolivia and thrown into San Pedro prison.

Post a comment

Upcoming Events

See full Event Listing

Other articles you may like

Browse our inspiration area of the site. It's packed with insider travel tips, Top5s, competitions, events, recipes and holiday ideas for Central and South America sure to whet your travel appetite.

Journey with the UK's NO1 specialist in travel to latin america


  • The pioneers in travel to Latin America since 1980
  • The UK's no.1 specialist – nobody knows it better


  • All our staff are in-depth Latin America specialists
  • Get the inside track with expert advice based on first-hand experience


  • Our love of Latin America runs through all we do
  • We take pride in providing a genuinely personal service


  • Unbeatable and secure financial protection
  • Book with confidence, knowing every penny is secure


  • The widest range of travel options to Central and South America
  • The journey you'll love, in a style to suit you


  • Award-winning holidays, endorsed by our clients and the press
  • Exclusively dedicated to 
    Latin America – it's all we do


Wanderlust Reader's Travel Awards - Top Ten Tour Operator 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015

Latin American Travel Association – Award for Customer Service 2012

Sunday Times Travel Magazine – Specialist Tour Operator 2012

Sunday Times Travel Magazine – Best Value Tour Operator 2011

Sunday Times Travel Magazine - Editor's Award2013

British Travel Awards – Best Small Tour Operator Central & South America 2011, 2012

Condé Nast Traveller – Top Ten Specialist Tour Operator: 2010, 2011, 2012

Guardian and Observer Travel Awards– Top Ten Small Tour Operator: 2009, 2010, 2012

Page Full Path: /sitecore/content/JLA/Home/travel-inspiration/travel/bolivia-a-beginners-guide

Page ID: {F89E7D16-F712-4425-BB85-30E0459FCC5F}

Page Name: bolivia-a-beginners-guide

Page Display Name: Bolivia: a beginner's guide

Page Template Name: T031-PapagaioBlogPost

Page Template ID: {ECC6A232-9784-4CC7-BA26-18421546B8F5}

Parent ID: {DC65CFB2-D81C-4A04-A7F8-0A1B3D88E7EB}

Parent Name: travel

Parent Display Name: Travel

Parent Template Name: T029-PapagaioCategoryListing

Parent Template ID: {4D163066-ED7E-48E6-AF31-34B6C47536CD}