Driving Directions Bolivia

BOLIVIA is one of only two South American countries surround­ed by land on all sides, having lost its Pacific coastline to Peru and Chile in the late 1800s. The dominant topographical feature is the Andes mountain chain. This forms two main ranges, the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Oriental running from north to south in the southwest­ern third of the country. Lying in between them is a high, fairly barren, treeless plateau called the Altiplano, where most Bolivians live. Lake Titicaca, which straddles the border with Peru, is in the northern part of the Altiplano. The country’s administrative capital and largest city, La Paz, lies just to the south and the east of Lake Titicaca and is the high­est capital city in the world, built 3,612 meters or 11,850 feet above sea level.

Driving Directions

The lower, eastern slopes of the mountains form a forested region; fertile valleys are called the Yungas. In the southeastern corner, separated from the rest of the region by the Chiquitos Highlands, are the arid plains known as the Chaco. Farther north, hot savannah lands and dense tropical jungles are blanketing the river valleys that traverse the region. The northeast experiences heavy rainfall while the southwest of the country has very little rain. Temperatures vary with altitude from extremely cold on the mountain summits to cool on the Altiplano and hot in the tropical areas.

Although rich in natural resources, Bolivia remains a developing country. A lack of investment in the country and political instability mean that there are not enough funds available to pay to extract its natural resources of lead, silver, copper, zinc, oil, and tin.

However, Bolivia is self-sufficient in petroleum and exports natural gas. Agriculture produces soya beans, sugar cane, and cotton for export. Coca is also grown on a large scale to supply the illegal trade in cocaine, although the government is endeavoring to bring this to an end.

Google maps™ Bolivia

The Andean highlands of southwest Bolivia cover roughly one-third of the country. They include the Eastern and Western Cordilleras mountain ranges, separated by a high plateau called the Altiplano. Bolivia’s remaining two-thirds is part of the Oriente, the country’s northern and eastern tropical lowland region, which consists of forestland, savannahs, and marshes. At the far southeastern corner of the country lies the Bolivian portion of the Gran Chaco, a thinly populated plain that continues southward into Paraguay and northern Argentina. Bolivia is landlocked.

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The Salar de Uyuni in southwest Bolivia is one of the world’s largest (12,000 square kilometers/ 4,600 square miles in area) salt “lakes.” During the dry season, vehicles can drive on its surface, which is firmer than sand. During the rainy season, the lake can still be traversed by four-wheel-drive vehicles since the water reaches depths of just 15 to 38 centimeters (6 to 15 inches). In the salt plain’s center lies a hotel, built of salt blocks with a thatched roof. The layers of salt deposits are up to six meters (20 feet) thick. Villagers from Colchani harvest almost 90,000 kilograms (20,000 tons) of salt by chopping it up and shoveling it into piles. The salt is trucked into the village, where it is sifted and prepared for shipment by train to refiners, where it will be prepared for international sale.

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