Here are 10 of the most interesting facts about Bolivia that I noticed while I was travelling there.
1. Women wear The Bowler Hat
In Bolivia, you will notice all traditionally dressed women wear the Bowler Hat. It may be awkward to you and may ask yourself why all traditional women wear these European style hats. The story behind the hats is funny. The hat was introduced by the British Rail Workers who came to Bolivia to work in the mining industry.
A very large portion of the hat shipment came to Bolivia from Italia in the 1920s. Average Bolivian people are not tall and in fact they’re small so the Italians thought that probably Bolivian men’s heads were also small too, but they were wrong. So they decide to go ahead with a simple lie and just say that these hats are the latest fashion for women in Europe. They sold them off cheaply. Since then the Bowler hat is a trend for women wear and status. The price of a Bowler hat starts from 15 USD and goes to 500 USD.
2. A Very Diverse Country, 2 Flags, 37 Official Languages, and 36 Ethnic Groups
Bolivia is a very diverse country. You can understand this from its name; The plurinational state of Bolivia. Sixty percent of the total population are Aymara and Quechua indies. The country has 36 different ethnic people and 37 official languages. The country has also two official flags; Wiphala – Colorful checkered flag representing the wide array of indigenous groups in this amazing country and their old flag.
3. Bolivia’s Death Road
Death Road or Yungas Road connects La Paz to Coroico that is almost single way single-lane and has no guard rails. The danger of the road has made it even more attractive to adrenaline lovers, mountain bikers and some tourists since 1990s. Each year, almost 300 people die on this road. Some tour companies offer a daily trip to the Death Road and provide you a mountain bike to experience the once in a lifetime journey through the clouds and waterfalls.
4. Witch Market in La Paz
5. Four Hundred Type of Potatoes
6. Shoe Shiners
You will see some shoe shiners who wear balaclavas not for protecting their faces from sun, cold or wind. They do for hiding their face and identities because if their classmates or acquaintances see them working as shoe shiners, they may get bullied in their school or in their families. This story touched me a lot. Young students and people work as shoe shiners on the streets to earn some extra money for their families but it is sad that they are covering their faces. I believe they should be very proud of about what they are doing.
7. The County of Simon Bolivar
Simon Bolivar was a military leader who had fought for the independence of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. A Bolivian congressman named Manuel Martin Cruz proposed: “If Rome comes from Romulus, then Bolivia comes from Bolívar.” (Spanish: Si de Rómulo Roma, de Bolívar Bolivia). On October 3rd, 1825, The Republic of Bolivia was approved by the Republic. The name stayed until 2009 when the new constitution changed the country’s official name to “Plurinational State of Bolivia”.
8. La Paz, The Highest Capital
Actually, the capital of Bolivia is Sucre but La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia. It is located at an elevation of roughly 3,650 m (11,975 ft) above the sea level. If you are travelling above 2500 metres (800 ft.) check this website to find out how to prevent altitude sickness which can be quite dangerous for some people.
9. The World’s Largest Salt Falt, Salar de Uyuni
Every year around 1 million tourists visit Salar de Uyuni. It is definitely a must see place. You will find yourself in an endless place where the ground and sky are of the same color. The 10,582 square kilometers area is almost as big as Lebanon. It is located in Potosi in the southwest of the country and is at an elevation of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above mean sea level.
10. The Most Interesting Prison
The old San Pedro monastery turned into a prison and is a very interesting place. Everywhere has its own rules like in San Pedro Prison where nothing is free. Food, clothing, renting everything must be paid for, even entrance into the prison has a cost (20 Bs)! Some prisoners even make prison tours in which you stay overnight which I do not recommended. If you have money, you can rent a luxurious penthouse with hot tubs and plasma. Another interesting fact about this prison is that Coca-Cola has done a deal with inmates and now pays them for exclusive rights to be the only soft drink sold within the prison.
I hope you enjoyed it. You can read all of my previous posts, articles, pictures and experiences about Bolivia using this link.