The early inhabitants of Bolivia were the Aymara people who settled the lands surrounding Lake Titicaca. The lake became the ceremonial centre for the Tiahuanaco civilization, developing into the religious and political centre of the Alto Peruvian Altipano before being conquered by the Incas between 1438-1527 with their last great expansion. Inca control was relatively short-lived as the once great empire had grown weak and European explorers were about to arrive.
The Spanish began to arrive in the 16th century and immediately set out to explore and then settle their new land. For present-day Bolivia, this resulted in the establishment of La Plata (later known as Sucre) in 1538. La Plata became the Spanish capital of the Charcas region. Six years later, silver was discovered in Potosi and the Spanish were quick to settle a town there to take advantage of this new wealth. Potosi grew rapidly, and with 160,000 residents, it was the largest city in the western hemisphere. At the time, Potosi’s silver mines were some of the wealthiest in the world and helped to fuel Spain’s economy for many years.
With the money from Potosi going directly to Spain and not to Bolivia, the country faced many economic troubles. Local populations grew frustrated and disenchanted with their European leaders culminating in the Great Rebellion in 1780-82. This rebellion was led by indigenous people and was followed by the Independence War at the beginning of the 19th century. Early in the 1820s, General Simón Bolivar, a Venezuelan military and political leader set about liberating both Venezuela and Colombia before heading to Ecuador and then Bolivia. The newly formed Republic of Bolivia was named in his honour.
The young country faced many struggles as the wars required to gain independence had significantly weakened both the economy and infrastructure and initial leaders established military dictatorships. The country began to lose territory to its neighbours including its coast to Chile and areas vital to the rubber boom went to Brazil. Finally, a border dispute in 1932 saw even more territory taken by Paraguay in the Chaco War.
After the Chaco War the country entered into a period of relative stability which is, in many cases attributed to President Victor Paz Estenssoro who was in power between 1952-56 and again in 1960-64. He focused on rebuilding the country and making significant changes like introducing universal suffrage and a national workers’ union. Despite this, the 1970s proved to be a turbulent time for the country with various coups and military dictators. Victor Paz Estenssoro was reelected in 1985 and once again set about to revive the country’s economy. When Jaime Paz Zamora took over in 1989, the hyperinflation that had plagued the country was significantly less.
The new millennium bore witness to unrest and protests, however, in December 2005, Bolivia elected their first indigenous president, Juan Evo Morales Ayma who was quick to initiate important change and was reelected in 2009. Despite being known as one of the poorest countries in Latin America, there is great optimism present in Bolivia. More tourists are coming to explore this land of contrasts and beauty and tourism has continued to grow since the 1990s. For those willing to venture off the beaten track, they will find not only stunning landscapes but also incredibly unique cultural opportunities packed into this small, but fascinating country.
Bolivia Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Bolivia.
Learn about the history and culture of Bolivia, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Bolivia's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Bolivia for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Bolivia tours today!
Extend Your Trip
After your Bolivia tours, why not consider another of Goway's Latin America tours. These include a large selection of other exciting countries in Central and South America. We offer Chile vacation packages and Easter Island tours, Ecuador vacation packages which include Galapagos cruises, Peru vacation packages which include Machu Picchu tours and Brazil tours including Iguassu Falls tours among many others.
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LATIN AMERICA by Goway is an exclusive division that specializes in planning and organizing Bolivia tours, vacations and experiences. Choose from a simple city stopover, a Holiday of a Lifetime, an independent travel module, and much more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to Bolivia.
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