Why study Spanish in Bolivia?
Study Spanish in Bolivia and learn all about the interesting Bolivian culture. Bolivia is a landlocked country located in the heart of South America. Bolivia is very diverse, with each region offering its unique characteristics and a variety of breathtaking landscapes. The altiplano, snow-capped mountains, the savannas, magnificent rainforests, salt lakes – its contrasts and fusions make Bolivia an unforgettable destination. Bolivia is home to impeccably preserved ancient sites and a living, traditional Andean culture. The music, traditions and spirit of Bolivia’s Andean ancestors can be experienced throughout its villages and towns when learning Spanish in Bolivia. Last not but least: Bolivia is very affordable too; it is one of the cheapest destinations in South America.
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Highlights of Bolivia
La PazVisit the administrative capital city with its beautiful narrow alleys and colonial streets and colourful markets. In La Paz, you will find enchanting indigenous culture and a wide array of natural beauty and outdoor attractions nearby.
The Amazon jungle of MadidiSituated in the upper Amazon river basin of Bolivia, this region is one of the most diverse ecological hot spots of the world, home to a breaking number of species and plants.
Copacabana & Lake TiticacaCopacabana lies on the shore of Lake Titicaca and is the main town that tourists flock to when visiting Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian side. From Copacabana, you can visit Isla del Sol.
Death RoadThe Camino de las Yungas, northeast of La Paz, is great for an exhilarating bike ride! Officially named “the most dangerous route in the world” in 1995, it covers La Paz to Coroico.
SucreSituated at the heart of Bolivia, the constitutional capital city of Bolivia or “the Jewel of South America” is a friendy UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Salar de UyuniDon’t miss out on the world's largest salt flat, the legacy of a prehistoric lake that went dry, leaving behind a desert-like, surreal landscape of bright-white salt, rock formations and cacti-studded islands.
The Spanish language in Bolivia
As in most countries in Latin America, Spanish is an official language in Bolivia. However, indigenous languages such as Quechua, Aymara and Chiquitano are also recognized as official languages. Although Spanish tends to predominate in urban areas of Bolivia, more than half of the population has one of those indigenous languages as their mother tongue. People in Bolivia are known to speak Spanish slowly and clearly. Typical expressions in Bolivian Spanish are for instance “estar yesca”, meaning not having any money, or “está pintudo” which can be translated into “that is amazing”.
Food and drinks from Bolivia
Bolivian cuisine is a mix of European and indigenous influences. There is a great variety of dishes consisting of meat, fish and poultry blended with herbs and spices. Some traditional dishes include “Majao” (a rice dish with eggs, beef and fried banana), “Pacumutu” (a rice dish with grilled beef, fried yucca and cheese), “Saltenas” and “Empanadas” (meat or vegetable pies), “Locro” (a soup made with rice, chicken and banana) and “Chicharron de Pacu” (made with the local Pacu fish, rice and yucca). A national drink of Bolivia is “singani”, a liquor made of grapes. During your Spanish classes in Bolivia, you will have the chance to try all of these tasty and delicious dishes!
Useful Information for Bolivia
MoneyThe currency in Bolivia is the Bolivian Boliviano (BOB). There are many places where you can exchange your money. However, we do not recommend you change your money on the streets as you probably get scammed. When changing money, be careful that you are not distracted with anything to make you lose count of your money. In the big cities in Bolivia, you can find ATMs and "Casas de Cambio" where Travelers Checks may be cashed, or US Cash may be changed. Banknotes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50. It is possible to pay by credit card in larger cities, but in the smaller towns, this will be difficult. The best and easiest way is to pay in cash and always keep small bills.
WeatherAs Bolivia has such a diverse landscape, you will experience a different climate in each region. The weather in Bolivia can be divided into four regions with climates from tropical to colder: Llanos, Altiplano, Yungas/Valleys and Chaco. Summer is during the rainy season from November until March, while winter is during the dry season from May until October. The best time to visit Bolivia is in the high season (May until October) or in between low and high season, as the weather is better and the prices are lower. High season is also a good time to visit the Bolivian Amazon as there is more wildlife to observe and fewer mosquitos.
What to bringDeciding on what to bring with you to Bolivia can be quite difficult as Bolivia has many different climates. To be well prepared, it is best to try and pack your clothes according to the time of the year and the region you are planning to visit. If you plan to stay for a long time and visit several regions, it is advisable to bring different kinds of clothing. Other travel essentials for Bolivia are personal items, clothing, sunglasses, daypack, travel adapter, Spanish dictionary, cameras and batteries, medical kit and mosquito and insect repellent.
Learn more about Bolivia
as a destination to learn Spanish
The majority of the people in Bolivia are mestizo, which means they have a mix of native and European descent. However, another a large part of the population is indigenous, such as the Aymaras and Quechuas in the west and the Chiquitanos in the east. With 36 different indigenous groups, Bolivia has the largest proportion of indigenous people in Latin America. A big part of the population is Roman Catholic, but this is blended with pre-Colombian rituals. An example is a near-synonymous association of Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) and the Virgin Mary. On religious feast days, pagan pre-Columbian rites are still practised, and the Indians express themselves through dances that blend the two cultures. Bolivians are family oriented people and often very close-knit. Despite the widespread poverty, locals are eager to share the beauty of their country and they will welcome you with warm smiles, and hospitality.
Brazil borders Bolivia on the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina on the south, and Chile and Peru on the west. Aside from Paraguay, it is the only country in Latin America that is landlocked. Bolivia can be divided into six regions. The Andes run in two great parallel ranges or cordilleras. Altiplano (high plain) is made up of valleys, small hills and rolling areas, volcanoes, rivers and lakes as well as salt flats, including the world's biggest salt flat Salar de Uyuni. The most prominent feature of the Altiplano is Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. The Yungas are primarily the steep jungle-covered mountains; they are rich in flora and fauna, and some of Bolivia's most spectacular parks are located here. The Highland Valleys is the second most populous region of Bolivia with cities such as Cochabamba, Sucre and Potosi. The Gran Chaco has been characterized as a harsh but beautiful land of thick brush, cactus, and grassy expanses and boasts one of the most diverse regions for wildlife and flora. Last but not least, the Tropical Lowlands contain a wide range of ecosystems: high mountains, cloud forests, semi-tropical valleys and jungles.
Bolivia hosts remarkably diverse landscapes, and it is a country where travellers can experience Mother Nature at her finest. Here you will find jungles, forests, grasslands, incredible mountains, savannas and salt flats. There is also interesting wildlife, hosting nearly 300 mammal species as well as over 1,400 bird species. In addition to llamas and alpacas, the country is also home to jaguars, Andean condors, caimans and sloths. While a great deal of Bolivia remains undisturbed, there is still a strong commitment to conservation. More than 17% of the country’s land is protected through national parks and reserves. There are thirteen National Parks in total as well as eight reserves. Sajama National Park in western Bolivia is home to Sajama Volcano, the highest peak in the country. Madidi National Park, renowned for its vast array of flora and fauna, is a hotspot for the world’s leading biologists. Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is one of the most intact parks in the Amazon Basin. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its almost pristine.
Before Spanish colonization, different indigenous groups such as the Tiwanakus, Ayamaras and Incas lived throughout the country. In 1538 the Spanish had colonized the territory of Bolivia. The Spanish conquistadors exploited the trust of the Indians to secure the territory that within two years became known as Alto Peru. The wealth generated by the silver mines at Potosí fueled the Spanish economy for more than two centuries. After the independence war in 1825 led by Simon Bolivar, Bolivia became independent. During the War of the Pacific with Chile (1879-1883), Bolivia lost its access to the sea. After that war, there was relative tranquillity; education and agricultural systems were improved, and a new social consciousness brought better conditions for workers. Today Bolivia has one of the largest indigenous populations in Latin America. The current president serving for a third term is Evo Morales, the first indigenous president. Morales has given autonomy and powers to the indigenous peoples and has started a wide array of social programs.
Bolivia has the largest proportion of indigenous people in Latin America, with 62% of the total population of indigenous descent. The indigenous Quechua and Aymara groups make up the great majority of the population in the northern parts of the Altiplano and the higher valleys and basins of the Andes. The Chiquitanos and Guarani-speaking peoples are the third and fourth most numerous ethnic groups. Many of the indigenous ways of life have been maintained and traditional practices and customs are reflected in Bolivian popular culture. The Carnival of Oruro is a great example of this: the beautiful folklore and costumes here are amazing and a must-see for those attending a Spanish school in Bolivia.
Bolivian culture is a mix of European and native influences, which is reflected in the music, arts and literature. Mestizo Baroque shows the combination of Spanish and native influences in art. This style is noticeable in churches, religious paintings, sculptures, woodcarving and embroidery. Traditional music is different in every region of Bolivia because of all the different indigenous groups. Bolivia is rich with traditional instruments, which include the siku (Andean pan pipes), quena (Andean flute), skin drums and the charango, which resembles a small guitar. Some typical dances in Bolivia are morenada, diablada, tinku, caporales and also Chilean version of the Cueca. This dance is most commonly seen during festivals. Aside from traditional music, pop and rock are also popular in Bolivia.