5 things that I have learned about Bolivia in 10 days

I spent 10 days in Bolivia. When I chose to visit this country I did not know what to expect, only was I longing for the rich Andene culture which Bolivia seemed to offer. I was right. When I entered the country, a completely new world opened up in front of me. A country in the mountains. A travel back in time.
Here are the five most important things that I have learned about Bolivia.

1. The country with the clearest sky

The sky has a great importance in the Bolivian culture. That is the place where the antecedents go after they die.
The slogan „country with the clearest sky” (pais con el cielo mas claro) was the first advertisement I saw at the Bolivian border. Just to challenge it I was observing the sky during my stay. The Bolivians were right to make this statement: the sky is always blue and I almost never saw clouds. The reflection makes the rivers and lakes shining blue. And Bolivia has the town closest to the sky on Earth: it's Potosi. 

2. Proudly maintains its rich culture

From the time I entered in Bolivia, I saw almost everyone wearing the same traditional clothes. Women in thick and shiny skirts. Carrying colorful sacks on their shoulders with their tots or goods in it. Their long, black hair is braided. The most interesting was the hat. It was not really protecting them from the ever shining sun, but had a flavor of the 19th century. Everyone was waring something on his head.
The typical Bolivian music, the 'cumbia' was played everywhere, without intermission. From loudspeakers, from mobile phones, from mini radios. Every single person was listening to the same kind of cheerful music, which sang about the boys and girls of Bolivia, sang about being cheerful and being proud of living in the Andes. I felt like popping into another world which is so far from where I am coming from. A real time travel.

3. Bolivians do not waste time with formalities

Despite of the cheerful music they listened to all the time, many times I had the impression that Bolivian people were not friendly with me. When I talked to them they did not look into my eyes. When I greeted them they did not respond. When I said goodbye, again no reaction. And I barely saw them smiling. To be honest I was a little offended. I was not used to this.
Then I asked my Bolivian friend, Marce, why is this apathy. He told me that smiling and greeting were just superficial things which Bolivians do not pay attention to. If they do not smile or not greet me it does not mean that they do not respect me. It means only that they do not spend as much time with formalities as we spend in Europe. And I had to agree with this.

4. A closed but warm community

Our tour guide, Carlos told me that he was working hard the last year just to be able to offer a festival for his community. So every year one member from the community offers a party for the rest. Carlos took extra guiding tours, was traveling from town to town to take all the opportunities to earn money. This is how he could save up money to host all the 400 people in his village, and this is how he could become a valued member of his community. He told me, that this would make him the happiest person ever if he saw all his friends and family having a good time that one night. For which he had been working for almost a year.
He generously invited me to this event, it's a pity that I could not go.

5. There is way to go in tourism

Bolivia is a beautiful country and is extremely rich in culture. The birthplace of the Tiwanacu and the Inca cultures, and it protects its cultural heritage, its music and clothing heavily. I am pretty sure that it has a lot more potential in tourism than what it is offering now. Tourism could mean a lot of revenue for this poor country. Yet, those working in this area (in Potosi the 2nd biggest income besides mining is tourism) need more experience in customer care, in flexibility and yes, to pay more attention on formalities, which provides the comfort for tourists.

Bolivia divides people. Some admire it for its rich cultural heritage and the breathtaking landscapes. Some, however, is boggled at its poverty and the indifferent faces of people. You can only find out which category you fall into, if you see it with your own eyes.

About Tiny Girl With Big Bag

Hobby writer and autodidact photographer whose passion is to travel and get to know new people and cultures. She has been on 4 continents and 30 countries, and the outcome is this travel blog where she shares travel stories, thoughts, tips and photography always through a subjective eye.

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  1. So... if you would have stayed 20 days, you could get 10 learnings :) Unfortunately, I arrived only at the Bolivian border coming from Peru and there were fights between Army and campesinos and could not enter the country :(

  2. Haha, I would love to know your 5 points if you have the chance to visit Bolivia, then we could put together 10 ;)
    Seems like not so easy to enter Bolivia.. it also took me 2 days. This is my story how I managed it finally :)