Geography

Bolivia

The Republic of Bolivia, located in central South America, is bounded on the north and east by Brazil, on the south-east by Paraguay, on the south by Argentina and on the west by Chile and Peru. Its total area is 1 098 581  km2.

As in other Andean countries, the extremes in latitude and elevation produce a diversity of ecological conditions. Some peaks in the highlands exceed 6 000 m, while Guayaramerín in the far north-east and Puerto Suárez in the south are respectively 170 and 145 m above sea level.

The most distinctive physical feature of the country is the Andes mountain range, which extends generally north to south across the western part of the country. The Andes form two ranges in Bolivia, the western range (Cordillera Occidental), which runs along the Chilean border, and the eastern range (Cordillera Oriental), the main range, which crosses the west central part of Bolivia. The Cordillera Oriental contains some of the highest Andean peaks, notably Ancohuma (6 388 m), Illampu (6 360 m), and Illimani (6 462 m).

Between the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Oriental lies the Altiplano, a high plateau about 800 km long and about 130 km wide. Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, lies at the north end of the Altiplano at 3 812 m. The southern part of the plateau is arid and barren.

The Yungas, a series of well-watered valleys on the eastern mountain slopes, make up a small region north-east of the Andean Highlands. The region has steep hills covered with forests.

The Valles, a region of gently sloping hills and broad valleys, lie in the south-central part of the country.

Stretching east and north-east from the mountains is the Oriente, the great Amazonian plains containing large grassy tracts and, along the rivers, dense tropical forests. Much of this region becomes swampland during the wet season, from December through February. In the south-east, separated from the Amazonian plains by the Chiquitos highlands raising at 1 070 m, are the dry, semitropical plains of the Chaco.

Major river systems include the Beni River and its main tributary, the Madre de Dios River; the Guaporé River; the Mamoré River and the Pilcomayo River.

Although situated entirely within the tropics, Bolivia has a variety of climates. In the higher regions the climate is cold and dry. The temperature on the Altiplano averages 13° C in January and about 4° C in July, the winter season. Temperatures are even lower at higher elevations in the Andes.

The Yungas have a warm, humid climate, while that of the Valles is less humid. The temperature in these regions averages about 22° C in January and 11° C in July. Most of the Oriente has a hot, humid climate with an average temperature of 24° C the year around.

The rainy season in most parts of Bolivia lasts from December through February. The Oriente receives up to 2 000 mm of rain, while much less falls on the Altiplano and the desert areas in the south may only receive 50 mm.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

last updated:  Monday, May 28, 2012