Bolivia is a country with 3 very different climates, but only in one of these, it actually snows. In the west of the country, where you have the Altiplanic region at a high elevation, there is quite a lot of snow, mostly in the middle of the year. But sometimes you will see snow for a few hours in other regions of Bolivia.
Yes, it snows in Bolivia, but almost all the snow occurs in the Altiplanic west region, where La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí are. You’ll see between 3 to 20 days of snow in this region, all of them in winter. Also, there are dangerous hail storms across all the cities of Bolivia in the summer.
We are Bolivian citizens. Here you’ll know everything about whether it really snows in Bolivia and where with all the details regarding the significance of these events. Also, you’ll know about the dangerous hail storms that normally occur in summer across different cities of the country.
Yes, it snows in some parts of Bolivia
Yes, it snows in Bolivia, but the amount of snowing differs a lot depending on the climate you are dealing with:
- The Altiplanic West
- The temperate Center.
- The tropical East.
1) The Altiplanic cold West
In the Altiplanic west of Bolivia, which is at a very high elevation, of more than 13,000 ft, you will find that it snows quite a lot, mostly in winter and also at the end of autumn. Los Andes Mountains are also located here, with some peaks that reach even 20,000 ft over the sky, in these mountains it will almost always snow, even in summer and spring.
It’s difficult to see snow from September to March in this region of Bolivia (except for the Los Andes Mountains), but there will be many days with snow between May and August there (in winter). La Paz, Oruro, Potosí, and El Alto are cities located in this part of the country, so they will get all this snow when it happens, but La Paz will get less snow because it’s at a lower altitude.
Later in this article, we talk more about how much it snows in each city of Bolivia.
2) The hilly temperate Center
It’s very rare to see snow in the hilly and temperate central region of Bolivia. In this century, there have been only a few reports of snow in cities like Cochabamba, Sucre, or Tarija. Instead, what is common is hail, and it normally occurs in the spring and summer.
Hail in these cities can sometimes even trigger a flood and turn the principal streets into rivers and also scare the people that live there. Remember that hailstorms occur between December and March (in summer and at the end of spring) in this region of Bolivia, and not in winter. As we just said, snow is almost unknown in this region.
3) The Amazonian tropical East
Snow in the tropical east of Bolivia, of which part of it belongs to the Amazonas, simply doesn’t happen. There hasn’t been a single report about snow in cities like Santa Cruz, Trinidad, and Cobija in recent history.
You need to remember that this is a tropical region, at an altitude of around 1,000 ft, and also very humid and hot, so snow there is very unlikely to happen.
Instead, what is likely to happen in this hot and humid region is hail in summer, between December and March. Sometimes hailstorms happen together with wild winds of even 40 miles per hour. It’s expected to happen in maybe 1 or 2 hailing events in the tropical East in most of the years, but in others, it won’t happen.
How much does it snow in Bolivia?
When it snows, mostly in the east side of Bolivia where there is an alpine dried climate, usually it is a light snow. Even in winter, you won’t find that it snows more than 5 to 15 inches in any habitable area of this region. Of course, in the Los Andes Mountains, it’ll snow almost all the time, but this mountain range can’t support life.
In areas where there are a lot of people, for example, cities like La Paz, Potosí, or rural Altiplanic areas and towns, almost all the snow events will be light and won’t involve more than 15 inches of snow per event.
Also, usually when it snows in the east of Bolivia, it lasts only a few hours, maybe from 1 to 3 hours, and the snow mostly occurs at night rather than during the day, so in many cases, you will wake up with a layer of snow outside in this region in winter.
In other regions of Bolivia, it is very unlikely for snow to happen. There are less than 10 snow events reported in the last 50 years in both the central and east regions of Bolivia. Instead, what is quite common, as we say before, is hail. It happens some years, but other years it doesn’t, mostly between December and March in these regions.
Does it snow in the principal Bolivian cities?
There are between 3 and 10 snow events in the city each year, most of them occur in winter and at the end of fall (between May and August). Almost always, snow episodes are very light and don’t even involve more than 5 inches of snow. Contrary to this, hail storms happen every year in summer and often can be dangerous.
Hail storms in La Paz are sometimes threatening and can involve risks to the people that are on the streets because these can turn into wild rivers in a matter of minutes. Hail storms in the city occur between December and March.
When it heavily hails in La Paz, always find an elevated and proper location to protect yourself.
We have a complete guide about how many days it snows in La Paz, with every detail about when it happens, how much snow you would expect, also about the dangerous hail storms in the city, in the following direction: How many days does it snow in La Paz? All the numbers and facts.
In this city which is next to La Paz, but at a higher elevation, snowing events will be more common. You will expect between 10 and 20 snow days here. Most of the time snow will occur at night, before people wake up. But it won’t involve any risk and most of the time it won’t pass 15 inches in thickness.
Snowing in El Alto city happens almost only in winter and the end of fall, between May and August, with more frequency between June and July, which by the way are the coldest months in La Paz. Hailing will also occur between December and March (in summer) in the city, but it won’t be really dangerous.
Snow events in this city with a mild climate, rarely occur. Maybe once a decade you will find a snow event in winter, and even more, this snow event will only involve 2 to 5 inches of snow in the most extreme case. What instead happens in the city some years is hail in summer, between December and March, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.
Based on the climate data of the past, at least for the past 50 years, we can assume that it will never snow in Santa Cruz. There isn’t a single report about a snow episode in this city in recent history, so it is very but very unlikely to happen.
Instead, what really happens in this city, like in most parts of Bolivia, is heavy hail storms in some summers, between December and March, which by the way, in this city can also become threatening, involving winds of up to 40 mph, triggering urban floods, destroying edifications and uprooting some trees of the ground. Always take the proper precautions.
This is a city in which snow is quite common, you would expect between 5 to 15 snow episodes between May and August each year. This means that snow only occurs in winter in the city of Oruro, and also when it happens, it’s not dangerous, because snow will only go up to 15 inches in thickness and last a few hours in the worst situations.
Hail also happens in this city, between December and March, but it usually won’t involve any major troubles, with some flooded streets and avenues, being these floods the worst issue in these hail events.
It’s worth mentioning that snow events don’t happen in Oruro’s carnival because this festivity is at the end of summer. What instead will occur in this time is many cloudy days with constant rain, and also a low probability of experiencing a hail episode.
Snow is also quite common in Potosí, with 3 to 10 snowing events each winter and each end of fall (from May to August). Most of the time, these snow episodes will occur at night, lasting between 1 and 3 hours and involving from 5 to 15 inches of snow.
Hail also occurs in Potosí, but to a lesser extent and with less danger than in other cities like La Paz or Sucre. Hail in this city will happen maybe one or a few times each year between December and March and seldom will involve any major trouble.
Is worth mentioning that in Uyuni’s Salt, it also can snow a few times during the winter, and sometimes will hail in the summer. When it snows in this place, temperatures will go down to freezing levels, also most of the winter you’ll experience an alpine climate there.
Snow is pretty rare in Sucre, there has only been 1 event report of snow in the city in the last 50 years. In the worst scenario, you may experience one snow event once a decade in this city. This snow episode occurred in August 2018 and was very light.
What happens more often is hail storms in the summer, between December and March. These events can bring up a significant risk, even life-threatening situations, to the people of this city, triggering floods and turning streets into turbulent and wild rivers. The last hailstorm killed 4 people in Sucre, as you can see in the following article (Translated: Link).
Always be careful when it hails in Sucre, find an elevated place to protect yourself.
Tarija is another city in Bolivia that has a temperate climate, and you may expect there to occur one snow episode once a decade. In 2021, it snowed in the city after 40 years, but the snow that day was very light, without bringing any kind of issue.
Instead, what happens more often, maybe once a year, is hail storms in the summer, from December to March. These hailstorms can be quite heavy, resulting in 20 to 60 inches of snow thickness in just 2 hours, but they are not as dangerous as in other cities, like in La Paz and Sucre. Anyway, you should be careful in these snowstorms and find an elevated place to protect yourself.
Like other tropical cities, in Trinidad, there hasn’t been any single report of a snow event in recent history, so we can assume that it will never snow in Trinidad. Snow is very unlikely to happen here because Trinidad is located over an Amazonian tropical land.
What instead sometimes occurs is hail in Trinidad, maybe some year you will have hail between September and December (spring). These hail storms will come with wild winds that can reach 40 miles per hour. These hail episodes can be risky in the city because they destroy houses, trigger floods, etcetera. So when this happens, find a proper location to protect yourself.
Cobija is another tropical city that is right into the Amazonas, also there hasn’t been any single report of snow there in recent history. So we can assume that snow will never happen in this city. As you may know, snow is very unlikely to happen in Amazonian lands. Also, there has been one report of hail in this city 20 years ago, then hail storms are also very unlikely to happen here too.
Regions of Bolivia were will never snow
As we just said, there are regions of Bolivia where you’ll never see any snow events:
- In the tropical west of the country. Not a single snow event has been reported in recent history in cities like Santa Cruz, Trinidad, and Cobija.
- In the central hilly corridor of the country. Some very light snow events have been reported once a decade or less in cities like Cochabamba, Sucre, and Tarija.
In this note, you have gotten all the details about snow episodes in Bolivia. You have seen that snow is quite common in the Altiplanic West, but it never happens in the tropical Eest. Also, in the central hilly and mild corridor of Bolivia, which goes from north to south, you will find snow maybe once a decade.
You also have learned that in La Paz, El Alto, Oruro, and Potosí, snow events are quite common, occurring between 3 to 20 events in winter each year. On the other hand, in Cochabamba, Sucre, and Tarija maybe a snow event can happen once a decade. Also, in Santa Cruz Trinidad and Cobija, snow will never occur.
Finally, you have seen the dangers attached to hail storms in the country. In the cities of La Paz and Sucre, hail storms are very risky, even involving life losses. Also, in tropical cities like Santa Cruz and Trinidad, hail storms can destroy houses, trigger floods, and be dangerous. Hail happens in summer, from December to March, always find a highly elevated place to protect yourself.
We hope this information has helped you, and if you want to know every detail about the climate in Bolivia, including the places where it normally snows in the country, visit our definitive guide in the following direction: How is the climate in Bolivia? A complete overview.
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