Many people from other countries commonly think that Bolivia is only an altiplanic place, but this is wrong and the reality is that it has three different climates and geographies, with the tropical climate and geography being the largest one.
Bolivia is mostly a tropical country. In fact, around 45% of its territory is just tropical land, and a big part of it belongs to the Amazonas in the north of the country. Also, most of the Bolivian population live in tropical areas, and the largest city Santa Cruz De La Sierra is also tropical.
We are citizens of Bolivia, who have spent all our lives in this country, so we will give you all the details about whether Bolivia is or not a tropical country. We will also talk about the principal cities and touristic places that are tropical across the country.
Yes, Bolivia is mostly a tropical country
Bolivia is a country that is crossed by Los Andes Mountains, from the north to the south, and this mountain range divides the country’s territory in 3 different climates and geographic regions:
- The altiplanic East (which is very cold and alpine).
- The central mountain range corridor (which has a temperate climate, is ruggy and divides the country from North to South).
- The tropical West (which is a flat endless tropical land that continues going towards the east and reaches the Amazonas).
This means that around 45% of the total territory of Bolivia is tropical. This area is concentrated in the East of the country, also in the very North and in the Southeast.
The East, part of the North and part of the South of the country is tropical. It is next to, or in the Amazons, and consists of a huge endless flat land, covered by heavy jungle, with quite hot temperatures, a lot of rain and mostly moist air. In this tropical area lives most of the Bolivian population.
You can imagine Bolivia as an analog watch, in which from 11:00 to 5:00 is tropical, the corridor that goes from 10:00 straight to 6:00 is the Los Andes Mountains, and from 7:00 to 9:00 is altiplanic. The center is mostly an equal mix between altiplanic land, mountain ranges, and tropical land.
The areas of Bolivia that are tropical
The parts of the country that are tropical with an amazonian geography and climate are:
- Part of the northwest of the country (which contains flat lands and a few hills with tropical climates).
- The very north of the country (which is actually inside the Amazonas, it’s a topical amazonian land).
- The northeast of the country (which is also in the Amazonas, and is totally flat and very marshy).
- The east of the country (which is next to the amazonas and has a little bit colder temperatures, but still tropical climates).
- The southeast of the country (which is very flat humid and also has a standard tropical climate).
- Part of the south of the country (which has a subtropical, also more colder and dried climate, because it’s nearer the the South Pole).
Now let’s see the departments and principal cities of Bolivia that are in this tropical part of the country:
- Santa Cruz department
- Contains Santa Cruz De La Sierra city (1,500,000 population, located in a tropical flat land)
- Is the biggest bepartment of Bolivia, located in the east.
- 80% of this department is tropical.
- Beni department
- Contains Trinidad city (150,000 population, located in a marshy amazonian land)
- Is also very large, located in the northeast.
- 100% of this department is tropical.
- Pando department
- Contains Cobija city (60,000 population, located in an amazonian land)
- It’s relatively small, located in the north.
- 100% of this department is tropical.
The areas of Bolivia that are not tropical
The parts of the country that are not tropical and contain other kinds of climates and geography are:
- Part of the northwest of the country (which contains ruggy valleys and Los Andes Mountains)
- The west of the country (which contains the altiplanic highly elevated flat land for which Bolivia is most known).
- The southwest of the country (which also contains an endless altiplanic highly elevated flat land).
- Part of the south of the country (which contains Los Andes Mountains, a lot of valleys and hills, but also the very hot and dried Gran Chaco desert).
- The center of the country (which contains Los Andes Mountains, and a lot of temperate valleys and hills).
Now let’s see the departments and principal cities of Bolivia that are in these parts of the country, which are not tropical:
- La Paz department
- Contains La Paz city (800,000 population, located in an altiplanic region).
- Contains El Alto city (700,000 population, located in an altiplanic region).
- A medium size department, located at the east.
- 30% of this department is tropical (at its very north).
- Cochabamba department
- Contains Cochabamba city (650,000 population, located in a temperate valley).
- A small size department, located in the center.
- 35% of this department is tropical (in the northeast).
- Oruro department
- Contains Oruro city (400,00 population, located on a cold cold altiplanic land)
- A small size department, located in the east.
- 0% of this department is tropical.
- Potosí department
- Contains Potosí city (200,000 population, located in a cold altiplanic ruggy land).
- A medium size department, located in the southeast.
- 0% of this department is tropical.
- Chuquisaca department
- Contains Sucre city (400,000 population, located in a temperate valley).
- And a small size department, located in the center.
- 10% of this department is tropical (in the east).
- Tarija department
- Contains Tarija city (350,000 population, located in a temperate valley).
- And a small size department, located at the very south.
- 15% of this department is tropical (in the east).
Tropical cities: Santa Cruz De La Sierra, Trinidad and Cobija
You can see in the last section that 3 main cities of Bolivia are inside tropical areas.
The largest city of the country, Santa Cruz De La Sierra is located in a tropical flat land, but this city has a little bit colder and drier climate than the other 2 cities.
Also Trinidad, the capital of Beni department, is located in a very hot tropical and swampy land, near to the Amazonas.
Finally Cobija, the capital of Pando department, is located right inside the Amazonas territory, with a fully tropical climate.
So, in summary there are 3 cities that are located in a tropical area and climate in Bolivia: 1) Santa Cruz De La Sierra, 2) Trinidad and 3) Cobija.
Other important places in tropical areas of Bolivia
There are also some certain tourist destinations in Bolivia that are commonly visited by foreigners, which are located in tropical areas of the country. We will talk now about these places.
Madidi national Park
This park is located in La Paz department, has both temperate climates in ruggy hills and mountains, but in its north has a very tropical climate in a flat land, covered with a lot of jungle, that experiences high moisture most of the year. Many tourists visit this park because of its diversity in both flora and fauna, and the possibility of finding a lot of exotic species.
In this place is located the San Jorge de Chiquitos town. It’s an historical town of the Jesuit expeditions that tried to convert natives into Catholicism centuries before in this vast area. Chiquitania has a tropical, but significantly more dried, climate than other parts of Santa Cruz department. The only difference is that there is less precipitation than other near tropical areas.
One of the most visited places of Bolivia, this town is located in Beni department, and it’s very near to the Amazonas, so it has a very tropical, humid and marshy climate and land. It’s also near the last reminiscences of Los Andes Mountains, so in parts of the year it gets a little bit colder.
Remember to take all the precautions that you should in an amazonian tropical climate like this, because these touristic places involve a high risk of getting malaria, yellow fever, zika and other endemic illnesses. Also, “Chagas Disease” is in this area, so take all the precautions with this very dangerous illness.
In this note about whether Bolivia is or not a tropical country, you have seen that it actually is. In fact, around 45% of the total territory is fully tropical, and this area is in the North, East, and part of the West, South and Center of the country.
Also you have seen that 3 main cities are located over Bolivian tropical lands, Santa Cruz De La Sierra, which is the largest city of Bolivia; Trinidad city, which is the capital of Beni department; and Cobija city which is the capital of Pando department. You also have seen that important tourist destinations like Madidi National Park, Chiquitania and Rurrenabaque are in tropical areas of the country.
Now you know that Bolivia is mostly a tropical country, unlike many people overseas think. Even more, the majority of the Bolivian population is living in this area.
We hope this information has helped you, and if you want to know every detail about the climate in Bolivia, including the principal tropical cities, but also the altiplanic cities, visit our definitive guide in the following direction: How is the climate in Bolivia? A complete overview.
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