5 Popular Religious Festivals in Bolivia

Bolivian Celebration: the Aymara New Year and sprinkling offerings in the fire

During our 9-year journey in South America, we visited Bolivia six times. In total we spent about a year in this diverse country.

Here we will talk about some of our favorites festivals in Bolivia.

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Check out These Spectacular Traditional Dances in Bolivia

A white masque that is worn as part of La Diablada Dance in Bolivia

Many Bolivian festivals are a form of religious celebration, expressing a syncretism of paganism and Catholicism. Folkloric dances and music each have their unique costumes, musical instruments, and rhythms, and the celebrations may last for days on end, often from early morning to late at night.

Here are a couple of the famous dances in Bolivia that are part of such celebrations.

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Watching the Urkupiña Festival in Bolivia

According to the most popular story, a young shepherd girl daily herded her sheep on a stony hill, where the Virgin Mary appeared to her several times. At one time she indicated the Virgin to her parents, shouting, “Orkopiña” – “There, on that hill”, as the Virgin was ascending towards heaven. On the summit they found a stone image of the Virgin, which since then has been kept in the church in Quillacollo.

Visiting these sites is part of the 3-day Urkupiña Festival.

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Driving on Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Slow Travel Destination - driving and camping on Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Hexagonal tiles of salt stretch to the horizon hemmed in by bluish mountains. The crunching of salt crystals beneath my feet sounds like stepping on fresh snow. I’m encompassed by total silence in an otherworldly spectacle that is largely devoid of life.

Salar de Uyuni is beyond magic!

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Celebrating the Aymara New Year in La Paz, Bolivia

Two Aymara shamans are building a bonfire and laying out offerings for good health and fortune: a dried lama fetus and sugar tablets depicting a house, moneybags and other symbols of wealth and health. Dressed in bright-colored ponchos and woolen headdresses, the amautas walk about in a circle formed by devotees and a couple of foreigners. They interrupt their preparations by calling onto Pachamama (mother earth) and Pachakama (the universe) to bless the New Year.

All is part of the Aymara New Year celebration.

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Follow the Che Guevara Trail in Bolivia

I stare down into an empty grave. Packed-down earth is surrounded by brick walls and a fence to prevent visitors from accidentally falling in. Seven stones bear the names of the persons who were buried here, underneath an airstrip, for thirty years.

Who were they?

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5 Museums in La Paz, Bolivia

It was one of these beautiful days: a dark-blue sky, sun rays warming me, and an empty to-do list. I strolled through La Paz’ city center and ambled uphill on the northeastern side of El Prado, the city’s main avenue to visit five of La Paz’ museums, conveniently located in one street, called Calle Jaen.

It was a long walk, but as I wasn’t in a hurry it didn’t matter.

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Sharing Traditional Bolivian Dishes – What Can I Contribute?

During Coen’s photography assignment for Bevrijde Wereld, a Belgium NGO that supports agricultural projects with a focus on food security, we visited various rural communities in Bolivia. One of the aspects I loved most during these meetings was lunch as it was a great way to taste Bolivia’s traditional dishes.

Sharing food was a big part of these meetings.

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Forms of Public Transportation in La Paz, Bolivia

I love exploring villages, towns and cities on foot. In South America, La Paz is one of my favorite destinations, which center is a hive of activity but still has the amiable feel of a town. I lived there with great pleasure for some six months.

However, going on foot is not a matter of course as streets are steep and at an altitude of 3800 meters it is easy to get out of breath.

Taking a taxi or bus is a cheap and often easy way to move around.

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Women Empowerment in Bolivia – a Yoghurt Factory

During Coen’s photography assignment for Bevrijde Wereld (meanwhile called Solidagro and locally called Mundo Nuevo), a Belgian NGO that supports agricultural projects with the emphasis on food safety, we visited a project focusing on women empowerment: A yogurt factory in …

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Women’s Opinions Didn’t Count – Planting Trees in Bolivia

During Coen’s photography assignment for Bevrijde Wereld (now Solidagro), a Belgian NGO that supports agricultural projects with a focus on food safety, we visited various rural communities in Bolivia. In the village of Koya each household received six fruit trees and was instructed on how to plant and maintain them.

Planting trees? You dig a hole, put in the tree, close the hole and water the tree, right?

Or is it not that simple?

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