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Bolivia Geography

Bolivia's western half is covered by the Andes, as three meandering high mountain chains dominate the landscape.

The Cordillera Occidental (in the west) is a long line of mostly bleak, dormant volcanoes; the Cordillera Central stands in the middle, while the (eastern) Cordillera Oriental is a massive snow-capped series of stunning granite mountains.

The Altiplano (a high plateau) is sandwiched between the cordilleras. Once just deep valleys (or rifts) between the three mountain ranges, over eons of time it filled with sedimentary debris washed down from the surrounding peaks.

The eastern slopes of the Cordillera Oriental descend gently into rolling hills; numerous rivers flow eastward here, forming long narrow valleys. Northeast of La Paz, the landscape descends into fertile semitropical valleys, drained by narrow rivers. The southeast is covered by semi-arid plains that turn swampy during heavy rains.

Bolivia's Altiplano contains several salt flats, the dried remnants of ancient lakes; Uyuni Saltpan is the largest one, covering almost 3,500 sq miles.

Deep and cold, Lake Titicaca, 3,810 meters above sea level, is the highest navigable body of water in the world; salty Lake Poopo is the largest inland lake, varying greatly in size based on rainfall.

Most of Bolivia's significant rivers (or rios) are located central and north. Countrywide, important ones included the Beni, Desaquadero, Guapore, Madre de Dios and Mamore.

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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.