Bolivia: Weather Overview
Bolivia, in South America, has borders with Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. While it sits within tropical latitudes, the diverse topography of the country has lead to many different climatic regions. There is little variation between the two seasons, summer and winter, the climate from region to region is mainly affected by altitude and surrounding topographical features. Rainfall levels are typically higher in the north, though the south sees more pronounced wet and dry seasons and has the heaviest rainfall in the summer. Bolivia can be split into five different climatic regions:
Altiplano Region â" the high Andes Mountains on the west border. La Paz and Lake Titicaca sit in this region.
The Cordillera Central â" the highland valleys in the Andes to the east of the Altiplano region. Cochabamba and Potosi are within this area.
Yungas Valley â" the slopes on the east of the Andes. The Yungas Road, or âRoad of Deathâ, runs through this regionâ¦ as you may have guessed: itâs quite dangerous.
Eastern Lowlands â" a large proportion of Bolivia northeast of the Bolivian Andes. Santa Cruz and Trinidad are in this region.
Gran Chaco â" the flat lowlands of the southeast. Camiri and Villamontes are in this area.
The Altiplano Region is the highest area in Bolivia and as such, it is the coldest. It has a semi-arid climate with a short, rainy summer from November till March, and a long, dry winter from April till October. The region is continuously swept by strong and chilling winds. In the summer, La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, is at its warmest at the beginning of the season, seeing average highs of 15°C in October and November. It cools off gradually, and not by a great deal, to 13°C in March. It can always get down to freezing at night though average lows are around conversely increasing as daytime highs decrease; in October the average low temperature is at freezing, while in March it gets up to 2°C. Rainfall increases, peaking in December and January. While it becomes quite frequent, the amount of rain that actually falls remains quite low. In the winter, temperatures drop to around 12°C in the day, and -5°C at night. Precipitation is minimal with the whole area seeing about five days seeing snowfall throughout the season. The land surrounding Lake Titicaca benefits from the moderating influence expected of large bodies of water; however, this effect is greatly reduced by the effects of high altitude.
The Cordillera Central region receives the most comfortable weather in Bolivia. There is little temperature variation throughout the year; in Cochabamba average high temperatures fluctuate between 25°C and 29°C throughout the year. Average lows do see a significant drop during the dry season, from May till August, from around 18°C to 14°C. While this may seem only as significant as the daytime range, 18°C is warm while 14°C requires a jumper. This drop in night temperature is due to the reduced humidity; the dry season can expect absolutely no precipitation throughout the period. While at this elevation snow is expected, the tropical sun does not allow temperatures to drop low enough. Potosi, which is the highest peak of this area, does see much lower temperatures and snowfall.
The Yungas Valley has a sub-tropical to the tropical climate and is the cloudiest, rainiest and most humid part of Boliviaâ¦ lovely. Actually, it is very beautiful; high rainfall on the fertile soil means that the area is thickly vegetated with exotic rainforest or deciduous forest depending on regional rainfall. The heaviest rains fall in the summer wet season between November and March, when temperatures regularly get as high as 32°C. The area is drier and much cooler in winter from April till October, bringing the annual average temperature down to 18°C. This means it regularly gets below 15°C.
The Eastern Lowlands cover about half of the country. Areas surrounding the Amazon basin receive a tropical climate where it is hotter than the Yungas Valley with little seasonal variation, seeing average high temperatures just above 30°C year round. Trinidad sees a very short dry season, still with moderate rainfall, from June till September, when average highs fall just below 30°C and average lows get down to around 16°C. The wet season peaks in January. Further south the climate is sub-tropical with cooler winters brought by southeast winds. In Santa Cruz rainfall is moderate, getting gradually heavier towards winter and lighter towards summer. August is the driest month while January is the wettest. From September till March average highs can be expected at 30°C, but in the winter, from April till August, the temperature relents slightly; the average high temperature dips down to 24°C in June and July. These winter months are the best time to visit the area due to low rainfall and pleasant temperatures.
The Gran Chaco is semi-arid for eight months of the year, seeing virtually no rainfall. But heavy rainfall from December to March brings on floods and semi-tropical weather conditions. The aridity of the summer months drives day time temperatures up into the mid-40s. This is the hottest part of Bolivia with the most extreme temperature, creating areas of desert and areas of rainforest side by side. The Gran Chaco is affectionately nicknamed âGreen Hellâ.
Bolivia is an incredibly diverse country presenting fascinating extremes of habitat and landscape. The country is perhaps better suited to the more adventurous traveller, though many areas of lower altitude have something to offer for all. Those travelling to areas of higher elevation should be prepared for the physical effects of the change in the atmosphere; thinner air means less oxygen and it is a good idea to introduce yourself gradually, pausing to acclimatise as you climb. Strenuous activities should only be attempted once fully acclimatised.