What is the terrain and geography like in Bolivia?
Lying between the main eastern and western ridges of the Andean Mountains, the altiplano is 500 miles (805 kilometers) long and 80 miles (130 kilometers) wide. At altitudes ranging from 12,000 to 14,000 feet (3,660 to 4,270 meters), it is one of the world’s highest inhabited regions. Lake Titicaca, on the altiplano, straddles the northern Bolivia-Peru border, with an area of 3,500 square miles (9,060 square kilometers), depths of 700 feet (210 meters), and a constant surface temperature of 55°F (13°C). The most agriculturally productive and populated part of the altiplano surrounds the lake. The inhabitants of the altiplano, mainly Aymara and Quechua Indians, have a subsistence agricultural and grazing economy. Their livestock include sheep, cows, goats, alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas. Rich mineral deposits, Bolivia’s economic backbone, are found in nearby mountain areas (La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí).
The regions of temperate and semitropical valleys lie east and northeast of the altiplano and vary in altitude from 1,600 feet to 9,000 feet (490 meters to 2,740 meters) above sea level. They are major agricultural producers of corn, barley, coffee, cacao, coca, citrus, and sugarcane. The major cities of Cochabamba, Sucre, and Tarija are situated in the valleys southeast of La Paz.
The llanos cover more than two-thirds of Bolivia. Through them flow major tributaries of the Amazon: the Mamoré, Beni, Ichilo, Iténes, and Madre de Díos Rivers. Except for the Santa Cruz Department, the llanos are sparsely populated and undeveloped but offer excellent potential for agriculture and livestock raising. The cities of Santa Cruz (Bolivia’s second largest), Trinidad, Riberalta, and Cobija are the major cities of the llanos. Santa Cruz, the second largest and fastest growing city in Bolivia is the center of the petroleum and natural gas industries.