Bolivia is divided into nine departments of different sizes. The largest department is that of Santa Cruz in southeastern Bolivia, followed by the department of Beni in the northeast. To the west, in the mountains, the Departementos get smaller. The demarcation of these regional authorities goes back in part to the Spanish colonial rule. The departments themselves are divided into a total of 112 provinces and these in turn into 339 municipalities.
According to naturegnosis, the official capital of Bolivia is Sucre, but the seat of government of Bolivia is in La Paz. By far the largest city in Bolivia, with over 1.4 million residents, is Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the capital of the department of the same name, which is the economic engine of the country applies.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra
The capital of the department of the same name is located in the center of Bolivia at the eastern foot of the Andes Cordillera Oriental on an area of approx. 325,000 km² in fertile plains. On the western outskirts of the city flows the Río Piray, east of the city the Río Grande. The city was founded by the Spanish conquistador Ñuflo de Chaves around 1560. After Santa Cruz had long been a small town characterized by agriculture and cattle breeding with the purpose of supplying the highlands with agricultural products, the economic boom and growth of Santa Cruz began around 1950 with the development of extensive oil and gas reserves in the region. Today, Santa Cruz is the most architecturally modern, economically dynamic and prosperous city in Bolivia.
The second largest city in Bolivia has about 760,000 residents. The city lies at an altitude of approx. 3600 m at the end of a canyon on the Altiplano in a valley basin with a protected and pleasant climate. In the immediate vicinity, but 1000 m higher on the high plateau, is the city of El Alto, which was previously a district of La Paz. Around 2 million people live in the agglomeration. La Paz was founded by the Spanish in 1548 and initially gained importance for the transport of silver and later rose to the center of Bolivia in the course of the flourishing tin mining in the 19th century when the seat of government was relocated to La Paz in 1898. A restored old town, interesting museums, cafés and a lively market quarter with the so-called witch market and the black market await the visitor. Is worth seeing, among other things the San Francisco Church from the early days of the city and the Government Palace. A special traffic-related feature are the 8 cable car lines, via which local public transport to the high-lying town of El Alto, among others, is handled. In the vicinity of La Paz are the Valle de la Luna with its bizarre rock formations, the ruins of Tiahuanaco in the south of the city and Lake Titicaca.
Sucre is the constitutional capital of Bolivia and the seat of the Supreme Court and is located in the central southern part of the country. The city has about 240,000 residents and was founded by the Spaniards as “La Plata” (The Silver) as early as 1538. For a long time it functioned as the cultural, administrative and religious center of the Spanish colony. In the course of independence, the city was renamed in honor of Mariscal António José de Sucre in Sucre and capital of the new state of Bolivia.
Sucre is located at around 2800 m above sea level, has a very pleasant, temperate climate and, with its rich, well-kept squares and parks, is one of the most beautiful cities in South America. The old town of Sucre with its white buildings in a typical checkerboard pattern is the prime example of a colonial city in South America and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. Particularly worth seeing is the historic building complex Casa de la Libertad, in which Bolivia’s declaration of independence was signed in 1825, and the Franciscan monastery of la Recoleta from 1601.
The city of Potosí with approx. 175,000 residents is located in the south of Bolivia near Sucre, at the foot of the mountain Cerro Rico (Eng. Rich Mountain), whose silver wealth made Potosí one of the largest cities in the world in the early 17th century The city is still dependent on silver and tin deposits today.
The center of Potosí is completely colonial and dates almost entirely from the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings, which are among the most elaborate and magnificent in the world, are one of the city’s greatest tourist attractions and have been under the protection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1987. The most famous buildings are the Santa Teresa Monastery, the Cathedral in the central Plaza 10 de Noviembre, and the Royal Treasury Casa de la Moneda. The baroque churches, including La Compañía, San Francisco, San Lorenzo and San Martín, are also worth seeing.