Seasonal Planning for Bolivia Travel
Despite being a country of climatic extremes, Bolivia can be visited year-round. However, the best time to visit depends on where you go and what you want to do. Bolivia has just two seasons—the dry and the wet—with brief transitional months in between.
Although there are regional variations, the dry season usually starts in May and ends in October and, with its clear azure skies, is considered the best time to visit. This is Bolivia's winter, so the Andean highlands will be cold and often bitterly so in the mid-winter months of June and July. The Amazon lowlands (which enjoy warm temperatures year-round) will also be at their coolest and most pleasant as the humidity lessens, although the dry season is less pronounced and rain remains a possibility. Everywhere in Bolivia, the clear skies and lack of rainfall make this the best time of year for trekking, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities.
The summer wet season extends from November through April, with torrential rains falling between January and March. This isn't the best time to visit if you're planning an active outdoor vacation. Fewer visitors at this time means you can explore without fear of tourist crowds, but the rains can cause disruption on some roads (especially in the lowlands), while in the highlands, landslides are common, and fog can make mountain driving or hiking hazardous. Either side of the latter months, the other "wet" months typically experience only isolated showers or, at most, brief but heavy downfalls.
No surprise, the winter dry season is the most popular time to visit and, as a result, has higher prices while most attractions are at their busiest. You'll find lower prices and fewer crowds in the shoulder season from April to May—the start of the dry season when the air still feels fresh from autumn rains—and October to November, which are still relatively dry yet warmer. However, airfare is only marginally cheaper in the wet season, as this coincides with the main school holidays when many local families take their vacations.
|Seasons||Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|Spring (Oct-Nov)||Mid-summer crowds have departed, and prices fall||Rainfall gradually increases||Andean outdoor activities, lowland jungle forays||Top sites such as the Salar de Uyuni and Lake Titicaca|
|Summer (Dec-Mar)||Low-season, with the lowest costs of the year||Rainy season; potential traffic disruptions||White water rafting, a languid boat trip on an Amazon tributary||Cultural centers, including La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Sucre; Valle de la Concepción wine-growing region|
|Fall (Apr-May)||Holy Week celebrations; mostly pleasant weather||Rainfall gradually increases; mornings often foggy; hotel prices spike during Easter||Semana Santa (Holy Week) festivals, Andean hiking||Rurrenabaque for wildlife viewing journeys|
|Winter (Jun-Sep)||Dry and sunny; perfect weather for outdoor activities||Bitterly cold in the Andes; peak season for visitors means higher prices||Outdoor activities; hiking the Cordillera Real, Jeep tour of Salar de Uyuni, reed boat across Lake Titicaca to Isla del Sol||Santa Cruz for its museums and culture. Potosí, for the silver mines. Samaipata and the pre-Inca site of El Fuerte|
Spring in Bolivia (October to November)
October is a transitional month as rainfall increases and temperatures rise, announcing the approach of the warmer wet season. By November, the temperature averages a high of about 46°F (8°C) in the mountains and 64°F (18°C) in the Altiplano. Warm clothes are still essential except for the eastern lowlands, where, in the main city—Santa Cruz (at an elevation of 1,312 ft/400 m)—October is the warmest month of the year, with an average high of 87.8°F (31°C).
This end of the dry season is an excellent time to visit Bolivia, as the crowds of mid-summer have thinned, prices drop, and (depending on location) rainfall is often no more than drizzle and falls mostly at night. Plus, these early rains bring the first green vegetation to the parched Andes and Altiplano. You'll begin to feel the rising humidity in the lowlands, whereas the increased humidity at higher elevations gives rise to early morning fogs and mists.
Events in spring
Virgen del Rosario, nationwide. The Our Lady of the Rosary holy festival features religious processions, music, dancing, and fireworks on the first week of October.
Feria del Charango, Aiquile. In late October, three days of charango music (a small Andean guitar) mark this vibrant music festival.
All Saints and Day of the Dead, nationwide. Remembrance parties are held on November 2 at cemeteries, with decorated effigies of dead relatives on display.
Bolivia in October
Bolivia in November
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Summer in Bolivia (December to March)
Summer is the heart of the rainy season, so it may not be the best time to visit, depending on your goals and interests. However, this is a great time to marvel at the mirror-like effect of the Salar de Uyuni, although it's impossible to predict precisely when these massive salt flats—the world's largest—will flood. Otherwise, if you plan on mountain trekking or experiencing Bolivia's natural splendors, it would be better to plan for the dry season.
Rains typically peak in January, with an average of around 12 inches (30 cm) in the Altiplano and a massive 80 inches (200 cm) in the eastern plains—the cause of frequent landslides in mountain areas and lowland flooding. In the Andes and Altiplano, trekking trails become muddy, and fog and clouds often obscure views and make route-finding a treacherous endeavor. Nonetheless, wildflowers proliferate, the grasslands are lush, and when the sun shines, this can be wonderful to experience the Andes and Altiplano at their most colorful. Rainfall gradually decreases through February.
In the tropical lowlands, summer is much more pronounced, where it will either be pouring rain or insufferably hot and humid (while mosquitoes are at their worst). Here, road transport becomes impossible, but river travel on tributaries is at its most accessible, and the rivers, riverbanks, and rainforests are teeming with life.
Storms and poor visibility frequently disrupt flights. Hence, you'll need to have a flexible itinerary during this season if heavy rains mess up your travel plans.
Events in summer
Navidad, nationwide. Christmas Day is celebrated throughout Bolivia. The Oruro Carnaval is the most famous, but San Ignacio de Moxos, Santa Cruz, and Tarija, also host among the most impressive fiestas.
Reyes Magos, nationwide. On January 6, Bolivians recall the fabled arrival of the Three Kings with processions and reenactments.
Feria de Alasitas, La Paz. Held in the last week of January, this festival honors Ekeko, the household god of abundance. Markets teem with miniature items which Bolivians purchase to gift to others.
Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria, Copacabana. One of Bolivia's most colorful cultural festivals is held each February 2 in this fishing village. It features feasting, music, and dancers in traditional clothing to celebrate a mixture of indigenous Andean and Catholic beliefs.
Carnival, nationwide. Many large cities host carnivals (February/March), but the liveliest festivities are in Oruro and Santa Cruz.
Pujjlay, Tarabuco. On March 12, thousands of indigenous revelers celebrate a local victory over Spanish troops during the Independence War.
Semana Santa, nationwide. Easter is celebrated fervently with religious processions throughout Bolivia.
Bolivia in December
Bolivia in January
Bolivia in February
Bolivia in March
Fall in Bolivia (April to May)
By April, the rainy season comes to an end, and humidity declines. However, temperatures also fall, making travel to the lowland Amazon and Parana basins much more pleasant and feasible. Come the end of May, the rainfall has usually dropped to below 0.5 inches (1.5 cm) per month, almost everywhere in the country. Expect plenty of sunshine and clear blue skies. Hence, this is a good time to visit both the tropical lowlands and the mountain areas
The midday temperature in the Altiplano averages about 63°F (17°C) in April, and 41°F (5°C) in May and the Andean zones fall to around freezing (32°F/0°C). Pack plenty of warm clothing, and you will discover that this is perhaps the best time to visit the popular highland areas, as there are still relatively few visitors.
Events in fall
Día de la Cruz Tinku y Macha, Potosí region. On May 3, communities in northern Potosí host ritual combat, recalling Inca battles and wars against the Spanish.
Santísima Trinidad del Señor del Gran Poder, La Paz. The city's biggest folkloric festival is the Feast of Jesus Christ (late May or early June), bringing together more than 20,000 dancers, many in carnival costume.
Bolivia in April
Bolivia in May
Winter in Bolivia (June to September)
Bolivia's dry season is the most popular time of year for tourism (the busiest month is August). The weather is at its sunniest, despite the often bitterly cold weather in the highlands, dropping to well below freezing at night. Road travel is easier, air travel is more reliable, and you can photograph Lake Titicaca and the Salar de Uyuni salt flats beneath dazzling blue skies. And you get to hike the mountains to your heart's content thanks to crystal clear skies and a virtually guaranteed lack of rain.
Pack plenty of warm clothing for the Altiplano and Andean regions, especially as few Bolivian hotels or buses have heating, while mountain treks often involve pre-dawn starts in temperatures as low as -5°F (-20°C). By contrast, in Santa Cruz, July (the coldest month of the year) averages a high of 75.2°F (24.0°C), and even higher further east in the Amazonian lowlands. However, cold winds called surazos occasionally blow in from Patagonia during mid-winter, causing temperatures to plummet more than 20°F (12°C). By September, rainfall and temperatures begin to increase nationwide: more noticeably toward the month's end.
Early booking is essential, especially for July and August, as these months are the busiest, although be aware that prices are also typically at a peak.
Events in winter
Aymara New Year, nationwide. Each June 21, the winter solstice is celebrated with religious ceremonies at ancient sites and cities throughout the country.
Festival de la Virgen del Carmen, La Paz. On July 16, processions honor the patron saint.
Ichapekene Piesta, San Ignacio de Moos. This four-day folkloric fiesta (late July/early August) with religious overtones features traditional dances, including in honor of the town's patron saint, San Ignacio.
Independence Day, nationwide. August 6 is a public holiday, with carnival-like patriotic marches across the country.
Festival de la Virgen de Urkupiña, Quillacollo. Pilgrims descend on this small market town outside Cochabamba for a religious fiesta on August 15.
Festival de San Bartolomé, Potosí. A three-day celebration in late August combines folkloric dances and religious processions.
Bolivia in June
Bolivia in July
Bolivia in August
Bolivia in September