Bolivia, like many South American countries, is divided into several geographical zones, each of which has its own distinct climate. There is the high-altitude Andes in the west, with a climate similar to the Andean region of Peru, the lush hot, and humid rainforest in the north, and the savanna region in the south and east, which is largely covered by the Gran Chaco and is predominantly semi-arid with little tree cover.
La Paz is broadly representative of this region as a whole. Minimum temperatures this month are actually at their highest here, but although it doesn't get too freezing, neither does it get too warm: 37°F (13°C) is as good as it gets, which actually remains the case for quite a large amount of the calendar year hereabouts. This is the second-wettest month of the year in La Paz, after January, and the least sunny on average, with just five average daily hours of sunshine. This means it can often feel even colder than it is, which is already quite cold! In other parts of the Andes, Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni are slightly warmer than La Paz at this time on average.
Cobija, in the far north near the Brazilian border, is broadly representative of this region, where it is another incredibly wet month in February. Rainfall (9.8 inches/25 cm) is down on January's only slightly, making this the second wettest month of the year in this region and keeping large parts of the rainforest almost impossible to travel through except by boat. This is a warm time of year, though (70°F-88°F/21°C-31°C) with temperatures neither too cold nor too hot.
Santa Cruz is broadly representative of this region as a whole. Only November and December see hotter weather on average than February does in this rather large region (the average is 70°F-86°F/21°C-30°C). By February, while it's still a comparatively wet time of year, precipitation has decreased to lower levels than in any of the past two months. Meanwhile, sunshine still comes down at an average of seven hours per day, making it conducive to get out and about in-between showers!
Crowds & Costs
February is still very much low season, and crowds, especially international travelers, stay away for the most part because the intense wet weather keeps a lot of destinations either inaccessible or extremely slow-going in the surfeit of mud around right now. Throughout most of the month, it's a good time to enquire about discounts on hotels and tours, although prices in Bolivia are already very low compared to most countries.
At the end of the month, though, many people, especially Bolivians and those from neighboring South American countries, descend on mass to those Bolivian towns and cities which celebrate carnival. Oruro and Santa Cruz, particularly, will see hotels get booked up and accommodation prices increase dramatically.
Where to Go
You're going to get wet on a visit to the Andes this month, no matter what. With 3.9 inches/10 cm of precipitation due to fall in February, you'll need to pick some places with bad weather activities on offer. Vibrant capital La Paz is a wonderful place to spend time. Sample the fantastic new foodie scene, put on the map by multi-Michelin Star winner Claus Meyer and famous high-end restaurant Gustu, or try a cooking class to make some Bolivian food yourself. Museums such as the fabulous Ethnography Museum or the Plaza Museum of Contemporary Art are especially absorbing.
Sucre is another great cosmopolitan destination in Bolivia's Andes, boasting the Casa de la Libertad where Bolivia's Declaration of Independence was signed besides several splendid colonial buildings where you can dodge the worst of the rain. It's certainly a good idea to visit Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca this month, where the Virgen de la Candelaria celebrations are especially colorful. Oruro is also a lively place to spend time at the end of the month for Carnaval. Coroico, between La Paz and the rainforest, should also be on the radar of any travelers who love white water rafting.
Much of the rainforest cannot be visited at this time due to floods, continuing to be so through March. Bigger towns and cities (like Trinidad) can usually be reached, however, and from here boat trips on nearby rivers are possible. But it's much better to leave a rainforest trip to the months of April through October when wildlife is more in evidence (wildlife often tends to stay out of sight in the rain).
Begin in the big regional city, Santa Cruz, enlivened by one of Bolivia's and South America's best carnival celebrations this month. Or travel to investigate Bolivia's cultural and religious heritage at the historic Jesuit missions located in the surrounding area. But it's also time to partake of Bolivia's emerging wine scene, centered around the Valle de la Concepción near Tarija, especially interesting at the moment because the annual grape harvest is beginning at some wineries.
In the hills near here, there is also some great off-the-beaten-track hiking, including a rarely traipsed Inca Trail, and spectacular waterfalls in spate during this month at Chorros de Jurina.
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What to Do
Plan on spending time in the Andes' bigger towns and cities in February, where wet weather (and, frequently, deluges) will keep you away from the outdoors for long periods. Try tapping into Bolivia's long under-appreciated cuisine, now getting international attention thanks to a series of tantalizing new restaurants opening in La Paz and other cities. Museums and art galleries are in ready supply in La Paz or Sucre, too, showcasing Bolivia's varied history and culture in all its color. And you should visit a few produce and handicrafts markets, too, such as the Mercado de las Brujas (Witches Market) in La Paz or Mercado Campesino in Sucre.
Want out of the city? The best wet-weather outdoor activity in the Andes has to be white water rafting, kayaking, or tubing on the Río Coroico near Coroico, where there are plenty of thrilling rapids to negotiate. And the Salar de Uyuni, despite travel being slow-going in the wet, with some parts impassable, looks dreamlike at this time of year as the sky is reflected in the water covering the ground.
Then there is Bolivia's hugely important coca crop, which has its first harvest after the first of the year's heaviest rains have passed, and there are farms and communities in the Andes, as well as in the rainforest, where you can meet the people who farm coca and learn about the plant.
If you do decide to visit the rainforest during this, the worst and wettest time of year, it might be a timely opportunity for a slow, languid boat trip on an Amazonian river. This is possible on the Río Beni (from Rurrenabaque, if floods do not make the road there impassable) or, better still, Trinidad, which has better road connections to elsewhere in Bolivia.
Bolivia's hugely important coca crop has its first harvest after the first of the year's heaviest rains have passed, and there are farms and communities in the rainforest, as well as the Andes, where you can meet the people who farm coca and learn about the plant.
Spend some time soaking up the cosmopolitan sites of Santa Cruz, where you can also enjoy one of the country's best festivals at the city's carnival this month. The sun will be making an appearance a lot more than it will in other regions during February, though, so it's worth heading out to the smaller, tranquil city of Tarija, from where you can discover all about the Bolivian wine scene. Grape harvesting is just beginning in the nearby viticultural region of Valle de la Concepción.
Events in February
Virgen de la Candelaria, nationwide. This, on February 2, sometimes continuing until February 5, is one of the more vivid and vibrant festivals of the calendar year. There are dances, parades, and some tasty street food on offer—all in celebration of the Virgin Mary who is believed to bring blessing and good fortune in locations across the country. Copacabana, on Lake Titicaca, hosts particularly big celebrations. Here, even the cars get blessed (with beer!).
Carnaval, Oruro and Santa Cruz. Common to most Latin American countries, this is celebrated with particular gusto in two Bolivian cities: Oruro and Santa Cruz.
Traveling to Bolivia in February? Check out these great itineraries
Bolivia & Atacama, Chile - 12 Days. This trip takes you to some of this part of South America's ultimate extremes: the highest capital city, the surreal salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni, and the otherworldly rocky landscapes of the Atacama Desert.
Bolivian Cities, Cloud Forests & Salt Flats- 9 Days. This trip has it all: the culturally dynamic high-altitude city of La Paz, a heart-in-mouth mountain bike ride down the camino de muerte (road of death), the spellbinding cloud forests of Bolivia's Yungas region, and a visit to a community of coca farmers.