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. It's drier than any month since November in La Paz at the moment, with 2.8 inches/70mm of precipitation likely on average. Of course, compared to this region at other times of year, and to other regions at this time, that is still quite wet! And to compound things, it will feel cold: whilst temperatures remain in the 37-55°F/3-13°C range, there are fewer daily hours of sunshine than any other time of year in March in La Paz (five).
Cobija, in the far north near the Brazilian border, is broadly representative of this region. Rainfall stays high this month (9.3 inches/ 235mm on average) here and sunshine, as the previous two months, remains at six hours average daily, the year's joint-lowest level. The average temperature range right now is 70-88°F/21-31°C.
Santa Cruz is broadly representative of this region as a whole, where the good news is that rainfall is dropping right off this month (just 4.7 inches/ 120mm are expected to fall). A steady seven hours of sun daily can be expected: a sweet two more than most of the Andes can hope for at this time.
Crowds & Costs
You won't see hoards of tourists descending on Bolivia in March, as the weather is still too far from perfect in both the Andes and the Amazon for the country to warrant that many visits. It's a time to ask for deals on hotels and tours, although prices in Bolivia are already very reasonable.
Where to Go
The big cities, La Paz and Sucre, are brilliant places to spend time in March. La Paz is not that sunny and fairly wet, but so is much of the region, and the capital has plenty of inside activities to draw visitors. The museums make a great start point, with the Ethnography Museum, the Coca Museum and the Plaza Museum of Contemporary Art all offering telling insights into Bolivia's dynamic culture. These days, the city restaurants are highly regarded: some, like Gustu, have had a Michelin-starred chef behind them!
Fancy something simpler? A great way to beat the cold, fill your belly and get an idea of how life ticks by here is to sample the delicious street food snack the salteña, available at stands city-wide. There are also some intriguing markets in La Paz, like the Mercado de las Brujas (Witches Market).
Sucre, where the weather is balmier, has several interesting colonial buildings to visit, including the famous Casa de la Libertad: Bolivia's Declaration of Independence was signed here. Meanwhile Oruro is the place to be for carnival, should carnival fall during this month.
The weather is getting better in the rainforest, although wildlife is still reticent to emerge in the heavy rain and road travel often remains a nightmare with muddy quagmires and floods possibilities. Stick to the bigger cities here, like Trinidad or Rurrenabaque, then if weather conditions are suitable for spotting wildlife, head from there out onto the jungle rivers such as the Beni where a range of fauna and flora can be seen.
The savanna, for yet another month, is the top place to be in Bolivia right now. Santa Cruz, as the region's largest and most dynamic city, has one of the country's best carnivals, which sometimes falls in March. Tarija is another place to linger at the moment, with the Fiesta de la Uva (Grape festival and harvest) happening at the moment. The grape harvest is also especially fascinating, of course, if you journey into the Valle de la Concepción where Bolivia's best wineries are located.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
Continued wet weather in the Andes is perfect for some things: especially white water rafting! For this activity, the place to head is Coroico and the North Yungas region, northeast from La Paz, on the Río Coroico. Back in La Paz, treat yourself to a gourmet Andean dining experience at one of the well-regarded restaurants, peruse a museum or browse a market. Just outside the city, among the many things to do is to visit a coca farm, where coca is now being harvested!
As previously mentioned, this is far from the best month for a rainforest foray. Even if it stays dry on the days you are there, rain will have made road travel more trying and most importantly, the wildlife that you can glimpse from as soon as next month is not all there to see yet (you'll still see some, but not anywhere near as much). A boat trip along a jungle river from Trinidad and Rurrenabaque will still be very enjoyable, however.
A party might be the most appropriate way to kickstart your vacation in the savanna in March. It's not just big city Santa Cruz that has been celebrating of late: the feel-good factor extends to Tarija (Fiesta de la Uva or Grape Festival) and Tarabuco (Pukllay). If you don't get the chance in Tarija, go wine-tasting in the Valle de la Concepción. Surprisingly close to Santa Cruz, and a must-do if the rain holds off, there is the tempting Amboró National Park, one of Bolivia's finest national parks. Predominantly jungle, it nevertheless has better weather for outdoor activities than the rainforest in Bolivia's north, and quite a few walking trails.
Events in March
Carnaval, Oruro and Santa Cruz. As in many Latin American countries, this is a big celebration in Bolivia too. Revelry mainly happens in two Bolivian cities: Oruro and Santa Cruz.
Fiesta de la Uva, Tarija. This is the time of the annual grape harvest, with celebrations of the grapes, of wine and of spirits made from grapes (as well as some serious grape-picking!).
Pukllay/Phujllay, Tarabuco. Held in Tarabuco, Chuquisaca, this festival remembers victory over the Spanish in 1816 by local tribes. It's among the most interesting and colorful celebrations in Bolivia.
Semana Santa, nationwide. Holy week, as in other Latin American countries, can fall in March and is celebrated in Bolivia as elsewhere with processions, festivities, and stalls vending interesting street food.
Traveling to Bolivia in March? Check out these great itineraries
La Paz City Adventure - 5 Days. Check out the cultural thrills of the highest capital city in the world, from posh Andean cuisine and a cable car ride above the city to the nearby Unesco archaeological site of Tiwanaku.
Bolivian Landscapes, Cultures & Communities: Cochabamba, Torotoro, Uyuni, La Paz & More - 14 Days. Experience a 2-week odyssey through some of the country's best cultural experiences, from chilled Samiapata and cosmopolitan Sucre to canyon treks and the magical salt flats of Salar de Uyuni: not to mention the thriving and fascinating capital of La Paz itself.