Bolivia, like many South American countries, is divided into several geographical zones, each of which has their 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.
Framed by Andean peaks, La Paz, gives you a good idea as to weather conditions in the entire region. High altitude here makes for consistently cool days, which are just right for exploring, with maximum temperatures hitting around 55°F/13°C. Nights are considerably colder (bring plenty of layers), sometimes dipping as low as 32°F/0°C.
This is one of the driest months of the year, with an average of just three days of rain. Morning mists often give way to dazzling sunshine and crisp light ideal for photography. Be prepared for temperatures to be slightly colder in other reaches of the Andes, such as Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni, especially at night where they can fall to 27°F/-3°C.
Sidling up to the border with Brazil in the north, Cobija is broadly representative of this region when it comes to weather. May brings significantly drier climes (just eight days of rain as opposed to 13 in April), opening up access to the rainforest and improving chances of spotting wildlife. Temperatures are warm (64-84°F/18-29°C) but not as intensely hot and humid as in summer.
Santa Cruz is a good reference point for the weather in this region. In May, you can expect pleasantly warm but not overly hot conditions, with average temperatures hovering between 61°F/16°C and 77°F/25°C. There's around seven hours of sunshine per day, and rain is easing up (seven days in the month, so mostly dry but still be prepared for the odd shower).
Crowds & Costs
May is a terrific time to visit Bolivia, with reliable weather, mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine. The month marks the onset of the high season, yet things are just starting to pick up in terms of visitor numbers and are still relatively quiet compared to the peak months of July and August. Come now and you can still snag some great deals on accommodation and tours, though prices are in Bolivia year-round by comparison with many neighboring countries. Rooms are at a premium and rates rise accordingly during major events like the countrywide Fiesta de la Cruz (May 3rd) and the elaborate processions of the Gran Poder in La Paz in late May.
Where to Go
With its exciting – and rapidly expanding - food scene, one-of-a-kind museums and galleries, and vibrant markets, La Paz makes a brilliant base for striking out into the Andes. Time your visit late in the month to live it up at the Gran Poder festival, bringing colourful costumed parades, dancing and partying to the city’s streets.
May is dry, bright and ideal for exploring Lake Titicaca, and the spectacular, snow-white salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni (deals can be had on tours if you’re prepared to bargain). The higher you go, the more warm layers you’ll need for chilly, starlit nights, when temperatures occasionally dip below the freezing mark.
The floods and heavy rains of summer are long gone, with drier days and marginally cooler temperatures making May a fantastic month to delve into Bolivia’s wildlife-rich rainforest. Crowds are fewer and prices lower than in peak months for the boat tours departing from towns and cities like Rurrenabaque and Trinidad, plus there’s the lustre and freshness from the recent rains.
The quiet colonial town of Vallegrande in the Andean foothills flicks into party mode for the Fiesta de la Cruz on May 3rd. Drier, sunnier days and warm temperatures perfect for exploring make this a great month for a dose of culture in regional city Santa Cruz. From here it’s an easy hop northeast to the Jesuit mission circuit of Chiquitania. Or you could head on south instead to Valle de la Concepción, close to the border with Argentina, to taste some of the highest-grown wines in the world. The surrounding hills beckon should you be in the mood for some off-the-radar hiking to little-known Inca sites.
What to Do
La Paz is a fantastic springboard for a trip to the Andes, with its burgeoning food scene (now firmly on the world map thanks to a raft of new gourmet restaurants headed up by famous chefs), culture (the Ethnography Museum and the Plaza Museum of Contemporary Art are particularly outstanding) and frenetic street life. The city's phenomenal backdrop of Andean peaks will most likely to have you itching to head higher.
From here, you could make a side trip to the pre-Hispanic ruins of Unesco-listed archaeological site Tiwanaku on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca, then overnight the night in Copacabana, the base for trips across to the enigmatic Isla del Sol and its pre-Columbian ruins. Pick a dry day if you want to ramp up the action mountain biking the nerve-splintering, hairpin-riddled "Death Road". Uyuni is a good jumping-off point for tours of the otherworldly salt flats, which are now far more accessible than during the rainy season.
Planning a rainforest trip in May – wise choice! This is a fine, dry month to dodge the high season crowds, make the most of shoulder-season discounts and see the wildlife at its prime. Boat trips along the Río Beni depart from the laid-back town Rurrenabaque, and you with any luck you’ll spot the likes of macaws and capybaras, piranhas and pink dolphins. Right on its doorstep, the Madidi National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Easier to access still, colonial Trinidad is another appealing gateway to the Amazon, with some memorable boat trips along the Río Mamoré on offer.
Break up time spent outdoors with a shot of culture in the city of Santa Cruz, with its 17th-century basilica, botanical gardens, museums of sacred and contemporary art, and surprisingly diverse food scene. Plenty of sunshine makes this a wonderful month for tours and tastings at the wineries in Valle de la Concepción, using the nicely chilled town of Tarija as your base.
Fiesta de la Cruz (Festival of the Cross) Paying homage to the cross on which Jesus was crucified, this festival on May 3rd brings singing, dancing and much merrymaking to Vallegrande (Santa Cruz), Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and Cochabamba.
Gran Poder In late May, La Paz pulls out all the stops at this must-see festival, with thousands of elaborately costumed dancers and candlelit parades.
Traveling to Bolivia in May? Check out these great itineraries
Explore the Andes and Amazon Rainforest - 10 Days From the world's highest capital, La Paz, you'll descend into the lush wildlife-rich rainforest on this 10-day adventure, with a stint on the shores of magical Lake Titicaca.
Bolivian Cities, Cloud Forests & Salt Flats- 9 Days This trip spans everything from culturally dynamic capital La Paz to a heart-in-mouth mountain bike ride down the camino de muerte (road of death) and the spellbinding cloud forests of Bolivia's Yungas region: not to mention the otherworldly salt flats of Salar de Uyuni.