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.
Sitting astride a mountain plateau at 11,942ft (3,640m) above sea level, La Paz gives a broad indication of what the weather is like in the Andes in general. In September, things are starting to get slightly warmer, with highs of 55°F/13°C and lows of 32°F/-0°C. As the elevation increases, things get cooler, however, so you’ll still need plenty of layers, a sweater and a warm jacket if you’re venturing up to Lake Titicaca or the Salar de Uyuni, where temperatures can drop as low as 28°F/-2°C.
The heat has been turned up in the Amazon with the arrival of spring, and September is the hottest month. Cobija, on the Brazilian border in the far north of the country, is broadly representative of the weather in the rainforest. While it is still dry season, making access by road easy and bumping up your chances of spotting wildlife, temperatures are now rising to 93°F/34°C, making things feel hot, steamy (and sweaty at times!). The rainy season is a way off yet, but you should be prepared for the odd shower or thunderstorm, with an average of seven rainy days in September.
Abundant warm, dry weather makes September a brilliant time to explore Bolivia’s lowlands, with around eight hours of sunshine a day and an average of just five rainy days in the month. The conditions are ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking. Santa Cruz can be used as a benchmark for the region, with temperatures reaching up to 84°F/29°C, and still pleasantly warm lows of 66°F/19°C.
Crowds & Costs
Winter is coming to a close in September and the crowds begin to ease up with the arrival of spring. This is a relatively peaceful time to visit (especially the latter half of the month), with largely dry, sunny days and slowly increasing temperatures taking the chill off the altiplano. Despite a slight increase in rain, it’s still a great month for adventure sports. And as visitor numbers begin to drop, so too do room rates and the cost of guided tours. You’ll need to book ahead if you plan to tie in your trip with the Fiesta de San Roque in Tarija on the first Sunday of the month, however.
Where to Go
A city with altitude and a breathtaking mountain backdrop, La Paz is the gateway to the Andes. Spend a day or two here to acclimatize before striking out into the llama-dotted wilds of the altiplano. With the weather still largely dry and temperatures gently rising, this is a wonderful time to take a 4WD tour of the Salar de Uyuni’s surreally beautiful, shimmering white salt flats and the hot springs and colour-tinted, flamingo-filled lakes close by, and some good deals should now be available now the crowds have thinned. Lake Titicaca holds plenty of appeal this month, too, with slightly warmer—and still bright—days for hiking and boat trips over to the mysterious ruins on Isla del Sol, birthplace of the Incas.
It is sure getting hot in the Amazon, but if you can keep your cool September is a fantastic time to come in many respects, with far fewer travelers than in July and August meaning better deals at ecolodges and on guided hiking tours and boat trips. Odd shower and storm aside, the weather is still nice and dry, too, upping your chances of face-to-face wildlife encounters in the likes of the vast Madidi National Park. Great springboards for accessing the jungle include Trinidad, with its attractive plaza and colonnaded streets, and ever so chilled Rurrenabaque, where you can flop on a hammock before jungle and pampas tours.
September is a peaceful time to visit Bolivia’s savanna region, with few crowds and largely dry and warm conditions. Devote a day or two to the museums, food and nightlife of easy-going Santa Cruz, which is well placed for a road trip of the Jesuit missions in nearby Chiquitania. Relaxed Samaipata has a hippie vibe, spectacularly lush mountain surrounds and proximity to the wildlife-rich Amboró National Park. Much further south, close to the border with Argentina, Tarija is a good base for discovering the high-altitude Valle de la Concepción, home to some of the world’s highest vineyards.
What to Do
Bolivia's highlands are a delight to explore in the quieter month of September, and the crisp, bright weather on the altiplano is an added boon. Conditions are just right for outdoor adventures, whether you want to up the thrill (and fear) factor on the road from La Paz to Coroico through the shaggy forest-cloaked mountains of the Yungas, or go off the radar for a spell hiking a multi-day trail through the soaring peaks of the spectacular Cordillera Real.
For more of a cultural focus, factor in a trip to the former silver mining town of Potosí, once the economic heart of Spain’s empire and now a Unesco World Heritage site. Or head to the country’s sugar-white capital, Sucre, for a feast of museums and colonial architecture.
The heat is cranking up in the Bolivian Amazon now, so be sure to allow ample time for simply swinging in a hammock and cooling down pre- or post-tour at an ecotourism hub like Rurrenabaque, a relaxed base for slow boat tours along the Río Beni and a springboard for exploring the astonishingly biodiverse Madidi National Park (September is still a fantastic month for wildlife sightings as the dry weather lingers).
Here you can canoe through the wilds, hook onto a multi-day trek or go rafting, keeping an eye out for the likes of howler monkeys, pink river dolphins, macaws, and capybaras. With some colonial flair, Trinidad is a great alternative for jungle hiking and boat trips along the Río Mamoré to the Brazilian border.
If you are looking for more of an offbeat adventure, Bolivia's lesser-explored savanna is the go-to region, and September is a terrific month for a cross-country trip. Perhaps devote a day or two to Santa Cruz, a characterful city with colonial architecture, an exciting food scene, and attractions swinging from botanical gardens to a museum of regional history.
In the latter, you can get the inside scoop on the Jesuit missions in nearby Chiquitano before heading out to see the restored churches for real. This is a fine month for hiking in the lush jungle wilds of the Amboró National Park, home to the rare spectacled bear. Or opt for vineyard tours and wine tasting instead in the high-altitude Valle de la Concepción, using Tarija as your base.
Fiesta de San Roque This fiesta in the wine-growing center of Tarija is the big one in September: eight days of solid partying, parades, music, dancing and flamboyant costumes. It kicks off on the first Sunday of the month.
Virgen de Guadalupe Held in early September, this festival is an all-out celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with folk dancing, music, feasting and colorful costumed parades. It's at its party-loving best in capital Sucre.
Traveling to Bolivia in September? Check out these great itineraries
Bolivia & Atacama, Chile - 12 Days Get ready for South America's extremes: the highest capital city, tradition-rich La Paz, the Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flats and one of the driest places on the planet - the Atacama Desert, full of otherworldly rock formations.
Bolivian Cities, Cloud Forests & Salt Flats- 9 Days You will begin in vibrant high-altitude city of La Paz, but be prepared for a lot more adventure: the 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: not to mention time in the strange and vast salt flats of Salar de Uyuni.