Landlocked Bolivia shares borders with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru. With an area of 424,000 square miles (1,099,050 square kilometers). Bolivia has three well-defined geographic zones — high plateau (altiplano), temperate and semitropical valleys of the eastern mountain slopes (yungas), and tropical lowlands (llanos) of the Amazon River Basin.
Lying between the main eastern and western ridges of the Andean Mountains, the altiplano is 500 miles (805 kilometers) long and 80 miles (130 kilometers) wide. At altitudes ranging from 12,000 to 14,000 feet (3,660 to 4,270 meters), it is one of the world’s highest inhabited regions. Lake Titicaca, on the altiplano, straddles the northern Bolivia-Peru border, with an area of 3,500 square miles (9,060 square kilometers), depths of 700 feet (210 meters), and a constant surface temperature of 55°F (13°C). The most agriculturally productive and populated part of the altiplano surrounds the lake. The inhabitants of the altiplano, mainly Aymara and Quechua Indians, have a subsistence agricultural and grazing economy. Their livestock includes sheep, cows, goats, alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas. Rich mineral deposits, Bolivia’s economic backbone, are found in nearby mountain areas (La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí).
Bolivia lies entirely within the Tropics, but extreme differences in elevation from 300 feet (90 meters) along the Brazilian border to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) at the highest peaks produce a great variety of climatic conditions. Coupled with soil diversity, this produces highly varied vegetation, from the sparse scrub grasses in semiarid highlands to lush rain forests containing a variety of hardwoods (Mahogany, South American, Oak, and Cedar). There are two seasons in La Paz: a rainy season beginning in December and continuing through March (it rains almost daily during this period), and a dry season running from April to November. The climate is generally cool, but brilliant sunshine raises daytime temperatures. Midday outdoor parties and activities are pleasant. Rainfall averages 20 inches (51 centimeters) a year.
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