Bolivia is sandwiched between Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Chile in central South America. It is the fifth-largest country on the continent, measuring roughly the size of France and Spain combined.

There are five geographical regions: the highly populated Altiplano, a 3500m (11,480ft) plateau that stretches from the Peruvian border north of Lake Titicaca southwards to the Argentine border; the highland valleys, which lie to the south and east of the Altiplano and which boast near optimum climatic conditions and fertile soils; the Yungas, which form the transition zone between the icy peaks of the Andes and the steamy Amazonian forest; the Chaco, a hot, dry, impenetrable and uninhabited plain along the Paraguayan and Argentine borders; and the underdeveloped swamps, savannas, scrub and rainforest of the Amazonian Basin, which occupies much of the north and east of the country.

Due to its relatively sparse population, lack of development and diverse geography, Bolivia is one of the best places on the continent to see South American wildlife.

Fauna include the rare spectacled bear, jaguar, vicuña, llama, alpaca, anteater, tapir, capybara, turtle, alligator, rhea and condor. Although Bolivia has a fairly good national park system, encroachment into the lowlands of the Amazonian Basin by settlers is increasing, and the huge fortunes awaiting those prepared to exploit the area's mineral, agricultural and timber resources have made environmentalism a less convenient posture for the government to adopt.

Because of the extreme geographical variations, Bolivia has a wide range of climatic patterns. Generally, temperatures are cool, with the rainy period extending from November to March in most of the country.

The cities of La Paz and Potosí often experience very cold temperatures and sometimes snow, while the Altiplano region is prone to severe flooding. During the dry period the climate is pleasant, though clear skies can cause nighttime temperatures to drop.

In the lowlands, the weather is hot and sunny, with the occasional cloudburst helping to cool things down.


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