Semana Santa (Holy Week)
Bolivia’s official religion was the catholicism, before the country was legally declared as multi-ethnic and multi-cultural from then on Bolivia respects all the religions and beliefs, even so the religion with most predominance is still catholicism. And as such, Holy Week is still one of the most important holidays of the country.
This holiday is defined as:
Holy Week is the week preceding Easter and the final week of Lent. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. Holy Week includes Holy Thursday (also known as Maundy Thursday) and Good Friday, which, together with Holy Saturday, are known as the Triduum. Before the revision of the liturgical calendar in 1969, Holy Week was the second week of Passiontide; in the current calendar, Passiontide is synonymous with Holy Week.
Therefore, in Bolivia, there is a lot of movement and touristic offers for catholics and non-catholics, all the same.
If you’re catholic or just want to experience the local cutoms for this holiday, Bolivia has a lot to offer to everyone, from adventure to relaxation, everything for people of all religions, so we’ve put together some reasons why you should visit Bolivia during this holiday.
The first reason obviously is food, when we speak of food we imagine a whole dish of great food! But here the custom is to eat from 7 to 12 dishes (yes you read right, 7 to 12 dishes) of Bolivia’s most delicious meals. But that’s not all, each and every dish can’t contain meat at all! Yes, no beef, no chicken, no pork… sea food? well that is a different story, since the custom is to eat food as a symbol of Jesuschrist’s Last Supper.
But do not think it’s all about gaining a few pounds, since the food you eat is equal to your actions. (Yes that’s the catch, but no one keeps track so don’t worry) therefore the second reason is to perform a pilgramage, each city and each neighborhood has a different route, it is about 12 blocks from a church to another, symbolizing the pilgramage of the route Jesuschrist took during the passion.
Nonetheless, there are a few that take a way longer trip, let’s say about 200 km (about 124 miles). For instance, from La Paz City to Copacabana City, at about 3600 masl, pilgrims trek and/or bike from city to city in order to reach their final destination, the Sanctuary of the “Virgen de Copacabana”, one of the most important religious sanctuaries in the entire country. I know it is not ideal if you’re not catholic, but if you’re an all-together athlete, this is your route since you have to make your way through the cold, the rain, the sun, and the heat exploring a route that covers a part of the great Bolivian High Plateau considered as one of the most difficult terrains to explore due to the altitude, the weather and living conditions.
If you are more of a swimmer, the Tiquina Narrow Pass is a crossing required to get to the city of Copacabana, here professional swimmers from different countries train to battle altitude, nearly frosting and rough waters to cross that part of the Highest Lake in the world, the Titikaka Lake. It is so extreme that both Navy officers and Police officers provide constant support to the swimmers to ensure their safety.
If you’re a bit less hardcore, there are also routes that take you through the Yungas, which is the third reason, being one of the most beautiful areas of La Paz, you can actually follow an ancient trail “La Ruta del Inca” (The Route of the Inca or Inca Trail). Built as a road for commerce and communication for the Incan Empire, it was the only way to get through the Yungas Jungle, being a beautiful road in which you witness a unique landscape of exuberant vegetation and the ancient construction ways that remain still today, it is not that dangerous if you have some experience in trekking, it is a straight, well built road with a couple of deviations, which is completed in 3 days to experience a life changing oportunity.
The big brother of this route is called The Choro considered a route for experts only, this is a 4 day trek and should only be accesed with an expert guide. It is a way longer option to visit the Yungas Jungle, more difficult due to the danger of this trail, this is the route for the true adventurer.
In order to talk about the fourth reason, it is neccessary to ask a spooky yet dramatized question. Have you ever heard of the Death Road? Yep that’s right, this was featured as one of the most dangerous routes in the world crossing through the mountains in the Yungas Jungle, it is a narrow path used for trucks and public transportation. Built in the first quarter of the twenieth century, this road was made to access the town of Coroico and cross through the furthest regions of La Paz, deep inside the mountains and jungle.
This road has become a great attraction for mountain bikers, being an adventure for experienced and intermediate bikers alike, with a trip through 64 km (40 miles) and arriving to the town of Coroico where most bikers want to relax in the warm and comfortable weather and head back to La Paz to rest, eventhough this is an every weekend activity, it is mostly full during this period.
The fifth reason to visit Bolivia during Holy Week is relaxation and the second stress-free reason in this article, there are lots of resorts, hotels and hostels that offer the best service during this three days (Holy Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter). From events and parties by the pools, to great buffets with lots and lots of food and delicious drinks, this is the way to enjoy a weekend without that pinch of anxiety caused by the everyday life.