The ultimate guide to the best gifts and souvenirs from Bolivia.
A gift or remembrance is usually the best way to share a part of your journey with friends and loved ones back home. We have put together a list of 12 best gifts and souvenirs from Bolivia that shouldn’t miss if you happen to find your way into Bolivian territory.
The bowler hat, which is one of the most recognizable features of the typical Bolivian woman’s outfit, can be found in outdoor markets and stands. It is said that the way it is worn tells you about the marital status of the woman. If it is worn at a jaunty angle to the side, this tells us that the woman is single or widowed and if worn flat on the head this means that the woman is married.
The poncho is a traditional clothing typically worn by people living in the Andes and Bolivia to keep them warm from the cold mountain climate. They are colorful and bright and come in many different, unique designs. Many of these are made from alpaca wool making the quality stronger, more durable and less prickly than sheep’s wool.
Stone carved talismans are a typical sight, especially at the famed Witches Market in La Paz or on the streets of places like Santa Cruz and Illampu. You can find faces carved into Stone, something that is akin to mini totem poles, and animal statues. While many of these Amulets and traditional handcrafted objects are often sold to bring good luck or to drive away evil spirits, if you aren’t too superstitious (and steer clear of the llama foetuses and dissected frogs) they can make for interesting gifts.
The Bolivian textile boasts bright and vibrant colors that are used not only for the traditional garb, like the multi-layered petticoats worn by Bolivian women, but for many other products such as bags, shoes, hats etc. These are sold in stacks in the marketplaces and are sold by the meter. Bring some home and create some unique pieces that will make you stand out in a crowd!
This spicy alcoholic drink with strong hints of anis can only be found in Bolivia. Supay, the name of the drink, is the god of death and ruler of the underworld, as well as the god of minerals according to ancient Aymara, Incan and Quechuan mythology. The colorful demon mask that adorns the bottle can be seen in many traditional Bolivian festivals as the ‘diablada’ and is still worshipped by Andean miners. A shot of this drink will certainly bring out the fire in you!
Bolivia too has its share of key chains and magnets which can be found in the markets and the typical tourist trap sites. The attraction for these small souvenirs extends to most every country and serves as a small memento of places visited. The key chains depict pictures of whichever place you are visiting, while the fridge magnets usually sport knitted cholitas, as well as the colors of the Bolivian flag.
Visiting the Salt Flats of Uyuni, you will see many different souvenirs made entirely out of salt. Carvings of camels, llamas and coffers are made from the salt gathered from the salt flats. Salt crystal minerals are sold as decorative pieces and can be found on display at little market stands. However, the best salt souvenirs is the rock salt sold in little glass jars which can be found throughout Bolivia. These are specifically made for cooking and come in different flavors.
The aguayo is a traditional mantle with many colorful designs. It is made by hand and used by women from the plateaus of Bolivia and Peru. Having been made from the wool of llamas, sheep and alpaca, these mantles are strong and resistant and Bolivian women can typically be seen carrying their babies in them or using these mantles as packs to carry things. These are sold for a pretty penny so try putting your haggling skills to good use and bargain them down to a good Price.
If you find yourself with lots of space in your luggage, perhaps a nice earthenware vase is just the thing you need to fill that space. Other, smaller pottery can be found in the typical market scene: jars, pots, vases, some delicately painted in different, colorful designs while others retain a more modest clay look. The transport of these can be tricky due to its fragility, but once they arrive in one piece they can be used as decoration for any home.
This is probably one of the more recognized things to come out of the traditional Andean wear. It is worn by Bolivians as much as it is by Peruvians and is also found almost everywhere you go. They are typically made from llama wool and come in many different designs. These colorful hats are favoured by many travelers not only for their warmth in cold places, but also for its’ obvious place of origin.
If you are looking for a rare and unique gift and don’t mind splurging a bit more than usual, check out the curious wonder that is the Amentrine gem or more commonly known as the Bolivianita Stone, which also happens to be the national Stone of Bolivia. This beautiful, multi-colored gem can only be found in Bolivia. It is comprised of both amethyst and citrate which gives it its famous lavender and honey colored hue.
This odd, yet effective souvenir is one of the more popular things to buy in Bolivia. This balm containing oils such eucalyptus, menthol and pine is a favorite amongst Bolivians, alleviating ailments such as coughs, sore muscles and bites. You are sure to find this little Green tin in every Bolivian home and can be carried around due to its handy size.
Nicola King is an Australian journalist that is travelling the world in search of good food, nice people and the best stories.