One of the joys of visiting Bolivia is the chance to appreciate its colourful traditional dress and understand the rich and varied culture that permeates the entire country.
It is the indigenous heritage, dominated by the Quechua and Aymara communities, which provides the most recognisable symbols of Bolivian culture. Visitors to Lake Titicaca or the Tarabuco market near Sucre will encounter groups of women selling handicrafts in traditional peasant dress; colourful pleated skirts and shawls, topped with a 19th century European bowler hat.
The historic city of Potosí and its infamous Cerro Rico shows the glory and tragedy of Bolivia during the colonial era, whilst remote pockets of fascinating culture can be found on the edges of the Uyuni Salt Flats.
Another important outlet for indigenous culture is native folk music, featuring Andean flutes, panpipes, drums, bells and small stringed guitar-like instruments. The music regained popularity in the national consciousness following the popular revolution of 1952 and the collective efforts of the indigenous population to return their customs and culture to prominence. Visitors to Bolivia, and La Paz in particular, can enjoy folk music at nightly shows called peñas. These colourful and lively affairs range from traditional to rather touristy, but all offer a compelling night of Bolivian music, dance and story telling, usually accompanied with a typical Bolivian meal.
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