Departments of Bolivia

Buy data    Donate


Bolivia adopted a new constitution in 2009. It provides for the potential autonomy of certain subdivisions. The province of Gran Chaco has voted to be made into an autonomous region. Currently (2013-11), a Plurinational Constitutional Court is deliberating on the constitutional admissibility of this request.

I've updated the population using 2012 census figures as given in source [10], provided by Sorin Cosoveanu.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter number II-1, dated 2010-02-03, has only one change for Bolivia. It recognizes the new country name, Plurinational State of Bolivia.

Source [5] defines a set of codes for the subdivisions of the member countries of the Comunidad Andina  (Andean Community): Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. The codes and subdivision names constitute the Nomenclatura de las Unidades Territoriales Estadísticas de la Comunidad Andina (NUTE ANDINA) (Nomenclature of Statistical Territorial Units). This work appears to be part of a collaboration with Eurostat, the European consortium that developed the NUTS codes for subdivisions of countries.

Country overview: 

Short nameBOLIVIA
ISO codeBO
LanguageSpanish (es)
Time zone-4
CapitalsLa Paz, Sucre


Bolivia has been independent for the whole 20th century. It has had numerous boundary disputes with its neighbors, usually losing. Its boundaries have remained quite stable since 1950.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Bolivia
  2. Dutch: Bolivië, Republiek Bolivië (formal)
  3. English: Plurinational State of Bolivia (formal)
  4. Finnish: Bolivia
  5. French: Bolivie, État m Plurinational de Bolivie f (formal)
  6. German: Bolivien n
  7. Icelandic: Bólivía
  8. Italian: Bolivia f
  9. Norwegian: Bolivia, Republikken Bolivia (formal)
  10. Portuguese: Bolívia, República f da Bolívia f (formal)
  11. Russian: Многонациональное Государство Боливия (formal)
  12. Spanish: Bolivia, Estado m Plurinacional de Bolivia f (formal)
  13. Swedish: Bolivia
  14. Turkish: Bolivya Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Named in honor of Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), independence fighter.

Primary subdivisions: 

Bolivia is divided into nine departamentos (departments).

El BeniBO.EBBBL0310208421,196213,56482,458Trinidad
La PazBO.LPLBL04101022,706,359133,98551,732La Paz
Santa CruzBO.SCSBL08102072,655,084370,621143,098Santa Cruz (de la Sierra)
9 departments10,027,2621,098,581424,164
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2. Same as first letter on vehicle plates.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • NUTE: Nomenclature of Statistical Territorial Units.
  • Population: 2012-11-21 census (source [10]).

Further subdivisions:

See the Provinces of Bolivia page.

The departments are divided into 112 provincias (provinces). The provinces are subdivided into secciones de provincias (sections or subprovinces). The sections are further subdivided into cantones (cantons). A 1995 book says there were 301 sections and 1,408 cantons. There are also administrative divisions known as municipios (municipalities). According to older sources, the municipalities were only defined in urban areas; however, the 2012 census report shows that the sum of the populations of the municipalities equals the total population of Bolivia.

Source [4] says that there were 324 municipalities as of 2002-06-30. Among them there were ten newly-created municipalities (since 1999) which had not been completely demarcated yet. Source [10] lists 339 municipalities, among which are 25 marked as newly created since the 2001 census. This implies that there were 314 municipalities at the time of the 2001 census, and all ten municipalities referred to in source [4] were created between 2001-09-05 and 2002-06-30.

The first three digits of the NUTE codes represent an arbitrary set of statistical areas. 101 is Occidental (Western), 102 is Oriental (Eastern), and 103 is Central.

Territorial extent: 

The border between Cochabamba and El Beni is still not defined.

The UN LOCODE page  for Bolivia lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. El Beni: from the River Beni. Beni is Pano (a native dialect) for river.
  2. La Paz: earlier name Nuestra Señora de la Paz, Spanish for "Our Lady of Peace." So named to encourage an end to internecine strife among the conquistadores.
  3. Oruro: native word for "black and white," referring to petroglyphs.
  4. Potosí: probably from Quechua potojchi: rumbling noise
  5. Santa Cruz: city founded by missionaries on 1560-09-14, festival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Spanish: Exaltación de la Santa Cruz).

Change history: 

  1. 1826-01-23: After achieving independence on 1825-08-06, Bolivia established the departments of Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz, Potosí, and Santa Cruz (and probably additional territory).
  2. 1826-09-05: Oruro department created.
  3. 1831-09-24: Tarija department created.
  4. 1842-11-18: El Beni department created.
  5. 1900-03-23: Acre reconquered by Bolivia after proclaiming its independence on 1899-07-14.
  6. 1903-11-17: Brazil purchased the Acre territory from Bolivia for two million pounds in the Treaty of Petrópolis; border demarcated 1909-09-08.
  7. ~1924: Madre de Dios territory split from La Paz department.
  8. 1925: Bolivia (Potosí department) acquired land from Argentina (Jujuy province).
  9. ~1938: Madre de Dios renamed Colonial Territories (Spanish: Territorio de Colonias).
  10. 1938: Bolivia and Paraguay had a long-standing dispute over the Gran Chaco, which lay between the Paraguay and Pilcomayo Rivers north into Santa Cruz. Until 1932, it was divided along a line roughly from the split of the Pilcomayo River to Fuerte Olimpo. Oil was discovered. Both countries tried to assert their rights. They fought the Chaco War from 1932 to 1935. In the eventual peace settlement, Bolivia lost most of the disputed territory - parts of Chuquisaca, Santa Cruz, and Tarija departments - to Paraguay.
  11. 1938-09-24: Colonial Territories became Pando department.
  12. ~1943: There was a short-lived Chaco department, capital Villa Montes, later annexed to Tarija.
  13. There have been minor adjustments to the department boundaries.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. El Beni: Beni (variant)
  2. Pando: Colonial Territories, Madre de Dios (obsolete); Territorio Nacional de Colonias (obsolete-Spanish)

Population history:

El Beni32,180119,770168,367276,174362,521421,196
La Paz445,616948,4461,465,0781,900,7862,350,4662,706,359
Santa Cruz209,592286,145710,7241,364,3892,029,4712,655,084


Data for 1900 come from source [7]; 1950, from sources [8] and [9]; 1976 to 2001, from source [3]; 2012, from source [10]. In regard to the 1950 census, source [8] says, "Figures adjusted to account for an estimated 8.4 percent underenumeration; population actually enumerated was 2,704,165." Source [9] says, "Including adjustment of 314,866 for underenumeration and estimated tribal Indian population."


  1. [1] Library of Congress country study  (retrieved 1999).
  2. [2] Atlas de Bolivia. Ediciones Geomundo, Barcelona, Spain, 1985.
  3. [3] Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Bolivia, table of department populations (, dead link, retrieved 2004-05-15).
  4. [4] A paper on Bolivia posted at the website of the Ohio State University Agriculture department (, dead link, retrieved 2004-11-09).
  5. [5] Decision 534 , Nomenclatura de las Unidades Territoriales Estadísticas de la Comunidad Andina (NUTE ANDINA). Comunidad Andina, dated 2002-10-02, retrieved 2004-11-09.
  6. [6] Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Bolivia (, dead link, retrieved 2002-11-02, had 2001 census results).
  7. [7] Keltie, J. Scott, ed. The Statesman's Year-Book 1913. Macmillan, London, 1913.
  8. [8] Demographic Yearbook , 7th Edition. Statistical Office of the United Nations, New York, 1955 (retrieved 2011-08-20).
  9. [9] Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition, Chicago, 1984.
  10. [10] "Decreto Supremo N° 1672 ", Gaceta Oficial del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. La Paz, 2013-07-31. Annex "Bolivia: Población Según Municipio" (Source: Instituto Nacional de Estadística; retrieved 2013-09-08).
Back to main statoids page Last updated: 2015-06-30
Copyright © 2002-2006, 2009-2011, 2013, 2015 by Gwillim Law.