In this post, you will know what to visit in Cochabamba, Villa Tunari and Santa Cruz. We started our journey in La Paz, the city that we know very well. You can find information about La Paz here.
How to get to Cochabamba from La Paz?
Take a local bus from the main terminal in La Paz. It can be during the night our day. We took a bus at 10.30am and we were in Cochabamba at around 7pm…Yes, the journey takes a lot. Normally the lady who was selling the tickets told me, that the bus arrives at 5pm in Cochabamba but you know, it’s Bolivia. They are never ON TIME. The daily buses to Cochabamba starts between 10 and 11am. I don’t know if you find the buses in the afternoon.
Cochabamba is a quite relaxed city with lots of attractions to visit. First thing that we did there was going to LA CANCHA. What is La Cancha? It’s the biggest market in all South America. And it’s totally worth going there. If you are a photo lover, people lover, fruit and food lover, this place is made for you. We definitely loved everything there. It’s a huge mess all around this place but you can feel the real atmosphere of Bolivia, Bolivian people and its traditions. Don’t forget to try delicious sweet fruits, orange juice and salteñas on this market. It’s very easy to get there, it will take you about 15 minutes from the center. Just ask local people about La Cancha. You have to take care about your personal things because this market is very crowded, there are even cars and chicken buses passing through, so be careful! On the other hand, we felt very safe in Cochabamba, people do not rush like in La Paz. It’s a calm city.
The other thing what you can do there is a bit of sport 🙂 From the center of the city, you can point a huge statue of Jesus Christ on the hill which is called ‘Cristo Blanco’. It’s about 30 minutes from the centre to get there on foot. Very easy to find, you just follow the big Christ ;). You can take a lift (don’t know the price) or go there on foot. It will take you no more than 40 minutes from the footsteps to the top of this hill. I recommend you to get there on foot. It is a really good exercise with a bit of altitude. Finally, Cochabamba lies on 2574 meters and Cristo Blanco is situated on an altitude of about 2800m. Thus, you can have a really nice exercise while getting to the top! To your information, this statue is bigger than the one in Rio De Janeiro. The Christ in Cochabamba has about 40 meters and in Rio 38 meters. While getting to the top, there are some stands with snacks and cold water if you forgot to buy before. From the top, you have all the view on the city of Cochabamba. The view is totally ‘vale la pena’ worth it! Especially go there for the sunrise or sunset. We have been there for sunset and got some nice shots that you can admire below 😉 There is no entrance fee to get there. What’s more, it’s not a dangerous area to go there. It’s not like in Quito,the Statue of Virgin Mary that lies on the top of the hill, everybody tells you that is dangerous to go there and you will be robbed. The Crist from Cochabamba is situated in a nice area. Additionally, there are so many locals going there just to chill out, that you won’t be at risk. Of course, I don’t recommend you to go there by night. But during the daylight up to sunset, the area is safe.
Another place that you shouldn’t miss in this city is Plaza de 14 Setiembre which simply is Plaza the Armas or the main market square. There is an old colonial cathedral, a lot of arcades, some nice bars like Cafe Paris. A lot of locals are hanging out there.
Places to eat that we recommend:
- near plaza Colon:
- TEX – MEX, a mexican bar/restaurant with a lovely terrace. You can get artisanal beers very cheap! Very good food as well. Prices: between 30-60BS. Small portions.
- Novecento – a restaurant with italian/ bolivian/ spanish food. Prices: between 50bs for a dish. Excellent design inside. Very relaxing place. HUGE PORTIONS.
- near plaza de armas:
- there a few bars/ cafes neat the centre: Cafe Paris seems to be awesome, the other one with little patio was good as well.
Next stop on our map was Villa Tunari. Situated only 3 hours from Cochabamba but the climate and the atmosphere of this place are totally different from Cochabamba! Why? The climate already changed while we were still in a minivan going to Villa Tunari. Firstly, we drove through a pass over 3000m above the sea level. Then, the altitude was decreasing quite fast and the climate was more humid, more greenish and HOT! Yes, we were in the jungle and we were expecting this. Once arrived at Villa Tunari, we started to look for a good place to stay. We saw some many nice hostels with big swimming pools. Finally, we decided to stay in a hotel PUERTO SELVA that had simple rooms but an amazing pool with a view on the river and the forest. The prices depend on the period of your arrival. We arrived there at the beginning of the carnaval (february) so the prices of the hotels were quite expensive, there were mostly only bolivians who can pay a lot of money for a simple hotel. But, with my negotiation skills, we got a relatively good price for what we got!
What to do in Villa Tunari?
It was extremely hot in february, everyday we had some rain showers that could refresh us a bit. However, during the sunny days you feel like staying in the swimming pool for the whole day…;) First attraction that we visited was Parque Hormigas. We paid 30bs to get the taxi there (about 12 km from VT), BUT if I were you now, I would take the bikes to visit this place. The other fee is the entrance ticket, it’s quite expensive, costs 40bs (5 euros) per person. In this park you can visit some species of animals like monkeys, parrots, birds, caimans etc…We spent there about 5 hours and one hour more we were talking to an old lady who owned a little shop by the park. She was very keen to talk to us. We bought some fruits from her while she was talking about her life in Spain, Bolivia, about her family. We had a really nice discussion with her.
Next day we went to visit Parque Machia which is places in Villa Tunari. You don’t need any transport to get there, just your legs 😉 It’s 10 minutes from the “centre” of Villa Tunari. You have to pass a bridge, but be careful cause there are so many trucks crossing the bridge, and there is no footpath. The entrance to the park costs about 10 bolivianos, very cheap in comparison to other parks. Actually, this park is the cheapest and the best. Why? Because there are no animals in the cages, they live in freedom. However, we saw about 3 monkeys that were tied up to a tree…I don’t know why. The best place to explore within this park is the MIRADOR. You have to go up for about 25 minutes until you arrive to a viewpoint where you can spot Villa Tunari and you will meet a lot of monkeys around you! Check out our photos! One advice: don’t be rude with the monkeys, don’t touch them too much, some of them can be quite agressive. I saw one monkey biting a girl who was touching the monkey.
Other activities that you can do in Villa Tunari:
- Rafting (we were supposed to do it but the heavy rain came and we had to abandon…the cost per person is of 150 bolivianos)
- Cascadas (waterfalls) – about 15 minutes by mototaxi
- Some canyoning tours (they were not available when we were there)
Accommodation in Villa Tunari: we stayed in Hotel Puerto Selva (the hotel itself wasn’t very nice but it had a perfect swimming pool with the best view within whole Villa Tunari). Best restaurant in Villa: don’t remember the name, but for sure you won’t miss it cause there are always a lot of people inside and it’s in the center.
From VT we took a bus to Santa Cruz (we took a bus at 8pm at arrived at 3am to Santa Cruz). SC is a nice, charming city. We stayed there only 2 nights, more for chill out than for a visit.
If you are in Villa Tunari and going to Santa Cruz, you should definitely visit a little paradise of Samaipata.
If you would like to visit Bolivia with us, check our website on facebook fanpage here or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.