Cochabamba (department)Bolivia. It lies in the Andean valley region of Bolivia, between the tropical lowlands of Santa Cruz and the highlands and altiplano in Potosí and La Paz.
The urbanized region of Cochabamba and surrounding Quillacollo and Sacaba are the economic centers of the department, and in recent years have grown to be highly linked, such that a tourist may not recognize that they are travelling between cities. Nonetheless the locals maintain that each has a distinct character. Cities in this central region include:
- - capital and largest city.
- - nearby city with a few windy colonial streets to explore, with the Virgen de Urkupiña religious festival in mid-August
- Sacaba and Colcapirhua - new suburbs of mostly concrete and highways. Sacaba has a new and modest dinosaur park, which may be appealing to children.
- Tiquipaya and Vinto - more rural suburbs with larger estate houses; Vinto is the location of Pairumani, Simón Patiño's country estate, as well as an Eco-tourism Park.
Outside the central valley of Cochabamba department, there are numerous small towns, some of which retain a well-worn version of colonial charm. The three most prominent are in the valley directly south of the departmental capital.
- - charming colonial village with the festival of San Severino in late November
- and - towns in the same valley with a few colonial buildings, handicrafts, and local culture
Further afield are a number of major attractions.
Becoming more and more popular with tourists for its nearby national parks and its climate.
TotoraA distinctive and famous colonial village on the way to Sucre.
AiquileA similar colonial village with handicrafts.
Torotoro National ParkActually in the Potosí Province, but mostly accessible from Cochabamba. Popular with travellers that head to Cochabamba for its dinosaur foot prints and remnants, large cave that you can climb into, and vast hiking opportunities.
Carrasco National Park (Chapare Region)
Parque Nacional Secure
Cochabamba is both the name for the department (like a state or province in other countries) and for the capital city, Cochabamba.
Like all Bolivian departments, Cochabamba is politically divided into several provinces. The capital city is coterminous with the province of Cercado. In general, the political divisions of Bolivia beyond department are not relevant to tourists, unless volunteering with an organization that works within a specific city, for example in a development project within the Cercado province.
When someone says "salud" in your direction and holds up a drink, it indicates that they would like to share at least a sip of their drink with you. It is impolite to refuse - use your best judgement.
By busThe best roads into and out of Cochabamba city lead to La Paz, Oruro, and Santa Cruz. It is also possible to travel to and from Potosi and Sucre by bus, but because of long, winding mountain roads at very high altitudes, the trip is uncomfortable and should be avoided. Typical prices (2011), travel times, and recommended bus companies are as follows:
- La Paz - 25 to 60 Bs; 8 hours; El Dorado, Trans Copacabana, many others
- Santa Cruz - 60 to 120 Bs; 10 hours; Trans Copacabana
- Oruro - 20 to 30 Bs; 4 hours; Trans Azul
- Potosi - 7 hours; unknown
By planeThe city of Cochabamba (CBB) is the hub of the new airline Boliviana de Aviación (BoA) and as such has good, inexpensive connections to domestic and international destinations, including Buenos Aires and São Paulo.
TAM Bolivia flies on a less regular schedule to a number smaller cities and rural towns. See the Cochabamba (city) section for more details about flight options.
There is also a new airport in the town of Chimoré located in the Chapare region of the Department. For now, only BoA flies there.
Most transport to towns within the department leave from certain distinct spots within the city of Cochabamba. They go whenever full, and are usually available throughout the day. Services to Tarata and Cliza leave from Avenida Barrientos, south of La Cancha marketplace, and cost about 5 Bs. Services to Aiquile leave from 6 de Agosto and Barrientos, and cost 20 Bs; no service on Sunday. Villa Tunari services go from Oquendo and República, and cost 15-25 Bs.
For other destinations it's good to ask a local from the tourist information office or a travel establishment, though they might try to sell you expensive private services.
- Rent a boat or in , or take a cargo ferry in (of the Santa Cruz department), and go down the river or even further in the Amazon region. Stack enough food, and bring chlorine tablets for clean water and mosquito net. See Beni (department) for all the details.
- Festivals. Visit Quillacollo, just 20 minutes from Cochabamba city, for it's Fiesta de la Virgen de Urkupiña, which is a national pilgrimage site and attract thousands of religious visitors on and round August 15th. Cochabamba city's festival is September 14th, while Tarata celebrates the fiesta de San Severino in late November, to mark the coming of the rain.
- Volunteer. Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi is 4 hours into the jungle at Villa Tunari. It offers the amazing experience of looking after previously captive tropical wild animals as a volunteer.
Cochabamba is also a good point for excursions into the rainforest Chapare Region:
- Samaipata is a town towards the Carrasco National Park and has lodging in the wilds nearby for a quiet retreat.
Fundacion Delpia"Fundacion para el Desarrollo Local de los Pueblos Indigenas Amazonicos-Andinos" is a non-profit organization that organizes tours to the National Park Isiboro Sécure and visits to local indigenous communities (4-5 days). Visitors can choose to get either integrated into the daily life of the local families (fishing, cooking, hunting, sleeping in traditional hut etc) or touring the national park with an indigenous guide by foot or canoe (sleeping in tents)
Hotel TucanThe showers are hot, the towels are clean. Not a bad place, and breakfast is included. The food is overpriced and underwhelming. The pools are free to use.
Local beers include the nationally-known Taquiña brand, though most Cochabambinos prefer Huari which comes from outside the region.
- Cochabamba city has some shady neighbourhoods.
- During the rainy season the roads throughout the province are more difficult, especially to Toro Toro.
- Going further into the jungle towards Santa Cruz offers a more tropical experience and may be more fun than battling flooded mountain roads during the rainy season, December-March.
- Going to the altiplano, especially Uyuni and the tours in that region, are a great way to continue travelling through Bolivia. Trains also go from Uyuni to the Argentine border, but it is out of the way if you'd like to go directly to Argentina.