Busy, buzzy Cochabamba is one of boom cities of Bolivia, and has a distinct, almost Mediterranean vitality that perhaps owes something to its clement climate. While much of the population of the city is typically poor, parts of town have a notably prosperous feel. The spacious new-town avenues have a wide choice of restaurants, eagerly grazed by the food-crazy cochabambinos, and the bar life is lively, driven by students and young professionals.
Despite this, Cochabamba remains a very affordable city, with prices far below those in Sucre or La Paz. You could easily find yourself staying a lot longer than you planned.
The name of the city is derived from the Quechua khocha pampa, meaning swampy plain. Cochabamba lies in a fertile green bowl, 25km long by 10km wide, set in a landscape of fields and low hills. To the northwest rises Cerro Tunari (5035m), the highest peak in central Bolivia. The rich soil of the area yields abundant crops of maize, barley, wheat, alfalfa, and orchard and citrus fruits. Cochabamba is famous for its chicha, a fermented corn drink that is the favorite tipple of the people.
Cochabamba was founded in January 1574 by Sebastián Barba de Padilla. It was originally named Villa de Oropeza in honor of the Count and Countess of Oropeza, parents of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who chartered and promoted its settlement. During the height of silver boom of Potosi, the Cochabamba Valley developed into the primary source of food for the miners in agriculturally unproductive Potosí. Thanks to its maize and wheat production, Cochabamba came to be the breadbasket of Bolivia. As importance of Potosi declined during the early 18th century, so did to Cochabamba, and grain production in the Chuquisaca (Sucre) area, much closer to Potosí, was sufficient to supply the decreasing demand.
By the mid-19th century, however, the city had reassumed its position as the granary of the nation. Elite landowners in the valley grew wealthy and began investing in highland mining ventures. Before long, the Altiplano mines were attracting international capital, and the focus of Bolivian mining shifted from Potosí to southwestern Bolivia. As a result, Cochabamba thrived and its Europeanmestizo population gained a reputation for affluence and prosperity.
In 2000, the eyes of the world turned to Cochabamba as its citizens protested against rises in water rates. The World Bank had forced the Bolivian government to sell off its water company to US giant Bechtel in order to provide financing for a tunnel that would bring water from the other side of the mountains. The resultant price rise brought the citizens out in force, with several hundred thousand people taking to the streets in protest and eventually driving Bechtel out. Anti-globalization campaigners around the world saw it as a highly symbolic victory over a multinational that had bullied the Bolivian government with the complicity of the World Bank.
Emergency Tourist police (T. 120, 4510023; Achá # O-142).
Immigration (T. 4533331, General Galindo at Torrez, 8:30-16:00 Mon-Fri) For visa and length-of-stay extensions. In the northeast of town a couple of kilometers from the centre. Ignore the queues; they are for a separate department.
Internet Access If you happen to spot a city block that does not have an internet place let us know; they are everywhere. Including Residencial Concordia (avenida Aroma # E-437).
Laundry Most hotels offer laundry services, but for commercial laundries try Brillante (Ayacucho # 923) and Lavaya (Salamanca & Antezana).
Medical Services Ambulance (T. 181, 4248381), Centro Medico Boliviano Belga (T. 4229407, Antezana # N-455) Private clinic.
Money Moneychangers gather along Av de las Heroínas. Their rates are competitive but they only accept US cash. There are numerous ATMs and cash advances are available at major banks. Banco Unión (25 de Mayo and Sucre).
Post and Telephone The main post and Entel (Ayacucho & Heroínas, 6:30-22:00) offices are together in a large complex. The postal service from Cochabamba is reliable and the facilities are among the finest of the country. Downstairs from the main lobby is an express post office. In the alleyway behind, the customs office is a good place for sending packages. Entel and Punto Viva offices are scattered around the city as well as large numbers of private telephone cabinas.
Tourist Information SERNAP office (Servicio Nacional de Areas Protegidas, T. 4452534; Atahuallpa # 2367 8:30-12:30 and 14:30-18:30Mon-Fri) Has limited information about national parks. Private tour companies are usually better equipped to answer questions. Tourist Office (T. 4258030, Plaza 14 de Septiembre, 8:00-12:00 and 14:30-18:30 Mon-Fri) Very welcoming, and hands out good city material. There are several information kiosks, which also open Saturday mornings including at the bus station and airport.
Book Exchanges For used paperbacks in English try Residencial Concordia (avenida Aroma # 437).
The saying Las golondrinas nunca migran de Cochabamba (The swallows never migrate from Cochabamba) aptly describes what cochabambinos believe is the most comfortable climate of the world, with warm, dry, sunny days and cool nights.
The main market is the enormous La Cancha, which is one of the most crowded, chaotic, claustrophobic and exhilarating spots in the country. Around the markets you will find just about everything imaginable, including pickpockets.
The largest and most accessible area is Mercado Cancha Calatayud, which sprawls across a wide area along Av Aroma and south toward the former railway station. Here is your best opportunity to see local dress, which differs strikingly from that of the Altiplano.
The Mercado de Ferias spills out around the old railway station. Artesanías (stores selling locally handcrafted items) are concentrated along the alleys near the junction of Tarata and Calle Arce, in the southern end of the market area. The fruit and vegetable section is on the shore of Laguna Alalay in the southeast of town.
The fascinating Mercado de Ganado livestock market operates Wednesday and Sunday at the end of Avenida Panaméricana, far to the south of the centre; it is worth taking a taxi out there to see it in operation. As always, it pays to get there earlyish.
The Museo Arqueológico (T. 4250010, Jordán # E-199, 8:30-17:30 Mon-Fri, 8:30-14:30 Sat) has an excellent overview of various indigenous cultures of Bolivia. The collection is split into three sections: the archaeological collection, the ethnographic collection and the paleontological collection. The first deals primarily with indigenous culture from the Cochabamba region. Look out for the Tiwanaku section; their shamans used to snort lines of hallucinogenic powder through elegant bone tubes. The ethnographic collection provides material from Amazonian and Chaco cultures including examples of nonalphabetized writing, which is from the 18th century and was used to bring Christianity to the illiterate Indians. The paleontological collection deals with fossilised remains of the various creatures that once prowled the countryside. There is good information in Spanish, and an English-speaking guide is sometimes around in the afternoons.
The Palacio Portales (T. 4243137, Potosí # 1450, 15:00-18:30 Tue-Fri, 9:00-12:00 Sat and Sun, Spanish/English tours every 30min) in the barrio of Queru Queru provides evidence of the extravagance of tin baron Simón Patiño. Tastes of Patiño were strongly influenced by European styles and though he never actually occupied this opulent mansion it was stocked with the finest imported materials available at the time ? Carrara marble, French wood, Italian tapestries and delicate silks. The European influence is obvious as you venture through the building; the gardens and exterior were inspired by the palace at Versailles, the games room an imitation of Alhambra of Granada, whilst the main hall takes its design from the Vatican City. Construction began in 1915 and was finalized in 1927.Today it is used as an arts and cultural complex and as a teaching center.
Adjacent to the Palacio Portales is the rather more low-key Museo de Historia Natural Alcides dOrbigny (T. 4486969, Potosí # 1458, 9:00-12:30 and 15:00-18:30 Mon-Fri, 9:00-12:30 Sat), the natural history museum of the city. With its creaky wooden floors and array of stuffed birds and mammals this is a good way to kill half an hour while waiting for your Palacio Portales tour to begin. You can also take a look at a small geological collection.
The most interesting building in town is the noble, timeworn Convento de Santa Teresa (T. 4221252, Baptista and Ecuador, 9:00-12:30 and 14:00-18:00 Mon-Fri). Visits to this timeless and gracefully decaying complex are by guided tour only and provide a snapshot of the extraordinary lives led by the cloistered nuns that inhabit it. You see the peaceful cloister, fine altarpieces and sculptures (from Spanish and Potosí schools), the convent church, and even get to ascend to the roof for a glorious view over the city. The convent was founded in 1760, then destroyed in an earthquake; the new church was built with an excess of ambition, and was too big to be domed. The existing church was built inside it in 1790. There is still a Carmelite community here, but its 12 nuns are now housed in more comfortable modern quarters next door. It is a fascinating visit; pacing the corridors of the covent, you could be in a García Márquez novel.
On the arcaded Plaza 14 de Septiembre, the cathedral (8:00-12:00 and 17:00-19:00 Mon-Fri, 8:00-12:00 Sat and Sun) is the oldest religious structure of the valley, begun in 1571. Later additions and renovations have removed some character, but it preserves a fine eastern portal.
Inside it is light and airy, with various mediocre ceiling paintings. There are statues of several saints, a gilded altarpiece and a grotto for the ever-popular Inmaculada (Virgin of the Immaculate Conception).
Constructed in 1581, the Iglesia and Convento de San Francisco (25 de Mayo and Bolívar; 7:30-11:00) is second-oldest church of Cochabamba. Major revisions and renovation occurred in 1782 and 1925, however, and little of the original structure remains. The attached convent and cloister were added in the 1600s. The cloister was constructed of wood rather than the stone that was customary at the time. The pulpit displays good examples of mestizo design, and there is a fine gold retable.
The rococo Iglesia de Santo Domingo (Santivañez and Ayacucho) was founded in 1612 but construction did not begin until 1778. The intriguing main facade is made of stone, with anthropomorphic columns. The interior, with a much-revered Trinity, is less interesting.
North of the river, the baroque Iglesia de la Recoleta was started in 1654. It houses the attractive wooden Cristo de la Recoleta.
This immense Christ statue standing atop Cerro de San Pedro behind Cochabamba is the largest of its kind in the world. Its 44cm higher than the famous Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, which stands 33m high, or 1m for each year of life of Christ. Cochabambinos justify the one-upmanship by claiming that Christ actually lived 33 años y un poquito (33 years and a bit). There is a footpath from the base of the mountain (1250 steps) but several robberies have been reported here and signs along the route warn you of the dangers, not-sosubtly suggesting that you should take the teleférico (cable car). On Sunday you can climb right to the top of the statue for a eye of Christ view of the city.
This easily accessible, 3090 sq km park was created in 1962 to protect the forested slopes above Cochabamba, as well as the wild summit of Cerro Tunari. It encompasses a wide diversity of habitats from dry inter-Andean valleys to the more humid and highly endangered Polylepis forests of the Cordillera Tunari. The SERNAP office in Cochabamba may have simple walking maps of the park, but often finds itself without material.
1.-Cochabamba Area A good dirt road zigzags its way from the park gate (open until 16:00) up the steep mountain face. About 3km after the gate, you will reach a picnic site with barbecues and a playground. Beyond here is a sendero ecológico (nature trail). Do not expect too much in the way of ecología, but it is a well-made path that gains altitude rapidly, winding into thickening mature woodland.
The views are tremendous, with Cochabamba spread out below, and in the opposite direction, Cerro Tunari and the Cordillera. With an early start and plenty of water, you should be able to make it up to some of the nearer peaks on a long day hike.
2.- Cerro Tunari Area Snow-dusted Cerro Tunari (5035m) is the highest peak in central Bolivia (it is the second peak from the left on the Taquiña beer label). Its flanks are 25km west of Cochabamba along the road to Independencia.
This spectacular area offers excellent hiking and camping, but access is less than straightforward. For climbs, pick up the 1:50,000 map Cordillera de Tunari (sheet 6342III) from the Instituto Geografico Militar.
From Quillacollo it is a complicated four to five-hour ascent to the summit, with some sections requiring technical equipment. Experienced climbers can manage the round-trip in a long day, but the high-altitude ascent will be more pleasant if you allow two days and camp overnight.
You will need a guide to find the best route. An easier route ascends from Estancia Chaqueri or Tawa Cruz, 12km beyond Cruce Liriuni (which has accommodations at the village school) at 4200m. Micros and camiones (flatbed trucks) toward Morochata leave on Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 7am from three blocks off the main plaza in Quillacollo; they return to Cochabamba in the afternoon on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The relatively easy path, which takes around five hours, ascends the north face of the peak.
1.- Quillacollo Besides Cochabamba itself, Quillacollo (13km west of Cochabamba) is the most commercially important community of the Cochabamba Valley, although it has lost much of its independent feel in recent years as growth of Cochabamba has more or less absorbed it as a suburb. Apart from the Sunday market and the pre-Inca burial mound discovered beneath Plaza Bolívar, the main attraction is in its church, the revered Virgen de Urkupiña. Tradition has it that long ago, the Virgin Mary appeared several times to a shepherd girl at the foot of the hill known as Calvario. The visits were later witnessed by the parents of the girl and a crowd of villagers when she shouted Orkopiña (There on the hill!) as the Virgin was seen ascending heavenwards. At the summit of the hill, the townspeople discovered the stone image of the Virgin, which now stands in the church to the right of the altar, surrounded by votive offerings and commemorative plaques giving thanks for blessings received.
One thing to do here is to sample garapiña, a deceptively strong blend of chicha (fermented corn), cinnamon, coconut and ayrampo, which is a local mystery ingredient that colors the drink red.
2.- Sipe Sipe This quiet and friendly village 27km southwest of Cochabamba is the base for visiting Inca-Rakay, the most easily accessible of the Cochabamba area ruins. If you are in Sipe Sipe on a Sunday between February and May, try to sample the local specialty, a sweet grape liquor known as guarapo.
3.- Inka-Rakay The ruins of Inca-Rakay, in the Serranía de Tarhuani, are mostly crumbling stone walls these days, and you will need some imagination to conjure up their former glory. It has been postulated that Inca-Rakay served as an Inca administrative outpost, which oversaw agricultural colonies in the fertile Cochabamba Valley. That seems unlikely, however, given its lofty position and the difficulty of access.
The site includes the remains of several hefty buildings, and a large open plaza overlooking the valley. One odd rock outcrop resembles the head of a condor, with a natural passageway inside leading to the top. Just off the plaza area is a cave that may be explored with a flashlight. Legend has it that this cave is the remnant of another of those apocryphal Inca tunnels this one linking Inca-Rakay with faraway Cuzco. If you are there on a smog-free day, the plaza affords a spectacular overview of the valley.
4.- Tiquipaya The town of Tiquipaya, whose name means Place of Flowers is located 11km northwest of Cochabamba. It is known for its Sunday market and its array of unusual festivals.
5.- Villa Albina If you have not already had your fill of legacy of Simón in Oruro and Cochabamba, in the village of Pairumani you can visit Villa Albina (T. 4243137, 15:00-15:45 Mon-Fri, 9:00-17:00 Sat) and tour the home the tin baron actually occupied. This enormous white mansion, which could have inspired the TV home of the Beverly Hillbillies, was named for his wife. Albina was presumably as fussy as her husband when it came to the finer things in life, and the elegant French decor of the main house and the Carraramarble mausoleum seem typical of royalty anywhere in the world. There is a formal garden, complete with topiary and the family mausoleum in which the Don and his wife were finally laid to rest.
1.- La Angostura This village stands on the shores of the artificial lake of the same name, and is a popular spot for cochabambinos to head to fill up on fish. It is on the route to Tarata, 18km from Cochabamba. There are many places to eat along the lake shore, which feed you up with enormous plates of trucha or pejerrey (trout or king fish) with rice, salad and potato. There are also places to hire rowboats and kayaks at weekends.
2.- Punata This small market town 50km east of Cochabamba is said to produce finest chicha of Bolivia. Tuesday is market day and May 18 is the riotous town festival.
3.- Tarata Tarata, 29km southeast of Cochabamba, is one of the loveliest towns of the region, a picturesque but decaying beauty that is well worth a visit for its noble buildings, cobbled streets and gorgeous plaza, filled with palm trees and jacarandas. The name of the town is derived from the abundant tara trees, whose fruit is used in curing leather. Tarata is famous as the birthplace of the mad president General Mariano Melgarejo, who held office from 1866 to 1871 and whose remains now lie in the town church. While the citizens are not necessarily proud of his achievements, they are pretty proud of producing presidents (populist military leader René Barrientos, who ruled from 1964 to 1969, was also born here), so there is a huge horseback statue of him on the main road.
The enormous neoclassical Iglesia de San Pedro was constructed in 1788 and restored between 1983 and 1985; several of the interior panels include mestizo-style details carved in cedar. The 1792 Franciscan Convent of San José, which contains lovely colonial furniture and an 8000-volume library, was founded as a missionary training school. It now operates as a museum and contains the ashes of San Severino, The patron saint of Tarata, whose feast day is celebrated on the last Sunday in November.
The village also has several other historic buildings: the Palacio Consistorial (government palace) of President Melgarejo (built in 1872) and the homes of President Melgarejo, General Don Esteban Arce and General René Barrientos.
Huayculli, 7km from Tarata, is a village of potters and glaziers. The air is thick with the scent of eucalyptus being burned in cylindrical firing kilns. The local style and technique are passed down from generation to generation and remain unique.
The nearest thing Bolivia has of the Machu Picchu of Peru is the remote and rarely visited site of Incallajta (meaning Land of the Inca), 132km east of Cochabamba on a flat mountain spur above the Río Machajmarka. This was the easternmost outpost of the Inca empire and after Tiwanaku it is the most significant archaeological site of the country. The most prominent feature is the immense stone fortification that sprawls across alluvial terraces above the river, but at least 50 other structures are also scattered around the 12-hectare site.
Incallajta was probably founded by Inca Emperor Tupac Yupanqui, the commander who had previously marched into presentday Chile to demarcate the southern limits of the Inca empire. It is estimated that Incallajta was constructed in the 1460s as a measure of protection against attack by the Chiriguanos to the southeast. In 1525, the last year of rule of Emperor Huayna Capac, the outpost was abandoned. This may have been due to a Chiriguano attack, but was more likely the result of increasing Spanish pressure and the unraveling of the empire, which fell seven years later.
The site is on a monumental scale; some researchers believe that, as well as serving a defensive purpose, it was designed as a sort of ceremonial replica of Cuzco, the Inca capital. The most significant building site, the kallanka, measures a colossal 80m by 25m. The roof was supported by immense columns. Outside it is a large boulder, probably a platform of the speakers. At the western end of the site is a curious six-sided tower, perhaps used for astronomical observation. On the hilltop, a huge zigzag defensive wall has a baffled defensive entrance.
The ruins were made known to the world in 1914 by Swedish zoologist and ethnologist Ernest Nordenskiöld, who spent a week at the ruins, measuring and mapping them. However, they were largely ignored ? except by ruthless treasure hunters ? for the next 50 years, until the University of San Simón in Cochabamba launched its investigations.
1.- Totora Totora, 142km east of Cochabamba, huddles in a valley at the foot of Cerro Sutuchira. It is on the main route between Cochabamba and Sucre, but few travelers ever see it because most buses pass through at night. Nevertheless it is a lovely colonial village, built around a postcard pretty plaza with colorful buildings and arcades. In May 1998 the town was struck by an earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale. While there is still plenty of damage visible, much of the town has since been lovingly restored.
The annual town festival on February 2 features bullfights. There is a piano festival at the end of September, but most charming and famous festival of Totora is that of San Andrés. On November 2, giant swings are erected on the streets, and throughout the month young women who are hoping for marriage are swung high on them. They are also believed to be helping the wandering souls, who descended to earth on All Day of Souls, return to heaven.
2.- Mizque This pretty colonial village enjoys a lovely pastoral setting on the Río Mizque. Founded as the Villa de Salinas del Río Pisuerga in 1549, it soon came to be known as the Ciudad de las 500 Quitasoles (City of 500 Parasols), after the sun shields used by the locals. It makes a great escape from the cities and main tourist sights, and the few visitors who pass through on trips between Sucre and Cochabamba are impressed by the beauty of the Mizque and Tucuna Valleys, where flocks of macaws squawk and frolic in the early morning.
The lovely, restored Iglesia Matríz, which was slightly damaged in a 1998 earthquake, once served as the seat of the Santa Cruz bishopric (until the seat was shifted to Arani in 1767). There is also a small archaeological and historical museum. Monday is market day. With the help of Peace Corps volunteers, the alcaldía (on the north side of the plaza) organizes self-guided hiking circuits and guided trips to several local sites of natural and historic interest.
2.- Aiquile Aiquile, was decimated by the same 1998 earthquake that damaged Totora and is known for some of finest charangos of Bolivia (traditional Bolivian ukulele-type instrument). In late November it holds the Feria del Charango. Every Sunday is a busy market day.
The small Museo del Charango holds a collection of the instruments, including the ones that won prizes at the festival, and also has some archaeological pieces. The cathedral is quite spectacular, with a free-form central building flanked by two free-standing towers.
One of most memorable national parks of Bolivia, Torotoro at times can seem like a practical demonstration of geology on an awe-inspiring scale. Beds of sedimentary mudstone, sandstone and limestone, bristling with marine fossils and ? from drier periods ? dinosaur footprints, have been muscled and twisted into the sharp, inhospitable hillscapes of the Serranía de Huayllas and Serranía de Cóndor Khaka.
In places, the immensity of geological time is showcased, with exposed layers revealing fossils below a hundred meters or more of sedimentary strata.
Amidst it all, the characterful, impoverished colonial village of Torotoro itself (2720m) is one of the most remote settlements of the region (although road access is steadily improving).
1.- Dinosaur Tracks Most visitors to Torotoro come for the paleontology. The village, which sits in a wide section of a 20km-long valley at a 2600m elevation, is flanked by enormous, inclined mudstone rock formations, bearing bipedal and quadrupedal dinosaur tracks from the Cretaceous period (spanning 145 million to 65 million years ago). There are numerous tracks (huellas) all over the place, and much work remains to be done on their interpretation. Many different dinosaur species are represented, both herbivorous and carnivorous.
The closest tracks are just at the entrance to the village, on the other side of the river. Above the water but below the road are the largest tracks of the area, made by an enormous quadruped dinosaur (diplodocus or similar), and they measure 35cm wide, 50cm long and 20cm deep. Near here, just above the road, the angled plane of rock reveals a multitude of different tracks, including a long set of a heavy quadrupedal dinosaur that some have posited are those of the armadillo-like anklyosaurus.
Along the route to Umajalanta cave, the flat area known as the Carreras Pampa site has several excellent sets of footprints (on both sides of the path). These were made by three-toed bipedal dinosaurs, both herbivores (with rounded toes) and carnivores (pointed toes, sometimes with the claw visible).
All the tracks in the Torotoro area were made in soft mud, which then solidified into mudstone. They were later lifted and tilted by tectonic forces. For that reason, many of the tracks appear to lead uphill.
2.- Sea Fossils In a small side gully, a walk of an hour southwest of Torotoro, on the Cerro de las Siete Vueltas (Mountain of Seven Turns ? so called because the trail twists seven times before reaching the peak), is a major seafossil deposit. At the base of the ravine you may see petrified shark teeth, while higher up, the limestone and sedimentary layers are set with fossils of ancient trilobites, echinoderms, gastropods, arthropods, cephalopods and brachiopods.
The site is thought to date back about 350 million years. There is another major seafossil site in the Quebrada Thajo Khasa, southeast of Torotoro.
3.- Pachamama Wasi This amazing and beautiful house-museum (Sucre s/n) is the quirky home of a man who has spent years of his life pacing the cerros (hills) with a eye of rockhound. The house is like a botanic garden, but made of stones: fossils, geological quirks and unusually shaped rocks form a unique, soothing ensemble. It is uphill from the main street but only open when the owner or his family are at home.
4.- Cañón de Torotoro and El Vergel Three kilometers from Torotoro, the ground suddenly drops away into an immense and spectacularly beautiful canyon, over 250m deep. From the mirador (viewpoint) at the top, you can gaze along it, watching vultures wheeling. The cliffside here is also home to the rare paraba frente roja (Redfronted macaw; p316), which you have a good chance of seeing, or at least hearing. From here, following the diminishing canyon along to the left, you come to a flight of 800 stairs that lead down to El Vergel (also called Huacasenqa, meaning nostrils ot he cows in Quechua), which always has water and is filled with incongruous moss, vines and other tropical vegetation.
At the bottom a crystal-clear river tumbles down through cascades and waterfalls, forming idyllic swimming pools.
5.- Batea Qocha Rock Paintings Above the third bend of the Río Torotoro, 1.5km downstream from the village, are several panels of ancient rock paintings collectively called Batea Qocha because the pools below them resemble troughs for pounding laundry. The paintings were executed in red pigments and depict anthropomorphic and geometric designs as well as fanciful representations of serpents, turtles and other creatures.
6.- Gruta de Umajalanta The Río Umajalanta, which disappears beneath a layer of limestone approximately 22m thick, has formed the impressive Umajalanta Cavern, of which 4.5km of passages have been explored.
The exciting descent is moderately physical, and you must expect to get both wet and dirty; there are several parts where you must crawl and wriggle to get through, and a couple of short roped descents. Make sure you have good nonslip shoes on.
Inside are some spectacular stalagmite and stalactite formations, as well as a resident population of vampire bats who have produced an impressively large pile of steaming dung over the years.
You eventually descend to an underground lake and river, which is populated by small, white, completely blind catfish. The ascent from here is fairly easy, as it takes a more direct route.
The 8km one-way walk to the cavern entrance takes two hours from the village, with plenty of dinosaur footprints to inspect on the way.
There are numerous other caverns in the area, many of which are virtually unexplored.
7.- Llama Chaqui A challenging 19km hike around the Cerro Huayllas Orkho from Torotoro will take you to the ruins known as the Llama Chaqui (Foot of the Llama). The multilevel complex, which dates from Inca times, rambles over distinctive terraces and includes a maze of rectangular and semicircular walls, plus a fairly well-preserved watchtower. Given its strategic vantage point, it probably served as a military fortification, and may have been somehow related to Incallajta, further north
Cochabamba agencies run day-long tours to Incallajta when they have a group large enough to make it worthwhile. Beware of tours that seem suspiciously cheap or that involve trekking. These generally involve getting a cab to the cruce (turnoff) and walking up to the site ? you can do that yourself.
Villa Etelvina are experts in the Torotoro area, and passionate about the national park and the local community. They arrange comfortable 4WD transfers from Cochabamba, and put visitors up in their excellent lodge in Torotoro village. A few Cochabamba agencies run trips, including visits to the major sights.
January 1: New Year 's Day.
February or March (changeable date): Carnival.
April (Changeable date): Easter.
Palm Sunday: The Saturday before Easter. People enter temples with branches which the clergy bless.
Holy Thursday: It is a tradition of the people to visit 12 temples of the city, one for each apostle, in this day.
Good Friday: Procession of the Holy Sepulchre.
May 2: Santa Veracruz Tatala
At the fiesta of Santa Veracruz Tatala, farmers gather at a chapel 7km down the Sucre road to pray for fertility of the soil during the coming season. Their petitions are accompanied by folk music, dancing and lots of merrymaking.
May 27: Mothers Day
A major annual event is the Heroínas de la Coronilla, a solemn commemoration in honor of the women and children who defended the city in the battle of 1812.
June (Changeable date):
Corpus Christie: Commemoration of the Body of Christ.
July 16: Feast of Carmen.
August 15-18: Virgen de Urqupiña.
The Fiesta de la Virgen de Urkupiña is the biggest of the valley, with pilgrims converging on the village of Quillacollo, 13km west of Cochabamba.
September 14: Anniversary of Cochabamba.
September 21: Day of Spring. Youth and Students of Bolivia.
First Sunday in October: Feast of the Virgin of Merced.
Second Sunday in October: Feast of the Virgin of Rosario.
November 1: Todos Santos (All Saints Day).
This is a pre-columbian tradition when the people go to visit the Tombs prepared at home by the relatives of the deceased and where the friends are offered the same food and drink liked by him.
November 2: Difuntos (Day of the Deceased)
The tombs are dismantled and the people celebrate in the memory of the deceased.
November 3: Alma Cacharpaya (Soul of the Calypsobreakers)
Those in charge of dismantling the tombs show up in the home of the deceased with an orchestra so that the soul of the deceased will be happy.
December 24 and 25: Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
Bolivia Cultura (T. 4527272, España # 301) Professional trips to PN Torotoro and other regional attractions.
Fremen Tours (T. 4259392, Tumusla # N-245) Organizes local excursions or highquality trips to the Chapare, Amazon and Salar de Uyuni.
Villa Etelvina (T. 4242636, Juan de la Rosa # 908, Torotoro) A good operator specialising in trips to Torotoro National Park.
Páprika (T. 4257035, Ramón Rivero and Lanza) One of the in spots, this is a block removed from the roar of Av Ballivián, and is a quiet leafy place popular for its food ? both Bolivian and international, including tasty baked potatoes and fondues. After dark it becomes a trendy spot for a late drink and is also a good place to meet up with young Bolivians.
Sole Mio (T. 4283379, América # E-826, dinner only Mon-Fri, lunch and dinner Sat & Sun) The best pizzas in Cochabamba are to be found here. The owners, encouragingly, are from Napoli and import the ingredients for their robust brick-oven, wood-fired pizzas ? thin crust, light on the sauce. Soft opera music, rich Italian wines and excellent service make this a comfortable place to linger a while over a meal. They also serve a range of meat and pasta entrées.
Mosoj Yan (T. 4507536, Bolívar at Plaza Busch, lunch only Mon-Fri) This attractive, light and airy café is a very pleasant spot, and as well as serving delicious desserts, decent coffees and cheap lunches, your bolivianos go to a good cause. It is part of a support centre for street kids who create some of the handicrafts in the store next door. There is a decent book exchange here too.
El Ajuicho (Santa Cruz in front of Colegio Anglo-Americano) A grisly chichería (bar specializing in chicha) for most of the year, after 10:00 on the first Friday of every month it converts into a ritual site for Khoa Comunitaria. Dating from Incan times the ritual gives thanks to Pacha Mama under the direction of an amauta (priest), who offers llama fetuses and burns incense in her honor. Note that this is an authentic ritual, not a tourist trap. Visitors are welcomed but are expected to participate actively, chewing coca leaves and drinking chicha until well after midnight
Air Daily flights to La Paz, Sucre, Tarija, Trinidad and Santa Cruz from International Airport of Jorge Wilstermann. Domestic Airlines includes Aerosur, BOA and TAM. International airlines includes AA, Lan, Aerolineas Argentinas, Lan Peru and others.
Bus The main bus terminal of Cochabamba (T. 4220550, Ayacucho near Aroma) has an information kiosk, a branch of the tourist police, ATMs, luggage storage and a cambio (money exchange bureau). Prices given in this section are for standard buses. Bus cama (sleeper) service is available on most long-distance routes.
Train No commercial trains anywhere.