Cochabamba in the Heart of Bolivia

Located in the center of Bolivia, Cochabamba is a wonderful city to start an adventure in this diverse country. Like many cities in South America, Cochabamba has a history that was dominated by the Spanish and many of the buildings and churches date back to 1500’s. In addition to the city itself, Cochabamba is also an excellent location to launch several different short trips, including going to Carrasco National Park. Cochabamba is considered the gastronomical heart of Bolivia as well and was where we had our first taste of Pique Macho.

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Fountain in Downtown Cochabamba
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Templo de la Recoleta
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Dome in the Santa Teresa Convent
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Parrots Outside of Our Hotel
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Church Tower

There are several churches in Cochabamba, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, Iglesia Santa Teresa with its accompanying convent, and the colorful Templo de la Recoleta. The Santa Teresa Convent has been converted into a museum and is definitely worth taking the time to tour. In addition the churches, another noteworthy site to visit is the Palacio Portales, which is a mansion that was built by a local tin baron who actually never lived in the beautiful building. The palace also offers tours in both English and Spanish and is worth spending the time to visit and to walk around the beautiful garden.

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Courtyard at the Convent
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Walking the Hallways
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Metropolitan Cathedral
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The Main Square of Cochabamba
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Beautiful Church

One of the things that makes Cochabamba such a wonderful city to visit is that the temperatures remain spring-like all year long. There are several parks and squares in Cochabamba with beautiful flowers that take advantage of the moderate temperatures. Families come out to these common areas to play, relax, and walk through the open air markets that are located nearby. As is typical, these parks and squares feature fountains and monuments at their centers. To get better views of the city, you can take the cable car to top of San Pedro Hill where the Cristo de la Concordia overlooks the city.

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Colorful Flowers in the City
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Families in the Main Square

 

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Cristo de la Concordia
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Beautiful Park Downtown
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Colorful Building in Cochabamba

One of the day trips that we took out of Cochabamba was to visit the ancient ruins at Incallajta. Walking around these amazing ruins was truly amazing, especially due to the fact that we were able to walk all around this historic site without any other visitors. Making our day even more interesting was the discovery of an old Spanish church on the road to Incallajta that our guide had never seen before. At the end of the day, we went to the “ghost village” of Chimboata where we saw how truly difficult life can be for the rural people of Bolivia.

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The Ruins of Incallajta
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Ghost Village of Chimboata
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Ancient Spanish Church
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Santa Teresa Convent
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Walking Among the Ruins of Incallajta

We also took a two-day trip into the Amazon Jungle where we stayed at an ecolodge and had our first taste of the rainforest. We took what was called a canopy tour, which was really an afternoon of ziplining from the tops of trees across rivers and canyons. The following day we took a tour in Carrasco National Park that had us hiking through the jungle, climbing into caves with rare birds and bats, and seeing cocoa fields that were intruding onto the park lands. Driving from Cochabamba to our ecolodge was probably as interesting of an experience as seeing the park itself and would prepare us for our trip down “Death Road” later during our trip.

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Soaring Through the Jungle
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An Interesting Drive
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Getting Into Carrasco National Park
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Looking Out of the Convent
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Palacio Portales

With so many opportunities for adventure, Cochabamba is a wonderful city to visit in the beautiful country of Bolivia. The people are extremely friendly, although you will not find too many people who speak anything other than Spanish or Quechua. We spent about five days in Cochabamba, which was about the minimum amount of time if you want to take advantage of doing some day trips from the city.

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Unique Architecture in Cochabamba
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Condors are an Important Symbol in Bolivia
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Statue Outside of a Church
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View from San Pedro Hill

 

Adventures in the Rainforest

We have been fortunate enough to take several trips to Central and South America, including Bolivia, Ecuador, and Panama. During each of the trips, we specifically made a point of getting into the jungle and seeing different wildlife and plants. Each of them was unique in their own ways and we stayed in eco lodges in both Bolivia and Ecuador. Many of these experiences were quite unique and we have many wonderful memories. Here are some of our favorite rainforest adventures that we’ve had during our travels.

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Up Close and Personal with Monkeys in Panama
  1. Monkey Islands in Panama – One of the most interesting things that we did during our time in Panama was to take a boat passed the famous locks and going to the Monkey Islands. Our boat would pull up to the islands and the monkeys would climb down from the trees to take grapes and bananas from our hands. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t do that, but since the monkeys rely on humans for the survival, we felt okay with the experience.
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    Hiking in Carrasco National Park
  2. Visiting Carrasco National Park in Bolivia – Our first Amazon experience was during our trip to Cochabamba when we stayed at an eco lodge and spent a day hiking through Carrasco National Park. We climbed into caves with different varieties of bats, blind birds called Guacharos, poisonous frogs, as well as snakes. It was definitely an interesting way to get introduced to the Amazon Jungle.
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    Napo Wildlife Center in the Yasuni National Park
  3. Staying at the Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador – After our experiences in Bolivia, we chose to go even deeper into the jungle during our trip to Ecuador. We spent several days at the Napo Wildlife Center, which is an eco lodge sitting on a lake with caiman, birds, monkeys, and giant river otters. Every day, we would get up early and go into the rainforest to experience different wildlife.
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    Paddling in a Small Canoe in the Amazon
  4. Traveling on the Amazon River – We spent time on a motor boat as well as canoe on the tributaries of the Amazon river. After flying into the tiny town of Coca, Ecuador, we took a boat down the Amazon River where we then got out and hiked to get to our canoes. To say that it was a fascinating experience would certainly be an understatement.
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    Traditional Dance and Music in the Embera Village
     
  5. Visiting Indigenous Villages – We went to indigenous villages in both Panama as well as Ecuador and each was a truly special experience. The local tribes are very friendly and happy to welcome you into their village where they share their traditions, art, and lifestyles. We even danced with the local Ember√° tribe members during our time in Panama, which was something we will forever treasure. We know that these types of opportunities are dwindling over time, so it is important to take advantage of any chance that you happen to get.
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    Parrots and Parakeets at the Salt Lick
  6. Bird Watching in the Rainforest – With over a thousand species of birds in the Amazon Rainforest, the opportunities to see birds a quite diverse. We climbed to the top of the forest canopy in Ecuador to see different colorful birds including macaws, toucans, and parrots. Going the parrot clay licks and seeing so many different parrots feeding on the mineral rich soil was absolutely amazing.
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    Canons in Fort San Lorenzo
  7. Fort San Lorenzo in Panama – Going the fort that was captured by the famous Captain Morgan, which is located in the jungles of Panama was a truly educational experience. Whether imagining swash-buckling pirates, canons blasting off of the cliffs, or picturing the ships traveling down the Chagres River, it is something worth making the effort to see when planning a trip to Panama.
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    Scarlet Macaws in the Jungle

Obviously we hope to spend more time in different rainforests in other parts of the world. There is such a diversity in the biology of the jungle that it really takes several days to truly get an understanding of everything that there is to see. If you ever get a chance to spend a few nights in the rainforest, we’d highly recommend it as it allows you to see it both during the day, but also at dawn and dusk when the animals are the most active.

Cristo de la Concordia in Cochabamba, Bolivia

One of the first things that we did upon our arrival in Cochabamba was to visit the Cristo de la Concordia, which is a statue of Jesus Christ. The statue sits on top of San Pedro Hill and is accessible by a cable car or you can walk the 2,000 steps to the statue if you prefer. The statue is quite interesting, but since San Pedro Hill is almost 900 feet (265 meters) above the city of Cochabamba, the views are worth the visit as well.

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Steps Leading Up to the Statue

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View of Cochabamba

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Riding the Cable Car

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Views of the City are Amazing

The Cristo de la Concordia statue was modeled after the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. The similarities are obvious, but the statue in Cochabamba is actually slightly larger. The statue is position such that the left hand points south and the right hand points north. Visiting the statue and seeing the views of the city should certainly be part of any visit to Cochabamba.

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Close-Up of the Statue

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View from the Cable Car

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Cochabamba Sits at the Base of the Mountains

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Definitely Worth Taking the Cable Car Instead of Walking