The Best Things To Do In Cochabamba For Backpackers
Cochabamba isn’t a city geared towards backpackers so it is used as a base to escape into the wild Bolivian landscapes surrounding the town.
One of the largest cities in Bolivia, it has enough to keep you occupied for a day or two, or alternatively just use it as a stopping-off point when visiting Torotoro National Park.
Here are the four best things to do:
- Visit Torotoro National Park
- Climb up to Cristo de la Concordia
- Trek to the peak of Cerro Tunari at 5035m
- Take a walking tour of the city
1. Visit Torotoro National Park
This is the main reason backpackers visit Cochabamba as it’s the closest and most accessible city to reach Torotoro National Park.
The reserve is known as Bolivia’s Jurassic Park, and you’ll discover thousands of well-preserved fossils and fossilised dinosaur footprints in the park.
It’s also an area of spectacular natural beauty, and you have the option of staying a few days in the town.
There are three main treks into the park to choose. The El Vergel trek will take you to the impressive canyon viewpoint and then down to the canyon riverbed to the El Vergel waterfall. Another popular choice is to visit the Umajalanta Caves, a vast network of underground rivers and caverns.
To get to the park takes four hours via minibus and it’s better to stay in Torotoro town at least one or two nights.
We’ve covered everything you need to know from where to take the bus to the best treks in our Torotoro guide.
2. Climb Up To The Cristo De La Concordia
This statue of Jesus Christ claims to be the highest in South America (just a few inches taller than Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).
Whilst it is nowhere near as famous as ‘The Redeemer’ it’s certainly worth a visit as there are incredible views of the city and the surrounding mountains.
You can walk up if you want for some exercise, but we have read a few blogs that advise taking a taxi or the cable car as it seems robberies have occurred on the stairs up.
Open from 09:00-17:00 with the cable car open from 10:00-18:00
3. Trek To The Peak Of Cerro Tunari
If you’ve been drinking Taquina whilst in Bolivia, then the mountain on the label (second peak from the left) is Cerro Tunari.
The area around Tunari is a spectacular mountain landscape dotted with rugged peaks, crystal-clear mountain lakes, and herds of llamas providing excellent trekking opportunities.
This is a one day hike that will take you right up to the peak of the mountain for some impressive views of the Cochabamba valley, the Tunari Cordillera, and even Illimani mountain in La Paz if the weather is clear.
This trek is 6 hours walking and 10 hours in total. You start at 4,500m so ensure you are comfortable trekking at altitude. If you’ve spent time in La Paz or Cusco prior, you will know your capabilities.
El Mundo Verde Travel is the No.1 rated tour company in Cochabamba and has excellent reviews.
Unfortunately, they don’t display the price on their website so you will have to get in contact with them.
4. City Walking Tour
We stayed at Running Chaski’s Hostel, which advertised a free walking tour every Saturday or 50Bs per person on other days.
If you decide to stay there, you should see flyers for it plastered around the hostel.
Or if you are looking for something more professional, then El Mundo Verde offers a 4-hour city tour that will take you through the markets, convents and museums of the city, eventually taking you up to ‘El Cristo de la Concordia’ (Christ of Peace). The ticket price includes the cable car ticket.
How Many Days Do You Need In Cochabamba?
As mentioned, Cochabamba is mainly used as a base to visit Torotoro National Park.
For this reason, you only really need one night here. You can either take a night bus from La Paz or an early morning one taking 8-9 hours, stay one night and go to Torotoro the next day.
Here’s a quick breakdown of our itinerary:
- Day 1 – Arrive from La Paz
- Day 2 – Bus to Torotoro
- Day 3 – Day tour in Torotoro National Park
- Day 4 – Return to Cochabamba
On the last day, you can either return to Cochabamba and stay the night or hop on a night bus to one of the next towns such as Sucre.
If you are coming from or heading to La Paz, be sure to check out both of our guides to see all the amazing activities you can do:
How To Get To And From Cochabamba
The main way backpackers will be travelling to a from Cochabamba is by bus.
All buses arrive and leave from the bus terminal on Avenida Ayacucho. You can book tickets online using sights like Busbud.com and TicketsBolivia.com, or you can book in person at the bus station.
How To Get To Cochabamba From La Paz
Cochabamba is an 8-hour bus from La Paz.
You can book bus tickets online at Bolivia Tickets.
There’s only one bus in the morning that leaves at 7:30 and arrives at 15:30. Or there are three-night buses that depart at 22:00, 22:30, and 23:00.
These all cost $15.47 and run by Trans Copacabana.
We always tried to book our buses online and go with this company as they have the best reviews. An alternative is to find smaller companies that cater to locals and book directly on the day at the bus station.
How To Get To Sucre From Cochabamba
The bus to Sucre takes 8 hours and only seems to be a night bus.
Trans Copacabana has one a night that leaves at 21:30 and arrives at 6:30 in the morning ($20). This option is online, and you should be able to find more companies and more times if you book directly at the bus station.
If you’ve made it this far off the gringo trail, then your next logical step should be Sucre:
How To Get To Uyuni From Cochabamba
The bus from Cochabamba to Uyuni takes 12 hours.
Trans Omar has one a night that leaves at 20.00 and arrives at 8.00 in the morning, costing $20. This option is online, and you should be able to find more companies and more times if you book directly at the bus station.
If you are working your way down south to Uyuni then check out our backpacking guides to help you plan the next part of your trip:
The Best Places To Stay In Cochabamba
Hostal Running Chaski is the popular hostel in town, with bunkbeds dorms, private rooms and free breakfast.
We stayed here and would be our recommendation. The free breakfast included eggs, bread and jam with coffee and juice. The staff spoke good English and were incredibly helpful. They gave us a guide to Torotoro, helped us book taxis and also let us leave our big bags in their locker when we visited Torotoro.
Airbnbs are relatively cheap though if you prefer your own space and an entire apartment costs around £21 a night.
The area around Hostel Chaski (between Av. Ayacucho and Av.Heroinas, close to Plaza Colon) is a pleasant area with lots of restaurants to choose.
Be sure to check out our month-long Bolivia itinerary to see how Cochabamba fits in with travelling through the rest of this amazing country:
The Best Places To Eat In Cochabamba
On the same road as Running Chaski (Calle Espana) you have lots of options for food.
Here are some of our favourites:
- Typica Café – one of our favourite spots in the whole of Bolivia (there’s one in La Paz too), they have excellent coffees, smoothies, and a great brunch menu. The WiFI is reliable as well, so we spent a few hours in here relaxing and planning the next stages of our trip.
- La Cantonata – a fancy Italian restaurant. We popped in here one night for a treat and some fantastic seafood pasta.
- Menta Restobar – a cool little vegetarian restaurant with some great options such as quinoa burgers and falafel salads.
- Mad Mex – Mexican food, perfect for a quick snack if you are hungry. The tacos are good.
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