Tarija, the wine capital of Bolivia
The main reason anyone comes to Tarija is the wine. Maybe you didn’t hear about Bolivian wine yet, but once you try the dry varieties, you’ll get hooked like we did.
Do you like to eat out and drink awesome wine in the restaurant for $4-5 per bottle? You should be sold by now 😉
We arrived by a night bus from Tupiza 65BOB pp after our awesome Uyuni tour. The ride was adventurous as we got slowed down by a bus that got stacked in a small river that you need to cross. Just a normal travelling night in Bolivia. I didn’t even bother to get out of the bus this time.
Instead of 2am we arrived at 5.30am and just built a tent in the bush near the bus terminal.
In Tarija, we stayed really close to city Center in Hospedaje Rosario. It is definitely the most economical option we found. One night is 120BOB per double with shared bathroom but we stayed 4 nights and negotiated price of 100BOB per night. Water was hot, owners are super chilled and they have 2 cute dogs. #winning
Other places you could stay in is Casa Blanca for 190BOB or Hostal off the main square for 260BOB per night.
Food in Tarija
Is to die for. You definitely feel the influence of nearby Argentina as steaks and carne in general are everywhere. They are affordable and they are awesome!
This place is on the way to Vale de Concepcion aka the wine valley. We stopped by on bicycles as we were dying for a glass of wine. First we just wanted to have a drink but when we saw what other people were getting and checked the prices, we had to order. They also produce their own wine, Juan Diablo. Since than we bought it many times, 20-25BOB per bottle in a shop. The plate for 2 that we ordered was 100BOB/$14. You also do pay 20BOB pp for entertainment. The areal was clean and beautiful and they had a wonderful gentleman singing and playing guitar.
El Fogon del Gringo
For 90BOB pp you get a buffet with salads and warm side dishes AND 450g steak made to perfection. I, who actually never order steaks and rarely eat them have been converted. Since this evening, I’m on a quest to find a piece of meat equally as good. We drunk the table wine for 65BOB and loved it so much that the next day we bought another 2 bottles in a shop for 20BOB each.
You can’t miss this place when you are in Tarija. That’s an order.
Right on a main plaza is this popular busy restaurant with huge menu and friendly prices. We actually came twice and I ordered the same, pasta alio oglio. Yeah, it doesn’t happen very often that you get really good pasta in South America. For 45BOB a portion you also get warm pizza bread with 3 sauces as a cuvet. I should mention, every good place gives bread and some sort of dip with it in Tarija. Heaven, I’m telling ya.
Things to do in Tarija
Taste that wine
You can do a tour. The cheapest we found was for 145BOB for 2 people. But we don’t like to do tours if we don’t have to 😉
Most of the places you can just show up and ask for tasting. We didn’t have to pay in any of the following:
Bodega Valle d’vino - boutique, family run place that offers accommodation as well as food. Only 3 varieties are considered dry, although for us it was still fairly sweet. That’s how Bolivians like it. It’s worth to come as their garden with grapes everywhere is beautiful.
Resolana - boutique, small production winery that is trying to make it in the big world. They don’t sell wines by glass but we convinced the lady to sell us a glass for 10BOB. The pours everywhere in Tarija are really generous. The best part was when the 3-4years old son of the lady started to do a wine presentation for us.
Dona Chela - boutique, family run, very sweet varieties, also produces sengani (Bolivian version of pisco). We came there exactly as a group of 15ppl on a tour so we joined them for a tasting. The funniest part was that the lady explaining the wines would always fill only 1 glass with the tasting wine and everyone would taste and pass to the next person. Hygiene 0 - no one cares 1
Casa vieja - fairly commercial, mostly selling its own wines in the huge restaurant they have in the town. We came on Sunday, it was so busy. People were dancing to live music, eating grilled meat or ice cream made out of wine. The house itself is the main reason people come, it’s old and it’s beautiful. There was such a huge line for tasting that we opted out.
Then we saw another part of the house which was more like outdoor garden tacked away from all the cheerful Sunday partygoers. Without tasting we just ordered a jug of dry house wine and listened to the local guys singing. People were coming and buying them drinks or some even joined them and sung few songs themselves. It was magical.
You do need to pay for tasting here.
Santa Ana - not a bodega per se, it’s not possible to taste the wine but they do produce their own bottles and you can buy them at their tourist complex or in bottle shop. We liked both the whiteand red Juan Diablo.
The other more famous brands which are considered industrial are closed on Sundays and some on Saturdays as well. You can still have a decent day of tasting wines.
We must admit that we liked the wines from bottle shops more.
Work for that wine and cycle to vineyards
The only official place for renting bicycles SUD BIKE was closed the whole weekend and therefore we needed to be creative. We knocked on the door of Casa Blanca Hostal and it turned out they do have 2 spare bikes we could rent. 50BOB for 8 hours per bike or 80BOB for 12hours.
The valley is good 27km long. It’s not a cyclist only path. It’s not dedicated to tourists wanting exercise while drinking wine. We are cyclists, but rent bikes are the worst. All in all, we simply couldn’t ride back to Tarija, our bottoms refused. It wasn’t problem at all. At the main plaza of Vale de Concepcion town is a line of public taxes that leave when full. The driver had absolutely no problem to put our bikes on the roof (22BOB for both of us and the bikes).
Visit Casa Dorada
This is the only place in the whole Bolivia where I got charged the same amount as locals, 5 BOB. It’s a house of rich Boliviano turned into a museum. Based on the photographs of the owners the museum has created copies of the dresses they wore at the beginning of 20th century. That and the furnished rooms are worth the 45min excursion.
Explore nearby Tomatito and try minicrabs
Take a bus B from city center to nearby town of Tomatito (1,75 BOB pp). As you approach the river, the driver will announce the stop. Here you’ll see street restaurants where they prepare minicrabs and other strangely looking sweet water animals. It taste awesome. You can swim in the river (free) or in any of the nearby swimming pools (20BOB pp). 10km away is waterfall. There is a bus going all the way up or you can just walk like we did and stop in this beautiful hotel for refreshing beverage. It makes for a nice day out.
There are plenty options for hiking, you can get the info in information office at the corner of Main Plaza.
When we were in Tarija, it was festival time so we hanged around city a lot. The music, costumes, dancing, gauchos on horses made for a great fun.
Tarija was a great place for us to chill, eat, taste wine and work on the videos.
We’ve been to the Bolivian capital of wine in January 2018. If you have more up to date info, please share it in comments.