Torotoro – Bolivia’s Jurassic park
We’ve read about Torotoro, the Jurassic Park of Bolivia but weren’t sure if the long and painful journey can be justified.
Well let me tell you, visiting Torotoro became easily one of top 5 best experiences in South Amerika.
And why do you ask?
- we’ve never seen mountains of that shape with so much history and evolution written all over them
- Dinosaur footsteps that has been preserved for more than 65mil years
- Whole canyons and rock formations created by water and erosion in City of Itas
- Fossils wherever you step
- The most adrenaline cave visit without the need for special caving equipment or permission (or with the need but who cares?)
- And if that’s not enough to convince you, there are also waterfalls, super cheap food and really nice locals
If you are in, read more on how to organise the trip without using an agency.
The only way to get to the village of Torotoro by public transport is from Cochabamba. We were coming on a night bus from La Paz. If you want to catch the 6am bus to Torotoro, you need to be in Cochabamba before 5.30am as it leaves from Avenida Republica and not from bus terminal. The bus is more comfy but takes 6+ hours for 25 BOB.
Otherwise you can take a minibus from Republica Vale Grande. It leaves once it’s full (we waited only 30min), costs 35 BOB, takes only 4 hours but it’s really uncomfortable. We took the minibus as we were late for the bus.
Plenty of options for sleeping as the village lives from tourism. All the accommodation is very basic. We stayed at Hostal Eden (100 BOB for private room, shared bathroom) and the owner was really chilled and helpful. Please note, there is no free wifi at this property although stated otherwise.
All the other options were priced similarly.
There is also free camping available near the river, but there is no one to look after your luggage while you are discovering the National Park so we opted in for hostal.
Market and nearby local eateries are your best choice with almuerzo and cena starting at 10BOB per meal. At the market it gets really busy around 6-8pm and the local ladies like to ignore us sometimes, but everything is manageable.
The only western food can be found in Cafe on the right from the main Comedor market and offers a selection of surprisingly good pasta, pizza, western style chicken etc although they might be low on resources that come from Cochabamba only on Wednesdays.
Internet at Torotoro
There is no wifi per se in the village, hostels don’t have it, the western Cafe claims to have wifi but it is painfully slow.
If you use Entel, it has a good connection and coverage, no problems using the internet. Otherwise there is 1 special machine next to Mercado where you can buy 60MB for 1 BOB. We’ve never used it but there were always people hanging around the machine and playing with their phones, we’ve been told it works 😉
You need to pay the entrance fee to National Park at the Park Management office in the town which is valid for 4 days: 100 BOB pp for extranjeros.
Each excursion outside of town requires a guide, it’s the main source of income for community. Guides can be booked in the Guides office right next to park management office and works like this:
Guide costs 100 BOB for each excursion that usually lasts half a day. The price can be divided between up to 6 people. So you just simply come around 7.30am and 1.30pm to the guides office and wait for more people to show up with whom you can create a group to split the cost. There will always be people.
Day 1 - arrive from Cochabamba
You might be destroyed from the bumpy travel but if not, you are able to squeeze in a half a day tour in the afternoon.
Afternoon: 7 Vueltas - nice 3,5km hike to reach fossils, awesome views and learn about the sediments and creation of the nearby mountains which are spectacular
Day 2 - combine Ciudad de Itas and Cave Umajalanta
Both are considered half a day trips but they are out of town in the same direction so it’s best to organise transport and do them in 1 day. You do need to pay the guide 100 BOB for both the Itas and the cave. Transport can be organised by the guide office for 330 BOB (between 6 people) or just ask around who has car and would share the ride with you.
Morning: Ciudad de Itas, 5 BOB extra at the entrance
21km away from Torotoro town (1 hour drive) lies this beautiful rock formation where you will spend 2 hours climbing up and down through what really resembles a cave city. There are petroglyphs and paintings from 4000years BC. WOW just WOW
PS: on the way up, stop by at the beautiful cottages run by the local communities to get your lunch organised for 25 BOB (hearty soup, main and drink). Sitting at the terrace, eating great food and watching the views is just the best.
Afternoon: Caverna Umajalanta, 12 BOB extra for entrance and helmet with light
On the way back to Torotoro is the parking spot for the cave from where you walk maybe 1 km, casually passing by some dinosaur footsteps 😉
After you get your helmet with headlamp you start a descent to what was the most thrilling experience we’ve had in Bolivia. Somehow they forgot to mention that this is not a normal cave visit. There are no steps, rails or footpaths build. Your guide has 1 rope and the rest is done on your bum, stomach, lying down, crawling on all 4, sliding down like on a toboggan. Full on caving without the training, permissions or proper equipment. This would never be allowed anywhere else in the world because of how dangerous it is and especially because you are holding onto stalagmites and stalactites for your dear life when moving from one passage to another.
The only thing that makes me slightly less anxious about the way we are destroying the miracle that each cave is, is the fact that there are 17 beautiful caves in Torotoro National Park and only 1 is open to tourists.
Make sure you are wearing proper boots, no snickers and If you are just a slightly claustrophobic, skip the visit altogether.
For any of you adrenaline junkies, this is your playground!
Day 3 - El Vergel and Tortoises cemetery
Morning: el Vergel
No extra fee except 100 BOB for the guide. You start the walk by viewing some super impressive dinosaur footsteps. To reach the waterfall, we hiked on the dry river bed which is so COOL but at the same time sad as 10 years ago it was full of water.
Then you suddenly reach the edge of the cliff and huge canyon opens up right in front of you. From there you need to walk 560 steps down to the bottom of the canyon to reach the waterfall. The journey there is the main objective, not the waterfall itself. But take your swimmers with you as you can get a refreshing bath.
Afternoon: Tortoise cemetery
No guide needed, 5 BOB entrance to the museum.
If you didn’t have enough, you can go and learn about turtles, alligators and dinosaurs who found their faith in this devilish red place. All of their fossilised bodies are still inside the ground to give them the rest they deserve except few which are in the museum for learning and expo purposes.
How to leave: Come back to the main market and wait for minibus to Cochabamba to get filled. It shouldn’t take long.
We have been to Torotoro in January 2018, if you have more accurate information please do share them in the comments. We will update the post accordingly.