Parque Nacional Tunari
Cochabamba's Parque Nacional Tunari, established just outside of the city in 1962, at 329,183 ha, is a small park by Bolivian standards, but easy to reach. Situated in what many say is the most beautiful valley in the country, Tunari's chief appeals are the magnificent vistas it affords from its summit,
(5035 m), and its numerous, well-marked trails. It also encompasses a number of beautiful lakes, the best of which is
, all within easy reach of the city.
West of Cochabamba, the suburb of Quillacollo has a good Sunday market, which is completely geared towards the local
. There are no tourist items for sale. The town is famous for its
Fiesta de la Virgen de Urkupiña
, which lasts four days with much dancing and religious ceremony. Its date varies each year between June and August. The first day is the most colourful with all the groups in costumes and masks, parading and dancing in the streets till late at night. Many groups have left by the second day and dancing stops earlier. The third day is dedicated to the pilgrimage. Be there before 0900 to be sure of a seat, as you are not allowed to stand in the street. Cochabamba gets very busy at this time.
About 8 km beyond Quillacollo is a road to the beautiful
, centre of the Patiño agricultural foundation. Known also as
, it was built in 1925-1932, furnished from Europe and inhabited by Patiño's wife, Albina.
27 km west of Cochabamba, near
(population 42,000), are the Inca ruins of Inka-Rakay. The fantastic views from the site, of the Cochabamba Valley and surrounding mountains, are more impressive than the ruins themselves. From Sipe- Sipe to the ruins there is either a 6-km footpath, or a 12-km road, taking three to four hours to walk - a beautiful trip. Start early for it is a full day.
Southeast of Cochabamba is an area known as
with some interesting little towns, all easily reached from the city. The sleepy village of Tarata, 33 km southeast of Cochabamba, is worth visiting for its crumbling, colonial architecture. It has a lovely old arcaded plaza on which stand the
, containing an 18th-century organ and other colonial artefacts, the Casa Consistorial and the Municipalidad. Also on the plaza, the
has an old German clock with chimes, and good views over the plaza and village.
are the remains of the martyr, San Severino, patron saint of the town, more commonly known as the 'Saint of Rain'. A lively and colourful festival is held in his honour on the last Sunday of November, attracting many thousands of people. The convent dates from 1808 and would be a shame to miss. To one side of its peaceful brick courtyard is the old store for wine made by the nuns and, judging by the size of the massive urns, this was a merry place indeed! You can also see a nun's bedroom barely changed in nearly 200 years, tiny, stark and bare with the remains of a horrible bed. Three Fathers live here now and allow tourists to stay in the convent. If you ask politely they may
also show you the collection of antique books. The church next door has an interesting modern-day chapel.
Taranta has a large procession on 3 May,
, with fireworks and a brass band. Market day is Thursday and Sunday. Don't miss Tarata's culinary specialty, sausages known all over the country and served with cooked wheat. You can find this traditional dish next to the convent or close to the local market. You can also ask around to see who sells alpaca sweaters, bags and textiles.
Punata, 48 km east of Cochabamba, is an important agricultural centre and is famous for its festival of
on 24 September, as well as its many baroque/mestizo works of art in the church. Behind the church, villagers line up their new vehicles for the priest to bless. Punata also has a reputation for the production of the region's
- the local speciality is
, a mixture of
and ice cream. It also has a very lively and colourful market on Tuesday.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF