A view of the rounded sinclinales of Torotoro National Park, Bolivia Bolivia

WIT: Torotoro Bolivia – Why You Need to Visit…

To reach Torotoro National Park, Bolivia, you first need to decide whether it’s worth braving the minivan journey (for now) from Cochabamba. It’s certainly a diversion, regardless of the Bolivia itinerary you’re working on, but Torotoro is worth your time.

The closest city, Cochabamba, isn’t often visited and there’s not exactly a plethora of information but we promise you: Torotoro National Park is absolutely worth the hassle.

Due to become a UNESCO World Heritage site by the end of 2019, a lot is going to change in this sleepy little town. Get here before the crowds do.

Toy dinosaurs on the ground next to fossilised dinosaur footprints, El Vergel tour, Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
Marcelino’s props were most helpful

How to Get to Torotoro, Bolivia

It seems straightforward on paper. There are no boats, trains or planes for this one. Get to Cochabamba, hop in a colectivo and hey presto, a few hours later you’re deep in Bolivia in Torotoro. If only it was that simple: this was one of our worst rides in all of South America.

Colectivo

To get your colectivo you need to make your way to the corner of Avenida República and Vallegrande. This is either a 15-minute walk from the main bus terminal, or a quick taxi ride.

We arrived in Cochabamba after a night bus from Sucre at around 6am. Half-asleep and freezing, we made our way through the chaos of the bus terminal and out the east exit (Av Ayacucho).

A sign displaying 'salidas a toro toro' in Cochabamba
You’ll know you’re in the right place

A man approached us and asked if we were going to Torotoro. On a busy street in the pitch black, we took a chance and headed to his van with him. We were relieved to see it kitted out in the typical Torotoro decorations (think Jurassic Park, Bolivian style). He took us to the colectivo terminal (the corner of República and Vallegrande) for free.

A stick on the side of a van shows the Torotoro logo, Bolivia
They’re really gone for it with the Jurassic Park theme

WEE TIP: we were told about an actual bus that leaves for Torotoro from Cochabamba bus terminal daily. We searched around the bus station and spoke to a lot of companies and tour agencies.

To the best of our knowledge, this bus no longer operates, meaning out with hiring a tank, getting the colectivo is your only option. When we arrived in Torotoro we discovered an official-looking bus that looked very, very broken-down. We guess it hasn’t moved in a long time.

Departure

Your colectivo will leave when it’s full. Luckily for us, we took two of the last three spaces and were on our way within 20 minutes. Other backpackers waited over two hours – it just depends on your luck.

The journey should take 4-5 hours. On a good day. If your van doesn’t break down. Our van broke down after an hour, delaying us two hours while another van was delivered, bags were moved and tempers were calmed.

The Experience

Heed our warning: the road is bumpy beyond belief. You’ll ford rivers, slam around corners, and spend half your time in the air. Pack a helmet, a cushion, anything. We were all sorts of sore by the time we arrived.

Also, it’s almost impossible to sleep; don’t even think about getting your laptop out. Just try and enjoy the admittedly gorgeous scenery the whole way there.

Bags being moved between minivans on the way to Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
A van delivery for the middle of nowhere?

In winter (wet season) this current road is flooded and impassable, meaning that visiting Torotoro National Park is strictly seasonal. If you really want to visit in the wet season, we were told that apparently you can fly to a local airport nearby and get a transfer from there. We can’t imagine that this is a very cost-effective way to visit the park.

Things to Know Before Visiting Torotoro, Bolivia

Practicalities in Town

We were told to bring all the cash we needed because there were no ATMs in Torotoro. Furthermore, we were warned that card payments weren’t an option. True, you can’t pay for much by card, but there’s a new looking Banco Union ATM near the main square. It worked fine for us, so at least you don’t have to worry about that.

There is little-to-no wifi in town. Some accommodation will offer wifi but it doesn’t really work. You can pay Bs1 for 15 minutes of wifi using a very strange little machine in the corner of the main square. This worked fine for sending a birthday message text – don’t expect to use it for much else.

A rock formation stands alone with a Bolivian backdrop in La Ciudad de Itas, Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
Some pretty amazing formations at La Ciudad de Itas with phenomenal backdrops

Alternatively, just use the data from your Entel SIM card. We made the amateur mistake of buying Tigo cards which had absolutely no signal. Entel’s signal was strong basically everywhere – a friend even received a text when we were in the caves!

Tours to Torotoro National Park, Bolivia

You’ll see tourism agencies in Sucre, Potosí, and La Paz offering tours to Torotoro. In our opinion, this really isn’t necessary. If you’re anything like us and prefer to do things on your own terms, then visiting Torotoro independently is absolutely achievable.

UNESCO’s Influence

As we’ve already mentioned, Torotoro is becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site – the 8th one in Bolivia. This means big change and a huge cash boost. They’re currently building a new road all the way from Cochabamba to Torotoro which promises to be a lot faster and much more comfortable than the existing one.

There are plans to build a similar road which will open up access from Potosí as well. This is going to make access to the national park significantly more straightforward: a lot more people are going to start visiting.

The guides are all currently learning English and accommodation is popping up everywhere you look. Many of the hotels and hostals have high hopes for wifi infrastructure arriving soon. While we’re delighted that this incredible place will finally be getting the recognition it deserves, it’s naturally going to change.

The Town Itself

Unassuming Torotoro, deep in wildest Bolivia, must be a geologist’s paradise. The 14 Sinclinales are like nothing we’ve ever seen before. There’s so much to see and even for those who have no interest in rocks (ahem…us) this place is fascinating and super educational.

The 14 Sinclinales of Torotoro had us wanting to learn more about tectonic plates and volcanic activity. The landscape truly is unique and for the first time, we were genuinely intrigued to learn about the dinosaur footprints and abundance of fossils.

So, if you’re coming to Torotoro National Park and looking for a party, you’re in the wrong part of Bolivia. This is a quiet, sleepy place, and if you spend your time the way we did then you’ll be more concerned about your bed than a beer at night.

That being said, if you’re going for a drink, there are a few tourist-oriented bars, and one or two local joints in town as well.

Upon arrival, you’ll probably laugh at the gimmicky dinosaur-theme everywhere in town. One of the main squares has dinosaur sculptures and statues, and you’ll find dinosaurs peering out of hotel entrances. They’ve really gone to town on the whole ‘Jurrasic Park’ thing.

Organising Torotoro National Park Tours

Ok! So you’ve braved the journey to get there, it better be worth it right? Thankfully it is, and you’ve a range of tours to choose from because, well, tours into the National Park are about the only thing to do in Torotoro.

WEE TIP: how’s your Spanish? If you have basic Spanish then you’ll probably be alright. If you don’t speak a word, then we have bad news: everything in Torotoro is in Spanish.

Although the guides are learning English, for now, they speak Quechua and Spanish (in that order). Our Spanish is pretty good, but our vocabulary was tested with geology and dinosaur descriptions. We did hear English-speaking guides but they were on private tours and cost an awful lot more.

A map showing all the different tours available in Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
All of your options for tours
The Tour Office

The tourist office (on the west side of town in front of the basketball court) is where you’ll need to organise everything. It’s open from 07:30 – 11:00 and 13:30 – 16:30.

Before you join any tour, you’ll first need to buy your Torotoro National Park Entry Ticket. This is Bs100 and gives you x4 days (consecutive) access to the park. The park entry ticket office is right next to the tour office. A word of warning: there are manned checkpoints in the park – just buy the $14 ticket and don’t be a dick.

A plaque showing details about Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
There’s a ranger house just next to this sign. Just buy a damn ticket
Organising the Tours

One of the best things about the tours in Torotoro is that, unlike other things in Bolivia, the price is set per tour. The cost of a tour for x1 person is the same for x6. Therefore, it really makes sense to get talking to other visitors and try and make a group.

Groups are normally between 4-6 people. We spoke very, very nicely to the staff behind the desk and managed to make a group of 7, but that is the absolute limit. Once you’ve paid the tour costs at the desk, one of the guides will give you a safety talk, and off you’ll go.

We were very lucky to have Marcelino for both days of our tours and couldn’t have asked for a better guide. He was hugely informative, flexible and his genuine passion for the park certainly rubbed off on us. Vivid explanations about dinosaur life and descriptions of the landscapes and sights really added another level to the tours.

When to Arrive

It sounds obvious, but for the morning tours make sure you’re at the office for opening at 07:30. We arrived 20 minutes later and it was queued out the door. At the back of the queue, we had to wait to organise our tours and groups.

The afternoon tours are a little more relaxed. Turning up at 13:30 you’ll probably be the only people there, but there won’t be many people to join your tour and cut the costs.

WEE TIP: access to the national park without a guide is forbidden. Buy your National Park ticket, and pay for your guide. It’s not exactly a lot of money.

When we were buying our tickets, a couple were coming in to buy their second ones. They’d walked down to El Vergel without a guide (crazy bastards) and got caught without a guide at the checkpoints on their way back. Their tickets were taken from them and they were heading into the office to get a bollocking.

A guide that would have cost them Bs50 each was now costing them Bs100 extra each. Our guide really added to our walks with incredible information and an infectious attitude – you really have nothing to win by trying to dodge them.

Now for the tours! Here at the most popular options.

El Vergel

El Vergel is rightly one of the highlights of any visit to Torotoro National Park. You’ll see dinosaur footprints, an outstanding canyon, and a gorgeous waterfall. For more about the El Vergel tour check our full post Torotoro’s El Vergel Tour here.

A waterfall flows in to pools of water, taken from a cave opposite. El Vergel tour, Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
It’s hard to take a bad picture of El Vergel waterfall

La Ciudad de Itas

The Itinerary

The Ciudad de Itas is another popular tour. You’ll drive 21km (45m) north, even deeper into Torotoro, Bolivia, arriving at a city of rock formations believed to have been a community many years ago. This tour’s all about the unique rock formations and wonderful views. Find out more about Ciudad de Itas here.

Rocks form archways in La Ciudad de Itas, Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
There are plenty of tunnels and archways in La Ciudad de Itas

Caverna de Umajalanta

People inside a cave look for bats with their headlights, Cavernas de Umajalanta, Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
Don’t be alarmed – we’re checking for bats in Caverna de Umajalanta

We did our tour through the caves of Umajalanta in the afternoon. It really makes sense to do this and La Ciudad de Itas together, making the most of your transport costs.

If you’ve been reading our posts for a while you’ll know that we despise caves. Torotoro National Park managed to change our minds for the moment. You’ll find more about this tight squeeze here.

Cabañas Umajalanta
Views of Torotoro sinclinales from Cabañas Umajalanta, Torotoro National Park, Bolivia
A lovely spot for a snooze after a big lunch

If you’re doing both tours then you have two options for lunch. One of them is a packed lunch. Your other option is to enjoy lunch at Cabañas Umajalanta, located right next to Caverna de Umajalanta.

The Cabañas is a thoughtfully designed hotel perched on a perfect outlook. Bs25 gets you a quinoa soup and meatballs with fresh juice, and we were delighted with it. Your group will head here between tours anyway, and there are some sun loungers in the gardens.

Views of Torotoro Canyon with high mountains behind, Bolivia
The canyon stretches for an incredible 14km

Other Tours in Torotoro National Park, Bolivia

These are three of the most popular tours in Torotoro National Park, and we loved them all. However, if you have more time, there are a few other options you should consider.

Ruinas de Llama Chaki

This 19km walk can be done in two ways. The first option is a day trip. You’ll be picked up at 5am and driven to the start point for the hike. After walking the gruelling 19km you’ll be picked up and driven back to town. Expect to return at around 7pm. It’s a long day, and the total cost is Bs500.

Your other option, and a much more attractive option, is to split the walk over two days. This option doesn’t require transport and therefore brings the cost down to Bs300. You’ll spend the first day walking up to the Inca Village Camp, and spend the night in a tent there. The next day you walk back.

The walk takes you to the other side of the Torotoro mountains into a forest packed with wildlife. It’s meant to be a natural ‘oasis’ and a very different climate to the rest of the park. If you do the walk, please get in touch with the Comments and let us know how it went! We were gutted to miss this one.

A girl stands on a cliff edge at Torotoro Canyon, Bolivia
Emma getting her IG on
Other Walks

Chiflón Qaka and Cementerio de Tortugas are both simple 7km walks. We were advised that they might be a little underwhelming if you’ve seen Vergel, Itas, and Umajalanta. If you do the tours that we did over two days, then you can probably skip these ones. If you don’t, then they’re great alternatives.

Where to Stay in Torotoro, Bolivia

There are a surprising amount of accommodation options in Torotoro, but you’re going to have to lower your expectations across the board since, as with much of Bolivia, the showers are sketchy. They’re rarely warm and with loose wires everywhere, you’ll get a shock or two along the way.

Wifi may be offered, but it will be almost unusable. Keep this in mind.

Posada del Abuelo

For the life of me, I have no idea why we stayed here. We’ve stayed in much worse, of course, but we feel like we could have stayed in better. We were actually waiting outside the closed Hostal Vergel, when the owner of Posada del Abuelo approached us and informed us that Vergel had been shut for a while.

He offered us a decent twin room with a shared bathroom and terrace for Bs100 (including breakfast). It was Bs80 without breakfast. Since there are only two rooms above his restaurant (and the other one was empty) and we’d already checked a number of places, we settled and took the room.

The owner is lovely, the balcony’s very pleasant and the room was clean enough. But the shower was very dodgy and cold, there was no wifi, and breakfast was basic bread and jam. It’s fine, nothing more.

Las Hermanas

Our friends stayed here for Bs100 a night and were really happy with it. They had a matrimonial bed with a private bathroom, but also complained about a sketchy shower.

Wilma Hostel

Wilma Hostel is the backpacker option in town. One of the oldest hostels in town they offer wifi and dorm beds from Bs50 a night. Other friends stayed here and didn’t have too much to complain about. They’re even on Hostelworld, but I wouldn’t be expecting a prompt response to any inquiries.

Choro Hostel

We had a peek inside Choro Hotel after finally finding somebody that worked there. To be honest, we were absolutely intrigued by the Jurassic Park decoration and huge dinosaurs on every wall. We weren’t so impressed with the staff. Bs80 for a matrimonial with a shared bathroom, Bs120 for a private bathroom. The rooms were clean but a little dingy and dark.

Hostal Charcas

We had a look around Hostal Charcas as well. The owner was very pleasant and happy to show us around. The matrimonial rooms are a little run-down (a lick of paint would help) but with a private bathroom included for Bs80 it would be silly to complain. There was a decent kitchen and even a laundry-sink and washing line in the courtyard. This is where we should have stayed.

Hostal Eden

We avoided Hostal Eden because we assumed it would be busy, being located right next to Hostal Torotoro and the bus stop. Turns out they offer dorm beds from Bs50 (including breakfast) and privates as well. Our friend that stayed there was very happy with her stay.

Two other hostals that get a mention are Hostal Matita and Hostal Vergel. Both of them have great reviews and looked great value for money, but they were both chained and padlocked shut when we were in town. How they expect to make money I do not know.

The dinosaur square of Torotoro with dinosaur statues, Bolivia
Let’s hope they don’t get sued for copyright infringements anytime soon

Where to Eat in Torotoro

Unlike the accommodation in town, you don’t have a huge amount of options for eating in Torotoro. Dinners are basic affairs and although there are one or two ‘italian’ places on the main square, you’re best sticking to local food.

Hostal Torotoro

This is probably your best bet for tourist-friendly food in town (from Bs25). The menu includes their twist on some local dishes (but apparently not the night we were there) and some admittedly delicious pastas. So, the service is awful, but the food’s tasty, prices are reasonable and the wifi is the best in town.

Como en Casa

This restaurant, located in a really beautiful old building also offers rooms (from Bs120). Our French friends, after joking about it being recommended in the famous French guide book ‘la guide du routard’, told us that the food was fantastic. Unfortunately, they were closing when we rocked up, but they offer great food that even includes a few vegetarian options. The owner, from La Paz, also speaks French.

The Main Square

You’ll find 3-4 local restaurants on the main square and although they’re nothing special, they do the job. We had silpancho at the restaurant on the corner, next to the colectivo office. You get the option of pollo or plancha, which is a huge portion arriving with tomato, lettuce and rice. Not the healthiest meal around, but incredibly only Bs10.

WEE TIP: if you want a beer, buy a bottle of pilsner from the shop next door and you can enjoy it with your meal. You’ll have to return your glass bottle when you’re done.

A view of the Torotoro Colectivo tourist office, Bolivia
Get your tickets here. That poor sheep was strapped to our van roof!

Summary

Day 1:

  • Brave the bumpy journey from Cochabamba to Torotoro
  • Find your accommodation, freshen up and grab some food before your first tour
  • Head to the tourist office at 13:30 and organise the El Vergel tour
  • Grab dinner at Como en Casa and get a well-earned sleep

Day 2:

  • You’re up early today! Make sure that after breakfast, you’re at the tour office for 07:30
  • Hopefully you can get a group of 6-7 of you and keep the costs low. Enjoy a full day of tours at La Ciudad de Itas and Caverna de Umajalanta
  • Grab a beer and some local food with the friends you made on the tours today. If you’re doing more tours, then lucky you – get a good sleep before another early rise tomorrow

Day 3:

  • Be at the colectivo office for 08:30 or so, and get your transport back to Cochabamba

Budget Breakdown

Getting There:
  • Colectivo from República/Vallegrande
  • 06:00 – 12:00
  • Bs35pp

Total: Bs70 ($10)

Accommodation:
  • Posada del Abuelo
  • Twin Room with Shared Bathroom
  • Bs100 per night

Total: Bs200 ($28)

Attractions:
  • Torotoro National Park Entry Bs100 pp
  • El Vergel Tour (half-day) Bs25 pp
  • La Ciudad de Itas & Caverna de Umajalanta Tour (full-day) Bs102 pp (group of 7)

Total: Bs454 ($64)

Local Costs:
  • Lunch (at the pit stop on the drive there) Bs10 pp
  • Large water (day 1) Bs6
  • Local dinner Bs10 pp
  • Large beer (day 1) Bs20
  • Another large water (day 1) Bs6
  • Large water (day 2) Bs6
  • Snacks and fruit for the tours (day 2) Bs15
  • Lunch at the Cabañas Bs25 pp
  • Dinner at Hostal Torotoro Bs30 pp
  • Another large water day 2) Bs6

Total: Bs209 ($30)

Moving On:
  • Colectivo Torotoro – República/Vallegrande
  • 09:30 – 14:30
  • Bs35pp

Total: Bs70 ($10)

Total for 2D/2N: Bs1,003/$142

The above budget is for x2 people. Food, water and alcohol costs are likely to vary.

This budget breakdown isn’t quite an exact record of what we spent, but should give you a rough idea of what you’re likely to spend.

*all currencies accurate at the time of writing (June ’19). $1 = Bs6.66

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