In Quechua the word Samaipata means “a place to rest in the mountains”.
The first destination on our trip was exactly what the doctor ordered, considering I started out with a heavy cold.
There’s this laid back feeling to it that’s hard to describe. This small village charms you with it’s compact size, little dirt roads and houses caressed by the afternoon sun. All of it wrapped in lush green hills waiting to be explored!
A tour guide told us, that the village has become quite popular about three years ago. Mostly Santa Cruzeños flock into this little haven on the weekends to escape the heat and the ugliness of the big city.
We arrived on a national holiday, so transport was sporadic and everything was busting out of seams with tourists.
It was actually hard finding a place to sleep (there was some competition involved).
Once the weekend visitors leave it’s a very different story and you’ll have this little sleepy village mostly to yourself.
I especially liked the little puff-puffs on the electrical cords that you can see pictured above. We later found out that these are plants that have blue blossoms. If somebody has a pic of these in bloom please send me one!
After a couple of relaxing days (for me to get healthy) we kept quite busy and enjoyed every minute of it! If you are ever in Boliia, Samaipata is definitely worth the visit. I’ve never heard anyone we met say they didn’t like it or regretted going there.
Here is a short list of things to do with some information on prices and how to do it independently:
If you’re on a tight budget, head to any of the little trails going uphill, there are always great views. Tracking your hike via GPS is always recommended. We did one, starting from the Sucre/Rubén corner of the Plaza, going up you’ll cross the football field and follow all the way up. On our way down we passed El Pueblito (the luxury accommodation), a vinery with grape fields and many fancy villas.
The Inca ruin called “the fortress” was more likely an educational and astronomic center.
It is basically a huge carved rock, with a nice trail going around and some platforms for views. It is one of the more southern points of the Inca empire and is very nice to see if you’re going to Peru, or have been already. Make sure to yell something down at the echo point!
We went there by shared cab and got back on foot. A lot of people walk because it’s only 6km away but I wouldn’t recommend it in hindsight. The road is pretty steep and there is almost no shade at all.
HOW: go to the plaza and wait to find some more people to share a cab with – we were only three people and paid 15BOB per person (one way). Negotiate the price if you’re more and also if you’re going back. The cabbie will wait 2hrs for you, this is more than enough.
ENTRANCE: 50BOB not including guide. With the same ticket you can visit the Museum of El Fuerte in Samaipata which we didn’t find very interesting.
TIP: on the way from El Fuerte you can stop by balneario Mama Pasquala, where you can bathe in the river. Entrance is 3-5BOB.
A beautiful place, wonderfully kept and full of locals. It was lovely watching the kids play in the shallow pools beneath the waterfalls, their parents taking pictures. The sun was shining and there were butterflies all over the place. It felt like a little oasis sheltered by yet more amazing mountains.
There are three waterfalls and huge hill/mountain overlooking the place.
The second was my favorite, make sure to walk up the mirador, the views are stunning.
HOW: from the plaza again, the more people the cheaper.
We went out to the main road (Estrellita Supermercado) and tried to hitchhike without success. Finally we got into a cab with 4 other people already inside (oh the charms of Bolivia) and paid 10BOB each, which was definitely too much. Going back we got into an empty colectivo and paid 15 for the both of us…he even brought us all the way to the plaza.
ENTRANCE: 15bob (bring some food and drink)
TIP: if you want to make some nice pics, go in the morning. The sun will be behind your back.
Amboro National Park
Our hostel owner recommended Tucandera Tours and Samaipata Tours. They are both on Calle Bolivar near the museum.
The more people in the group, the cheaper the tour. If you have the time go to the tourist office of choice and tell them to group you with other people. This means you might have to wait a day or two to actually do the tour.
We opted for Tucandera not only because they were cheaper, but because we wanted to go with Saul, who was a biologist and can talk to you all day about the park and the plants inside.
Parque Amboro has 3 different forest types. We were going to see the cloud forest.
There aren’t a lot of birds or animals in this part of the forest – it’s a very different ecosystem. You’re going to see giant ferns. Some parts of the forest felt like scenes from Jurassic Park, sans the dinosaurs unfortunately 🙂 . The walk was great and the air was cool and pleasant. Twice we got to a clearing with some stunning views of the national park. At the second mirador we even saw condors which was such a treat!
COST: 130 bob (we were 7 people), bring your own water and lunch.
Other activities that we skipped:
- A visit to the animal refuge
- Condor spotting tour
- Palermo to Cuevas trek (looked very attractive, but was too expensive for just the two of us)
- Ruta del Che tour where you can also see Che Guevaras grave
- Daytrip to Paredones (all the rage amongst the hippies – it’s a place to chill and bathe in the river)
How to get there
Santa Cruz: 30 bob by trufi/collectivo. We paid 35 (which was a rip-off) to be dropped off directly at the main square/plaza. Otherwise they let you out at Supermercado Estrellita on the main road. From here it’s about 1km to the center.
Sucre: buses run between Sucre and Santa Cruz, tell them you want to get off in Samaipata. It takes 10-12hrs (we went the other way round and payed 100BOB which was a rip off) and you’ll likely never forget that bus ride.
Cochabamba: using the old road between Santa Cruz & Cochabamba. Takes about 10hrs and should be a wild ride as well (the road is mostly dirt and gravel).
Potosí: we met some guys who paid 80BOB. I’m guessing that the buses run to Santa Cruz and you can get off in Samaipata.
Where to stay
Most accommodations don’t have WIFI.
You can either go to cafes or buy a local sim card and activate a daily/monthly internet package.
El Jardín (we stayed here): 35BOB for dorm (3-4 beds), can’t remember the price of the private double. Nice hippie backpacker place, beautiful garden, hot showers, open kitchen and a bonfire to enjoy at night and chat with people. Mattresses are a nightmare and the kitchen is also a bit wild (the garden and the hammocks compensate a bit).
La Andoriña: if El Jardín is too hippie for you, this is also a very nice option. They quoted us 60BOB for dorms (also 3-4 beds), not sure if breakfast was included. It also has a shared kitchen which looked way cleaner and more organized than at El Jardin.
Where to eat
We did a lot of cooking ourselves.
The local market has everything you need. Try to negotiate the prices – I warn you it won’t be easy.
There are a couple of food stalls at the market; entrance is on calle Arce.
On the same street is a nice cafe with moderate prices, called SiPi. They have really nice fruit shakes, ice teas and cakes.
On calle Arenales close to the corner with Arce they sell a yucca/cheese kind of pancake called “somso”. This stuff was delicious and cost only 3BOB. It’s the only place we found this in Bolivia and we daydreamt about it anytime we were missing a vegetarian snack.
Have you been to Samaipata? We would love to hear about your experience!
Leave us a comment, any feedback is highly appreciated.
Safe travels Mili & Heli!