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Samaipata

 

 

Samaipata—Quechua for a “rest in a higher place”—is a jumping off point for a visit to El Fuerte, the easternmost of several Pré-Inca fortifications. From here you can head to Las Cuevas, where natural swimming holes flanked by gorgeous waterfalls give way to a variety of walking trails. The area is perfect for short and long hikes and horseback riding, or just having a pleasant break to poke around and explore the old Spanish Colonial route from Santa Cruz to Sucre and Cochabamba.

 

 

The area is a great launching point for treks into the Amboró National Park and—further on eastern route—to the Noel Kempff National Park and the Jesuit Missions. Hardy hikers and trekkers can also use this as a starting point for a four day trip retracing the old trade route to Sucre via Vallegrande, Río Grande, Villa Serrano, Zudañez and Tarabuco. Hiking boots aside, this place houses the enigmatic El Fuerte ruins. Despite years of investigation and excavation, little is known about this World Heritage site. It is thought to have first served as a lookout and ceremonial center for Amazonian tribes before a brief stint as an Inca fortification. Carved from a solid slab of sandstone, El Fuerte is sadly suffering from erosion. At one time, the stones carried distinct images of jaguar and puma, but the serpentine marks near the water canal are quickly fading.

 

 

Until 1998, visitors were free to walk around the carvings up-close, but in the name of preservation, they must now view the structure from walkways built above and around the site. Erosion notwithstanding, the site is striking due to its unexplained animal and geometric markings, and its mummy and icon niches. The chikana (Quechua for  labyrinth) located nearby is also a visitor magnet. This maze-like structure winds underground, and begins at the foot of a deep hole, where excavators located a tunnel entrance. Vultures and condors may also be spotted from the walkways.

 

Described as having a Never-Never Land feel (minus Peter Pan), AmborĂł Park also features cloud covered fern forest seemingly pulled right from a fairytale. The whole region is a bird watcher’s paradise. Whether you choose to hike and trek, bird watch, or visit La Fuerte, this place is sure to keep you busy. 



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