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Perched in the fertile valleys between the arid altiplano and the tropical eastern plains, Cochabamba enjoys a year-round springlike climate and a unique cultural mix of the highlands and lowlands. There’s also a distinct mix of old and new: the streets of the colonial town center retain a small town feel, while in the north you’ll find glass buildings and a multiplex cinema. It is the capital of the department of the same name and is Bolivia’s third biggest city.

Cochabamba was founded by the Spanish in 1574, mainly as a grain producing centre for Potosí, but there had already been settlements in the area for many years. The Incas recognized the importance of the productive lands, in what are now the Cochabamba valleys, and made the area a priority, using it to grow maize to feed their armies across the empire. Before the Incas, other indigenous groups inhabited the valleys, including the Tiwanaku, and it is believed that there have been people living in the area for over a thousand years.

The city was established by the order of Viceroy Francisco Toledo, and was named La Villa de Oropeza, in honor of the viceroy’s father, the Count of Oropesa. It enjoyed many years of prosperity throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, thriving from the silver boom of Potosí. Once the mining dried up however, so did much of Cochabamba’s trade. The city recovered by the mid 19th century, regaining its position as the ‘granary’ of Bolivia, with the area producing milk, wheat, maize, potatoes, coffee, sugarcane and fruit.

Since the late 18th century the city has played an important role in the social politics of the country - troops were sent from the city to defeat the indigenous uprising in Oruro in 1781, earning it the name the Loyal and Valiant Villa of Cochabamba (from the Quechua words qucha and pampa, which mean lake and plains). The theme has continued more recently with the farmers of the Chapare region, who have emerged as strong voices in the national coca growing debate and in the indigenous political movement, most notably President Evo Morales’s MAS party, who have strong support in the Chapare.

At the turn of the century, in 2000, it was the site of a massive social battle against water privatization. Prices were increased by two-fold or more, and the city’s residents took to the streets in protest. In 2007 the city was again at the centre of huge clashes and protest, this time over regional autonomy.

The main characteristics of modern Cochabamba however, are of a safe and welcoming city, with the community feel of a town smaller than its 600,000 inhabitants. It is said to have the best climate in the whole of Bolivia and has several nicknames due to its idyllic weather and fertile soils – including the city of eternal spring and the garden city. There are plenty of good restaurants and bars around the city, with Calle España, the top student hang-out; Avenida Jose Ballivian, or El Prado as it is more commonly known; and El Boulevar de la Recoleta being the main hot spots. There are some world class hotels, most of which are found along the Prado or in the Recoleta district of the city, and some excellent budget and mid-range options, mainly in the central district.

Cochabamba is perfectly positioned to visit the surrounding countryside. Torotoro National Park, with its dinosaur footprints, caves and impressive rock formations, is 138 kilometers from the city, Carrasco National Park and its rare oilbirds are close by, as is the tropical region of Chapare. Parque Nacional Tunari is just minutes’ drive from the city, offering an easy escape from the city buzz. There are also a number of pre-Columbian ruins within easy reach of Cochabamba. In the city itself, the gigantic Christ statue, El Cristo de la Concordia, is an iconic landmark and has wonderful views of the city from its base.

To really soak up the vibe of Cochabamba however, just take a stroll around one of the many plazas or parks, or explore one of the city’s bustling markets, where you’ll get a real feel of the cochabambino psyche and their unique make-up.


Other places nearby Cochabamba: Around Cochabamba, Quillacolo, Cordillera de los Frailes, Sucre, Tarabuco, Potosí, Tarapaya and Parque Nacional Torotoro.

23 Nov 2009

Top Places in Cochabamba


The city of Quillacollo is located 13 kilometeres (8mi) west of Cochabamba.  With a population estimated to be over 85,000 it is a city in its own right.  However, it is being swallowed by ...
Quillacolo, Around Cochabamba, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Parque Nacional Torotoro

Situated on the eastern foothills of the Andes, the semi-arid landscape of Parque Nacional Torotoro consists of 300 meter deep canyons, caves, scrubby woodland, valleys and waterfalls. It’s the ...
Parque Nacional Torotoro, Around Cochabamba, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Things to do in Cochabamba

El Cristo de la Concordia

Cochabamba’s unmissible landmark stands at an impressive 34.2 meters (40.4 meters including its base) – a little taller than the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro, one of the tallest statues in ...
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco

The Iglesia de San Francisco (Calle 25 de Mayo, on the corner of Calle Bolívar) was built in the late 16th century in the Renaissance style, and is one of the oldest buildings in Cochabamba. The ...
Historical Building
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Iglesia Santa Domingo

Iglesia Santa Domingo (Avenida Ayacucho and Calle Santiváñez) was one of the last colonial churches to be built in Cochabamba, and has many original ornamental details that were common in mestizo ...
Historical Building
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Catedral Metropolitana de Cochabamba

The Catedral Metropolitana de Cochabamba, situated next to the main plaza, began life as a small adobe church in the 16th century, and is Cochabamba’s oldest church. It was remodelled in the 18th ...
Historical Building
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Convento-Museo Santa Teresa

This impressive religious complex contains two 18th century churches – one that was built inside the other - and a maze of rooms, corridors and patios. The Convento Santa Teresa (Calle Baptista and ...
Historical Building
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Palacio Portales

The former home of tin baron Simón Patiño (although he never actually lived here), who was once the fourth richest man in the world. The two-floor French Renaissance style palace was built using ...
Historical Building
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Museo Arqueológico

The Museo Arqueológico, run in conjunction with the San Simon University, displays a wide-range of artefacts from different Bolivian cultures, including Tiahuanaco, Yampara, Sauce and Mojacoya. ...
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Llama Chaqui Ruins

There are a number of pre-Columbian ruins in Parque Nacional Torotoro, with the most well-known being the fort of Llama Chaqui. Situated 19 kilometers from Torotoro, it’s a beautiful but exerting ...
Parque Nacional Torotoro, Around Cochabamba, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Cañon de Torotoro and El Vergel

Definitely one of the most picturesque sites in the park, the Cañon de Torotoro is situated a few hours walk from the village of Torotoro. It’s part of the network of large canyons throughout ...
Parque Nacional Torotoro, Around Cochabamba, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Gruta de Umajalanta

One of the most popular attractions in the park is the Gruta de Umajalanta, a complex cave system of chambers and passageways, which is thought to be the largest in Bolivia. Almost five kilometers of ...
Parque Nacional Torotoro, Around Cochabamba, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Museo de Pachamama Wasi

The Pachamama Wasi Museum, or house of stones, displays hundreds of pre-historic rocks that have been collected from Torotoro National Park. The small museum is housed in the home of David Gonzáles, ...
Parque Nacional Torotoro, Around Cochabamba, Cochabamba, Bolivia
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