Words like paradise, oasis and haven pop up with regular occurrence when referring to Sorata and with good reason. Perched on the side of the semi-tropical foothills with the imposing snow covered peaks of the Cordillera Real visible from town, its positioning is hard to beat. Itâ€™s one of the best places to go trekking in the whole of Bolivia and is also the gateway to off-the-beaten-track adventures into the Apolobamba region, the Amazon and the surrounding hills.
Sorata was founded in 1590 under the name Corregimiento de Larecaja. Since then, the village has had a varied history. In 1791 it was the site of a siege by indigenous leader AndrĂ©s Tupac Amaru who washed the pueblo away with run-off water from Mount Illampu. Many of the fields surrounding Sorata were a major source of gold during the Inca Empire and were an important source of gold, rubber and quinine in colonial times.
A widely mis-reported blockade of the village in 2003, where police heavy-handedly stormed the community, did immeasurable damage to the tourism industry in Sorata, but the plucky village has managed to claw its way back and is now well on its way to retaining its position as one of Boliviaâ€™s prime tourism destinations. Today gold, along with agriculture, remains an important source of income for the village and youâ€™ll see signs displaying Â¨compro oroÂ¨ (gold bought here) in random shops all over town.
Sorataâ€™s palm-filled plaza is a good place to get orientated and soak up a bit of village life. Itâ€™s possible to arrange treks in the village to any of the numerous trails in the surrounding hills and mountains. The five or six day Camino del Oro, from the Cordillera Real to the goldfields, is one of the most popular. The multi-day day hikes to the beautiful glacier lake (5,038 meters), with stunning views of the glaciers and surrounding valley, is another definite highlight.
Thereâ€™s a good range of hotel options in town, from basic to comfortable, but you wonâ€™t find any luxury options. Most of the accommodation is close to the plaza or on the outskirts of town. Food options are more limited, with an inexplicable number of pizza and Mexican restaurants around the main plaza, but not many other international food options. There are a few places offering international food however, and plenty of Bolivian restaurants just down from the main plaza.