Life takes on a more relaxed pace in Tarija. Whether residents are lounging between the orange trees and palms in the main plazas, catching up on the town gossip at their weekly visit to the peluquerĂa, or partaking in one of Tarijaâ€™s many festivals, they go about it with an air of tranquility that comes from living in a near perfect climate. Set along the banks of the River Guadalquiver, and bordered by the imposing Cordillera Oriental and sprawling valleys, Tarija lies at the heart of Bolivian wine-country in the department of the same name.
The city was founded in 1574 by the Spanish Captain Luis de Fuentes y Vargas. He named the local river after RĂo Guadalquiver in his native Seville, the first step towards Tarijaâ€™s nickname as the "Bolivian AndalucĂâ€™"â€”referring to the laid-back, southern Spanish region that also has a great climate and a love of fiestas.
The chapacos, as Tarijans are known, did not take long to tire of Spanish rule. In 1810 they tried unsuccessfully to declare independence from the Spanish Crown and seven years later defeated Spanish forces at the famous battle of "La Tablada". Full independence was finally gained in 1825 as part of the Bolivian Republic.
Tarija has a rich folkloric tradition, combining Spanish colonial dance and music with indigenous forms to create a unique mix, which is proudly displayed at any opportunity. The cityâ€™s position just a few hours from the border with Argentina also means they share many characteristics with their southern neighbors.
The majority of budget and mid-range hotels are spread around the center, and the high-end hotels are mainly in the surrounding barrios. There are plenty of good restaurants sprinkled around the two plazas and around Avenida Las AmĂ©ricas.
The capital of smiles, another of the cityâ€™s monikers, may not be overflowing with sites within the city limits, but its chilled out vibe is likely to have you hooked in no time. Just minutes from the city you can find colonial villages such as San Lorenzo, pre-historic remains along the banks of the river, boat rides at San Jacinto and the areaâ€™s main attractionâ€”the tranquil Valle de la Concepcion, home of Bolivian wine.
If you have a bit of time on your hands, you could explore the often over-looked Tarijan countryside, which ranges from 4,000 meter (13,123 ft) mountains to tropical forest. Tour operators offer varied trips all over the department and can often supply tailor-made tours.
The beautiful Reserva BiolĂłgica Cordillera de Sama is found to the west of the city. Here youâ€™ll find flamingo filled lagoons, sand-dunes and Andean communities; archeological remains, an Inca trail, and Andean forestsâ€”a mecca for trekking.
Sixty kilometers south of the city is the valley of the condors, a perfect place to see this majestic bird away from the crowds of more well-known condor viewing spots.
In the Valle del Medio near Entre Rios you can visit indigenous communities such as the GuaranĂ and Weenhayek, go horse-riding among the mountains and rivers and trek through huge fern forests. You can also camp along the river.
Further south, on the road to Bermejo, is the Reserva Nacional de Flora y Fauna de TariquĂa, a tropical cloud forest with an abundance of plant, animal and bird species including pumas, mountain cats, monkeys, toucans and hummingbirds. Rafting and fishing can also be done in this area.
On top of Tarijaâ€™s many natural assets are its people. Friendly and open, theyâ€™re proud of their unique heritage, like to share a joke and will welcome you into their community with open arms.
As the local tourism brochure so eloquently puts it "Since humans lost the right to live in Eden, Tarija is the closest place to paradise".
Altitude: 1870 meters. Population: 170,000. Telephone code: 4.
Neighborhoods in Tarija: San Lorenzo, Tomatitas And Coimata Falls, El Valle De La ConcepciĂłn, Chaguaya, Around Tarija, Padcaya,
Other places nearby Tarija: San Vicente, Bermejo, Uyuni, Tupiza, Oruro, Reserva Nacional de Flora y Fauna Tariquia, Reserva Biologica Cordillera de Sama, Salar de Uyuni and Southwestern Lakes and VillazĂłn.