Located 120 kilometers from Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz de la Sierra
, the Drive to Samaipata
is itself one of the region’s main attractions. You’ll leave the city at 440 meters above sea level and head into the foothills of the Andes Mountains climbing gradually of the next three hours to an elevation of 1650 masl. Along the way you’ll see colorful cliffs and formations, quaint rural churches and towns, and other mountain scenery.
Waterfalls. About half way to Samaipata you’ll come to Cuevas (The Caves) where you can park your car and take a short hike to a series of 3 tropical waterfalls. It’s a nice place to picnic along the way and enjoy the gradually cooling weather. Further down the road and closer to town the road crosses over another plunging waterfall with a sparkling natural pool right on the side of the road. About 1 hour past Samaipata there is another beautiful waterfall and lagoon called Pajcha.
Of course, Samaipata tours also include a visit to El Fuerte de Samaipata, the town’s primary attraction. The origins of this enormous carved rock (the largest in the world) are not fully known; however, it appears to have been an ancient ceremonial site carved initially by the Mojocoyans and occupied later on by the Incas.
Four kilometers prior to reaching the town itself, you can visit the Sukhiwat Mountain Institute, a remote meditation center for those who need to relax and reflect on life. Sukhiwat Mountain Institute, Samaipata, Bolivia. Tel: (591-7) 368-9422 Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.sukhiwat.org/about.htm
The town itself is small (but growing) and you can spend some time at it’s central plaza surrounded by a church, a school, cafés and restaurants, an internet café and international calling center, and a tourist information office. You can also enter the Catholic Church for a visit (the town also has two evangelical churches). You can also walk and hike around to view the rest of the town, visit different local and foreign-owned restaurants and hostels, or visit the colorful market.
Samaipata has an Archeological Museum that houses artifacts uncovered during the excavation of the Samaipata fort and other findings. It’s a small but interesting place to learn more about the history of this area. It’s located on Calle Bolivar. Phone: (591-3) 944 6065. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Asociación Samaipata Cultural (ASAC) is the Samaipata Cultural Center where theater, art exhibits, movies, recitals, workshops, concerts, and other events regularly take place. Email: email@example.com
You can also enjoy exploring the town and its surrounding on horseback. Finca La Vispera rents horses by the hour or the day. In addition, they can give you longer, guided tours if you really enjoy horseback riding and want to see the sites further from town. The trails nearby are not difficult nor very steep. The Finca La Vispera contact information is on our Samaipata Hostels and Hotels page.
Some Samaipata tours include bird watching and wildlife observation. Samaipata is one of the gateways to Amboro National Park and because of the area’s privileged location between the tropics and the mountains, there is an abundance of fauna and flora to see.
If you’d rather do some camping, several of the hostels and hotels have small camp grounds where you can pitch a tent. Finca La Vispera’s campground offers a bathroom, hot showers, parking area, and grilling area. While you’re there, visit Marga’s awesome herb garden.
Mountain biking is another option among the many Samaipata tours offered locally. For biking tours contact Olaf, Frank and Maarten. Here’s their website: http://www.the-roadrunners.info/Roadrunners.htm
Many Samaipata tour operators offer a day long visit to see the nesting grounds of Bolivia’s national bird, the Andean condor. This enormous bird, a species of vulture, is the second largest in South America and has the widest wingspan in the world (over 9 feet). The tour will take you about 5 hours from town by road and by foot. It’s a long hike, but worthwhile to see them.
If you’d rather not trek or hike, bike or ride a horse, but still want to see some of the region’s wildlife, you can visit the small Samaipata Zoo, which actually functions as an animal refuge. Unfortunately Bolivia has a major problem with people extracting birds and animals from their natural homes. It is not uncommon to find endangered macaws, toucans, and even reptiles, monkeys and other wildlife being sold on city streets. When people figure out they will be unable to care for them, they often abandon them or take them to a local refuge. Most animal refuges in Bolivia are privately owned and operated and are always in serious need of donations and/or volunteers to help out. If you are interested, visit the Zoológico El Refugio, located just 2 kilometers from town. Phone: (591-3) 944 6169.
Samaipata has many great bars, restaurants, and cafés, as well as several artisan shops, a bakery, and colorful outdoor market. You’ll find plenty of places to purchase souvenirs.
Amboro National Park is one of Bolivia’s best known and cared-for national reserves. It is home to an amazing array of flora and fauna species, butterflies, orchids, monkeys, and birds. Samaipata is one of the gateways to Amboro National Park. Buena Vista is another. If nature is your thing, trips to and through Amboro are available through almost any operator that offers Samaipata tours.
A popular tour in Bolivia is the Che Guevara Trail (Ruta del Che). You’ll spend several days walking and hiking, retracing the steps this Argentine guerilla leader took until you reach the place where he was shot. Read more about Che Guevara and the Che Guevara Tour here.
Refugio Volcanes is an area of gorgeous mountain views with deep valleys and steep rounded plateaus. Refugio Volcanes is a part of Amboro National Park and offers beautiful panoramic views, hikes, treks and even nighttime moonlit walks. Bolivia is home to 40% of the Earth’s plant and wildlife, and these tours are especially wonderful for those who are interested in bird watching and wildlife observation.
Laguna Volcan Eco Resort, near Bermejo, is hard to reach but offers spectacular views of the red clay canyons. Here you can hike, swim, and play tennis or golf. The hotel is located right on the shores of a large lagoon formed by water that filled the crater of an inactive volcano. It is located about 38 kilometers from Samaipata.
If rock paintings interest you more than rock carvings, visit the little town of Mataral, about 60 kilometers from Samaipata. Here there are some caves where our human predecessors left some interesting rock paintings of what appear to be faces and other drawings (believed to date back to about 4000 B.C.). The area also has some pretty waterfalls and natural pools. Nearby is the Desierto Mataral, a desert area filled with giant cactus.
For these and other Samaipata tours and ecotours contact Ruta Verde Bolivia here.