From Cochabamba to TorotoroFrom Cochabamba to Torotoro Accommodation in TorotoroAccommodation in Torotoro Entry To The ParkEntry To The Park Hiring A GuideHiring A Guide Choosing A CircuitoChoosing A Circuito Our Suggested ItineraryOur Suggested Itinerary
Researching our trip to Bolivia’s enigmatic and beautiful Parque Nacional Torotoro, the only thing we could find less information on than the journey to the town itself, was how exactly the tours of the park worked.
After hours online, speaking to several people and recieving different information every time, we decided to do the ungraceful thing and go find out for ourselves.
What follows is a straight forward (hopefully) no frills, no thrills guide to the tours of Tototoro (try sayin’ that 3 times fast).
From Cochabamba to Torotoro:
It doesn’t matter where in the world (or Bolivia) you’re coming from, your first task is to get yourself to Cochabama.
From here, unless you plan to stay in Cochabamba, which we decided against, the final leg of the journey is a 5 hour, ass poundingly bumpy, drive in collectivo to Torotoro.
Collectivos to Torotoro leave from the corner of Avenida República y Vallegrande. To reach the Avenida, you can grab any collectivo from outside the terminal, or endure the 20 minute walk. Just be sure to grab some water, Cochabamba is hot, even at 8am, and especially with a big ass backpack!
Exit the main entrance of terminal and take a right. There will be a number of junctions, just stay straight down the middle. If you’re in doubt asking locals for directions works a treat here, the Cochabambans (I just made that up) are so lovely, always willing to give you their time. Once you reach the Avenida, you will soon see the large orange signs screaming for your attention.
Collectivos leave when full, or minimum 7 people (full is only 8), be prepared to wait at least an hour or two. The journey costs 35B (€4.50) but we haggled them down to 30B (€3.50). It usually takes 5 hours, we say usually, because we left at 12pm and with thanks to construction, we didn’t arrive until 6pm. Lucky us.
If you’re interested in how to get here from Rurrenabaque or La Paz, as usual, the wonderful Katie Hogan has your back. You can read how we did it here.
Accommodation in Torotoro:
We stayed in the Alojamiento Charcas, about five doors down from where the collectivo terminates, in the direction of the plaza. It has a basic kitchen with limited cooking equipment, hot water and at the time we were there, no Wi-Fi. Something they assured was being fixed.
The lady that runs the place was super friendly and helpful, and at 25B (€3) per person it was an absolute steal.
Entry To The Park:
First and foremost you will need to buy an entry ticket to the park itself. You cannot enter the park without one.
The entry is 100B (€12.50), you can purchase your entry in the Oficina de Turismo beside the Casa de las Guías.
This ticket is valid for 4 days and entitles you entrance across these 4 days.
If you plan on doing all the tours it’s probably best to purchase this on the morning of your first tour, so as not to lose a day. The office opens at 7am.
Hiring A Guide:
Next is that you cannot enter the park without a guide, and you cannot hire a guide without an entry ticket, so once you have bought your entry ticket from the tourist office, head next door to the Casa de las Guías to book your circuito(s) and they’ll assign you a guide.
Each circuito costs 100B (€12.50) per group of six, so make sure you are a full group to bring the cost down. This lowers the price of each circuit down to a much more budget friendly 17B (€2) per person. Although some of the circuitos have extra costs (see choosing a circuito below).
If you are less than 6 people, fear not, you can very easily make up your numbers by searching in a local hostal, market, bars for other people who will also need a group. Worst case, there are always people hanging around the Casa de las Guías in the mornings.
The Casa de las Guías operates from 7am-12pm and 1.30pm-4.30pm. Most morning tours start around 7.30am or 8am so you will have time to buy your entry and book a tour on the same morning if you arrive before 7am (expect queues).
It’s important to note, the guides speak Spanish or Qechwa. Not a word of anything else, which is weird in my opinion, especially considering they have to go to college for four years to become tour guides. So if you don’t “spreckenzie Spanish”, try to go with someone who does.
Choosing A Circuito:
There are a few circuitos to choose from depending on your available time, budget, fitness level and interests. This is what makes Torotoro so interesting. You can tailor-make your own itinerary within the confines of your 4 day ticket.
Each circuit takes 4/5 hours (half day) to complete, has various sights to see, and costs 100B per group, as said before.
The most popular circuits include:
The Umajalanta Caverns circuito, which does come with additional transport costs of 150B (€18.50) per group (which you can avoid paying if you have your own transport), as well as 12B (€1.50) per person for gear rental (helmet and headlamp which is essential). On this circuit you will see some pretty well pronounced dinosaur footprints, actually these were the best ones we saw throughout our two days at Torotoro.
The caverns is a 3-4km underground odyssey. A climbing, dropping, scaling, crawling adventure that will awaken your inner spelunker (yes, there’s a word for it). Our guide deftly led the way through the tunnels in FLIP-FLOPS, (putting us all to shame) stopping to show us and explain any points of interest.
You will see stalacmite and stalactite formations in various shapes and sizes, including a Christmas tree, the sorting hat from Harry Potter, a baby and a severed finger!
If you’re claustrophobic the caves will be difficult for you, but not impossible. I’m not great with small spaces, and there were a few points when I thought I might vom… But I made it unharmed, alive and in one piece, and so will you champ, I believe in you.
Ciudad de Itas:
The Ciudad de Itas circuito, also has a 150B transport cost (€18.50) per group. On this tour you will see strange arched rock formations and caves resembling an ancient city and gothic cathedral, cave paintings and dinosaur footprints. We didn’t make to the ciudad ourselves but everyone we spoke to raved about it. Although they did say to check the weather and make sure you get a clear day to make the most of the experience.
The Vergel circuito has no additional transport costs, but this comes at the cost of your legs and butt. The tour started with a walk out of town along the river to see the dinosaur footprints. To be honest this part of the tour was both overrated, and could have been done DIY. Just follow the main road out of town until you see the river and then walk along its banks. The footprints should be on your right and the river on your left.
Next up was an 8km round hike to and through the beautiful 200m deep 10km long Chiflón canyon, stopping at the viewing platform for some breathtaking (if not stomach churning) shots, before descending the 800 steps to the bottom.
It was here we caught a glimpse of a giant condor, with its hella impressive 3 to 4 meter wingspan, something I’ve always wanted to see in person! Unfortunately he caught us by surprise so I wasn’t able to get a photo. D’oh! But apparently it’s not uncommon to see them float gracefully through the canyon.
Once in the canyon our guide led us to the Vergel waterfalls, stopping along the way to point out various plants and their uses, among which were plants for hair treatments, diets, making rope and even halucenagens. The falls themselves are picturesque cascades free flowing into crystal clear pools of water at testicle retracting temperatures. We were given about an hour to chill eat and swim, before making the long trek back to the top. Yes we had to do the 800 steps back up, my legs hurt even writing this.
Our Suggested Itinerary:
If you’re pressed for time we recommend you combine the Cavernas and the Ciudad de Itas tours. They are the two most popular tours, and you can easily do both in one day. In fact combining them will cut down on your transport costs.
Cost per person: 102B (€13 / $15US)*
*based on group of 6 people and includes entry fee to park.
The Vergel tour, combines the canyon and the waterfall. Technically it’s longer than a half day as it takes about 6/7 hours to complete. We did this tour in te morning and, on the same day, the caves in the afternoon. Although it is doable, we felt under pressure making it back to the office for the second tour. That’s why we’re recommending that you do this tour in the morning and instead dedicate the whole day to it.
Cost per person: 16B (€2 / $2.50)*
*based on group of 6 people, entry fee to park still valid within your 4-day ticket.
There are other circuits available if you want to do a third day but they mostly revolve around hiking and compared to the others, we didn’t hear anything amazing about them. So to quote every politician (ever!) we have, “no comment”.
We hope you found this article somewhat enlightening or useful, and as always, if you have any questions, queries or comments my virtual door is always open.