Cochabamba is a city located in the central region of Bolivia. With a population of approximately 630,000, Cochabamba is the fourth largest city in Bolivia and is the capital of the Cochabamba department.
Cochabamba is among the most economically progressive cities in Bolivia but also displays contrast. The commercial districts of Plaza Colon and 14 de Septiembre are modern and urbanized parts of the city, where most of the business and commercial industries are based. However, the area closest to the Wilstermann International airport is much more poverty stricken, with dirt roads and adobe houses.
Cochabamba offers a spring-like climate with a longer dry season. With temperatures averaging 17 degrees during the dry season, it’s ideal for tourist activities and for enjoying the culture. There are so many great things to do in Cochabamba, such as visiting the Palacio Portales, or seeing the magnificent Cristo de la Concordia and its views over the city. An active nightlife can be enjoyed on Calle España or on the boulevard El Prado. Below is our Cochabamba travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
PALACIO PORTALES – A mansion constructed from some of the best materials of its time, and resembling some of the finest European architecture, is a great place to visit. Completed in 1927 for Baron Simon Patino (although he never actually lived there), this place displays a beautiful array of culture, from the exterior gardens to the main hall. Also on the property are a teaching centre, and a culture and arts complex. Located at 1450 Potosi in the Queru neighbourhood, this is a good place to visit and get a feel for some of the great culture.
CRISTO DE LA CONCORDIA – One of the largest statues of Christ in the world of its kind is located on Cerro de San Pedro (2800m) near Cochabamba. Standing 33m 44cm high on top of Cerro de San Pedro, it offers one of the finest views you can get of the city below, and is one of the best things to do in Cochabamba. There is a path that can be taken by foot from the bottom of the mountain, at the eastern end of the Avenida de Heroinas. There have been reports of thefts, and so taking a round-trip is recommended (B$10.50). Sundays are open for the public to climb right to the top to get a great view of the surrounding area for a cost of B$2. The closest place that offers public transport is Micro E from the corner of San Martin and Sucre. Taxis will charge approximately (B$40) for a roundtrip.
CONVENTO DE SANTA TERESA – Worn over time, Convento de Santa Teresa was originally constructed in 1760 but was destroyed in an earthquake. A new church was built in 1790. Here you can try to imagine what it was like for the nuns living in this place during the late 1700’s. Guided tours are offered that last for around 45 minutes and show the fine displays of sculptures and altarpieces.
MUSEO ARQUEOLOGICO – This museum is split into three sections: Archaeological, ethnographic and paleontological. There is good information provided, and Spanish and English speaking guides can sometimes be found. The archaeological section deals mostly with the indigenous cultures from the region of Cochabamba. The ethnological section focuses on Amazonian and Chaco cultures, even providing non-alphabetical writings. The paleontological section displays fossil remains of the creatures that once lived in the region. The museum is located at on Calle Jordan E-199 and Aguirre.
LA CANCHA – Sprawling across a large area along Av Aroma, and spreading south towards an old railway station is the main market in Cochabamba. This market can offer a great view into the local culture, including the type of clothing worn by the people. The markets branch off south of the old railway, and offer an abundance of handcrafted items. From there you can reach the fruit and vegetable section located at Laguna Alalay, in the southeastern part of the town.
ANDES XTREMO – This place offers day trips or multi-day trips up Cerro Tunari, as well as paragliding and rock climbing. This is one of the best places to visit for outdoor adventures in the area.
IGLESIA Y CONVENTO DE SAN FRANCISCO – constructed in 1581, this is the second-oldest church in Cochabamba. The covenant and cloister were later additions in the 1600’s. This cloister is constructed of wood, rather than the customary stone that was used at the time.
CATEDRAL – Located on the plaza 14 de Septiembre, this Cathedral is the oldest religious structure in the city, built in 1571. Inside are various ceiling paintings along with statues of several saints, and a gilded altarpiece.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
MARTADERO – A great art and performance centre, featuring rotating exhibits and music performances.
Between the blocks of Calle España and Avenida de Las Heroinas, many different restaurants can be found. Close to the Plaza de Colon is Casablanca (25 de Mayo 365), one of the most popular Italian restaurants, with foreigners and Bolivians alike coming to enjoy the great food.
For typical South American fare, go to Casa de Campo (Pasaje Boulevar 618). The style of this restaurant is like a country house, with wooden tables and traditional décor. Here you can try authentic Bolivian food, such as silpancho, a dish which consists of fried steak and egg.
The local food market can be found one block from la plaza 14 de Septiembre, on the corner of Calle 25 de Mayo and Calle Jordan. Here you’ll discover all different types of foods, from fish to soup.
Most of the best places to enjoy the night can be found close to Plaza Colon. As you go towards Recoleta (near Avenida Pando), the bars become fancier and more expensive. Hooligans Bar (Av. Pando) is a great hangout for young party-goers: there are three floors, and the music is mixed but mainly electro.
From May to October it’s the dry season, and this is usually the best time to visit. With clear skies and plenty of sun, it makes for the perfect time to go. It’s possible to travel here all year round, although the one thing to watch out for is that the dirt roads can be ruined and flooded during the rainy season (from December to March).
Cochabamba provides international transport from Jorge Wilstermann international airport, such as from Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. From La Paz, it takes just 35 minutes by plane, and by bus it takes 8 hours. The bus terminal is located on Avenida Ayacucho, just six blocks south of the city centre. There are also bus routes between Cochabamba and Sucre (8-9 hours), and Cochabamba and Potosi (11 hours).
It is slightly more difficult to find good places to stay in Cochabamba than in other well-traveled cities in South America. Be careful with cheap accommodation, as the prices are low for a reason: poor-quality, and often located in dodgy areas. Most accommodation is located around Plaza 14 de Septiembre, Plaza Colon, and the main city square.
One great option is Running Chaski Hostel (Calle España 449); it’s relatively new, and the standards here go above that of your typical hostel. There’s a nice garden, a TV rooms with loads of DVDs, and everything is kept clean and well-maintained.
Las Lillas Hostel (Zona Linde) is a bit further out of the city centre, but it’s got a lovely pool and outdoor area to enjoy, with sun loungers and hammocks. A perfect retreat, and just a 20-minute bus ride into Cochabamba’s busy hub. Come here for a relaxing stay, and be welcomed by the hospitable owners.
The bus terminal is one of the more dangerous places in the city, and if you arrive there during the night or early hours it is best to wait until daylight to travel – the same goes for airport arrivals.
The pathway leading to the Christ statue is also a place where robberies happen – it’s a better option to take one of the cable cars.