Oruro is the capital of the department Oruro, and sits approximately 3709 metres above sea level, with a population of 264,683. The city’s financial income is supported for the better part by the mining industry – including tin, copper, and silver, and so Oruro’s economy tends to fluctuate. From the late 1900’s Oruro also started to rely on tourism as a source of income, and increased its trade network with Chile. It also has a rail connection through Uyuni (Bolivia), and road connections with Santos (Brazil), Santa Cruz (Bolivia), and La Paz (Bolivia).
The Oruro carnival season and culture are both truly incredible, and demonstrate South American folklore. Oruro boasts a rich dance and musical heritage which is the highlight of the carnival celebrations, and is famous for its costumes and traditions throughout South America. Below is our Oruro travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
SANTUARIO DE VIRGEN DEL SACOVAN – Located at Plaza del Folclore, this church is the ending point of the Carnival. Descending underneath the church, a mining tunnel lined with old mining tools can be found. There is also a statue of El Tio - the mountain God - to which the miners make offerings for protection from injury, and permission to work in the mines. Upstairs you can find a religious artifacts museum.
MIRADOR VIRGEN DE SACOVAN – This statue stands 44 metres tall and offers a view of Oruro and the surrounding areas. The benches make it a nice place to sit and relax while enjoying the view.
ZOOLOGICO ANDINO – This zoo - which is located in the south of the city - offers a look into the creatures and wildlife that are home to the area, such as condors, pumas and quirquincho (similar to the armadillo).
MUSEO NACIONAL ANTROPOLOGICO – Right next to the zoo on Avenida España, this museum contains a collection of mummies, skulls and even deformed craniums. This museum also contains historical carnival masks and costumes.
MUSEO MINERALOGICO – located on the university campus, this museum holds a collection of about 5,200 minerals, stones, fossils and crystals from many parts of the world.
CASA DE LA CULTURA SIMON PATINO – The former residence of Simon Patino contains his furniture, personal belongings, fine toys, and an ornate staircase. Visiting exhibitions are open on the main floor. The upstairs is accessible with guided tours only.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
The Oruro Carnival festivities are the one thing that you cannot miss: if you travel to Oruro, make sure that you go during the time of the Carnival.
Aside from fast food which can be found in most parts, restaurants can be found in the main plaza of the city. Nayjama (Aldana at Pagador 1880) is a two-floor restaurant which serves typical Bolivian dishes, with vegetarian choices also on offer. Another good option is Las Retamas (Murguia 930), which has a selection of international and Bolivian food.
One of the best places to enjoy the nightlife is Pub the Alpaca (La Paz 690), which normally opens Thursdays to Saturdays after 10.30pm, and is run by friendly owners. It’s not well sign-posted, so watch out or you’ll walk right past it! Another place worth checking out is Zens Coffee Lounge Bar (Pagador Piso 2 Hotel Galaxia), which opens Wednesday through to Saturday from 7pm ‘til 2am. Here you can get some drinks with friends and enjoy the night.
Oruro is at 3709 metres altitude, making for a cool climate. Rainfall is common from November to April, but the daytime temperatures are warmer than other months, although cold nights persist.
If you’re not too bothered by the weather, then the best time to visit is during the Oruro Carnival festivities, when you’ll have the best chance to discover the culture that Oruro has to offer. These ten days based around Ash Wednesday can fall anywhere between February the 4th and March the 10th. During these months, the average high is 16 degrees Celsius and the average low is about 2 degrees Celsius.
There was a new airport installed in 2013. Flights are available from Santa Cruz, and take 50 minutes with BoA.
From La Paz, the bus ride is 3-4 hours long, and from Cochabamba it takes 4 hours. During the Carnival period, buses run at a higher frequency from these cities, due to the increased number of visitors. Potosi also has bus connections to Oruro, with journey times at 7 hours, and travelling from Sucre is also an option, taking 10 hours.
It is also possible to come from Arica and Iquique (Chile) by bus.
Most of the best places to stay can be found within a few blocks of the bus station or around the main plaza. During the Oruro Carnival season, hotels are booked up and will normally cost twice as much. If you plan to see the Carnival season it’s best to book way in advance.
Hostal Graciela (Calle Herrera 47) has both private and shared rooms on offer. The staff are very friendly and can provide lots of information about tours and activities in the area.
It is wise to be careful when drinking the water, and with the food you eat. Due to the mining, there is a lot of contamination that can get into the water and the air.