Torotoro: a bucket list must in Bolivia
I admit I needed some convincing to go to Torotoro. Even though it was a personal recommendation from our trustworthy Uyuni salt flat guide. Reason was that he is very much into geology and hence fascinated by rock formations and landscapes. A passion I would not say I’d share on top of my list.
However, the gang (by now we have been traveling together with friends met in Potosi) decided to go there. We wanted to check out the less touristy region ourselves. And this was the one and only right decision.
How to get to Torotoro?
The way to Torotoro was rather complicated though, as we first took an 8 hours night bus from Sucre to Cochabamba (where we almost ended up in the wrong bus going back to Uyuni instead^^) and from there another 4 hours mini van half the way back through bumpy and narrow roads to Torotoro.
The vans to Torotoro do not depart from the bus terminal and only leave whenever there are enough passengers to fill a van. We ended up waiting more than an hour at an uninviting corner of Cochabamba. It was only 6am and we hardly had any sleep in the overnight bus. But well, Torotoro and the scenery drive is totally worth the wait and struggle. The very tiny, yet nice spot, is located in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by impressive canyons and colorful mountains with completely different shapes and looks compared to any mountains I know from eg. Europe.
Torotoro – an interesting place
Once arrived in Torotoro you quickly get an overview of the place, consisting of a Dinosaur park, a Dinosaur café, a food market and couple of kiosks, hostels and restaurants. One of the main attractions of this place are the Dinosaurs footsteps, which explains the Dinosaur motto of the town, which they execute pretty seriously.
We stayed at the Hostel Éden, which is located just across the main food market and 5 mins away from the national park office. The night in the 6 bed dorm was less than €5 per person. The place was clean, the showers hot and the staff very friendly.
Don’t expect WIFI though. You can buy a (pricy) WIFI pass at the corner of the “main road” or use the personal hot spot of the owner of the nice Dinosaur café. It is the only real café in “town” and a good place for fruit juices and non-market food (the pizza is huge). Besides it is the only place to get ice cream. Overall a nice alternative to the main food market, where we usually had our meals. You get breakfast for less than €1 and lunch or dinner for €2. But you have to take what you get and cannnot expect much choice, especially for veggies.
The main attraction of Torotor is the national park. You get a €12 entry ticket (valid for 4 days) and have to hire a guide for an additional surcharge. We absolutely enjoyed following tours:
Day 1 – Rock formations of Ciudad de Itas and crazy Umajalanta cave
Due to the foggy and rainy weather we decided to take a 7-8 hours jeep tour on the first day. Costs are a fixed price of €70, that can be shared through the max of 6 persons. The tour includes a driver and a separate guide (only Spanish speaking). First stop was the “Ciudad de Itas”, which is a landscape dominated by impressive rock formations. We wandered in, on and around there for around 2,5 hours. The views across the valley seemed from out of space!
After this we had lunch to get energy for the day’s second highlight, which was the Umajalanta cave. We didn’t really get any information on this trip in advance, but had read some TripAdvisor reviews before. These kind of prepared us for what was to follow. But well, only kind of.
The cave was surely one of the craziest things I’ve ever done and at parts got pretty scary too. It was a round trip that took us more than an hour through the cave. This included crawling on all four, some abseiling and sliding parts and not to forget unbelievable views of inside waterfalls and stalactites. However, the most crazy parts that will stick in my memory are the ones, where we literally had to crawl through narrow passages by completely lying down and moving forward like a snake!
For sure nothing anyone would be able to do if being afraid of narrow spaces. Proper shoes and clothes that can get dirty and wet are advisable. I felt bad for the ones I saw going in there wearing white shirts.
Day 2 – dinosaur footsteps, waterfalls and beautiful canyon
On the second day we signed up for a 7 hours hiking trip. This one took us straight out from Torotoro into the surrounding wilderness all the way to canyon Vergel.
Just out of “town” we made our first stop to gaze a Dinosaur footsteps. It was truly impressive how clear we could see them, after all these millions of years. The footsteps are protected behind a fence, but it is a natural process that the steps will disappear at some point due to erosion. On the other hand new layers of the rocks will be disclosed, hence showing other footsteps.
Next to some of the steps you realize how big the Dinosaurs must have been and how small we human beings are in comparison. Still we are feeling so powerful, ruling and treating the world and its nature like we’d invented it. 🤔
After this we hiked within small and extensive canyons, had amazing views across the valley and a stopover to swim in the middle of the canyon right next to some fantastic waterfalls. As it was a weekend, we shared the place with lots of locals too. The second part was a further climb within the canyon, which also brought us to the most remote place, where the canyon’s path suddenly ended. We could explore the last meters only by swimming into and under the rock formations all the way to the end (or beginning) of the canyon. At the end of it we found another beautiful waterfall.
The rest of the trek led out of the canyon with some climbing parts, caves along the way and yet completely changing landscapes and rock formations. At the end of the day we were happy to have a guide walking us. After all we would have never found these remote and hidden paths on our own.
As Georg felt sick the following day we stayed for another night. We spent the day relaxing at one of the natural mini lagoons in the canyon, as discovered on the previous day.
Leaving Torotoro and going back to Cochabamba was the same procedure as arriving. You simply sign in for one of the mini van transports and wait until enough fellow travelers (mainly locals) join the ride. But best is to spend the waiting time relaxed at the Dinosaur café with a fresh fruit juice! #yummy
Long story, cut short: don’t skip Torotoro when you are backpacking in Bolivia. The place is supposed to get more and more popular and touristy in the next few years. And I can definitely see why!