Oruro the capital of the Oruro Department of Bolivia, home to the famous Carnival. Oruro stands at about 3710 meters altitude, the city is in the heart of the altiplano. Often a quick stopover for tourists on the way to Uyuni, those who take the time will find plenty of archeological sights, ruins and natural wonders to explore. Only three hours and fifteen Bolivianos by bus from La Paz, this is also a nice getaway from the prices, stress and steep hills of the capital.
Frequent daily buses depart from La Paz to Oruro (3~4 hours). The ticket is Bs. 15.
Frequent buses also depart from Cochabamba. The trip takes 4~5 hours, and costs around 25 Bs.
Buses to Challapata take about 2½ hours and cost Bs. 8. Faster and slightly more comfortable minivans do the distance in 90 minutes and at Bs. 12.
Night bus to Uyuni with semi cama costs Bs. 50 and takes about 6-7 hours. The company in the last booth in the terminal has a bus that leaves late at night. Reservations can be a good idea as the bus connects from La Paz. Beware that the road is quite bumpy at parts and it can get freezing cold, especially in June, July and August. Bring warm clothing!
There are two kinds of trains leaving Oruro for Uyuni: the more comfortable Expreso Sur with departures on Tuesdays and Fridays at 3.30pm and the cheaper Wara Wara which departs on Sundays and Wednesdays.
The Expreso Sur takes 6,5 hours and costs Bs. 112 for Ejecutivo and Bs. 56 for Salon.
The Wara Wara takes 7 hours and costs B2. 95 for Ejecutivo, Bs. 44 for Salon and Bs. 32 for Popular.
The streets are well planned and orientation is simple. The easily recognized Av. 6 de Agosto, featuring a railway track in the middle runs from north to south with the bus terminal in the north and the town center in the south. The center is small enough to get around by foot and micros heading to the main bus terminal cruise Av. 6 de Agosto, otherwise it's a ten minute walk.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap. Micros cost BS 1.2 per ride. Look for destinations/direction on the cards in front, or ask locals for which number to take.
The main square garden (Plaza 10 de Febrero) is the reference for all the locals and visitors.
A walk up on the hills surrounding the town is an easy and nice excursion offering decent views. Bring ice cream and water.
One of the best sight views is the Faro del Conchupata.
You can also visit el Cerrato, also know as El Corazón de Jesús.
At 45 minutes from the center ville, there is a little town called Cala-Cala. There you can visit the Señor de Lagunas temple, some stone based prehistoric art.
You can also visit some of the traces of Oruro's many legends:
In the south part of the city, over the hills, you can see a long stone with a snake form.
Near Cala-Cala, at the east of the city, there is a mountain with the shape of a giant crocodile with the head cut-off.
Coming from the north, you can see a giant frog.
All around the city, there are some little sand monticles, made form the ants.
Santuario de Virgen de Socavón, Calle Baptista bet Adolfo Miel and Junin (from the main Plaza, walk North 5-6 blocks). 9:30-11:30, 15:30-5:30. This church is the end point of Carnvial and home to the it's patron saint. There's a fascinating mining museum underground, complete creepy statues of El Tío, the mountain god/devil like figure that miners give offerings to for protection from accidents and permission to work in the mines. Also has an interesting folklore and religious artifacts museum upstairs, with Carnival masks alongside rustic rural religious figurines. Next to a small mirador. Bs 15. edit
Mirador Virgen de Socavon. This huge statue of the Virgin stands nearly 45m high (7 meters taller than Rio's Jesus Christ), a beautiful creation of cement, iron and fiberglass. Spetacular views of Oruro and the surrounding altiplano landscape. Pretty (fake) green grass and benches makes it a nice place to spend an afternoon or evening. Bring a jacket-the altiplano wind is unpredictable and fierce. Get there by taxi (10 bs).edit
Zoológico Andino. This tiny zoo in the South of the city lets you get up close to some exotic Andean wildlife, including pumas, condors, and the very adorable quirquincho (Andean hairy amardillo). Take a micro heading towards Sur and asked to be dropped off at the zoo. Bs. 2. edit
Museo National Antropologico, Avenida España. Right next to the zoo. This museum of ethnography and folklore has a great collection of mummies and skulls, including artificially deformed craniums. Also has the usual old ceramics and an interesting collection of historical Carnival masks and costumes. Bs.5. edit
Calle La Paz. Known for its artesanal shops of Carnival masks and costumes. Many stores may not be open when far from Carnival season, but the artwork on the walls and window displays may be still worth a look.edit
The Carnival occurs before Ash Wednesday which can be anywhere between February 4th and March 10th.
Hot Springs. there are two hot springs nearby, Termas de Obrajes and Capachos, 25km and 10km northeast of town. Termas de Obrajes is more upscale (10 Bs.) and with hotels and restaurant, and Capachos are more or less like municipal pool (3 Bs). Both have private baths with much hotter water (10 Bs. and 3 Bs. for 1/2 hour), which is actually a good value in Capachos as you can use the pool after. To get there, catch a shared van from the corner of Caro and Av 6 de Agosto, where is midway between downtown and bus terminal (10 min walk from both). Bs.3 to Capacho and Bs.5 to Obrajes.
Fastfood places serving cheap burgers, chicken and papas fritas is found just about everywhere. They are especially common around the bus station. One fancier restaurant in the International Park Hotel connected to the bus station, all others in the same bracket is in the center.
Govinda, 6 de Octubre 6071. (Closed as of Sep. 2012. Location now westerner focused restaurant). Ambitious vegetarian restaurant with a hare-krishna and müsli-sch approach to life. The whole menu is not always available, best to be there at lunch. Mains are Bs. 6 to 12.
Negritos, (Two blocks from the main plaza, along Bolivar). Uninspired menu with some lighter food and drinks. One of a few options providing WiFi in town. Password as of November 2010: negrito8edit
Bravo's Pizza, Bolivar (A few blocks from the main plaza, along Bolivar). Pleasant environment with decent food. Specializes in pizzas. Bs 20-50.edit
Nayjama, Corner of Pagador and Aldana. Slightly more expensive restaurant with many meat dishes such as entrecote and lamb. Food nothing special though. Prices around Bs. 40-60edit
Pizzeria D'Sergios, Plaza 10 de febrero (On Calle La Plata, opposite the park). Good pizzas at reasonable prices! Try the D'Sergios special which is very good value for money! Bs. 35-45edit
El Fogon, (Corner opposite the bus station exit). Typical Bolivian food with generous portions. Try the Pique for a meal that will fill you on that long bus ride to Uyuni. Bs. 25-50 edit
Hotel Bernal, Av. Brasil 701 (next to the busterminal), +591 2 5279468 . Cheap option if you're spending the night to grab a bus the next morning. The clean rooms have cable tv.
Alojamiento Rosen, 21 de Enero No. 240 (right across the street from the main entrance to the bus station), +591 2 5277833. Very basic, shared bath, no shower. Twins for Bs. 30.
Hotel Sucre, situated at 6 de Octubre street, near Sucre street.
Hotel San Felipe de Austria, Av. San felipe between 6 de Octubre and Soria Galvarro.
Hotel Terminal, In the bus station.
Hotel Plaza, situated in the main plaza.
Hotel Eden, Situated at the corner of Bolivar street and Presidente Montes. Is the newest and finest hotel in town.
Hotel Repostero, On Sucre St. between Pagador and Potosi. No heating, bedroom/bathroom quality is variable. Very friendly staff.
Residencial 21 de Abril, Montecinos Nro 198 entre Velasco Galvarro y 6 de Agosto. (Exiting the bus terminal go two blocks to the right to the street Velasco Galvarro, take a left and follow V.G until you find Calle Montecino. The hotel is on the first block to the right.), ☎ 718-43427. Quite basic but clean and with hot water. Cable in the rooms (which tend to go in a green color scale!). Private room with shared bath Bs 50.edit
Alojimiento Copacabana, Velasco Galvarro (Opposite the train station, between streets Murguia and José Ballivan). Decently clean rooms with shared bath. Some rooms are very small at 2x2m. Manned reception which makes the place feel safe. Price for a room with two beds Bs 35.edit
Hostal Graciela, Calle Herrera No.47 (bet 6 de Agosto and R. Bacovick), ☎ (591) 25252082, . Comfortable private rooms with (very small) private baths. Rooms with windows facing the street get great sunlight. Free WIFI and a lovely breakfast included. Also run an alternative tourism agency to explore the altiplano and surrounding region. Owners are super friendly and helpful. Bs 60. edit
There are numerous archeological sights and interesting day trips in the altiplano around Oruro. Including Paria and Aguas Termales de Obrajes, Lago Poopo and the Atlantis of the Andes, Inca Pukara, Cala Cala, and Parque Nacional Sajama. Explorers Inn Oruro (part of Hostal Graciela) arranges tours and can offer advice on excursions.
Several bus companies run buses toIquique and Arica in Chile from the main bus terminal. Trans Salvador is very comfortable and charge Bs. 90 for the trip, including a simple meal. The trip takes 10-14 hours depending on how busy the border crossing at Tambo Quemado is. Don't bring any food across the border as there is X-ray searches at Chungara on the Chilean side.
Take one of the trains of Empressa Feroviaria Andina to Uyuni to see the world's largest salt flats. The ride brings some interesting views of a lake and altiplano.
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