Torotoro National Park
Toro Toro National Park is a national park in the Potosí (department) of Bolivia, situated among the eastern mountain ranges of the South American Andes cordilleras. The park features dinosaur footprints, canyons, caves and makes for excellent hiking. Well known is the cave tour where you spend 2 hours squeezing and climbing your way through a stunning cave. The park itself is easily accessible from the small town of Toro Toro, which is a 4-to-6-hour drive from Cochabamba.
Every year the night before November 21st and continuing for two days and nights, the town celebrates its founding in 1883, including parades and marching bands and traditional dancing in costumes. In the morning of November 21st, therefore, to tours will start.
Torotoro National Park is situated in the Northern Potosí department, 140 km south of Cochabamba and only accessible by gravel roads and riverbeds, which usually takes four to six hours but might take longer in the rainy season when sometimes the route becomes completely impassable.
The park is one of the major attractions for visitors to Cochabamba, and is most famous for its remnants of dinosaurs.
Torotoro National Park covers 165 km² and is located at 18° 7' S and 65° 46' W in a semi-arid landscape at altitudes between 2000 and 3500 m above sea level, with canyons as deep as 300 meters. The park features caves, Paleozoic and Cretaceous calcitic deposits with fossils, and panoramic landscapes eroded by glaciers, wind and waters.
Flora and fauna
The Torotoro National Park offers scrubby woodland with wildlife like flocks of parakeets and the red-fronted macaw.
Sub-Andean climate has a cold winter from June to August, and a rainy season from December to March.
Torotoro can only accesses via Cochabamba. The main options to get to the town are to take the bus or one of the minivans, but if you can form a group you might also be able to arrange private transportation (which however is neither necessary nor economical).
The bus from Cochabamba takes between 5-7 hours (depending on the season) and costs 23 Bs. per person. The seats are wider and softer than on the Minibuses and can be tilted backwards. Together with the bus's suspension, it might be the more comfortable – but longer – ride. It occassionally stops to drop-off or pick-up inhabitants from the small villages on route. It's best to arrive earlier to the scheduled departure time in order to secure a seat (standing is common once all seats have filled up). The bus leaves from the south-facing side of Avenida Republica, 100 metres North from the roundabout with Avenida Rene Barrientos Ortuno (shortly before Calle Canoto coming from town).
The buses are scheduled as follows whereas no bus leaves on Mondays:
Taking a 7–12 seating minivan might be the more comfortable and flexible option. It takes around 4–5 hours and costs 35 Bs. per person, but the seats and the suspension let you feel the rough cobblestone road significantly more than the bigger bus does. (But the Minibuses tend to be a bit cleaner inside than the bus.) There are multiple departures per day (normally between 8.00 am and 8.00 pm) whereas the minivans leave when full (i.e. calculate some waiting time). They leave Cochabamba from Calle Mairana on the corner with Avenida Republica (south-facing side) – just a 100 metres North of the bus stop. They, too, might stop to pick up additional roadside passengers, even when they have to stand for the last haft hour of the trip.
By organised tour
There are several tourist agencies serving tours from Cochabamba to Torotoro, but since tourism numbers are still low in Cochabamba this only is an option if you can get a group together. A trip by 4x4 to the park often comes with any arranged tour package. However, booking a tour (or a package with transport, accommodation and tours) is usually more expensive and less flexibel than organizing everything in Torotoro.
It is possible to charter a small airplane to take up to 5 passengers from Cochabamba airport to Torotoro. Prices range around $140 US, and the flight takes about half an hour. Call (4)4227042 or (4)4246289 for details. A direct, privately chartered trip from Torotoro to La Paz (skipping at least 13 hours of bus travel) though seems to be impossible to organize.
The entrance ticket costs 100 Bolivianos for foreigners (as of June 2017) and needs to be purchased in the Tourism Office at the southwest corner of town (you also have to inscribe your personal data into a register). The ticket is valid for 4 days and for all parts of the National Park.
The town of Torotoro is easily explored on foot, but for the National Park you will need a guide. There are daily tours (both in the morning around 9 am and in the afternoon around 2 pm) departing from the guides' office (opening hours: 8.30 - 12.30 and 14.00 - 5.30) opposite the tourist information on the main plaza. The guides will do their best to form a big enough group for prices to be acceptable and hence, a little bit of waiting should be calculated for. Since the park is being frequented by solo travellers and couples it is easy to form a group.
The two main tours in the National Park are:
In addition to these main attractions:
As mentioned above, no tours start on the morning of November 21st.
Thare are NO cash machine in Torotoro and credit cards are not accepted. Travellers must make sure to arrive with enought money. There are minimarkets all around town which provide groceries, alcohol and all other necessities. The Women Association of Torotoro runs a handcraft store where you can buy textiles and artesania directly from the women who made it. A great place to find unique pieces of andean textiles and souvenirs.
Tour companies will often arrange lodging as part of a travel package, but if you arrive by yourself it is easy to find lodging and camping within the town itself. Reservations are not needed as there is plenty of accommodation available. Prices of budget accommodation range from 30 Bs. for a single traveler to 100 Bs. for a double. However, if you arrive at night, some accommodations might not open the door!
The only form of organized transport available is to and from Cochabamba. If you need to get anywhere else in Bolivia (including Potosi or Sucre), you will have to travel through Cochabamba first. But for 1500 Bs. you can order a minivan to Sucre.
The bus leaves from the office of Trans del Norte on Calle Charcas where you can also get your ticket for the day.
The buses are scheduled as follows:
Tickets for the Minivans are sold on the street corner opposite the mercado (Calle Montes and Calle Saenz) and in front of the Café del Pueblo at the corner of Calle Charcas und Calle Montes.
Minivans leave all day, but only when they are full. You can buy your ticket at the small office in advance and might enjoy a meal in the nearby Comedor or restaurants while the ticket lady (hopefully) will come and get you when the minivan is about to leave. You might also arrange to be picked-up at your accommodation. If you are in a hurry it is possible to buy empty seats to speed up departure.