A Whole Month in Cochabamba

Posted by on Dec 23, 2012 in Bolivia, Countries | 0 comments

Cochabamba is a middle town six hours east of La Paz. We went there basically to save money, to rest and to get a bit of privacy after three months of staying at people’s places. We choose Cocha for its very good climate. Check out what we did, and what events we attended in this great city during our stay.

* 1$=6.95 BoB “Bolivianos” (2012)

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A bus in Cochabamba

We arrived in Cochabamba on the 14th of November after a night bus trip of almost seven hours. We arrived in the very early morning at around 6.30 am. We had booked a room at the Residencial Familiar, a very nice hotel (130 Bolivianos for a double room with private bathroom) in calle Sucre. We then immediately started searching for an apartment, as this was our plan. It took us four days, but we finally found a huge flat with three bathrooms, three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room, at the intersection of America Street and Santa Cruz Street, where there is a small square. We didn’t know then that two weeks later we would have to cohabitate with Santa Claus, who would come every single day to the square with his team of polar bears, dancers, girlfriends, and Coca-Cola sponsors* to sing and dance the very same program of three/four songs right by our windows from 7 pm to 10.30 pm! But we got used to…what else could we do?!

* Many American or foreign brands are not available in Bolivia because of Morales’s policy, but Coca-Cola is a bit resistant!

So, what did we do during our month? Well, first we had the chance to attend three events that we knew absolutely nothing about until they happened! Two days after we came to the apartment was the first census day in Bolivia in 11 years. The second event was a car-free day and the third an inter-universities carnival. So we thought we were very lucky for that!

Aside from those events, what else do we have to say about Cocha?

The city is at a lower altitude than La Paz, but is still in the mountains, which makes its climate perfect—not too hot (like in the Amazonian areas) not two cold (like in the south of the country or in the Cordillera). Here the Cholitas wear summer “uniforms!” They have shorter dresses and different kinds of hats. Some of them dress like people from La Paz (maybe they are originally from there). Cochabamba is nice to walk around, but it only takes a week or so to see the interesting sites, museums and churches. There are usually more activities in the downtown area, which goes from Ballivian Avenue “El Prado” to Aroma Avenue.

In the very downtown Plaza 14 de Septiembre (a totally colonial style square) you will find the cathedral, a very nice old church as beautiful inside as it is outside.

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The cathedral

One day we visited the Museum of Anthropology of Cochabamba , where they have Inca mummies and other stuff from the prehistoric era to the Spanish colonization. Unfortunately, some explanations were missing in the vitrines, as they were in restoration. However, when we told them about it, they offered us a guided visit in English with our same tickets the next morning…at 8.30 am (which is the middle of the night for us!). We appreciated the offer, but I still found the museum to be a little bit expensive (25 Bolivianos each)*.

I also visited the Convento de Santa Teresa, which is really worth seeing. You have a one-hour visit with a guide for 20 Bolivianos (it is better to know some Spanish, but if not, you have a complete summary in the Lonely Planet’s guide). It is a very old and peaceful cloister that will bring you back to the 16th century and show you the very strict way of life of the Carmelitas nuns. I really enjoyed the visit.

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Statue in the square in front of the convent

The other monument everyone should see in Cocha is of course the Cristo de la Concordia, a huge Jesus Christ statue even bigger than the one in Rio de Janeiro! We spent a very nice Sunday afternoon there. If you don’t want to queue too much (we were in line for an hour and a half), I’d suggest you go a weekday (except Mondays, because the teleferico is closed). On the other hand, if you go on a Sunday, you will meet many locals. The view upstairs is very beautiful, and there is no noise.

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by Bassel

There is a restaurant that is not very expensive, and we had sandwiches. We spent more than one hour on the top. It is better to take the teleferico, as there is a notice in English and Spanish that says that it is not very safe to take the stairs. Anyway, the teleferico is fun not too expensive (8 Bolivianos/person go up and down).

Aside from the museums and sites, our other outings were all in restaurants and cafes. Here is a list:

Cafe Oasis, 344 calle España. A nice place for juice, snacks and hookah! A lot of young people and a nice atmosphere.

Elli’s pizza. They are at different places, as it is a chain, but we visited one at America and Potosi. They have nice pizzas, although on the day we went there for the first time to celebrate the apartment they brought us (after a misunderstanding due to my wonderful Spanish) a pizza with ham (we are Moslems)!!!

Sole Mio. Two blocks past Elli’s on America, this is a real Italian restaurant with pastas, pizzas and Italian music! It is not that expensive (compared to Elli’s, and considering the fact that pizza is not the cheapest food in Bolivia).

Casa del Campo. A Bolivian restaurant very popular in Cocha at the end of Pando street (going south). They have traditional Bolivian dishes. It is very crowded on the weekends.

Globos. This is also a chain, so they are in many places (Ballivian St., Santa Cruz St., near Sucre St. and elsewhere). They have very nice desserts and ice creams, but also dishes, which we didn’t try. This is also a very popular place, and is always crowded on weekends.

Nove Centro. A nice restaurant with international and local dishes. There is also a band on weekends. In Antezana St. near the Salamanca St. intersection.

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Downtown Cochabamba

We also used to go to a small Saturday morning market (on America after Liberador Simon Bolivar intersection) to buy fruits, vegetables and food for the week. This was way cheaper, and there were higher quality products than IC Norte and America supermarkets (both on America St.)—which very nice supermarkets for other products, by the way.

Finally, I would say that Cochabamba is not a place to stay for one month if you don’t have time. However, one week is definitely the minimum.

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