10 Reasons to Visit Samaipata, Bolivia
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Considering to visit Samaipata, Bolivia? Well, let us help you decide! In this blog, we’ll tell you about 10 different reasons why you should visit Samaipata – information you NEED to know before you go!
When I was in Santa Cruz, Bolivia everybody was talking about Samaipata. I soon found out that this little town only 120 km (75 miles) from Santa Cruz is a popular tourist destination in Bolivia’s east.
To be honest, we almost did go to Samaipata. It seemed like there wasn’t going to be too much to do there and we were quite happy just relaxing by the pool in Santa Cruz. But after hearing rave reviews from other travelers, we jumped in a collectivo and spent 3 nights in Samaipata, Bolivia.
To help others from making the mistake that we nearly did, I’m writing this blog about all of the reasons to visit Samaipata, Bolivia. This way, you can be sure that visiting is well-worth your time and effort. Also, I have included the odd reason NOT to go so that you get my complete honest advice and opinion.
1. It’s considered Bolivia’s “Little Switzerland”
I heard people calling Samaipata “Bolivia’s little Switzerland.” I was confused as to what this even meant. But after visiting for myself, I understand why it’s earned this name.
This tiny town resembles a small town in Switzerland more so than Bolivia. Colorful little houses and shops, tons of cafes and trendy restaurants, mountains surrounding, and a heap of European ex-pats also call Samaipata home. German-style sausage is also one of the most popular food items available here.
It is beautiful, both in town and surrounding areas. While you’re here you might even feel like you’ve left Latin America altogether for a few days, and enjoy a couple of quiet days in a tiny “Swiss-like” town!
2. The waterfalls!
La Cuevas is the name of a park on the outskirts of Samaipata that has a few different waterfalls to check out. You can wander around the park and swim in the small pools at the bottom of the waterfalls (if you dare, the water is really cold!)
Las Cuevas is located about 20 km from Samaipata, Bolivia. You can either jump on a bus and then walk a couple of kilometers, take a taxi, or bike ride. To be honest, I recommend taking a taxi as the buses are known to be very unreliable and don’t operate on a regular schedule.
A taxi cost us 100 BOB to take us there, wait for two hours, and then drive us back.
Entry fee for foreigners is 15 BOB. To me, this is a fair price for this pretty park. It really is a nice place to spend a couple of hours on a hot day!
3. Ancient carvings at El Fuerte de Samaipata
El Fuerte is the main attraction in Samaipata, Bolivia. This pre-Colombian archeological site dates back well over 2,000 years and is a must-visit for any history buff.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, El Fuerte showcases ancient buildings that belonged to 3 different civilizations including the Chanè, Incas, and Spanish. Wandering around this large site you’ll see plenty of rock carvings as well as ruins.
El Fuerte, which translate into “the fort”, wasn’t just a fort though. There was residential and administrative buildings here too as well as plenty of religious significance with ceremonial spaces.
In all honesty, it isn’t the most impressive ruin site I’ve ever seen. However, I still found it interesting and the massive rock carvings were very cool. If you hire a guide, you’ll definitely enjoy El Fuerte more because you’ll understand the story behind what you’re seeing. Simply wandering around on your own will be less impactful.
The best way to get to El Fuerte is to take a taxi from Samaipata. They charge a set rate of 100 BOB per car and will take you there, wait for two hours, and then drive you back to Samaipata. It is a little pricey but if you can share the car with a group it isn’t too bad.
Alternatively, you can try to take the bus and then walk for about 2 hours to get there. I’ve heard that it is a nice walk but slightly dangerous thanks to speeding vehicles on the road and plenty of street dogs. Personally, I wouldn’t know as we just opted for the taxi.
Foreigners must pay 50 BOB to enter El Fuerte.
To me, it was a very cool place to spend a couple of hours and well worth it. Just be sure to bring sun protection because there is almost zero shade when you’re walking around the site.
4. It’s easy to get to and from…well kind of!
One of the main reasons we finally decided to actually go to Samaipata is that it is so close to Santa Cruz. We thought, well we are already here so we might as well check it out!
From Santa Cruz, you can get a collectivo or mini-bus to Samaipata for about 20-40 BOB and it takes around 3 hours. Sure, that sounds easy enough, but these collectivos get packed full! People told us that you literally have people sitting on top of you unless you negotiate with the driver and pay more to prevent it from filling up.
So that’s what we did.
We headed to the street where all of the collectivos leave from and negotiated to pay more in order to be assured by the driver that it was going to be only us three plus one more person in the collectivo. We paid 30 BOB each plus an extra 30 BOB for our friend’s surfboard (don’t ask) that took up the entire front seat.
With all of our luggage, this was all that could fit somewhat comfortably. Another passenger got on with us and we were off – for about ten minutes of driving until the driver stopped on the side of the road and picked up another passenger. And then a 50kg bag of dog food. And then a fruit basket. And then a box of who knows what. And then another passenger.
So, the whole deal of only 4 people went out the window and I spent three hours wedged between strangers sitting on a metal pole (between what should have been seats) with a fruit basket the size of me on my lap.
It was not an enjoyable ride. So, if you’re taking this route, just be prepared. If you want to be comfortable, ask your hotel or hostel in Santa Cruz to arrange a private transfer.
The other most popular place tourists visit Samaipata from is Sucre. Sucre is about a 10-hour bus ride from Samaipata. There is typically one or two buses a day that drive this route and they are not nice “tourist” buses.
We actually caught the bus from Samaipata to Sucre and it was a very old-looking bus without heat, air conditioning, or a toilet. Oh, and the bus didn’t stop once in the entire 10 hours for a bathroom break.
If you don’t mind uncomfortable local transport, then getting to Samaipata is relatively easy and cheap. But if you aren’t up for that, maybe this cute little town is better to miss.
Alternatively: You can fly to Santa Cruz on both domestic and international flights and arrange private transport to Samaipata for reasonable prices from there. Also, the buses from Sucre directly to Santa Cruz are also nicer than the ones that stop in Samaipata along the way.
5. Delicious and cheap food!
Samaipata, Bolivia has some really great places to eat and the best part is that they are super affordable. Since it’s a small town with a limited number of visitors, restaurants need to be competitive and therefore you can find great deals for meals! Oh, and lots of German sausage around too (thanks to the German ex-pat community in Samaipata.)
Head to the central plaza and check out some of the cute cafes there. You can get delicious ice cream, home cooked meals, burgers, and so much more!
Some places I personally recommend include Caffe Art, Latina Café, and La Luna Verde Resto Bar.
If you want to cook for yourself, head to the street called Arce. Here you’ll find a food market called Mercado Municipal Casta Hurtado where you can load up on fresh produce for cheap! This is the market where all of the locals (and restaurant owners) come to source their food items for cheap.
6. Amboro National Park
Amboro National Park is only a short drive from Samaipata and therefore, it is one of the best things to do in Samaipata – if not all of Bolivia! The unique ecosystems make Amboro National Park special. Expect to see the rainforest, cloud forest, mountains, waterfalls, and amazing lookouts!
The only downside about visiting Amboro National Park is that you must visit with a guide. I’ve read other blogs claiming the best way to visit would be to rent a car and go yourself, this is incorrect. It is Bolivian law that to enter Amboro National Park (and almost every national park in Bolivia for that matter) you must be accompanied by a certified guide.
You can choose between a couple of different tours to Amboro National Park including day trips and ones that spend the night in an eco-lodge. The best way to book a tour from Samaipata is to speak your hotel or hostel .
Tip: You can also visit Amboro National park on a tour from Santa Cruz. There is this one overnight tour that has amazing reviews!
7. Small-town vibes
Most places in Bolivia that attract tourists are large cities. Think of La Paz, Sucre, Potosi, and Santa Cruz – all cities. So, Samaipata is Bolivia’s small-town escape for visitors.
Here, you can walk the entire city in a matter of minutes getting from your hotel to wonderful cafes and restaurants easily. And even if you’re staying only a couple of days, you’ll begin to recognize familiar faces around town that’ll greet you with a smile.
The small-town vibes in Samaipata, Bolivia are relaxing anf comforting. For me, after spending a couple of days in the hustle and bustle of Santa Cruz, Samaipata was the perfect escape!
8. Lots of Hiking
If you’re like us and enjoy a nice hike, then Samaipata is somewhere you should visit. From Samaipata you can access a few great, and not super busy, hiking trails.
Of course, as mentioned above, Amboro National Park near Samipata is the perfect pace to go for a hike. But there are also a few other hikes that you can do too!
One that we did was a short hike to Mirador Samipata. This trail only takes about 20 minutes and at the top you’ll have views of Samaipata town and the surrounding mountains. The trail is more of a “dirt road” than an actual trail and passes lots of farms and even a vineyard! Do beware though, there are some very territorial dogs that are around so if you’re afraid of dogs, this might not be the hike in Samaipata for you.
Another alternative is to hike the Che Trail. The Che Trail is a couple of hours away from Samaipata, and as such, you’ll have to hike it on an organized tour. This is a historic trail is where Che Gevara was killed in Bolivia in the 1960s. But besides its historical significance, the views are amazing! It is a bit of a drive though so expect this to be a full-day trip. You can organize this trip in Samaipata town at a tour operator’s office or through your hotel.
When you think about where quality coffee comes from in South America you probably think of Colombia or Brazil. You probably didn’t know that not far from Samaipata there are some coffee farms where very high-quality beans are grown! This is one of the only regions in Bolivia that successfully grows coffee beans.
For this reason, you can visit some really great cafes in Samai[pata and drink delicious local coffee all around town.
Some of the best cafes in Samaipata, Bolivia include:
Caffe Art – Coffee beans served in this centrally located cafe come from the Yungas region in Bolivia. That’s right, local Bolivian beans! But besides coffee, this cafe is a fun place to just hang out with fast Wifi (which can be hard to find in Bolivia) and it is pet friendly too!
Cafe Jardin – Located on the outskirts of town at Finca La Vispera, this cafe prides itself on fresh and organic ingredients. Many of the ingredients are grown right at the Finca and besides enjoying a nice meal and organic freshly ground coffee, you’ll also enjoy beautiful views!
La Cafette – If you like a nice dessert with your coffee then La Cafette is the place to go! They are known for delicious coffee and even better cakes and pastries. This centrally located cafe is also owned by a Bolivian couple who are super friendly.
10. Lots of great (and cheap!) places to stay
In Samaipata, Bolivia there is no shortage of cute guesthouses and hotels to stay for a couple of nights.
My recommendation for choosing a hotel in Samaipata is to choose a place on the outskirts of town. You’ll still be within walking distance, but you’ll also be able to soak up the tranquility of the area being surrounded by nature.
Some of the best places in Samiapata, Bolivia to stay include:
Hostel Serena – This is the top-rated budget hotel/hostel in Samaipata. It is a very social hostel where travelers can get to know each other over a meal. It is located just on the outskirts of Samaipata so the location is gorgeous but also close enough to town for whatever you may need.
Finca La Vispera – This mid-range hotel is located on the outskirts of Samaipata on a real operating organic farm. The views from here are beautiful and one of the top-rated cafes in Samaipata is on-site. Breakfast is included and the owners are so friendly they will make you feel like family!
El Pueblito Hotel Boutique – This is the hotel that’s located at the top of the mirador hike in Samaipata. This small 4-star hotel is gorgeous and offers the best views in the area. Although not cheap, for what you get it is really great value!
You can browse all of the different places to stay in Samaipata online on Booking.com!
Before you go…
So, there you have it, 10 reasons to visit Samaipata, Bolivia. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below so we can get back to you.
You might also find some of our other Bolivia blogs helpful. Some of our most popular articles include:
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
December 21, 2020