Is Torotoro – Bolivia’s “Jurassic Park” – worth visiting?
After a highly anticipated visit to Toro Toro (dragging poor Lorraine with me along the way – I think she wanted to head straight to Sucre) – I left feeling rather underwhelmed.
Not a fan of Toro Toro, huh?
Well the park was incredible but otherwise, mine and Lorainne’s experience here absolutely sucked. Toro Toro town is a sh*thole in the middle of nowhere, where everything is shut, the people are rude and there is nothing to do in the evening.
If you make it to Cochabamba, definitely visit the park – it is beautiful, with its colourful rocks and jaw dropping gorges (jaw-droppingly GORGES. Lol. Ok I’ll stop.) Whilst you’re there do some caving and go see vergel. Then run as fast as you can (in the direction of Sucre).
My experience in Torro Torro was tainted as I arrived already poorly…
What? Why? Did you eat something dodgy again?
Absolutely. I started my journey in Cochabamba, arriving from La Paz at 7:30am on a bumpy but otherwise comfortable night bus. After being scared to death by this article in The Culture Trip, I arrived tired and somewhat deranged after sleeping with one eye open the whole evening. You can ignore the article, btw. A load of rubbish – I’m sat writing this article perfectly alive after a month of travel using Bolivian buses.
ANYWAY, as said I was slightly deranged so I went to the local market to eat lunch and was so excited to find 2 courses for 10Bs (£1) – what a bargain! Sitting down amongst the locals, I noticed that some of them were wiping the cutlery clean. Had I been more sane in the brain, I’d have left at this point. Instead I made conversation with an old man sitting across from me.
Whilst I ate my soup he exclaimed “He estado comiendo aqui para 20 años, y normalmente yo nunca veo extranjeros!” – I have been eating here for 20 years, and normally I never see foreigners!
By this point I should have upped and left. Instead I gibbered on about England. I was up all night with diarrhoea and hot sweats, and needed to visit yet another emergency medical room.
Cochabamba – foodie capital of Bolivia. Hmmmm….
Where is Toro Toro anyway? And what is it?
Toro Toro National Park is situated in the Northern Potosí department, 140km south of Cochabamba. Toro Toro is only accessible by gravel roads and riverbeds, which usually takes four to seven hours depending on the route taken or the time of year. During the rainy season, this route can become impassable.
The park is one of the major attractions for visitors to Cochabamba, and is most famous for its remnants of dinosaurs. The park itself is absolutely spectacular, and as it is still relatively off the beaten track you can go for miles without seeing another tour group. The Potosí department have done a fantastic job of preserving the footprints, and the guides are really knowledgable.
Torro (for the eagle eyed among you) means bull in Spanish, but in Quechuan toro means mud. So the name of the town has a double meaning to locals. Clever 👀
How do I get to Toro Toro?
Lorraine and I travelled to Toro Toro from Cochabamba via a minivan. Most hostels will be able to direct you to Calle Mairana, which is where the minivan departs. From Running Chaski Hostel (where I was staying) in Cochabamba it was about 20Bs (£2) and 20-minutes in a taxi. The minivans depart between 8am – 8pm however ensure you get there as early as possible if you want to do an afternoon tour in Toro Toro, as the latest a guide will leave is 2pm. The minivan cost 35Bs per person and doesn’t depart until full, which means you could be waiting around a while. Both ways Lorraine and I waited for an hour. The minivan could take anywhere between 4-6 hours depending on road conditions – on the way out, our minivan took 4.5 hours however it was closer to 6 on the way back.
There is a bigger and more comfortable bus which takes around 5-7 hours and costs 23Bs per person. The bus leaves twice a week from Avenida Republica at 6am and 6pm. Days and schedules vary – check with your hostel as nothing I found online appeared to be correct.
Things to do in Toro Toro
The main reason to go is the park, of course. There is absolutely nothing to do in the town itself, which mainly looks like the image above. The surrounding scenery is gorgeous, and you’ll be taking in a lot of it when not on a tour given that most outlets are shut and there is no internet or phone signal (apart from 1 box in the square – you can find it easily as it is always surrounded by groups of tourists).
As the park can only be visited with a guide (you’d be mental to go without, it isn’t marked at all). Guides provide an important source of income for the local community.
How does one arrange a guide?
Turn up to the tourist office at about 7:30am for morning or 1:30pm for afternoon trips. A 120Bs (£12) admission fee must be paid to the tourist office before you sign up for a tour – Lorraine and I did this the evening before as the ticket is valid for 4-days.
Our guide met Lorraine and I at around 8am and initially took us via the market to get a sandwich for a packed lunch. The only option available for vegetarians was fried egg (lol) so I ate my sandwich early on to avoid having yolk leaking all over my bag. Armed with Oreos and full fat coke (good if you have a dodgy stomach), we walked approximately 15 minutes to the outskirts of the national park.
FYI – the tours are conducted in Spanish. My Spanish is pretty good, but seldom do I discuss the movement of Tectonic plates and the Prehistoric era in Spanish. I suggest you brush up a bit on Toro Toro the night before a tour.
How much should a guide be to hire?
Prices work on a sliding scale depending on how many people show up for a particular tour. Sharing a tour with other travellers reduces costs significantly. It’s easy enough to find a group going to Vergel and the caves, even in low season. Lorraine and I only paid 50Bs (£5) each per tour for the two of us.
Seeing Vergel, the canyon and the Dinosaur footprints (😲) made the schlep to Toro Toro WORTH IT. Look how happy my little face is!!!! I felt like an 8-year-old all over again. DINOSAUR FOOTPRINTS AHOY!!!
We were provided with a little guidebook with pictures of the dinosaurs and their respective footprints. It was amazing to compare the shapes to see how well they’d been preserved. Good job, Bolivia!
Our guide was 18-years-old and a wannabe photographer. He insisted on taking lots of good photos for the ‘gram, even though I looked horrific (and felt unwell – I kept having to run and hide behind a bush with my dodgy stomach). Hence the montage of Lorraine and I in the park. I managed to retrieve my phone back by vergel waterfall.
We had some more ‘romantic’ ones – I’m not even kidding, he got Lorraine and I to hold hands and everything. Which Lorraine agreed to – mainly because she was afraid of heights.
Cueva Humajalanta 🏞
The caves could be absolutely amazing if there was any health and safety involved. Which there isn’t, btw. It is just stick on a helmet and go, try not to drop anything. FYI – the caves are a poor idea if you suffer from claustrophobia or anxiety. You’ll be crawling around on your tummy for quite a lot of the excursion or squeezing through small spaces with a flickering light on your head.
Bit of a re-occuring theme in Bolivia – not open, at all over the 2 days Lorraine and I were in Toro Toro. There is no internet in Toro Toro other than the box in the main square, so if you’re stuck for something to do whilst waiting for the bus back perhaps worth a visit.
How do I even get to Toro Toro? It is in the middle of nowhere…
The two main cities to reach Toro Toro from are Sucre and Cochabamba. From Sucre the drive is 6 hours (probably more like 7 or 8 knowing the Bolivians) in a 4WD. From Cochabamba the drive is advertised at 4 hours (but is actually more like 5 hours or 6 if you end up stuck in roadworks – which of course we were).
The road from Cochabamba is absolutely breathtaking. However it is also bloody bumpy and the bus gets pretty hot. Make sure you take some anti-sickness tablets, plenty of water and some snacks (and of course charge your iPod battery the night before)!
Where should I stay in Toro Toro?
When it comes to choice in Toro Toro village, it is a bit like choosing between a rock and a hard place. Your choice is sh*t, or sh*t. Lorraine and I opted to stay in Hostel Asteria, touted as ‘The Fanciest Place in Town’ by The Culture Trip.
Well – if this is the fanciest place in town, I don’t even wish to know what the least fanciest place in town looks like!
The place could be nice with a lick of paint and some love, and it probably was nice 20-years-ago. The hotel is in a large colonial building with the rooms surrounding a bright and spacious courtyard. Unfortunately the hotel is dated, musty and old. The included breakfast was a bread roll with jam and butter.
Lorraine and I paid 75Bs (£7.50) each for a private room. I think the prices might be higher in high season. Lord knows. 🤷🏻♀️
Where can I eat in Toro Toro?
Nowhere. Take some snacks from Cochabamba.
What? 😂 Please say that is a joke…
It genuinely isn’t. The town market is the best place to grab some food if you’re not picky – no fuss Bolivian food for 10Bs (£1) per dish. However if you’re vegetarian good luck getting anything other than an egg sandwich. Furthermore I felt a bit ropey relying on the town market – understandable, given that two days prior I had eaten a 10Bs Bolivian meal deal at the local market and ended up with ANOTHER parasite. 🤷🏻♀️
Other than that most places when I arrived appeared to be shut. The ‘best restaurant’ in Torro Torro was actually in Hostel Asteria (where are these reviewers eating normally????) however when Lorraine and I appeared downstairs at 7pm for dinner time, the owners announced that the restaurant was shut due to rain outside.
Both evenings Lorraine and I sustained off of overpriced Pringles from the local corner shop, and okay (but overpriced) Italian food. Spaghetti and tomato sauce, anyone?
So… the final verdict?
Toro Toro is a beautiful and magnificent example of Andean nature, and seeing the dinosaur footprints and trekking to the canyon made it worth the visit. Just ensure you come ready prepared with supplies from Cochabamba and only budget 2-3 nights here at the very most.
Pressed for time? Skip Toro Toro. Sucre has dinosaur footprints anyway.
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