Samaipata, Bolivia – Markets and Ruins

Arrival and where to Stay

We arrived in Samaipata late at night. The chill of the night reminded us that we should be finding accommodations quickly, preferably somewhere that had central heating... Then we remembered, finding central heating in Bolivia is about as common as spotting a jaguar at a national park (Jaguars are hard to spot if you didn't catch my drift). 

Hastily, we found a small motel-like establishment named Residencial Don Jorge where the owner promised us copious amounts of beddings. I can say at least three good things about our accommodations (besides the copious bedding): First, Jaime, the owner of the establishment was quick to give advice and help us out, although admittedly, it was all in Spanish. He even helped us rig up a makeshift cap for our extra tank of gas. Second, the interior courtyard was filled with a variety of fauna, making it feel a bit more like a posada than a motel. Third, they had onsite parking. In truth, I would not stay there again - there is no wifi, the rooms are sparse and drab, you are not allowed access to the kitchen and there is no breakfast. The price was 60 Bolivianos per person per night. Instead I would stay at one of the following places.  

Andorina: We also looked at Andorina, a more traditional Backpacker's hostel, but unfortunately, they were full up when we went. The attendant spoke English well and it looked clean and inviting. The price is similar to Don Jorge. http://www.andorinasamaipata.com/english/english.htm

La Posada de Sol: A little farther into town and a bit more upscale is La Posada de Sol, run by an American / Bolivian couple that met online. The price is still very reasonable, around 75 Bolivianos per person per night. If I had time to check out accommodations before arriving in Samaipata, here is where I would have stayed. Check them out here: http://www.laposadadelsol.net

The town

Samaipata is located two and half hours by car from Santa Cruz, making it an ideal stop over on our way to Sucre. However, as a "stopover" town, we only budgeted one full day here. On the advice of Jaime, we decided to explore the town in the morning, and visit el Fuerte, a pre-inca ruin, in the evening. 

The stores are painted in bright colors and there are several murals that grace the clay walls of the town. It was obvious that Samaipata receives its fair share of tourists just by the sheer number of artisean shops. 

The market

Afterwards, we strolled through the market, which added even more color and personality to the town. For the most part, the market increased my appetite. The tangerines were ripe and juicy and the apples, although blemished occasionally by worm-holes or bruises, looked sweet and crunchy. But unfortunately, we eventually wandered past 35 deplucked chickens squashed carelessly together in a blue laundry basket in the back of a beat up station wagon. I was unable to eat chicken for the next two days. 

A word to the wise, people don't necessarily like getting their picture taken. A shop owner told me it makes them feel like they are animals in the zoo. So if you are a photographer, it's best to use a zoom lens to capture the action or be willing to fork over a couple bolivianos and buy some of the wears that they are selling. The second method worked for me, but I could tell that they still weren't exactly thrilled about the proposition. 

El Fuerte

After the market, we drove 20 minutes to the ancient ruins of El Fuerte (the Fort). El Fuerte is an Unesco world heritage site and is unique because it contains ruins from three different cultures: the pre-Inca ChanĂ© people, the Incas themselves and the Spanish. 

We walked around the vast complex, stopping often for pictures. One of the more interesting features of the complex, El Cascabel or "the rattle", can be found on top of the temple. Some believe that "the rattle", consisting of two parallel lines, commemorated the fly over of Halley's comet in March of 1066. 

Other notable features of the complex include, multiple lookout points - one where you can produce a sizeable echo - and Chincana, a 16 meter deep hole that could have been used as a complex escape tunnel, a waterwheel or as a form of punishment. If it was a form of punishment, it would have scared the crap out of me. Just think, solitary confinement in a hole 16 meters (around 50 feet) below ground that has a diameter of just 1.4 meters (around 5 feet). Makes me glad for restrictions against cruel and unusual punishment today.

More things to do around Samaipata

Samaipata is a town that we could have stayed in at least two more days. One day could have been filled with a trip to Amboro National Park. Over 800 different birds, 125 species of mammals including pumas and ocelots and 100 different species of orchids call Amboro home. Check out the blog 2gosouth for a good rundown on Amboro.

On the second day, either spotting condors, or basking near waterfalls would have beckoned to us. Below are links to blogs that can give you an idea of what to expect on such outings. 

Where we ate

There is a nice French / Latin Restaurant called Latina Cafe located near the beginning of the town. A fire is usually roaring during the evening and many locals come here to use the wifi. Main dishes are between 40 and 70 Bolivianos and they also have a respectable wine list. The restaurant is owned by a French expat who married a local Bolivian. He also owns the Restaurant 1600, located in the main square, which is more modestly priced. Both of the restaurants sport wifi, although it must be said that it doesn't work all the time. 

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