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Guide To Samaipata & Amboró National Park Bolivia

A small town in Eastern Bolivia with temperate climate chilled out vibe. It’s easy to see why a fair few European immigrants have settled here and there’s certainly enough things to do in Samaipata to keep you entertained for a few days.

best things to do in Samaipata Bolivia

As we did, most visitors come to Samaipata Bolivia to venture into nearby Amboró National Park. A unique jungle paradise spanning a ginormous 4,425 km squared. 

The collision of three distinct ecosystems: the foothills of the Andes, the northern Chaco, and the Amazon Basin means that Parque Nacional Amboró has a unique environment that isn’t found anywhere else on the planet.

But more on what makes it so special and one of the best places to visit in Bolivia in a bit.

best Amboro National Park tour

How To Get To Samaipata Bolivia

Santa Cruz to Samaipata

From Samaipata to Santa Cruz or visa versa, the route is an easy one. Collectivos run all day between the terminal on the corner of Av. Omar Chavez Ortiz/Soliz de Olguin in Santa Cruz and the central plaza in Samaipata Bolivia.

Samaipata Plaza

Depending on the season the cost is $30-40BOB ($4-5USD / £3-4 GBP) per person. The journey will take around 4 hours and the road.  

Sucre to Samaipata

To get from Sucre to Samaipata you’ll need to take a night bus from the main terminal heading for Santa Cruz. Not all buses pass through Samaipata so make sure you double check. And you’ll need to set your alarm as you’ll be arriving in the early hours of the the morning.

The bus will drop you on the main road, from which it’s a 10 minute walk depending on where you are staying. Hostels and hotels in Samaipata are not open 24/7 so you will need to book in advance and reserve a stay for that night so they know to expect you. 

Bolivia boys in Samaipata

The journey should be around 8 hours and cost approximately $100 BOB ($14.50 USD / £12 GBP).

However the night bus we took was closer to 10 hours.

We suppose to leave Sucre at 5pm (it didn’t), and due to various delays along route didn’t arrive in Samaipata until just before 4am. From what we’ve read this doesn’t seem to be have been a one off experience. So prepare for potential delays.

It also goes along the old south road so it was a very bumpy journey and we didn’t get much sleep. We were grateful to slide right into bed at the other end. 

Just an FYI if you’re not a fan of them, there’s lots of street dogs in Samaipata Bolivia. And whilst they were friendly enoughduring the day, it was a different vibe wandering through the streets at 4am.

Luckily it accumulated to no more than barking, but we had a couple of moments during the walk from the main road where we thought, shit, we’re gonna get bit here. 

how to get to Samaipata Bolivia

If you don’t fancy arriving early in the morning, there are day time buses to Santa Cruz from Sucre, so your other option is to take one of those and then jump in a collectivo to come back to Samaipata Bolivia. That way arriving at a more reasonable hour.

The buses going straight from Sucre to Santa Cruz go along the new north road so it’s also a quicker, more comfortable journey.

Where To Stay in Samaipata

Cheap & Cheerful: Hostal Andoriña

Simply put this place is a dream to stay at. Not only do they make a cracking breakfast with homemade bread, proper coffee and plenty of fruit, the owners are ridiculously helpful. There’s a cute little hideout on the roof. And if you like furry friends, their cat is an absolute cuddle monster.

Hostel Andoriña is where we stayed and absolutely loved it.

Hostal Andorina Samaipata
best hostel in Samaipata Bolivia

Mid-range: Hostel Serena

This hostel has the best ratings out of everywhere to stay in Samaipata Bolivia. It’s a little further out of the town centre (800m) but in return for that you get incredible views. They even have treehouses! The breakfast gets glowing reviews, as does the optional reasonably priced dinner you can opt in for.

People often choose to stay longer than planned at Hostel Serena.

Affordable Luxury: Finca La Vispera

We had lunch at this hotel in Samaipata so can tell you from experience that it’s a gorgeous place to stay. Individual chalets are dotted around the property, each separated by a beautifully landscaped garden.

Finca La Vispera tranquility and relaxation down to a tee.

Where To Eat in Samaipata 

La Cocina: This was our favourite restaurant in Samaipata Bolivia. They do seriously delicious burgers. They also serve them to the bar down the road, La Boheme. It’s got a great vibe, great cocktails and live music most nights. Expect to pay $30-40 BOB ($4-5USD / £3-4GBP) for a main meal.

La Cocina Samaipata burger
Boheme Samaipata Bar

La Pizzeria: Somewhere else that does excellent food in Samaipata is La Pizzeria on Calle Arenales near the market. Fully rate this place. Except to pay between $30-50 BOB ($4.50-7.25 USD / £3.50-5.50 GBP) for a full size pizza.

Caffe Art: This is awesome cute little spot for breakfast or lunch. The courtyard is stunning. Except to pay around $50 BOB ($7.25 USD / £5.50 GBP) for a sandwich and a coffee.

Caffe Art Samaipata

Latina: The Samaipata restaurant has a lovely terrace and great vibes. It’s on the expensive side but the service is excellent, as is the food. Expect to pay around $70 BOB ($10 USD / £8 GBP) for a main course.

Things To Do In Samaipata

So here’s the thing about things to do in Samaipata Bolivia. They’re not all that easy to get to. Well when we say not easy to, we mean cheap to get to.

Because while there are a few things to do in Samaipata town, the only way to get to the big hitters is to take a taxi. Because frustratingly there isn’t any public transport. And while it’s good for the taxi drivers pockets, it’s not so much for anyone backpacking on a budget.

Sort it out Bolivia.

Las Cuevas Waterfalls

A series of three waterfalls with small hikes in between, you won’t regret hanging out here for a few hours. You can swim in the water and even jump off some off one of the waterfalls.

Jumping off Las Cuevas Waterfalls

You’re not supposed to take food and drinks near the waterfalls (although we saw plenty flaunting the rule). But pack some in your bag if you’re likely to get peckish because there’s nowhere to buy food near here. There are toilets here though.

The entrance fee is 20B’s each ($3USD/£2.25GBP). And you’ll have to get a taxi there as it’s about 40 minutes drive from town.

If you do happen to have your own transport and are camping there’s a really nice enclosed spot with BBQ areas directly over the road from the entrance to Las Cuevas Samaipata. 

what to do in Samaipata Bolivia
Las Cuevas Waterfalls Samaipata

We hired a taxi to first take us to Las Cuevas waterfalls in the morning, pick us up a couple of hours later, then drop us at Samaipata Fort. And then from there we walked back into town which is a pleasant 9km hike that’s mostly downhill. It took us just under 2 hours.

It is also easy to hitch hike back too, we had a few cars and trucks stop to offer us a lift but we really did just want to walk.

For the taxi we paid $150B’s ($22USD/£17GBP).

So if you’re travelling on your own or as a couple, be worth making a few pals so you can split the costs of taxi fare. Obviously, that’s easier to do in the high season when it’s busier.

El Fuerte de Samaipata

You’ll find plenty of mixed reviews about the Samaipata Fortress UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were fascinated by it, but equally we can see why if you’re not too interested in history you will just see a big rock.

Samaipata Fort
El Fuerte de Samaipata

But look beyond that and you’ll find a hugely important pre-Hispanic historic site. Divided into two areas, a religious part and an administrative part, the site of Samaipata Fort is huge.

From walkways you get a panoramic view over the main religious area which is the big rock with pre-Incan carvings. Then a marked path with information boards in Spanish and English takes you around the different Inca ruins in the administrative area.

Inca ruins Samaipata Bolivia

We think you’d get a lot more from visiting El Fuerte de Samaipata if you hired one of the guides at the entrance. But because on top of having to take a taxi there and the entrance fee being 50B’s ($7.25USD/£5.65GBP) for foreigners, we opted not to pay another 100B’s for that.

Again would be cheaper to do if there’s a few of you and you could split the cost.

There’s a restaurant here that serves traditional 2 course bolivian menus for 15-25B’s each and toilets.

Oh and your entrance ticket covers you for a entry to a museum in town about El Fuerte de Samaipata. Unfortunately it seemed to siesta time each time we stopped by so we can’t tell you if it’s any good or not. Opening times are 8am-12pm and 2-6pm.

Refugio Zoológico

We heard that visiting the animal refuge is a popular thing to do in Samaipata Bolivia. We opted not to however because we already had quite a packed Samaipata itinerary and we couldn’t find enough information about the ethics and specific actions of the place.

things to do in Samaipata Bolivia

Not specifically in Bolivia, but unfortunately we’ve visited plenty of ‘refuges’ in the past that have just turned out to be zoos profiting off animals kept in poor conditions so we now err on the side of caution when it comes to animal tourism.

If you do go, please drop us a comment below to let us know how it was. The entrance fee is 25B’s each ($3.60USD/£2.85GBP). 

It’s possible to walk there from town and there’s supposed to be a great place to grab an ice cream called La Vaca Loca on the way. 

Vinos de Altura 1750

We didn’t know about this Samaipata wine tasting until the day before we were leaving otherwise we’d have been all over it. You’ll find the winery on the path up towards Mirador de Samaipata, it’s hard to miss because it’s surrounded by fields of grape vines.

Samaipata vineyards

Tours happen at 9am, 10.30am, 2pm and 3:30pm but you’ll need to book in adance. Here’s the numbers for reservations: 69077787 or 76061430.

Again if you do a Samaipata wine tasting tour let us know how it goes in the comments so we can update this information for other fellow travellers.

There is also another vineyard called Bodegas y Viñedos Landsuá on the road up to the Samaipata fort.

Mirador de Samaipata

A little confusing to find if you don’t have the right information, this next what to do in Samaipata is actually inside a hotel resort called El Pueblito.

So once you reach that, you’ll need to go through the gates to the reception and pay the 20B’s entrance fee ($3USD/£2.25GBP). It’s pretty steep, the price, for what it is but a nice enough view and walk up is lovely.

Mirador de Samaipata

Obviously if you happen to be staying here, you get to see this Samaipata viewpoint for free.

You can get lunch here if you fancy it and have the budget.

We opted to eat at another hotel we were recommended, back along the path to town and then off towards the right called Café Jadin “Finca La Vispera”. The menu is wholly vegetarian and all the produce is organically homegrown.

Finca La Vispera Samaipata Bolivia

Prices per dish are 30-50B’s so it’s not the cheapest but worth it for the gorgeous setting.

Amboró National Park

The first helpful thing to know about Amboró National Park Bolivia is that you can’t enter without a certified guide. It’s the law, no wiggle room. Not that you’d want to anyway, there aren’t exactly clear paths in and out.

But obviously there’s a cost that comes attached to hiring a guide. If there’s more of you, which is easier when visiting during high season then prices are lower.

Hike in Amboro National Park Samaipata

There’s lots of different types of tours that you can do to different parts of Amboró National Park, the most popular being the Bosque de Nubes (Cloud Forest) or Helechos Gigantes (Giant Fern) – it has two names – and the Condor Nest day hikes.

We chose to do the Giant Fern/Cloud Forest hike so it’s that Amboró National Park tour that we have the most info about.

Amboro National Park Bolivia

Of course we can’t compare it to the others but we’d highly recommend it. It was one of the best things we did in Bolivia and the scenery was out of this world.

Cloud Forest Samaipata

We did originally have 5 in our group. However unfortunately our hike got cancelled on the day we were supposed to do it due to bad weather. And the other 3 people booked on had to be somewhere else the next day so it ended up just the two of us.

We paid $500B’s in total which worked out at around $36USD / £28GBP each.

But prices v people with the tour company we went with – Tucandera Tours – are as follows:

1 person (450B’s) – 2 people (260B’s each) – 3 people (190B’s each) – 4/5 people (170B’s each) – 6/7 people (150B’s each). So you get the vibe. It’s similar with most tour agencies. 

Tree in Amboro National Park

Of course you can, but you don’t have to get a group together yourself. You’ll see outside the tour agency offices signs like ‘tomorrow 2 pax’ so you’ll know they already have some people booked on a tour and that you’ll get a cheaper price.

The tour agencies also tend to call around the hostels too to let them know when they are looking for a few more to make it cheaper for everyone. So make sure you ask around.

Amboró National Park Tour

However do also just bear in mind that not all the Amboró National Park tour agencies are equal. We heard some guides can be a bit crap. We would recommend Tukandera Tours because the main guide and owner, Elva, is Bolivian and also a biologist.

Not only did she have a wealth of fascinating information but her excitement about everything nature was infectious. We never knew it was possible to get us so excited over plants. It’s also a small family run business.

 Helechos Gigantes Samaipata Bolivia

We also heard good things about Chané Tours and Samaipata Tours too. But as always do check the most up to date reviews for tour companies before booking. 

What’s Special About Amboro National Park

As mentioned above this particular National Park in Bolivia is so special and unique because it’s where three diverse ecosystems collide. But more than that, because of the consequent precipitation cycle you get these huge flying air rivers tumbling through the sky with suspended waterfalls.

Cloud Forest Samaipata

From afar it just looks likes clouds but close up we’ve never seen anything like it and were absolutely amazed.

Also as one of the most biodiverse national parks in the world, Amboró National Park is stuffed with tonnes of unique flora and fauna. 

In fact, the scientific community has logged near 3,000 different species of plants, 135 reptiles, 173 amphibians, and 177 mammals including tapirs, armadillos, spider monkeys, jaguars, giant anteaters, pumas, ocelots and spectacled bears. 

Giant Fern Forest Samaipata

And then there’s the birds, all 812 different species of them.

Owing to how dense the jungle is you’d have to be very lucky to see any animals, although tracks in the mud are common. Our guide showed us photographs of jaguar footprints she’d seen recently. 

But being as Amboró National Park has more bird species than any other National Park in the world and is home to 60% of the whole country’s bird population, they are however much easier to spot. 

We saw Masked Trogons, Ruddy Quail-Doves, Woodcreepers, Tanagers, Thrushes Vultures, Toucans, Macaws and Hummingbirds. But cock of the rocks, curassows and spectacled owls are also common.

Beetle in Amboro National Park

What’s more, much of Amboró National Park is yet to be botanically surveyed so there’s likely even more species. Our guide was practically jumping around as much as a tiny frog we came across which she’d never seen before.

She excitedly took photographs and measurements to log in the database in case no one else had either.

Giant Fern Hike Samaipata

The day starts at 9am with a bumpy 40 minute taxi ride (included in the tour price) to the closest entrance of Amboró National Park. It’s a full day and you’ll arrive back in Samaipata for around 5/6pm depending on the conditions and which route your guide takes.

Amboro National Park tour

We hiked a total of 12km, right up to the summit of La Mina, the mountain we were on. We’d enjoyed the hike immensely up to that point, learning about the jungle environment and winding our way through giant fern species so old they were once dinosaur food.

But it was standing on top of a Mina, above the clouds that blew us away because this is where the best views of the air rivers are.

It also did quite literally nearly blow us away on a couple of occasions so be sure to take an extra layer with you. It gets seriously windy up there.

It’s also colder in Amboró National Park than in Samaipata town so it’s best to wear long sleeves and leggings if you have them. It’s just because it’s such a constantly wet and damp environment.

Transparent butterflies in Amboro National Park

You’ll also need a minimum of a litre of water, probably two. Unless you have a water filter bottle like we do, there’s plenty of streams to fill up in as you go. And you’ll need to take your own lunch, it’s not provided by the tour companies.

There’s a market in town where you can pick things up from. Or most hostels in Samaipata will make one for you to take if you order in advance.

It gets muddy in some parts but its not a technically difficult hike so trainers are fine and are what we wore.

La Mina Amboro National Park

A waterproof jacket and dry bags are essential. And although we didn’t see any, mosquito spray. We wore suncream too but you are under the canopy the majority of the time out of the sun. 

The other tours you can take into Amboró National Park are as follows:

  • Refugio los Volcanes
  • Laguna de Volcanes
  • Condor Nest
  • The Che Trail
  • Night time safari

Best Time To Go To Samaipata

The warmest months are during the rainy season October – April. The coldest months are May – September which is said to be the best time to visit Samaipata and Amboró National Park.

Samaipata town

We visited in January, the rainiest month and as we said had to delay our cloud forest hike a day due to a huge downpour. But then when it was sunny, it was hot hot.

Samaipata FAQ’s

Is Samaipata worth visiting?

Best known for the UNESCO ruins of El Fuerte de Samaipata, there’s actually loads of cool stuff to do in and around Samaipata. For example hike to see the cloud rivers in Amboró National Park, jump off the pretty Las Cuevas Waterfalls, wine tasting from the vineyards that this region has been bussin’ of late.

What are the Samaipata ruins in Bolivia?

The Samaipata ruins in Bolivia are of an historical fort called El Fuerte de Samaipata. They date back to AD 300, and are of huge ceremonial importance. There are two clearly identifiable parts. The large rock was where rituals took place and then there’s the residence and political part where people lived.

What does Samaipata mean?

The name Samaipata is Quechuan and the meaning is broken down into two parts. Samai means ‘to rest’ and pata means at an elevated place or by the river edge.

How do I go from Santa Cruz to Samaipata?

It is easy to get from Santa Cruz to Samaipata Bolivia . Collectivos run all day between the terminal on the corner of Av. Omar Chavez Ortiz/Soliz de Olguin and drop in the central plaza in Samaipata Bolivia. The cost is around $30-40 BOB ($4-5USD / £3-4 GBP) per person and the journey takes about 4 hours.

Where To Next in Bolivia?

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Street with church and text overlay Guide to Samaipata Bolivia
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