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.
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.
More on what makes it so special and one of the best places to visit in Bolivia in a bit.
How To Get To Samaipata Bolivia
Santa Cruz to Samaipata
From Samaipata from 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.
Depending on the season the cost is $30-40B’s 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 at around 3/4am in 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. Hotels 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.
The night bus we took left Sucre at 5pm, arrived just before 4am and cost XB’s. It goes along the old south road so it was a very bumpy journey and we didn’t get much sleep, so 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 during 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.
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 jump in a collectivo to come back to Samaipata. 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.
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
Our favourite restaurant in Samaipata was La Cocina. 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 many nights.
Somewhere else that does excellent food in Samaipata is La Pizzeria on Calle Arenales near the market. Fully rate this place.
Caffe Art is a cute little spot for breakfast or lunch. The courtyard is stunning. Again not the cheapest, not much is in Samaipata compared with the rest of Bolivia.
Which is why we ate at menus at quite a few of the local restaurants which you’ll find plenty of just off the main square.
Other places we were recommended but didn’t get chance to try are: Latina Café, Descanso en las alturas, Landhaus, Tierra Libre, La Oveja Negra and Hotel Paola.
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 pockets of the taxi drivers, it’s not 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.
You’re not supposed to take food and drinks near the waterfalls (although we saw plenty flaunting the rule) so 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, it’s about 40 minuts 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.
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.
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. Again, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 20B’s each ($3USD/£2.25GBP).
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.
Samaipata Wine Tasting
We didn’t know about until the day before we were leaving Samaipata 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.
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 place called Bodega 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.
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 Finca La Vispera. The menu is wholly vegetarian and all the produce is organically homegrown.
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.
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 Cloud Forest hike so it’s the Amboró National Park tour that we have the most info about.
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 which worked out at around $38USD / £30GBP 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.
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.
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.
So 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.
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.
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.
What’s more, as much of Amboró National Park is yet to be botanically surveyed so there’s likely many 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 in 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.
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.
You’ll also need a minimum of a litre of water, probably too. Unless you have a water filter bottle like we do, there’s plenty of streams to fll up in as you go. And you’ll need to take your own lunch, it’s not privded 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 if you order in advance.
It gets muddy in some parts but not a technically difficult hike so trainers are fine and are what we wore.
A waterproof jacket and dry bags are essential. And although we didn’t see any, mosquito spray. We wore suncream 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.
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.
Where To Next in Bolivia?
- Find our mega guide on what to do in Santa Cruz here.
- Here’s our favourite things to do in the white city of Sucre.
Insurance For Travelling Bolivia
We never go anywhere without travel insurance – and neither should you.
This particularly goes if you’re planning to do any of the more adventurous activities above. World Nomads is our preferred choice for great cover and a no bullshit approach. They also provide cover if you’re already on the road.
Grab yourself a quick no obligation quote below: