Samaipata is a small mountain village at 1650 meters above sea level, located 120 km from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in a fantastic place at the base of a valley which gives it an ideal climate with spring temperatures all year round.
The small town of Samaipata, has little in terms of attractions to offer and you can see “everything” including museums in just one day. But it is a haven of peace and security where you want to stay for at least a week thanks to awesome trekking and other outdoor activities.
The beauty of Samaipata is in its surroundings, it is a fantastic place for fans of nature in its purest form, hiking and especially mountain trekking.
Things To See in Samaipata
Plaza de Armas de Samaipata and City Hall
In the Plaza de Armas of Samaipata, you can find the Church and the Town Hall, typical of the villages with Spanish origin. The life of the village revolves around this square and its market which is located a few meters away from it.
This square is one of the places mentioned by Che in his Diary of Bolivia. Apparently the guerrillas were there in the pharmacy of the Square looking for medication for asthma.
Archaeological Museum of Samaipata
Besides the square and a tour through some streets to see the architecture of Samaipata, you can visit the Archaeological Museum of Samaipata (its entrance is included along with the entrance of the Fort) and the Archaeological Research Center of Samaipata. Both offer information and samples of objects found in the archaeological site of El Fuerte, the visits are quick, because the collections are small.
Things To Do Around Samaipata
There are many treks to do in the mountains and valleys of the region of Samaipata, the problem is that the great majority are not marked trails and agencies are needed to guide you through the mountains.
The trails and visits for which group tours (or even taxis) can be found and prices are reasonable are as follows:
The fort is the most famous tourist place in Samaipata, but don’t be fooled by its name, because the fort in Samaipata is not a fort. In fact, it is an archaeological site considered the largest rock architecture work in the world. It is known as a fort because the Spaniards located a defense post there in the fight against the local Indians.
The fort of Samaipata also known as the “El Fuerte”, was a ceremonial and administrative complex founded and used by the pre-Hispanic cultures of the area.
The complex is divided into two parts, the administrative and the ceremonial. The ceremonial part is made up of a huge sandstone and monolithic composition rock 220 meters long and 65 meters wide. Its surface is sculpted with animals, channels, geometric and religious forms. There is also an Inca wall, whose shorter part has an origin previous to the Incas.
The administrative part is formed by a group of architectural structures that correspond to different periods of cultural settlements of Inca origin.
The price to enter the fort of Samaipata is 50 bolivianos. The estimated duration of the visit is two hours, but I would say that that time would be needed for someone specialized in Inca archaeology or history. For a normal traveler, one hour is more than enough.
To get to the fort there are two options: take a taxi or walk. For the taxi you will be asked for 80 bolivianos one way, and 100 bolivianos round trip. The walk is about 10 km.
Las Cuevas Waterfalls
You can’t miss the Las CuevasWaterfalls, for me, by far the best place in little Samaipata. There are three waterfalls in a row, less than a kilometer long, and with natural sand beaches at each waterfall. The area is urbanized, but maintains its charm. Within the complex, there is the possibility of renting cabins and it is an excellent alternative to stay away from everything, in contact with nature.
The waterfalls are beautiful and very clean. Another good part of the Las CuevasWaterfalls is that you can get there without hiring a tour.
There are options to get there: one is by taxi that can leave for 30 bolivianos, and the other by any bus that goes to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. These go through the main road that crosses the village, where the gas station, and its price is between 5-10 bolivianos, depending on the bus that passes.
The entrance to the waterfalls is 15 bolivianos.
Amboro National Park
In an area of the Amboro National Park, there is a cloud and rain forest of millenary ferns, a spectacular site and a must for any trip to Bolivia. It is the jungle in its purest form. They say that these ferns date back to prehistoric times!
It is mandatory to go with an agency, because the access to the fern area is not marked and neither are the trails. There are several options for excursions, short walks to see the ferns and long walks to go through the jungle, cross streams, climb to the higher areas from where you have spectacular views.
My recommendation is the long walk, which is difficult because of the terrain and the altitude (over 2800 meters in some sections). It is not cheap, but with groups you can get good prices from about 150 Bolivianos (2020).
La Ruta del Che’ (The Route of Che)
Many leave from Santa Cruz de la Sierra or from Samaipata with agencies to travel the already “mythical” La Ruta del Che’ (which “corresponds” in part to the tour of Bolivia in his famous Diary).
Che was convinced that the revolution would triumph in Latin America if he managed to establish a base in Bolivia, the center of the South American continent. From then on, the guerrillas were hiding in the mountains surrounding La Higuera, until a peasant turned them in when one night he saw several shadows in his potato field and thought someone was trying to rob him. The authorities knew it was the guerrillas and the next day 500 army troops surrounded them in the Quebrada del Churo.
Ché was taken to La Higuera and shot the next day at the little school. The people of the town did not know who Che was, but from that day on his life became linked to the figure of the commander, since the town has become a place of pilgrimage for all his followers.
A few kilometers from La Higuera is Vallegrande, where the body of Che, already dead, was exhibited in the Laundromat. It was also here where his body was found 30 years later, which was thrown into a common grave. There is also a museum about the death of Che, but it tells the same story as the museum of the little school of La Higuera where he died.