Cochabamba is a department in the Sub-Andean region of Bolivia. It lies in the Andean valley region of Bolivia, between the tropical lowlands of Santa Cruz and the highlands and altiplano in Potosí and La Paz.
The urbanized region of Cochabamba and surrounding Quillacollo and Sacaba are the economic centers of the department, and in recent years have grown to be highly linked, such that a tourist may not recognize that they are travelling between cities. Nonetheless the locals maintain that each has a distinct character. Cities in this central region include:
- 1 Cochabamba - capital and largest city.
- 2 Quillacollo - nearby city with a few windy colonial streets to explore, with the Virgen de Urkupiña religious festival in mid-August
- Sacaba and Colcapirhua - new suburbs of mostly concrete and highways. Sacaba has a new and modest dinosaur park, which may be appealing to children.
- Tiquipaya and Vinto - more rural suburbs with larger estate houses; Vinto is the location of Pairumani, Simón Patiño's country estate, as well as an Eco-tourism Park.
Outside the central valley of Cochabamba department, there are numerous small towns, some of which retain a well-worn version of colonial charm. The three most prominent are in the valley directly south of the departmental capital.
- 3 Tarata - charming colonial village with the festival of San Severino in late November
- 4 Cliza and Punata - towns in the same valley with a few colonial buildings, handicrafts, and local culture
Further afield are a number of major attractions.
- 5 Villa Tunari. Becoming more and more popular with tourists for its nearby national parks and its climate.
- 6 Totora. A distinctive and famous colonial village on the way to Sucre.
- 7 Aiquile. A similar colonial village with handicrafts.
- 1 Torotoro National Park (About 4 hr away from Cochabamba city by bus. (Mini)buses (Bs. 35/25) leave hourly or when full (06:00-18:00, +591 70786818) from the 1 Torotoro Bus "station" in the south of Cochabamba.). Actually in the Potosí Province, but mostly accessible from Cochabamba. Popular with travellers that head to Cochabamba for its dinosaur foot prints and remnants, large cave that you can climb into, and vast hiking opportunities.
- 2 Carrasco National Park (Chapare Region).
- 3 Cerro Tunari.
- 4 Parque Nacional Secure (Isiboro Sécure National Park).
- 5 Lago Corani.
Cochabamba is both the name for the department (like a state or province in other countries) and for the capital city, Cochabamba.
Like all Bolivian departments, Cochabamba is politically divided into several provinces. The capital city is coterminous with the province of Cercado. In general, the political divisions of Bolivia beyond department are not relevant to tourists, unless volunteering with an organization that works within a specific city, for example in a development project within the Cercado province.
You're always bound to find someone speaking Spanish, even in rural regions where Quechua is the predominant language. Bolivians tend to be shy with foreigners - it isn't disrespect, it's merely a cultural tendency when dealing with unknown people. It's still polite to smile and say "Buenos Días/Tardes" to people you see.
When someone says "salud" in your direction and holds up a drink, it indicates that they would like to share at least a sip of their drink with you. It is impolite to refuse - use your best judgement.
The best roads into and out of Cochabamba city lead to La Paz, Oruro, and Santa Cruz. It is also possible to travel to and from Potosi and Sucre by bus, but because of long, winding mountain roads at very high altitudes, the trip is uncomfortable and should be avoided. Typical prices (2011), travel times, and recommended bus companies are as follows:
- La Paz - 25 to 60 Bs; 8 hours; El Dorado, Trans Copacabana, many others
- Santa Cruz - 60 to 120 Bs; 10 hours; Trans Copacabana
- Oruro - 20 to 30 Bs; 4 hours; Trans Azul
- Potosi - 7 hours; unknown
In general it is a safe bet to arrive at the bus terminal and expect a bus from at least one company to be leaving for Cochabamba within an hour or so.
The city of Cochabamba (CBB IATA) is the hub of the new airline Boliviana de Aviación (BoA) and as such has good, inexpensive connections to domestic and international destinations, including Buenos Aires and São Paulo.
Services to Quillacollo and other cities within the main valley traverse many of the streets in the capital. Go to a main road that's going in the general direction you want to go (eg. Heroinas or Aroma heading westward for Quillacollo), look on the front of the minibuses for the destination, or ask a local. These nearby urban services cost up to 3 Bs. Services within the city of Cochabamba cost 1.70 Bs.
Most transport to towns within the department leave from certain distinct spots within the city of Cochabamba. They go whenever full, and are usually available throughout the day. Services to Tarata and Cliza leave from Avenida Barrientos, south of La Cancha marketplace, and cost about 5 Bs. Services to Aiquile leave from 6 de Agosto and Barrientos, and cost 20 Bs; no service on Sunday. Villa Tunari services go from Oquendo and República, and cost 15-25 Bs.
For other destinations it's good to ask a local from the tourist information office or a travel establishment, though they might try to sell you expensive private services.
The mountain ranges, including Cerro Tunari and Cerro San Pedro with the famous Cristo de la Concordia statue, form most of Cochabamba province and provide opportunities for hiking and camping, as well as South America's most famous paragliding companies.
- Rent a boat 2 near Bulo Bulo or in 3 Villa Tunari, or take a cargo ferry in 4 Puerto Villaroel (of the Santa Cruz department), and go down the river 5 near Trinidad or even further in the Amazon region. Stack enough food, and bring chlorine tablets for clean water and mosquito net. See Beni (department) for all the details.
- Festivals. Visit Quillacollo, just 20 minutes from Cochabamba city, for it's Fiesta de la Virgen de Urkupiña, which is a national pilgrimage site and attract thousands of religious visitors on and round August 15th. Cochabamba city's festival is September 14th, while Tarata celebrates the fiesta de San Severino in late November, to mark the coming of the rain.
- Volunteer. Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi is 4 hours into the jungle at Villa Tunari. It offers the amazing experience of looking after previously captive tropical wild animals as a volunteer. 
Cochabamba is also a good point for excursions into the rainforest Chapare Region:
- Samaipata is a town towards the Carrasco National Park and has lodging in the wilds nearby for a quiet retreat.
- Fundacion Delpia. "Fundacion para el Desarrollo Local de los Pueblos Indigenas Amazonicos-Andinos" is a non-profit organization that organizes tours to the National Park Isiboro Sécure and visits to local indigenous communities (4-5 days). Visitors can choose to get either integrated into the daily life of the local families (fishing, cooking, hunting, sleeping in traditional hut etc) or touring the national park with an indigenous guide by foot or canoe (sleeping in tents)
- Hotel Tucan (2 km from Villa Tunari, on the main road to Santa Cruz. Take a taxi (Bs. 10) to the entrance.). The showers are hot, the towels are clean. Not a bad place, and breakfast is included. The food is overpriced and underwhelming. The pools are free to use. Bs. 200 per single, Bs. 160 triple (per person). All rooms are the same; you pay based on the number of people in the rooms.
Cochabamba department prides itself on its food, mostly for the large portions in local dishes - Cochabamba has been dubbed the "bread basket of Bolivia." Though it may not all be prepared close to western tastes, it's worth trying at least the Sillpancho, a egg-meat-tomato-onion-rice-potato dish, and the Sopa de Maní, which is a creamy peanut soup.
Chicha is the traditional corn-based alcoholic drink of the rural areas, and while in the past it may have been trustworthy to drink in most places (when saliva was used in fermentation), the modern-day addition of other products for fermentation (some highly unsanitary) may make it dangerous in most places.
Local beers include the nationally-known Taquiña brand, though most Cochabambinos prefer Huari which comes from outside the region.
- Cochabamba city has some shady neighbourhoods.
- During the rainy season the roads throughout the province are more difficult, especially to Toro Toro.
- Going further into the jungle towards Santa Cruz offers a more tropical experience and may be more fun than battling flooded mountain roads during the rainy season, December-March.
- Going to the altiplano, especially Uyuni and the tours in that region, are a great way to continue travelling through Bolivia. Trains also go from Uyuni to the Argentine border, but it is out of the way if you'd like to go directly to Argentina.