Toro Toro National Park is a small national park in the Potosí department of Bolivia among the eastern mountain ranges of the South American Andes cordilleras. It is accessible from the city of Cochabamba.
Torotoro National Park is in the Northern Potosí department, 140 km south of Cochabamba and only accessible by gravel roads and riverbeds. It takes 6 hours in the dry season and much longer in the rainy season when sometimes the route becomes completely impassable.
The park is one of the major attractions for visitors to Cochabamba, and is most famous for its remnants of dinosaurs, i.e. dinosaur bone fragments and more than 2,500 dinosaur footprints, of biped and quadruped dinosaurs, theropods and sauropods from the cretaceous period 120 million years ago.
Torotoro National Park covers 165 km² and is in a semi-arid landscape at altitudes between 2,000 and 3,500 m above sea level, with canyons as deep as 300 m. The park features caves, Paleozoic and Cretaceous calcitic deposits with fossils, and panoramic landscapes eroded by glaciers, wind and waters.
Flora and fauna
The Torotoro National Park offers scrubby woodland with wildlife like flocks of parakeets and the red-fronted macaw.
Sub-Andean climate has a cold winter from June to August, and a rainy season from December to March.
(Mini)buses (Bs. 35/25) leave hourly or when full (06:00-18:00, +591 70786818) from the Torotoro "Bus Station" in the south of Cochabamba. The trip takes 5.5 hr with the bus, and 4.5 with the minibus, in dry season. According to the bus companies, these transport options are also available in rain season, but can take considerably longer. There are only one or two buses a day at 06:00 and 12:00.
The bus takes longer but is cheaper and has more space for you to stretch once in a while. Whereas in the minibus you are most like stuffed in like sardines.
For the return trip to Cochabamba (mini)buses leave equally often between 03:00-18:00. Buses are at 06:00 from the center, or at 13:00 (only Sundays?) from the Choclo Hotel. Also, minibuses will go from these two places. If you take a bus, get the front upper window seat if you are in for a roller coaster ride and do not suffer from vertigo.
The roads are being upgraded and by 2020 the travel time should be reduced to 3 hr or less.
There are some great and picturesque trekking opportunities to get into the national park and the village.
- Quirusmayo to Cuidad de Ittas (green) – Distance: 24.4 km, hilly. Duration: 1-2 days. Grade: Medium. Altitude range: 1,703 m. Total climb: 2,362 m. Total descent: 667 m.
This is the preferred track, because it follows the trails of the local people. To get to the beginning of the trail, take the bus to Torotoro and get off in Quirusmayo. Arriving in the Cuidad de Ittas, it is still another 22 km into Torotoro, so another day of hiking or you organise transport with the villagers or any of the tours that go up here. Sometimes you can ride on the roof of the 4WD. The trail is not inside the national park, and neither is the Cuidad de Ittas, but you probably need to pay Bs. 5 for heading through the Cuidad de Ittas.
Download track: KMZ, GeoJSON, for GPX see GPSies.
- 1 Rio Sucusuma – In dry season, you can try trekking up this river from the valley/road where the (mini)bus passes by. After a while you will hit the Circuito Vergel tour trail, which you can use to get into Torotoro. Even though shorter, this should be done as an overnight hike due to the steepness of the canyon and missing local trails.
Torotoro is at least 4 hr away from the capital city of Cochabamba when the roads are in good condition. During the rainy season especially around February, the road to Torotoro can become completely impassible. A trip by 4WD to the park often comes with any arranged tour package.
It is possible to charter a small airplane to take up to 5 passengers from Cochabamba airport to Toro Toro. Prices range around US$140, and the flight takes about half an hour. Call +591 4 4227042 or +591 4 4246289 for details.
Fees and permits
To take one of the tours with guide, you need to purchase entry ticket for Bs. 100 at the park information center and carry it with you during the tours. The ticket is valid for 4 days and will get stamped at the back at the El Vergel Canyon and the Caverna de Umajalanta, but not at the other sights.
There are multiple options for tour operators in Torotoro that can be booked at the park office or even from a propably more expensive agency in Cochabamaba.
Cuidad de Ittas, Caverna de Umajalanta and El Vergel Canyon are well frequented, so you will always need a guide. Chiflon Qaqa and the trial southwest from Torotoro has few visitors and many days none, and the other ones even less. Hence, you can even do them without a guide without any problems, if you have a good map—just have your ticket ready.
Outside of town, there are many interesting hiking trails, even with camp grounds. For reliable trails in this region, consult OpenStreetMap, which is used by many mobile Apps like OsmAnd (complex with many add-ons) and MAPS.ME (easy but limited).
You will need to get a guide to see anything outside of Torotoro village. Car transportation (if required) is included. The price of the tour is divided by the number of people (up to 6). So, either you already have a group sorted out beforehand in the bus or in town, or you turn up at the park office at 07:00 and wait until they have formed a sufficiently large group, which often takes 30-60 min. The following (two) are the most popular tours on offer:
- 1 Caverna de Umajalanta. The Caverna de Umajalanta is 10 km northwest of the town of Torotoro, 4,600 m long and 164 m deep, one of the longest and deepest caves in Bolivia, with stalactites and stalagmites, blind fish and waterfalls.
The tour starts at around 07:30. By 4WD it goes up to a 2 viewpoint, after which at 09:00 the 3 Cuidad de Ittas Trail is entered (Bs. 5, included in the tour price). The Cuidad de Ittas are interesting rock formations with a nice view of Torotoro. This place is 3,600 m above sea level and about 20 km from Torotoro. The hike takes until 12:00, and includes rock landscape, caves, natural monuments and viscachas. At 13:00 there is an optional lunch for Bs. 25. At 14:00 the Caverna de Umajalanta is entered (helmet and light included), and takes about 2.5 hr. Bs. 636 per group.
- 4 El Vergel Canyon (Circuito Vergel). El Vergel is an impressive canyon with modern viewpoint on top, easy stairs to descent to the bottom, where you will encounter waterfalls, pools and lush tropical vegetation.
This is a half day tour, mostly done in the morning or after 13:00. t features lots of dinosaur footprints at the beginning. Then you hike down into the canyon, see the waterfalls, and take a dip. But unless you not cold resistant, you won't probably want to go. The sun is barley never illuminating this place when people get there. However, if you start around 09:30, you could be there when it is sun-exposed. Bs. 100 per group, but it seems like the guide expects a tip.
- Ruinas de Llama Chaqu. An archaeological site southeast of the town of Torotoro with remnants of the Quechua culture. This is a long trek of 19 km one way.
- If you just want to see some dinosaur footprints, check out 5 the ones at the river at the village entrance and 6 the ones before the Caverna de Umajalanta. There are even more (accessible ones) marked on OpenStreetMap. Some good ones are 1 fenced (for the tours), but you get the sauropoda and raptor footprints for free with the other sites. Also, check out the recognition chart in front of the fence.
- Only 2 days are needed to visit the major attractions, even if the tourist companies tell you otherwise. However, always go for the early ones, this way you can leave after the second night already taking the 13:00 option without missing out on the most popular sights.
- Bus ride – On the way out, take the 13:00 Choclo Hotel bus (if it is available) and get the front upper seats. This is an awesome panoramic ride back to Cochabamba, especially later when the sun sets down. Put in some music and enjoy the driver's skills. You should not suffer from vertigo though.
Torotoro has couple of groceries shops to buy basic supplies.
- 1 Mercado de Torotoro. Daily 06:00-22:00. A great place for inexpensive breakfast and dinner. Bs. 10 for a dinner plate, Bs. 1 for yaniqueques in the morning, Bs. 3 for tea.
- 2 Comedor. In the morning you can get tee, sandwiches. From lunch time till late evening you can get a set meal for Bs10.
The cheapest accommodations in Torotoro go for Bs. 40, for both dorm beds and single rooms—shop around.
Camping is also be possible along the trails.
If you just need a ticket for the untouristy sites, ask one of the Westerners leaving town with a (mini)bus for theirs. It will be invalid for Caverna de Umajalanta and El Vergel Canyon, because this is what most people do, but good for the other less frequented trails. The tickets are valid for 4 days.
- 1 Entel (on the corner next to bus station). Entel provides a card vending machine, where you can by Internet for an hour. It is quite slow, but usable especially if you are there alone. Bs. 6 per hour.