Cochabamba is a city in central Bolivia, located in a valley in the Andes mountain range. It is the third largest city in Bolivia with an urban population of 608,276 and a metropolitan population of more than 1,000,000. Residents of the city and surrounding areas are commonly referred to as Cochabambinos.
It is known for its moderate climate and is often called Bolivia's "resort city". Other nicknames for Cochabamba include the "Garden City", the "City of Eternal Spring", and "La Llajta", or "town" in Quechua.
The most widely spoken language in Cochabamba is Spanish. A few Quechua and Aymara terms have been incorporated into the local dialect but it is largely Spanish in it's standardized form. English is also increasingly spoken and understood due to English-language instruction being incorporated into Bolivian education from elementary to college levels.
Cochabamba's Jórge Wilstermann International Airport connects to most if not all of the other large cities in the country.
Most flights are handled by Aerosur, BoA, some by Brazilian TAM, Aerocon, and a few by Bolivia´s military airline, also named TAM.
Currently, Cochabamba is among Bolivia's most economically and socially progressive cities. Its central commercial districts have the modern urban amenities. An active nightlife is centered around Calle España and also along El Prado.
However, the remote area adjacent to the Wilstermann International Airport is visibly impoverished, with adobe homes and unpaved roads, which is often the first impression visitors acquire upon arrival.
Getting around Cochabamba is easy. Cochabamba has buses (micros), mini-vans (trufis) and and shared cabs (taxi-trufis) that run along fixed routes. There are no set stops and in order to get off, you must say "me bajo" (I want to get off) or "esquina" (for stop at the corner). There are plenty of taxicabs as well, just be sure to negotiate the fare BEFORE entering a cab.
Things to see and do:
Cristo de la Concordia: The statue is even higher and larger than the one in Rio de Janeiro, making it the world's largest statue of Jesus until 2010, when a larger one was completed in Poland.
Simón I. Patiño Cultural Center: Includes the Palacio Portales mansion, gardens , and an art museum. The mansion was built by Patiño, a tin magnate who controlled over half of the nation's output in the 1930s.
Medical Museum: The main Hospital in Cochabamba, Hospital Viedma, has a unique medical museum attached, with some fascinating old x-ray machines and other vintage equipment.
Museo Archeologico: Interesting archeological museum with mummies, pottery and other artifacts.
Paragliding: The city is Bolivia`s paragliding capital. Several agencies offer economical tandem flights and courses.
Cinecenter: The biggest cinema in town featuring the latest Hollywood fare, and a food court. Definitely a taste of home if you are an American expat.
La Cancha: The city market on the south side of town and the largest open-air market in South America is one of the city's biggest attractions. Clothing, food, souvenirs, books, and many unique items. The best day to visit the market is on Saturday, when all the shops are open. Be aware, pickpocketing in this area is common.
Towns around Cochabamba worth visiting:
Punata: Has a market on Tuesdays with indigenous people selling animals.
Tarata: A picturesque town and an easy day trip.
Quillacollo: famous for it's Fiesta de la Virgen de Urkupiña (August 15th).
Avoid walking the streets even near the main square before banks are open and the police are on the street.
Muggers often lurk under bridges and rob people crossing after 6:30. It is also dangerous to walk through the centers of parks during the day since these types often spend the days in the grassy centers of the parks.
The hill of the Coronilla (behind the bus terminal) is not safe because it is often deserted. Generally, anywhere south of Calle Aroma is not safe after 6:30.
There have been robberies, some during the day, on the stairs of the hill "Cerro de San Pedro". Take a taxi or the teleferico (cable cars) to the top.
Robbers also operate from cars, particularly cabs, late at night. Stay alert and cross the street if one stops right in front of you.
If you need a cab late at night, it is best to ask a hotel, restaurant, bar, or discoteca to call a taxi for you.
Undercover police are strictly ordered not to hassle tourists. If you are approached by supposed plain-clothed police officers, don't show any valuables or your passport. Do NOT get in a taxi with them. Insist on being taken to the police station before giving them access to your things. If you can, call the 110, which is the Bolivian number for emergencies. Accomplices will try to befriend you, then recommend that you cooperate with the "police". Do not fall for this ruse.
The city is the home of the Universidad Mayor de San Simón, one of the largest and most prominent public universities in Bolivia; the Universidad Católica Boliviana "San Pablo"; and several smaller private universities such as the Universidad Privada Boliviana, Universidad del Valle, Universidad de Aquino Bolivia and others.
Cochabamba is a steadily emerging market within the Bolivian real estate industry. An annual mild climate, abundant greenery, mountain vistas, and a progressive local economy are factors that have contributed to the city's appeal for Bolivian nationals, expatriates and foreigners alike.
The city is also host to the first World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.
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