The word Cochabamba comes from the Quechua ‘qhucha‘ and ‘pampa‘, meaning swampy plain; the city of Cochabamba is known as “the City of Enternal Spring” for its year-round spring-like temperatures and abundant harvests of wheat, grains and fruits. In addition to being acknowledged as the Bolivian city with the best weather and agricultural products, Cochabamba is also the unofficial culinary capital of Bolivia.
With close to 2 million inhabitants, Cochabamba is the fourth largest city in Bolivia, and continues to grow exponentially! Cochabamba’s reputation for fertile soil and temperate climates attracts migrants from other areas of Bolivia – specifically Potosí and Oruro – which attributes to its continual growth and expansion. Cochabamba entertains extremes of wealth and poverty; Downtown Cochabamba is quite modern, with restaurants, bars, shops, and internet cafes lining the streets. However, travelers’ first glimpse of Cochabamba is often one of poverty – neighborhoods surrounding the airport display unpaved roads, adobe homes, and often require weekly water deliveries; plumbing and running water are luxuries that are isolated to only the wealthiest areas of the city, and a source of historical conflict for Cochabamba. To learn more about the Cochabamba Water Wars, check out “The Corporation” – a documentary – or “También La Lluvia” – a movie starring Gael García Bernal.
About Cochabamba, is not home to many tourist attractions; however, it is a hub for higher education, attracting young faces from within Bolivia as well as Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. It is home to sites such as “La Cancha,” reputedly the largest open-air market in South America, and a 112.2 foot statue of the Cristo de la Concordia (the world’s largest statue of Christ overlooking the city). Additionally, Cochabamba’s central location makes it an ideal starting point to explore Bolivia. A two hour bus ride in one direction delivers you to the base of Pico Tunari, a 17,000 foot mountain, while a three hour bus ride in the opposite direction places you in the vast tropical jungles of the Chapare; traveling four hours south will take you to Toro Toro, a national park within a small town that boasts dinosaur footprints, fossils, and beautiful hikes through caves and canyons.
To help our new volunteers maximize their experience in Cochabamba, we have made a custom Google map highlighting places around town.
Have fun getting to know your city!