With more than 900,000 inhabitants, Cochabamba is the third largest city in Bolivia. Like other large cities in the region, Cochabamba entertains extremes of wealth and poverty. Downtown Cochabamba is quite modern, with restaurants, bars, shops, and internet cafes lining the streets. Although the wealthiest neighborhoods lie on the outskirts of the city, much of the poverty is found further from the city center. Lacking technology, paved roads, electricity, and plumbing, those living in the outskirts of Cochabamba find shelter in half built adobe homes – a lifestyle starkly different from the wealthy areas.
The word Cochabamba comes from the Quechua ‘qhucha‘ and ‘pampa‘, meaning swampy plain, and its fertile soils produce an abundance of wheat, grains and fruits, and the area is generally acknowledged to be the agricultural heart of Bolivia. Set in a fertile bowl in central Bolivia, Cochabamba delights with its luscious Mediterranean-like climate, earning its nickname ‘the City of Eternal Spring’. In addition to having the best weather and agricultural products, Cochabamba is also the unofficial culinary capital of Bolivia. It is home to sites such as “La Cancha”, reputedly the largest open-air market in South America, and a 109 foot statue of the Cristo de la Concordia (a 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 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.