Samaipata: Digital Nomad destination
Samaipata or Samaypata (which means “resting in the heights” in the Quechua language) is a little mountain village located in the valleys between the city of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba in the mountains of Bolivia. Politically it’s located in the Province of Florida of the biggest Department of Bolivia – Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is also the biggest city in Bolivia with about 2. Million inhabitants. The village is based in one valley between 1600 and 1800 meters above Sea level.
We selected this authentic town as our homebase during our first few month in Bolivia.
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Samaipata mountain village
Image: Old adobe house in the village town of Samaipata
Image: Old house in Samaipata with cactus growing on the roof
Image: Scenic view of the valley with the mountain village of Samaipata
Cruzeños in Samaipata
Samaipata is a popular resort for the “Cruzeños” from inhabitants of Santa Cruz, due to it’s much cooler climate. After a few month this climate was too cold for both of us, Swiss Digital Nomads, previously used to sub-tropical Paraguayan temperatures of 40 C and more. Anyway the city gets literally invaded 2-3 times a years with all the Cruzeños who stay a long weekend in Samaipata and most of them party hard before they go back to they normal lives in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. One of those weekend was Semana Santa and the other was Carnaval. If you go to Samaipata try not to go during those events unless you really want to pay more for accommodation and have no Internet during most of the day because the network is over saturated. Best Internet connection was during the morning hours from 03:00 to 06:00 o’clock.
Che Guevara was in Samaipata too!
In case of you being a Che Guevara fan you definitively should visit Samaipata because Che passed here with his motorbike as young guy (see the movie Motorcycle journey). Later he was executed by the Bolivian Army with the cooperation of the company (CIA), not so far from Samaipata in another mountain town called La Higuera near the city of Vallegrande in the valleys.
Top tourist attractions
There are more than a few other tourist attractions not far from Samaipata such as the pre-Columbian religious archaeological site called El Fuerte de Samaipata which is also UNESCO World Heritage Site. We have not yet visited El Fuerte but it seems that if you plan to visit it you should consider climbing in one of the souroundings mountains to get a better view of the
And the great Amboró National Park that is located in the western part of Santa Cruz Department, at the “Elbow of the Andes”. The Amboró National Park is rather interesting and unique because it protects parts of several ecoregions:
- Southwest Amazon moist forests
- Chaco at lower elevations
- Bolivian Yungas
- Bolivian mountain dry forests at higher elevations
Other attractions near Samaipata
In the few month living in Samaipata we have been exploring the region as much as we could.
The little road town of Bermejo is a place which you can go for a afternoon or a day or two and just discover the area by walking around or driving around with a taxi for example. Just wandering around I discovered some great places like this River with the red rocks and further into the mountain a kind of red rock cliff. You will find a Eco Finca called Gingers Paradise owned by an American which you should visit if you want to know about permaculture related agriculture. The sad side of Bermejo is you will still find cattle farmers killing wild Puma and Ocelot just because they could kill a cow…
Image: Creek cutting deep into the red sand rock cliff near Bermejo
Image: Great Rock of Bermejo visible form the road from Santa Cruz to Samaipata
Image: Creek with gigantic red rocks near Bermejo
Image: The great Bermejo river floating into the Amazon basin
Refugio de los Volcanes
Also in Bermejo you will find the entrance for the Refugio de los Volcanes. We have been exploring the landscape of valley of Refugio de los volcanes and it was breathtaking. Like from another world. Never seem something similar. We took a taxi from Samaipata after breakfast and headed to this valley which is about 30 minutes away from Bermejo on the road to Samaipata. The taxi driver waited for us for 3 hours so we had some time to explore the surroundings and take a few photos and listing to the bird and watch the butterflies.
Image: Refugio los volcanes landscape
Image: Refugio los volcanes Butterfly from the Amboro National Park
Image: Refugio los volcanes landscape layers
Image: Refugio los volcanes rock cliffs
Not far from there is another valley called Palermo like in Italy which is also a place to visit. It’s kind of a narrow valley with a dirt road – I would not recommend going there with heavy rain or after bad weather.
Image: The panoramic mountain view of the Palermo valleys
Then there is also another place which is amazing but takes some time to get there which has the beautiful name of “Bella Vista” (which means “Nice view”). From the town of Samaipata to the road into the valley it’s not far maybe 15 minutes and then it’s more than 1 hour of dirt road and many many river and creeks crossing. More fun with the motorcycle if you ask me. There are not so many people there but the valley has also a very unique geography.
Image: The Jurrasic yungas landscape of Bella Vista near Samaipata
Another place you can visit is Chorillo where some European Hippies have constructed very nice adobe houses. The Chorillo is one of the main water sources for Samaipata. Not to far from there continouing to climb the mountain with the car you will find the very small town called Piedras Blancas because of the white rocks they have there. Piedras Blances is almost bordering the Amboró National Park so you can expect to see more bird and wild animals there.
Paredones is located in a not far away neighbor valley of Samaipata and has another another Micro climate than Samaipata. It’s maybe 1-2 Celsius warmer, so some plants and vegetables may grow in Paredones but not in Samaipata.
Image: The river passing the town of Paredones is spectacular
Image: The jungle river of Paredones has lots of big rocks and many roots of big trees
Further day trips may be the Mama Pascuala which is located on the new payed road to the El Fuerte but instead of continuing when transpasing the river creeck you just follow the river and will find after 5min of walking a open space with a semi natural river pool. Local love to go there and wash their Moto or Auto or even their clothes or just go for a swim.
If you don’t want to invest a entire day or more but still want to see some waterfalls then you should visit the Cataratas de Cuevas which are situated on the Samaipata road. Very easily accessible and they provide even parking space for your vehicle or for camping. The entry fee is about 10 Bolivianos but the place is in a very good condition almost no trash laying around and you can spend a few hours wandering from the first waterfall to the second and then to the third waterfall on the top.
Image: Cuevas waterfall not far away from Samaipata
Internet in Samaipata
The Internet connection has been very reliable with TiGo and as backup ENTEL. Even video download and upload via YouTube has been possible without any issues. Plan your trip well if possible according to events where the town will have many many visitors and the Internet will for sure stop working during that period. Most locations which offer free WiFi such as restaurant or bars or hotels are most of the time not working and therefore more of a marketing gag. I have no tried VIVA in Samaipata yet. IN case you wonder about the used tools as digital nomad you can read all about it here.
Nightlife in Samaipata
Yes. There is a nightlife in Samaipata. Go to the central Plaza. Just in the corner of the central plaza, you will find the only real bar in Samaipata called La Boheme. Which is a pretty nice place to hang around Friday night or every night if you like that :-) Of course they have a real cocktail bar and you can order some food too. They also have live music there so it’s the place to visit if you like some nightlife.
Renting a house
Is definitively something possible even in Samaipata but you just have to find a free house. During our stay there early 2015 there where very little houses for rent available. Finally we found a very nice place.
Hostels and camping
If you travel backpacking I can recommend two Hostels where camping is also allowed which are the El Jardin and the Jaguar Azul both great owners and places also to meet other backpackers and stay up to date with whats happening in Samaipata. When we had to go early to Santa Cruz and took the 4 AM bus there where always voices from the Jaguar Azul giggling and music being played even at that early hour of the day. If you rather like it quiet and calm you should check the Finca la Vispera which has an amazing garden and herb garden. Literally very refreshing place. Also the tomato soup I can recommend with the edible flower on top. Fantastic!
Image: Bee pollinating a big pink flower in the garden of Finca la Vispera, Samaipata
Image: Orange flowers in the garden of the El Jardin de Samaipata Hostal and Camping
Food in Samaipata
Well we have one place which we can really really recommend which is La Cocina, the owner a Turkish guy makes everything himself even the bread for the Shavarma which does taste delightful. He works together with the La Boheme bar, so you can order your food there while siting on the La Boheme roof top bar and staring at the stairs. Which we did and it was great, just a bit fresh so don’t forget your sweater and scarf.
Most of the time we have been cooking or own food which we bought at the Sunday market. Sundays they sell organic vegetables from Paredones at the main market in Samaipata. And Fridays at our friends garden Marie Claire and the Japanese agriculturist Asano or Osano which sell both also organic vegetables directly from their garden.
Unlike other sources may say – there is a Banco Union with a ATM which works very well with VISA credit cards (22 May 2015).