cochabamba.gov.bo (In Spanish)
It may not be as famous as its counterpart in Rio but the statue of Cristo de la Concordia dominating the sleepy city of Cochabamba is in fact 30cm higher, apparently a more accurate depiction of Jesus’ life standing at 33.3m high, a metre for every year of his life.
Pub trivia aside, a visit to the statue is a must if you are in Cochabamba. It stands proudly above the city, set against a backdrop of lush green valleys. You can walk up the hill to the statue but on a hot day it’s a steep climb and you’ll regret not taking the cable car as it whizzes above your head. Besides which, the trip on the cable car is part of the fun. It costs Bs 3 per person each way and the views are spectacular.
When you reach the top the more energetic amongst you can climb the 1,339 steps inside the statue, although it may be necessary to ask for the gate to unlocked so you can get in.
El Palacio de los Portales
1450, Avenida Potosí (about 1km north of the city centre)
This pretentious French-style mansion built by the Cochabamba-born tin baron Simón I Patiño is definitely worth a visit.
Built between 1915 and 1925 in a bizarre mix of architectural styles with everything bar the bricks imported from Europe, this house is now used for the Simón I Patiño Cultural Centre, charity set up to promote literacy and education and the building is used for exhibitions, recitals and teaching.
The basement houses the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, which exhibits the works of modern Bolivian artists.
The mansion is surrounded by beautiful shady gardens, which were designed by Japanese specialists to ensure its perfect proportions. The garden itself makes a visit here worthwhile.
You can take a guided tour of the palace and gardens in Spanish (5pm) and English (5.30pm) weekdays and at 11am on Saturday. Be warned though – the Palacio is quite hard to find so your best bet is to take a taxi there. Entry to the gardens is Bs 5 but expect to pay a little more for the guided tour.
Las Heroínas de la Coronilla
Near Plaza de San Sebastián
This monument commemorates one of the most dramatic events in Cochabamba’s history. In 1812, during the War of Independence, the women of Cochabamba were forced to defend themselves on this hill from the invading Spanish troops. They fought bravely until they were finally overwhelmed on 27th May.
A cast-iron statue depicts Christ surrounded by women fighting or sheltering their children and the views of surrounding Cochabamba from the top are fantastic.
However this area has a reputation for being dangerous and unfortunately this seems to be justified. We were witness to quite a violent attempted mugging and were warned by our taxi driver to be careful. Common sense should prevail – travel in groups and never go there after dark.
You can minimise the risk by getting a taxi to take you part of the way up the hill but be warned that on Saturdays you’ll be fighting your way through a busy car market. That said the monument is definitely worth a visit – just be sensible.
After all that sightseeing you’ll be ready to sit down, relax and have a beer in the sunshine.
Taquiña is the local Cochabambino brew and for Bs 9, it’s easily available and well worth a try. As with most Bolivian lagers it’s quite fizzy but with a dry, fruity taste. In the name of research we sampled a few bottles and had no problem finishing them.
The more adventurous amongst you might feel brave enough to sample ‘Chicha Cochabambina’, an alcoholic maize brew created by the Incas and typical of this region.
You will probably have to head to the outskirts of town to find it, markets are usually the best option or look for a house displaying a white flag or flowers and you’ll get some.
It’s definitely an acquired taste and probably not something you’d want to drink pints of but it’s a lot more interesting than Singani!
Tip: the best bars in Cochabamba are found on Calle Venezuela or Calle España but nothing really gets going until about 10.30pm.