Monday, June 17, 2013

Coroico, Bolivia

coroico bolivia

Although the infamous "Death Road" on which you must travel from La Paz to Coroico is now much safer (due to paving and widening), we still found out journey to be a nail biter.  To begin with, our driver could barely keep his eyes open, visibly nodding off at several points during the 2 1/2 hour ride.  Secondly, the winding road twists down the sides of rugged mountain cliffs, and passing on blind corners is the norm.

Death Road Yungas Road

And then, about thirty minutes outside of Coroico we discovered that the road was closed due to a massive rockslide.  Our driver found an alternate path that had been dug into the cliff face; a switchback journey throughout which my eyes were squeezed tightly shut.

Thankfully, we arrived safely in Coroico, which sits on top of the hills in the Yungas region of Bolivia.  There are stunning views of emerald mountains and valleys from just about any location in town.  We were impressed with the lush greenery, the blooming flowers, and the abundance of fruit trees.

hotel esmerelda coroico

coroico flower

The town itself is made up of cobblestone alleyways, busy markets, outdoor food stands, and brightly painted, crumbling buildings.

coroico street

coroico at night

We expected it to be touristry, but we encountered only one other gringo couple.  We saw a handful of Bolivian tourists; one group asked to have their picture taken with us.

Where we stayed:
We ended up at Hotel Esmerelda for the balcony view, the breakfast buffet, the scalding hot shower, and the swimming pool.  But the rooms were worn and we had to suffer through long nights with a mattress and pillow that appeared to be circa 1955. However, there didn't appear to be much better in town, with the possible exception of Sol y Luna. Both Esmerelda's and Sol y Luna are priced around $40/night.

Where we ate:
There are a number of basic, cheap pensions in town, all serving similar fare.  Bamboo's Mexican restaurant was a nice exception, as was Villa Bonita, an excellent vegetarian cafe on the outskirts of town.  There we devoured a gorgeous salad (extremely rare in Bolivia), a lentil burger, and veggie curry with quinoa. Their ice cream menu was also quite extensive.

Villa Bonita Coroico

Villa Bonita Coroico

What we did (there's not a whole lot to do!):

  • hiked around town, admiring the views (you can hike to a series of waterfalls from the hill behind Esmerelda)
  • relaxed in the sun
  • appreciated the air at low elevation
  • minivans to Coroico leave from Villa Fatima.  We paid 35bs ($5) for the more rapid, less cramped van.  
  • bring insect repellant or cover up.  We were chewed to bits by tiny brown bugs that we weren't even aware of until too late.

Question: What do you need to be comfortable in a hotel room?  What are you willing to sacrifice? 

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