Cochabamba is known as the city of eternal spring because of its sumptuous climate. One of Bolivia’s boom cities, it’s located at 2,570 meters above sea level and sits in a fertile, almost bowl-shaped valley high in the Andean mountains. Why is it a perfect place to retire or start afresh? Well, you can live well on only $1000/month.
The city is roughly divided into two economically. The dustier, poorer areas of town lie in the south. There are distinct cultural differences between middle and working-class folks, and this is apparent on many levels, from the way people speak and dress, to their houses, food and manner.
The north of the city is strikingly developed, peppered with boutiques, nice restaurants and mustangs, but this is still a developing country. In fact, it’s one of the poorest countries in South America, but – though less than nearby cities La Paz and Santa Cruz, there are thriving businesses in Cochabamba, and foreigners are generally welcomed with open arms.
One of the most desirable benefits Cochabamba brings to the table is its excellent, semi-arid, Mediterranean climate. There are 2-3 month winters, when temperatures average in at around 61ºF (17ºC). The summer boasts long summers from December to March with temperatures around 78ºF (26ºC). It’s not too hot and it’s not too cold, ever – unless you head for the Cerro Tunari peaks!
The city is also full of parks, trees and green spaces, making it great for families. That’s also why it’s called The Garden City. The city center has a number of neatly maintained squares, where locals sit around enjoying the weather, the trees and the flowers.
This city has a nice, buzzy but relaxed feel to it, which makes it popular with tourists. However, because Bolivia isn’t really on the map yet, there aren’t many tourists, even during high seasons.
There are a number of hotels that will charm your socks off, including the 5-star Gran Hotel Cochabamba, possibly the nicest hotel in the city ($117 a night). Why not treat yourself to a week there while you scout for apartments?
There are a growing number of apartment buildings being built at an alarmingly fast rate. An unfurnished, 3 bed apartment in a nice area of town will set you back $400-500/month, not including apartment building “expenses”, or maintenance costs or light, gas and water bills, which might add on $100-150, depending on the area (yes, they change depending on area).
For property fans, there is lots of opportunity to invest in apartment blocks being built in the north of the city. It’s possible to invest in a 2-bedroom apartment before construction for around $20,000.
Tiquipaya is a pretty small town on the outskirts of the city, and makes the perfect place to buy a large piece of land and build a comfortable house. Plots cost around $70 per square meter.
Cochabambinos are famous foodies, but perhaps not in a predictable fashion. They love to eat. Local dishes consist of white rice, boiled potatoes, corn, pasta, and meat, often served with a large helping of llajua, a spicy, green chili sauce. Fried and fast food is also popular, as are organ meats.
You should certainly try one of the many types of pastries, which may be familiar if you’ve ever been to another Latin American country, but with a distinct Bolivian twist. Empanadas are a lot like your British pasty: pastries stuffed with a savory filling combination, including cheese, jam, chicken and chili. The cuñapé is a little dough ball delight made from yucca flour, eggs and cheese, and certainly a hit with everyone. It’s often served with sweet black tea or hot chocolate.
Cochabamba has some interesting sites to see, including El Cristo de la Concordia, which is a large statue of Christ looking out over the city. You can walk up and down the many steps to the top, or catch a cable car.
Centro Simon I. Patiño is a palace that was owned by the “Andean Rockefeller” Simon I. Patiño. This tin miner made it big in 1900 when he unearthed a rich vein of tin. By 1940, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world. This palace, which isn’t far from the city center, is well worth visiting for the story, the beautiful gardens, antiques and buildings.
The towns that surround Cochabamba city offer a cultural experience no one should miss. Tarata, Cliza, Toro Toro and Apote are all great places to visit, sample traditional food and enjoy the countryside. And then, of course, there’s Carnaval!