For more detailed info. go to www.coroico.info
Coroico is built on one of the flanks of the Uchumachi. The 2500 meter high mountain is inviting for a climb, because of the views, the forest and its orchids. From an altitude of 2100 meter the mountain is natural reservation, hence most of it is forested (especially on the south flank). A classic hike in Coroico is the walk to the summit. This is a bit of a scam: the mountain top is about 15 kilometres long, and the highest point is at the other side of the mountain. Still, the forest on the top of the mountain is pretty, and on clear days the views are worth the three hour climb. Big part of the climb is not covered by forest, so you might get burned by the sun. On cloudy days, you might see a cloud coming your way, and passing right by you. Sometimes you can climb above the clouds. Past the second forest there is a split: the branch on the right goes to the top, where there is a ritual site where the Aymara come to pray to Pacha Mama or Uchumachi. The branch on the left continues through the cloudforest for at least two hours. A good base for walks in the Uchumachi forest is Hotel La Finca, half an hour by minibus on the road to Carmen Pampa. They have a couple of paths, just below the cliff that separates the top from the flanks.
POZAS DEL VAGANTE
The Pozas del Vagante is about the best place to go for a swim in the area because the river is crystal-clear and has some deep natural swimming pools. It’s also a good destination for a short trek, because of the road there, which leads through orange groves, past a Hacienda House and coca fields, and down into the riverside forest with its abundant butterflies and birds. Once there, you can just go for a swim and have a picnic, or have an exiting trip following the river up to a small canyon with secluded natural bubble baths. More difficult is a four-hour trip down the river, passing the beautiful Rio Negro waterfall and its huge natural pool, the whole time walking in the river surrounded by forest.
You can go on foot, by taxi, on horseback or on a bicycle.
The classic hike from Coroico. The main reason for that is because it’s so easy and the views are good. However one must be aware of following downsides: the hike goes for two hours along a grassy mountain (no forest here, so loads of sun), the waterfalls (from august to November) may consist of nothing more than a drip (except if it has been raining the days before), and there is a big concrete water tank - including barbed wire - around the waterfalls, because this is where the drinking water from the village comes from.
However, if you visit with a taxi, you don’t see the constructions and you go straight to the most spectacular of the falls, the lower third one. A trail leads to the base of the fall from the curve just passed the stream. The walk starts at El Calvario and takes about 2 hours one way. It’s an easy one because it’s all flat. To come back there is a path going steeply down, through coca fields, between the first and the second fall. Take this one if you want to follow the road to continue to the lower third fall. Another path goes down just past the first fall (if you’re going back). Either one gives out to the main road from Cruz Loma to Coroico, from where you can find transport back to the village.
Around the second fall, San Jacinto, there are some paths and an albergue.
If you like to move, the best way to visit the waterfalls is on a bicycle, because there isn’t too much too see on the way to the falls anyway. You can do it following the trail or via the main road. After that you continue down to the river at the Vagantes (mostly road) or Santa Barbara (via a challenging trail), or to the Laguna Verde (for those who want to really swim).
SANTA ROSA DE KILO KILO
Literally at the end of the road, the village of Santa Rosa de Kilo Kilo is located an hour further on the Suapi road. It’s a spectacular ride, in which you can see how the forest slowly changes with the difference in altitude. Just before you arrive in the village, you’ll pass the somewhat weird Kilo Kilo Alto hacienda house. From the village you can make a two hour walk (one way) to visit pre-Columbian rock drawings. You can also get there by jeep. The walk goes through a beautiful forest full of birds and butterflies. As the altitude is less than 1000 meters, there are lots of giant palms and it can get pretty hot. The rock drawings are a couple of meters besides the road, just before you cross a small bridge over a mountain stream. This last part of the road is quite spectacular as you pass along the ridge between the two valleys. The rivers are pretty strong, but if you’re a good swimmer you can go for a dip. If you go with a guide, ask him to bring a rope to get to the river upstream from the bridge. As there are about two groups of tourists arriving per year, the people will be quite curious about your passing by. They are honest and friendly country folks.
Circumventing Coroico lays an almost perfectly flattened patch of land, which is on parts used as a road, as a path, or not used at all. It was constructed in the 1940s, as a part of the never finished rail connection between La Paz and the Yungas. You can even make out a big flattened spot, where the Coroico Railway Station was planned. Even though there is no train, it is useful: one of the easiest walks in the area uses this abandoned project. It lacks spectacular attractions like waterfalls and rivers, but it makes up for that in being a great introduction to local gastronomy, agriculture, forest, wildlife and views. Some parts of the trip follow rarely taken paths, where you might meet snakes, peculiar birds, squirrels and abundant butterflies. You’ll walk through coffee and banana plantations, see terraced coca fields and grasslands, walk under mango trees and along citrus plantations. Whenever the weather and the trees allow, you’ll be treated to a great view of the Rio Coroico Valley. And on your way back to the village you can treat yourself to artisanal ice-cream in Villa Bonita.
This is the easiest and shortest walk in the area. It takes only 2 hours 30 mins.
Supay Punku is a very isolated place, even though it’s relatively easy to reach. In the middle of pure forest, you’ll find these Devils Gates, an impressive narrow canyon that is closed at the top. In the same area you’ll find an otherworldly lagoon that awaits the visitor who is daring enough to climb a 3 meter cascade, the only way to reach the base of the 100 meter Paradise Fall. The whole area is of the greenest possible cloudforest, where you can spot such peculiar birds as the Cock of the Rock (the “Tunqui”, symbol of the High Amazon) and the so called Quetzal.
The walk itself is pretty heavy, as you often have to walk through the river and the paths involve some difficult climbs. On the more relaxing side, the crystal-clear river forms the most beautiful natural pools. A small extra is that you might find fossils of seashells in the rocks on the riverbed.
ARAPATA AND THE GREEN LAGOON
There is a road circumventing the Uchumachi mountain. The landscape changes suddenly when you cross to the other side: it suddenly becomes one big coca plantation, with most forest cleared. The landscape can sometimes look like a semi-desert, but the coca fields can be very green too. Because coca plantations leave the soil vulnerable for erosion, some of the mountains are coming down. One particularly big mountain slide blocked a valley, forming a small lake, the “Green Lagoon”. Although it doesn’t look like much form far, it’s the best place to go for a swim in the whole area. The water isn’t cold like the rivers, and it’s big enough to actually go for a swim. The lakeside beach is a great place to enjoy the sun and admire the coca fields.
From Arapata back to Coroico, you can take an alternative route passing San Agustin, a small village with a ruined Hacienda House, which has two beautiful coca presses. On the road there you can see a palm tree just beside the road, which must have at least 50 Uchi (weaver bird) nests.
An interesting trip is to drive all around the Uchumachi, which can feature a visit to a Hacienda House, a coffee plantation, an artisanal mine, a spectacular waterfall, and the Laguna or the Vagantes to go for a swim. Meanwhile, you’ll have the chance to take a short walk in wonderful cloud forest.
THE KORI WAYKU INCA TRAIL
Kori Wayku is the river that together with the San Juan creates the Yolosa River. The valley is the most attractive of the area, because it’s completely forested and wild. Although today it is a valley forgotten by almost everyone, but a few miners, it must have been very important one day. The Incas found it important enough to build a highway, which went all around the valley. Today, parts of the trail have been washed away by the river, but the parts that remain are spectacular. As it is such a natural place, you’ve got good chances to spot wildlife. You can also visit a small artisanal gold mine. For now the trip is a three hour walk from Yolosa to a magnificent canyon, where the river is wild and the trail is carved out in the canyon wall. Leave early so you can spend some time at the canyon. On the road there you can visit a gold mine, spot wildlife and study the architecture of the Inca trail. To come back, you can take the same route, or when water levels are low, go along the river or cross the valley to climb up to Coroico Viejo. The descent from that village to Yolosa is just spectacular. From the canyon on, the Inca trail is in perfect condition, but to go deeper it will be at least a two day trip. The path crosses the canyon at a certain point, but the bridge obviously is long gone.
The most famous trek in the area is by far the La Cumbre-Coroico trek, el Choro. In three days this millennial path takes you from the cold mountains to the lush valleys around Coroico.
Most travel books have info. In La Paz the Tourist Information Office can tell more.
A shorter but similar trip is the Urpuma trail. It starts near Unduavi. It climbs for about half an hour, than plunges right into the cloud forest for a full days walk up to Sandillani, where it joins El Choro. The second day it’s two to three hours more on Inca trails to Chairo. From here, you can walk on along the dirt road or take a taxi.
Take a minibus to Coroico and ask for a stop two kilometres past Unduavi, where there is a sign for the Cotapata National Park indicating the start of the Sillutinkara or Urpuma trail. It takes about two hours to get there. Leave early, because the walk to Sandillani takes 8 hours. The first 30-45 minutes you have to climb. At a pass the path splits: one goes up, one goes down. It’s best to take the path that goes down. In Sandillani you can sleep in the Urpuma hostel (45 to 75 Bs. pp.) or camp in the garden of the Japanese hermit. From Sandillani it’s another two hours to Chairo, where the road starts. You can walk on or arrange a taxi (max. 200 Bs.).
Mountain bike experts can try to tackle the difficult trail. It’s a one day trip from Coroico or La Paz, ending in Coroico.
The Eco-Via trek is an easy two day trek. It’s the best option for tree lovers, as all of it is inside the cloud forest. Peculiar about this walk is that it follows the never finished train track, which would have connected Coroico with La Paz. It’s very spectacular with it being just a small ridge on a vertical cliff, its numerous waterfalls and constant views of the snowy Mururata Mountain and the Coroico valley. But it’s unique in that it is almost flat, as trains don’t like steep descents. This is a very feasible trek for those who like to walk, but are scared by the difficulty of Inca trails.
The trek starts at Chuspipata. Take a minibus from La Paz to Coroico, and ask for drop off at the start of the old road. Follow it for half an hour to Chuspipata. There, a road goes to the left to Coroico (the bicycle road). A bit further, another road goes down to the right to Chulumani. You have to go straight on.
At the end of the trek, arrange for pick-up with a Coroico taxi driver.
SAN JUAN VALLEY
The main reason to visit this valley is because of its plentiful cloud forest, mixed with agriculture, such as coffee and coca. Take a minibus to Carmen Pampa, a small village which is booming because of the Rural University that was installed there. A beautiful path leaves from this village, crossing two small streams by means of simple but descent suspension bridges. On the other side of the valley, you can follow the main dirt track to Old Coroico and Yolosa, which was abandoned for the present location of Coroico according to legend because the place is haunted. The historical heart of the village consists of an old church tower and an abandoned villa. One of the most spectacular paths of the area leaves from the village, going down to Yolosa along the grassy ridge of the mountain between two forested valleys. Yolosa is nothing more than a bridge and a lot of shops, opened by people from all over the country. It was the last stop for truckers on the road to La Paz and the place where people can sigh in relief as they didn’t fall off the Death Road. Following the main road passing above Carmen Pampa, you get to a low pass which signals a sudden change in landscape: on the other side almost all the forests has been replaced by coca fields. One branch of the road goes smoothly up: this is the start of the former train track, which still is an easy two day trek, starting in Unduavi, at the end of the Death Road.