Ever since I heard that Bolivia has a high altitude wine region, I had an internal debate about whether or not I should go.
I am a wine snob.
And I have tried some of the best wines in Argentina.
I have never even heard of a Bolivian wine.
I have never seen a Bolivian wine.
Could Bolivia possibly produce a wine that would impress me?
Is it worth finding out?
When I got to Sucre, I asked locals about Tarija. One conversation went like this.
Me: What do you think about Tarija?
Bolivian: Tarija is so beautiful. It is very tranquilo. It is where Bolivians go for vacation.
Me: So I should go?
Bolivian: No, there is nothing touristic there.
Me: But you just said it is beautiful and a nice place to spend time. And they make good wine right?
Bolivian: Yes, but tourists don’t go there.
So I booked a ticket to Tarija.
After a couple of days, these are my observations of Tarija.
Tarija is beautiful.
Tarija is a regular city where regular people live.
There is not a foreigner in sight. Nobody speaks English. Kind of refreshing.
Tarija has two tourist attractions.
The Paleontology Museum and the Casa Dorada, and you can see them both in about two hours, including the time to walk between them.
The coolest part about the Paleontology Museum is that many of the bones and fossils are just sitting out in the open. There is a lot of trust that people will follow the rules and not touch or take anything.
Tarija is a clean, safe, and welcoming city.
Tarija has great tourist info offices.
Despite its lack of foreign tourists, it seems the high number of Bolivian visitors has triggered the city to provide excellent tourist maps handed out by friendly staff members. If you speak some Spanish, it is easy to get around.
Tarija’s tourism is not geared towards solo travelers.
There are no real hostels. You can find a single room at a cheap, no-frills hotel, but these places are not set up for meeting other travelers.
Like most countries in South America, there is a specific window of time when Bolivians travel, and this ain’t it. Since Tarija does not receive many foreign visitors, it is hard to book a tour or excursion in a group. There are mountain biking excursions and a wine tasting tourI would love to do, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen because nobody else is booking them.
So what am I going to do with my time in Tarija?
I like it so far, so I think I’ll stay for at least another week.
I can try the Bolivian wines on my own. I can wander through town enjoying the nice weather and observing the day-to-day life in a regular Bolivian city. There are some tiny towns a short bus ride away to explore.
Since the super cheap accommodations are a little depressing, I decided that now is the time to splurge a bit and treat myself to a nicer hotel. I will enjoy my private room at Hostal Carmen (still very affordable and great value). I am thrilled to have a private bathroom and a double bed. The staff are friendly, and it is a pleasant change to have my room cleaned every day and soap, shampoo, and a towel provided. I have a great view of the city from my terrace-level room.
I also appreciate a breakfast that consists of more than bread and jam. Hostal Carmen serves a huge breakfast buffetwith fruit, eggs, pancakes, toast, cereals, yogurt, pure pineapple or papaya juice, and all the coffee I can drink.