As I said before, there are a few things to do and see in Tarija, but I decided to stay longer than the usual visitor.
I wanted to go mountain biking, but nobody else signed up for the tour.
I wanted to do a wine tour in Valle La Concepcion, but nobody else signed up for the tour.
So I went to Google to find some way to get out and see the beautiful mountains.
I was rewarded for my efforts when I stumbled upon a very old-looking web page that listed a 2-day hiking tour to Valle de Los Cóndores (Valley of the Condors). Unfortunately, the website for the tour was not working (actually listed incorrectly I later discovered), but there was an office address. I had nothing else to do, so I went and discovered a health food store called EcoSol. I walked in, looked around, and decided the tour company must have closed down.
But something made me walk back in and ask the woman working if she knew anything about the hiking tour.
The office of the organization Educación y Futuro (EDYFU) was just down the street, so I went to speak with Vicente.
He explained to me that they are a non-profit organization that runs several social programs in Tarija and nearby towns (more to come on that in a future post).
One of their programs is Valle de Los Cóndores.
Located between the arid Andean highlands and the lush Amazon, this is one of the last sanctuaries where you can still see the condor, a true symbol of the Andes.
The program has an environmental component (reforestation, education of the locals, and ecosystem research), a cultural component (preservation of the cultures and traditions of the communities), and an ecotourism component, which is where I can participate by going on the hike and visiting the community.
When I told him I was alone, he said he would see if any of the volunteers would be up for a two-day hike. Luckily, a French couple was happy to come along.
Over the next 2.5 days, I fell in love with this part of Bolivia.
And my admiration for Vicente and his wife Julia continued to grow.
In order to get an early start on the hike, we spent the night at Hostal La Torre located in a small town called Rosillas about one hour drive from Tarija. This is where Vicente and Julia have what I would call their “country home.”
It is obvious that this is a labor of love for them.
One building with sleeping quarters is complete, and the bed I slept in was so comfortable. They are building a second larger structure with a great kitchen and dining room, and there will eventually be a large dining and bar area and even more rooms.
Vicente and Julia made us dinner that night.
A delicious Bolognese pasta.
And we even got to try fresh cheese made right here on the property.
Valle de Los Cóndores Hike
In the morning, we were treated to even more great natural foods. Breakfast consisted of yogurt made from the farm’s cows, natural honey, Musli made at their children’s center, and bananas (the only thing Vicente and Julia did not have a hand in making).
After a filling breakfast, we met our guide Pancho and started hiking.
The hike itself was challenging but not too tough. The altitude certainly contributed to the difficulty level, but Pancho was good about making sure we did not try to move too fast and took enough breaks.
We also had the company of the family dog Salto.
And several cows.
I really enjoyed the scenery of this hike.
And it was so perfectly quiet.
This place is the definition of serene. This is private property, and EDYFU has gotten permission from the owners to bring people here to hike.
After we set up camp, the clouds rolled in and covere the mountains like a warm blanket.
After dinner, we enjoyed the red wine Vicente kindly sent up the mountain with us as we warmed ourselves by the fire and admired the many stars in the sky.
What is the best kept secret in Bolivia?
It is not just the beauty of Valle de Los Cóndores.
It is not just the quaint small town of Rosillas where you get a glimpse of real life.
It is not just the comfortable Hostal Las Torres and natural foods.
It was all this combined with the hospitality and genuine passion of Vicente and Julia and their organization EDYFU.
Go on the Hike!
Go on a hike with Educacion y Futuro (EDYFU) to Valle de Los Cóndores, and you not only get a great experience, you also help support their social programs in Tarija. They provided me a tent, sleeping bag, and even a backpack. Guides are all locals, so they know the area well, and you are supporting the local economy.
Email EDYFU as far in advance as possible to coordinate your tour.