Oruro is a city in the Oruro Department of Bolivia, famous for its carnival. It's been a major mining centre and railway hub, but with the closing of the mine and with more and more rail connections ceasing the town is about to lose its importance. But only three hours and fifteen Bolivianos by bus from La Paz, this is a nice getaway from the prices and stress of the capital.
By bus There frequent daily busses from La Paz to Oruro (3~4 hours). The ticket is Bs. 15. Another way to come in, is from Cochabamba. Buses departs every 30 minutes. The trip takes 4~5 hours, and will cost around 25 Bs.
Buses to Challapata take about 2½ hours and cost Bs. 8. Faster and slightly more comfortable minivans do the distance in 90 minutes and at Bs. 12.
Night bus to Uyuni with semi cama costs Bs. 50 and takes about 6-7 hours. The company in the last booth in the terminal has a bus that leaves late at night. Reservations can be a good idea as the bus connects from La Paz. Beware that the road is quite bumpy at parts and it can get freezing cold, especially in June, July and August. Bring warm clothing!
By train There are two kinds of trains leaving Oruro for Uyuni: the more comfortable Expreso Sur with departures on Tuesdays and Fridays at 3.30pm and the cheaper Wara Wara which departs on Sundays and Wednesdays.
The Expreso Sur takes 6,5 hours and costs Bs. 112 for Ejecutivo and Bs. 56 for Salon. The Wara Wara takes 7 hours and costs B2. 95 for Ejecutivo, Bs. 44 for Salon and Bs. 32 for Popular.
For more information: http://www.fca.com.bo (in spanish).
The streets are well planned and orientation is simple. The easily recognized Av. 6 de Agosto, featuring a railway track in the middle runs from north to south with the bus terminal in the north and the town center in the south. The center is small enough to get around by foot and micros heading to the main bus terminal cruise Av. 6 de Agosto, otherwise it's a ten minute walk.
The main square garden (Plaza 10 de Febrero) is the reference for all the locals and visitors.
The Virgen del Socavon temple, is where the carnival ends. It's situated in the west part of the city, and there you can also visit a little mining museum.
In the south part of the city, you can find the zoo, where you can see some of the very exotic Andean wildlife.
Oruro is a city fulfilled of legends and traditions. One of them tells the story about the origin of the carnival.
A walk up on the hills surrounding the town is an easy and nice excursion offering decent views. Bring ice cream and water.
One of the best sight views is the Faro del Conchupata.
You can also visit el Cerrato, also known as El Corazón de Jesús.
Near the zoo, in the south part of the city, there is a museum of ethnography and folklore. There you can see, how the ancient locals, the Chipayas, used to live. Also you can see an invaluable collection of carnival outfits, including masks.
At 45 minutes from the center ville, there is a little town called Cala-Cala. There you can visit the Señor de Lagunas temple, some stone based prehistoric art.
You can also visit some of the traces of our legends:
- In the south part of the city, over the hills, you can see a long stone with a snake form.
- Near Cala-Cala, at the east of the city, there is a mountain with the shape of a giant crocodile with the head cut-off.
- Coming from the north, you can see a geant frog.
- All around the city, there are some little sand monticles, made form the ants.
The Carnival occurs before Ash Wednesday which can be anywhere between February 4th and March 10th
Fastfood places serving cheap burgers, chicken and papas fritas is found just about everywhere. They are especially common around the bus station. One fancier restaurant in the International Park Hotel connected to the bus station, all others in the same bracket is in the center.
- Govinda, 6 de Octubre 6071. Ambitious vegetarian restaurant with a hare-krishna and müsli-sch approach to life. The whole menu is not always available, best to be there at lunch. Mains are Bs. 6 to 12.
- Negritos (Two blocks from the main plaza, along Bolivar). Uninspired menu with some lighter food and drinks. One of a few options providing WiFi in town. Password as of November 2010: negrito8
- Bravo's Pizza, Bolivar (A few blocks from the main plaza, along Bolivar). Pleasant environment with decent food. Specializes in pizzas. Bs 20-50.
- Nayjama, Corner of Pagador and Aldana. Slightly more expensive restaurant with many meat dishes such as entrecote and lamb. Food nothing special though. Prices around Bs. 40-60
- Pizzeria d'Serigo, Plaza 10 de febrero (On Calle La Plata, opposite the park). Good pizzas at reasonable prices! Try the d'Sergio special which is very good value for money! Bs. 35-45
- El Fogon (Corner opposite the bus station exit). Typical Bolivian food with generous portions. Try the Pique for a meal that will fill you on that long bus ride to Uyuni. Bs. 25-50
- Hotel Bernal. Av. Brasil 701 (next to the busterminal), +591 2 5279468. Cheap option if you're spending the night to grab a bus the next morning. The clean rooms have cable tv.
- Alojamiento Rosen, 21 de Enero No. 240 (right across the street from the main entrance to the bus station), +591 2 5277833. Very basic, shared bath, no shower. Twins for Bs. 30.
- Hotel Sucre, situated at 6 de Octubre street, near Sucre street.
- Hotel San Felipe de Austria, Av. San felipe between 6 de Octubre and Soria Galvarro.
- Hotel Terminal, In the bus station.
- Hotel Plaza, situated in the main plaza.
- Hotel Eden, Situated at the corner of Bolivar street and Presidente Montes. Is the newest and finest hotel in town.
- Hotel Repostero, On Sucre St. between Pagador and Potosi. No heating, bedroom/bathroom quality is variable. Very friendly staff.
- Residencial 21 de Abril, Montecinos Nro 198 entre Velasco Galvarro y 6 de Agosto. (Exiting the bus terminal go two blocks to the right to the street Velasco Galvarro, take a left and follow V.G until you find Calle Montecino. The hotel is on the first block to the right.), ☎ +591 718-43427. Quite basic but clean and with hot water. Cable in the rooms (which tend to go in a green color scale!). Private room with shared bath Bs 50.
- Alojimiento Copacabana, Velasco Galvarro (Opposite the train station, between streets Murguia and José Ballivan). Decently clean rooms with shared bath. Some rooms are very small at 2x2m. Manned reception which makes the place feel safe. Price for a room with two beds Bs 35.
Several bus companies run buses to Iquique and Arica in Chile from the main bus terminal. Trans Salvador is very comfortable and charge Bs. 90 for the trip, including a simple meal. The trip takes 10-14 hours depending on how busy the border crossing at Tambo Quemado is. Don't bring any food across the border as there is X-ray searches at Chungara on the Chilean side.