Many travelers on the Bolivian backpacker's circuit find themselves passing through Oruro to other destinations and there is enough to keep you busy for a couple of days at least. Actual backpackers’ hostels are limited here -- sadly, low-rate and often low-quality hotels rule the roost in Oruro. However Oruro hostel options are central to the train station and market and not far from the bus station, either.
A new road is almost complete, making the journey from La Paz a fairly decent ride. The railway links Oruro with Uyuni and the Argentine border, though trains are very infrequent and only run on certain days. Tickets should be booked as soon as possible, as seats often sell out.
The town centre has a busy market -- not far from many of Oruro’s hostels and the train station. It is full of snacks, fruit drinks, and cheap everyday goods and clothes for the locals, so not many souvenirs or llama sweaters to be found here, in case you were looking to stock up. The market is open all day but comes alive in the evenings when even more sellers emerge.
The best of the town’s attractions is probably the small mining museum -- Museo Etnografico Minero -- which is housed in a part of an original mine and accessed via an inconspicuous gate inside the Santuario de la Virgen del Socavon church. Inside the tunnel there are various relics and tools spanning across the time the mine was in operation but the most interesting exhibits has to be the creepy representations of "El Tio," to whom the miners offered sacrificial cigarettes, coca leaves, and alcohol to protect themselves from the devil who rules the underground world. For backpackers seeking a taste of a working mine, there are tours of Mina San Jose.
For a more relaxing experience, and a good way of whiling away a few hours while waiting for night buses, take a collective taxi to the thermal baths at Obrajes, around a forty-five-minute journey. Head there early and anticipate a fair wait until the minibus fills up. It’s best to check with the driver what time they expect to return.
Eating options are quite limited in Oruro; there are cheap, inconspicuous "almuerzo" joints, which open up only at lunchtime, as well as the usual cluster of fried chicken places at nighttime.
Hi, I'm Laura T,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Oruro hostels. Welcome.