Samaipata is a small, breathtaking mountain village situated at more than one thousand six hundred meters in the Cordillera Oriental mountain range. It is a three-hour journey from Santa Cruz, one of Bolivia’s modern, sleek cities, and is on the way to Cochabamba, which makes it a popular, chilled, stop-off point on the gringo trail.
It is well worth a stop, as it gives a lovely glimpse into Bolivian village life as well as being a good base for those staying at Samaipata hostels to explore surrounding attractions, such as the Amboro National Park, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, or the Che Guevara Trail. There is an enchanting animal rescue centre a few miles or so out of the village, which is well worth a visit, where you can meet the resident monkeys and parrots (it also accepts volunteers, who can stay at the centre).
Samaipata has a good mix of locals, ex-pats, and travelers to Samaipata captivated by its charm, and every weekend gets an influx of scores of city dwellers, escaping the city for a chilled-out weekend vibe. There are children playing football in the narrow streets, elderly ladies selling freshly picked vegetables, and men chatting on street corners. The amenities are central and easy to get to. There is a large central market, but be aware there is no ATM. There are internet cafés, however the connection is slow, using only satellite connections, and varies considerably with the weather.
There are a host of good tour companies offering bird-watching and trekking tours and guided trips to the beautiful waterfalls, cloud forests, and the lush lowlands of Amboro National Park. The tour companies are helpful and not pushy; it is also possible to trek independently without a guide.
There are a whole host of Samaipata hostels, hippie joints, and boutique hotels lining the quaint streets. Some offer camping at a low price, or free if you are willing to volunteer your services. There are a number of places offering dorms, the village with breathtaking views and hippie yoga vibes, often run by ex-pats. For the evening, there are a number of ex-pat run bars and restaurants, offering the usual fare of Western food, pizzas and pastas as well as a decent sampling of local delicacies. At the weekends, the village is brought to life -- a sound system is set up in the corner of the square, tables and chairs are set out, and makeshift bars and food joints spring up from noon until midnight. You can watch, or participate in, the much enjoyed dancing.