One of my main goals in Bolivia was to visit the Amazon. Did it weigh in when making my travel plans? Sure did! Having been to the Amazon in Colombia, Peru and its outskirts in Ecuador I have come to realize I can never get enough of it. The abundance of life in colors, sounds, smells, in the air is just so humbling. And of course, it houses countless numbers of medicinal plants not to mention heaps of knowledge.
So it’s the Amazon, how do you get to Rurrenabaque?
Rurre (pronounced with a soft j-sound like in the French word “je”) is a slow, there’s-not-mucho-to-do-but-rest type of town in the Bolivian Amazon. You can get there either by bus (takes about 14-16 hours or with a 45-minute plane from La Paz). I chose to fly there and take the bus home in interest of saving time and money. Note that the bus only leaves once a day around noon from La Paz and meanders through the Death Road. If you’re easily car sick this is likely not the best option for you. Another tip: don’t look down. The Death Road has dramatic drops along its cliffside and you’ll feel much more comfortable not knowing how close you are to the edge, or in some instances, how far over the edge you are hanging.
Getting into Rurre you are immediately given the option of a taxi at the very small airport. I took the 10-minute taxi to a cheap hostel, Hostal Tucan, which offered shared rooms and a common area. Though, to my horror, there was no kitchen. For some reason, only a few of the hostels in Rurre do have them. After installing myself in the room I went out to explore, eager to see what tropical fruit juices this town offered! Maracuya? Guanabana ? Disappointed to only find the casual orange juice I went to the one market in town to buy some vegetables, snacks and fruit.
What to do
Most people come to Rurrenabaque for either the Yungas or Pampas tours. These are guided excursions to either the jungle (Yungas) where you’ll be knee-deep in the Amazon and in the midst of the thick greenness and a river-based boat tour (Pampas) that is more designated for watching wildlife ranging from pink dolphins, tapirs and pirañas. Since I had already part-taken in similar tours while visiting Iquitos in Peru a few years back, I decided not to opt for either and instead ventured out on my own.
Rurrenabaque is a small town, sure, and offers very limited options for those who want to explore the rainforest solo. In order to really get into the jungle, you need to book a Yungas tour. Alas, I did manage to hit up one of the waterfalls (not so much water as it was not rain season) that lead to a radio tower with a great view of the town before heading out to San Bonaventura to relax and do some light volunteer work. There are a few more miradores that can be completed in a day (se map below). Make sure to bring plenty of water and bug spray!
Where to eat
I had my most expensive meal during my trip in Rurre. Ok, expensive in Bolivia terms of course. But it was definitely worth it! My lonely planet book, aka my Bible, had listed only about three vegetarian options in this town, one of which was Casa de Campo. It’s a bit difficult to find especially if your guide book isn’t up to date as they’ve changed location quite a few times. Located in the outskirts of the town, it is still definitely worth the pilgrimage. The restaurant is really the terrace of an old lady’s house. She is just the sweetest person and makes you feel so at-home. your very own Amazon mama. The food is absolutely fantastic- all the fish is caught fresh. Best part- everything on the menu is healthy, locally produced and cooked by the sweet lady in her home. Worth every boliviano.
“Cool story, bro. But how much did it cost?”
Dinner: 49 Bs
Lodging: 35 Bs
Airplaine La Paz- Rurrenabaque: 700Bs
Bus from Rurrenabaque- La Paz: 80Bs
Taxi to airport in La Paz: 80 Bs
Taxi from airport to Rurre: 10Bs
Total: 954 Bs