Some 120km west of Santa Cruz on the old mountain road to Cochabamba, the peaceful little town of SAMAIPATA is a popular destination for Bolivians and foreign travellers alike. Nestled in an idyllic valley surrounded by rugged, forest-covered mountains, the town enjoys a cool, fresh climate compared to the sweltering eastern plains. Innumerable good walking trails run through the surrounding countryside, the beautiful cloudforests of the Parque Nacional Amboró are close by, and just outside town stands one of Bolivia’s most intriguing archeological sites, El Fuerte. All this makes Samaipata the kind of place many travellers end up staying longer than they expected – indeed, many European residents have settled here permanently, setting up hotels, restaurants and tour agencies. The town’s heart is the Plaza Principal, which lies at the centre of a small grid of tranquil, unpaved streets, lined with pretty whitewashed houses. Although generally peaceful, things can get busy with visiting Cruceños at weekends.

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