Hiking With Condors in Bolivia

I know in my heart of hearts that I’m not a camping kind of girl. I want to see Machu Picchu, but hiking the Inca Trail to get there?

…eeehhh, not so much.

But sometimes, I get these flares of insanity, the ones that make me think “Heck, yeah, let’s go to the Amazon!” or “Maybe I could handle Kilimanjaro.”

A flare like the one I had in Tarija, when I read The Travel Chica’s post about the Valle de los Condores in Bolivia. She described a 2-day condor-spotting hike up into the mountains of southern Bolivia, and I was convinced.

Tarija hadn’t blown us away – a faux pas at the dinosaur museum, a less-than-friendly reception at our hotel, and unhappy tummies (We drank the water at the hotel after being assured it was okay. Only ourselves to blame.) had left us wanting more. So we booked ourselves a hike through Valle de los Condores, a non-profit who has rights to lead treks in the valley.

Since there were only two of us, the cost of the trek was 800 Bolivianos ($115 USD) each. Here’s what was included:

  • 2 nights’ accommodation & camping gear
  • Six meals (incredible, organic meals)
  • guided trek to the condors
  • transfers between Tarija and Rosillas (about a 40-minute drive)

And then there were the things you couldn’t put a price tag on. As soon as we arrived in Rosillas, we looked at the setting, looked at each other, and went, “Oh my god.”

Rosillas, Bolivia
The accommodations in Rosilla with EDYFU. Uh, okay!

We were met by Sophie, a lovely Bolivian woman, who showed us to our accommodation – a lofted apartment with beautiful mountain views and an enormous squishy bed.

Huge bed in Rosillas
To put it in perspective, Jared is over 6 feet tall.

We met the dogs.

Dogs at EDYFU, Bolivia
They took to Jared. I stuck to the cat (not pictured).
Hairless dog
It’s so ugly, it’s cute. No? Okay then.

We were warned about the espinas that littered the property and surrounds.

Espinas in Bolivia
Still managed to step on a bazillion of these devils.

And at five o’clock sharp, Sophie led us to the barn for some ambrosia. Here’s how you make ambrosia: pour some Bolivian singani brandy in a glass, add a mixture of sugar and cinnamon, then fill the rest with hot milk, straight from the cow.

Drinking ambrosia in Bolivia
Freshest milk ever.

YES. I got to milk a cow.

Actually, I sort of molested the cow in a pathetic attempt to produce some milk, but a little trickle came out so I consider it successful.

Milking a cow
Gentle, but firm. I kept waiting for the cow to lash out.

That night we had fresh chicken pasta and slept peacefully in anticipation of the morning. It started well, with an enormous breakfast of eggs, bread, homemade peach yogurt, muesli, peach juice, tea and coffee.

“You need energy,” Sophie said. “For the hike.”

I’d have eaten every last drop even if my plans consisted solely of laying on the couch. It was delicious.

Our guide, Miguel, didn’t speak much English. We still don’t speak much Spanish. But it worked. Loaded up with our tents and sleeping bags, the three of us hit the road.

We hiked for about three hours, stopping occasionally to admire the views on the gorgeous clear day.

Valley of the Condors Bolivia
Exhausted. Dirty. Smiling. I can do this.

And it was a hike, my first ever with a backpack. As I said, I’m not really a hiking/camping kind of girl. Once we hit the clearing where we’d set up camp, I helped by taking photos while Jared and Miguel prepared the tents.

Camping in Bolivia
Good work, boys.

Later I tried to scare off the cows, with weak results.

Cows in Bolivia
If cows only knew the devastation they could wreak, should they set their minds to it. That’s what worries me.

After lunch, I wasn’t sure what we would do, but Miguel pointed upwards.

“Los condores,” he said. “Vamos.”

We hiked for another hour or so, condors swooping above us. Every time I thought we’d hit the highest peak, Miguel showed us another, higher one. I employed my “I am a mountain goat” mantra and miraculously kept enjoying myself.

Finally, we hit the ridge of the Valley of the Condors itself. Several of the giant birds were circling over the valley, while one perched on the edge, allowing us to observe it.

Condor in Bolivia
Female condors are a dull brown color. I’m sure she possesses incredible inner beauty, though.

We sat on the lip of the valley as the condors soared, dipping closer and closer to us, the only three people in sight. I thought they were scoping us out for food but then realized I was thinking of vultures.

Each time a bird passed, we could hear a whistled woosh as it cut through the air. It was incredible.

Condor in Bolivia

Even Miguel was impressed with the show the condors put on, and he’s done this a few times before. After 30 minutes of watching, stunned, we reluctantly headed back to camp. Miguel cooked a veggie/pasta soup, we sipped some white wine, and watched the sun disappear.

Miguel prepares dinner
A man of many talents.

It was an experience I’d never had anywhere else.

Views from Valley of the Condors, Bolivia
So this is why people hike.

In the morning, we took a slightly different path down the valley, via a much-needed waterfall. Then we clambered down a steep (really steep) slope, eventually reaching flat ground, and retraced our steps back to home base.

Waterfall in Bolivia
Seconds later, Jared stripped to his shorts and jumped in.

When I finally shed my sweat-encrusted clothes and stepped into the shower, dirt ran off me in rivulets. I was wiped out. I was not sure I’d be able to do a trek like this again.

But I was happy.

For some reason, people just don’t seem to know about this place – I was only the second visitor they’d ever had from the United States. If you’re in Bolivia, I’d strongly encourage you to give it a try.

Even if you’re not that into camping.

For more information, see the Valle de los Condores website, or, if in Tarija, walk into EcoSol on Plaza Sucré. We booked our hike in person two days before we departed. If you have three or more people in your group, the price drops considerably.

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  1. I read Travel Chica’s post too, and was very tempted to do this hike, but now I’m short of time and I saw the condors at Colca Canyon in Peru. That was also spectacular by the way, but maybe you don’t need to do it now!

    1. Isn’t it amazing how time flies by? I was hoping to at least get to Arequipa, but now we’re going to go straight from Cusco to Lima, then hit the north coast. I think if you already did the Colca Canyon, you’re okay to skip this one (and vice versa!).

    1. It’s totally pretending with me! I do get a rush out of doing ‘outdoorsy’ things – just as long as I can have a hot shower and cozy bed that same night!

  2. Not having seen or heard any reviews from anyone, I just booked this trek for my Christmas holidays so I’m glad to hear it’s worth it. Where did you stay in Tarija? I guess you wouldn’t recommend it, but did you see anywhere while you were there that you would recommend?

    1. We stayed at Hostal Carmen, which wasn’t terrible, but we expected a little more because we’d paid a little more. The breakfast was great, but unorganized and crowded due to two large groups staying there at the same time. Also, the guy who checked us in seemed to be new, because he could never give us a straight answer about anything and we missed out on a wine tour because the travel agency didn’t tell us that we needed a minimum of four people to go. However, I don’t have anything to compare it to, so I may have taken it for granted. So I’m afraid I’m not too much help there!
      Let me know how the trek goes – it’ll always remain one of my favorite memories from the whole South America trip! I particularly liked the accommodations in Rosilla, such a nice change from your ordinary hostel.

    1. And Jared might have been the first Australian, we’re not sure. It’s just not very well publicized, but that might change in the future as more people find out about it.

  3. I’m so happy to read this review! I’m from Tarija, Rosillas Bolivia. Condors Valley is a hidden beauty! Is wonderful you share it to the world! 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting! You live in a gorgeous place – I’m not sure if more people should know about it or not, because I don’t want to disturb its natural beauty! We had a great time hiking with condors.

  4. Wow, this sounds like a beautiful hike in Bolivia. I did the 2 day trek from Sucre from to the Maragua crater, and the scenery was just breathtaking. Will definitely have to do this next time I’m in Bolivia 🙂

  5. Thanks a lot for this awesome review! I discover your post a bit late but it’s really great to read such a thing.

    Can I ask you a favor and update the link at the bottom of the page? Now you can reach us through valledeloscondores.com , we lost the other account educacionyfuturo.com …

    Thanks a lot and hope to see you again 🙂

      1. Thanks a lot Lauren.

        That would be great! I don’t know why Americans seems to don’t know about Tarija… Well, it’s off the “Bolivia gringo trail” (Titicaca, La Paz, Salar, Potosi, Sucre) so most of the travellers do skip Tarija, not only Americans 😉

        And when I look at those pictures I realise things haven’t changed at all in 3 years in Rosillas. But that’s a good thing 🙂 Oh no, wait! We have windows at the first floor now! 😉

  6. Hello Lauren:
    I am replacing Sofia now and things have changed a little now, we have more people. Yesterday we had an american Laura and her Canadian houseband. They slept in our brand knew rooms upstairs from the saloon and had an amazin trek: They sow 12 condors playing off in the blue sky, they had the “cloud sea” and sow a pair of hawks very near.
    I’m so glad that the Condor’s Valley is changing for better and that we can give a super service to our hosts. Best wishes and thank you for your amazing blog.

    1. Great to hear from you! I’m so glad things are going well for you. We had such a good time on that trip and I’ll never forget the sound of the condors flying past.

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