Busy, buzzy Cochabamba is one of Bolivia’s boom cities and has a distinct, almost Mediterranean, vitality that perhaps owes something to its clement climate. While much of the city’s population is typically poor, parts of town have a notably prosperous feel. The spacious new-town avenues have a wide choice of restaurants, eagerly grazed by the food-crazy cochabambinos, and the bar scene is lively, driven by students and young professionals. Despite this, Cochabamba remains a very affordable city, with prices far below those in Sucre or La Paz. You could easily find yourself staying a lot longer than you planned.
The city’s name is derived from the Quechua khocha pampa, meaning ‘swampy plain’. Cochabamba lies in a fertile green bowl, 25km long by 10km wide, set in a landscape of fields and low hills. To the northwest rises Cerro Tunari (5035m), the highest peak in central Bolivia. Cochabamba is famous for its chicha, a fermented corn drink that is the locals’ favorite tipple.