Department of Oruro This is a wonderful place for tourism, with a wealth of folklore as well as pre Columbian, ethnic and natural resources. It is located in the West of Bolivia, inside the central Altiplano, crossed by the Andean mountain range (East and west), as well as lakes and salt flats. It is at an average height of 3.700 meters above sea level. The department of Oruro, cradle of one of the oldest civilizations in America – The Urus, was one of the most important centres in the Audiencia de Charcas, product of the intense mining activity of the period, offering the vast fortune of its mountains to Bolivia and the world. Oruro has been recognized as Bolivia’s folklore capital due to the regal carnival acclaimed by UNESCO as “A Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” It features important archaeological and historical centres, and awesome colonial churches of a great cultural value which deserve to be visited by tourists from all over the world.
In the city
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY: The Eduardo López Anthropology Museum was funded in 1959. It features five areas with individual themes; Archaeology, Anthropology, Ethnology, Ethno-musicology and Folklore. The exhibits include an important variety of archaeological pieces, masks and suits from the Carnival, Chipaya Residences, Chullpares and native musical instruments.
SIMON I. PATIÑO MUSEUM: A residence that belonged to the renowned Tin Baron, Simon I. Patiño, built in the mannerism style. It features large exhibit halls, where they showcase furniture from the Luis XV and XVI periods, French luxury carriages, and other decorative pieces from the period.
SANCTUARY OF THE MINE SHAFT: This is located at the foot of Pie de Gallo Hill where thousands of believers travel to worship the Virgen del Socavón (Our Lady of the Mine Shafts). There is a great museum deep inside the old silver mine where one can see many elements related to mining.
SACRED ART MUSEUM OF “SAN MIGUEL DE LA RANCHERÍA”: This is a colonial temple with a beautiful altarpiece fully covered in gold. Important pieces of sacred art brought from all over Oruro are shown here, making a valuable collection in which gorgeous Mestizos-style paintings and sculptures stand out, as well as religious ornaments and clothing, furniture and printings from the period.
CONCHUPATA LIGHTHOUSE: This national monument was the place where the actual Bolivian flag was first made and raised on November 17, 1851. It is an important viewpoint from which it is possible to see a beautiful panoramic view of Oruro City. Other places of interest are: Mineral Museum (The largest in South America with over 2.000 samples), Cardozo Velasquez Workshop Museum, Rancheria Plaza, Handicraft Workshops (La Paz Street), Mining Museum (Nicolas Papic), among others.
SAJAMA NATIONAL PARK: Located in the far northeast of Oruro in the western Andean Mountain Range. It’s the first protected area of Bolivia. Its identity is marked by the very impressive snow-capped Sajama volcano at 6.542 meters above sea level (Bolivia’s highest peak). In this important territory one can find unique forests of Queñuas (trees that grow at the highest altitude in the world), and an important variety of wild flora and fauna. Complementing the landscape, one can find beautiful lagoons, thermal springs, geysers and colourful Chullpares, all of a great cultural value.
CURAHUARA DE CARANGAS: This town is nestled on the way to Sajama National Park. It houses a beautiful and very important colonial church known as “The Sixteen Chapel of the Altiplano” due to the impressive mural that decorates its interior.
CHIPAYA ETHNIC GROUP: This is one of the oldest cultures in the continent. An ethnicity of Uru origins that resides in the proximity of the Coipasa salt flats some 3.940 meters above sea level. Visitors can observe the traditional circular houses built with “tepes”, their unique clothing, the braiding style of their women, and their enigmatic native tongue.
COIPASA SALT FLATS: Located 225 Km. from Oruro City it is the second most important salt flat in South America, it is part of Ruta Turística Intersalar (Salt Flat Tourist Route). A unique destination because it features an interior lake surrounded by cliffs and vast cacti forests that enhance the landscape. This gorgeous salt flat is known as “Heaven’s Mirror”.
ALCAYA ARCHEOLOGICAL COMPLEX: This important pre-Columbian citadel is located in the far south of the department in the vicinity of the Uyuni Salt Flats, 287 Km from Oruro City. Visitors can see mummies, circular houses made from stone, agricultural ledges and a unique underground cemetery, as well as beautiful ceramic pieces, baskets and pre-Columbian tapestries.
LAKE POOPÓ AND THE URUS: The Poopó named “The Navel of the World” is the second most important lake in Bolivia, with a surface of 4.250 Km2. It presents a wonderful landscape on which Andean flamencos stand out, as well as wild ducks and other species of birds. For this reason, it has been declared a RAMSAR SITE due to the quality of its habitat for wild species of flora and fauna. On the shores reside Uru ethnic groups of an ancestral origin: Muratos, Llapallapanis and others.
THE LOST ATLANTIS: Located in the town of Pampa Aullagas in the far south on Lake Poopó, where the investigator Jim Allen has identified in accordance with the descriptions of Plato, important constructions of circular channels at the foot of the mountain; as well as others that cover the surrounding altiplano, giving way to the development of this wonderful and mythic civilization.
ORURO CARNIVAL: The highest cultural expression of Bolivian folklore, the Oruro Carnival “MASTERPIECE OF THE ORAL AND INTANGIBLE HERITAGE OF HUMANITY” is a religious festival in devotion to the Virgen del Socavón (Our Lady of the Mine Shaft), to whom tribute is given through music and dance. This manifestation of folklore has its origins in ancient Uru Culture and is characterized by its colour, craft in costume design and expressions that converge from various cultures; rituals and traditions from those who participate in this festivity, accompanied by the rhythms of bands that delight the public. This explosion of folklore is prepared with a lot of anticipation and a great number of ceremonies and rituals throughout the year. The most important presentation is the Saturday pilgrimage, when the dancers tour the various city streets ending up in the Sanctuary of the Virgin, where they receive the blessing of the Parrish and then kneel before the image of the virgin.
DIABLADA: This is the emblematic dance of the Oruro Carnival, which has its origins in ancient times with the discovery of the Virgen de la Candelaria (Our Lady of Candlelight) and her miracle, in the hideout of the famous thief Nina Nina, as legend says. This dance is the representation of the struggle between good and evil. MORENADA: Its origins can be traced to the black slaves in colonial times. On one hand, it is an Aymara satire of this reality and the methods used by the conquistadors during the daily work in the mines and wine-making by the slaves. On the other hand it is a melancholic expression of suffering for the cruel treatment they received.
CAPORALES: This dance of recent creation is both a representation and satire of the black slave who worked as a foreman to repress his own people and control the daily work.
TINKU (ENCOUNTER): The essence of this dance lies in the cruel combat between Laimes and Jukumanis, communities that fought through the years using brass knuckles and slingshots, while wearing pure leather helmets modelled after the Spanish helmets of the conquistadors.
PUJLLAY: This represents the blossoming of the fields, a festivity that begins in the ceremony of fertility and is characterized by its epic music and dance of a warrior tradition in the town of Tarabuco. Other dances that participate in the regal Oruro Carnival showcase the diversity of our culture, such as: Ahuataris, Suri Sicuris, Incas, Kallawayas, Doctorcitos, Tarqueada, Kantus, Potolos, Tobas, among many others that make this festivity an exceptional demonstration of culture and folklore.