Cotapata National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area

Welcome to the journey of your life through one of Bolivia’s most mighty tourist destinations: Cotapata National Park, officially known as Cotapata National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area (in Spanish: Parque Nacional y Área Natural de Manejo Integrado Cotapata). Immerse yourself in the magic of its pristine ecosystems, diverse life, and rich history. Get your binoculars and hiking shoes ready for an adventure that’s about to begin.

Introduction to Cotapata National Park

Cotapata National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area

Geographic Location

Situated in the northwest of the La Paz department, in the Nor Yungas and Murillo provinces of Bolivia, Cotapata National Park is located within the municipalities encompassed by the protected area of Coroico and La Paz. This strategic location covers an extensive region stretching from the high mountains of the Andes to the lowlands of the Amazon rainforest, contributing to its unique ecological diversity. Being close to the city of La Paz, the park is easily accessible to visitors eager to explore its towering landscapes and natural wonders.

Geographic Coordinates

The geographic coordinates of Cotapata National Park span approximately from 16° 05′ 18.536″ South latitude, 67° 53′ 38.452″ West longitude, to 16° 19′ 41.879″ South latitude, 68° 03′ 23.411″ West longitude.

These coordinates define the geographical area where the park is located and delimit its extent in the territory. The latitudes range from 16° 05′ 18.536″ to 16° 19′ 41.879″ South of the Equator, while the longitudes range between 67° 53′ 38.452″ and 68° 03′ 23.411″ West of the Greenwich Meridian.

History and Recognition as a National Park

Established in 1993, Cotapata National Park is renowned for its biodiversity and for hosting an important pre-Columbian trail, the Path of Gold. The park’s objectives are as follows:

  1. To protect areas of high fragility, especially those characterized by steep slopes and fundamental zones for the conservation of watersheds.
  2. To safeguard pristine and highly diverse ecosystems in terms of flora and fauna, deemed of great importance for conservation.
  3. To preserve the archaeological and cultural heritage in the region, as well as to promote the recovery and valorization of traditional knowledge that contributes to the sustainable preservation of natural resources.

Management Category

It holds a dual management category that includes both the designation of a National Park and an Integrated Management Natural Area (ANMI).

  1. National Park: This management category’s primary aim is the conservation of natural ecosystems and biodiversity within the protected area. National Parks are areas dedicated to preserving nature in its most pristine state, protecting habitats, species, and characteristic landscapes of the region. In the case of Cotapata, the National Park status ensures the protection of its ecosystems, wildlife, and natural heritage.
  2. Integrated Management Natural Area (ANMI): This category focuses on the sustainable conservation of natural and cultural resources within the area. ANMIs allow controlled utilization of natural resources for the benefit of local communities and the promotion of sustainable tourism, always under a framework of protection and responsible resource management. In Cotapata, the ANMI designation allows the integration of sustainable activities and the involvement of local communities in area management and conservation.

The combination of these two management categories in Cotapata National Park seeks to balance nature conservation with sustainable development of local communities, promoting the protection of biodiversity and cultural heritage while fostering participation and benefits for the people inhabiting its surroundings.

Protected Area

The surface area of Cotapata National Park varies according to different sources. According to the Creation Decree, the established surface area is 40,000 hectares. However, based on digital Geographic Information Systems (GIS) records, the surface area has been measured and calculated to be 61,266 hectares.

Discrepancies in the surface area figures of protected areas are common due to different measurement methodologies, information updates, and data accuracies. In this case, the surface area appears to be larger according to the GIS digital records than the Creation Decree. The most updated and precise figure would be provided by the GIS digital records, indicating that the park’s surface area is 61,266 hectares.

Physical Characteristics: Geography, Physiography, and Climate


It is influenced by its location in the Royal Cordillera, which gives it its characteristic rugged and diverse relief. The park covers a considerable altitudinal range, from approximately 1,000 meters above sea level (masl) to towering heights of up to 5,900 masl.

The park’s landscape stands out for its varied topography, including deep canyons and plateaus in the higher parts. These plateaus represent the highest altitude areas and offer impressive views of the surrounding mountain peaks and the valleys extending downward.

The valleys within the park are notable for their depth and feature steep slopes descending into them. These pronounced slopes can lead to natural landslides due to the geology and terrain configuration. These landslides are part of the park’s natural dynamics and contribute to its ecological richness.


It is an integral part of the Amazon River’s macro basin, meaning its rivers and tributaries contribute to the water flow into the Amazon River. The park is traversed and supplied by several important hydrographic basins, with the most prominent being those of the Zongo, Huarinilla, and Coroico rivers.

  1. Zongo River: This river is one of the main hydrographic basins within the park. It originates in the high mountains of the Royal Cordillera and flows northward, traversing the park and contributing to the formation of valleys and canyons. The Zongo River is known for its flow and significant contribution to regional hydrography.
  2. Huarinilla River: Another relevant hydrographic basin in Cotapata is that of the Huarinilla River. This river also originates in the mountains and descends into the valley, where it connects with other rivers and streams that cross the park. The Huarinilla River contributes to maintaining aquatic ecosystems and the biodiversity of the area.
  3. Coroico River: The Coroico River is another important river in Cotapata’s hydrography. It originates in the high areas of the park and flows northwestward, passing through the city of Coroico and later joining other rivers in the region. The Coroico River is essential for the livelihood of local communities and for sustaining aquatic ecosystems and vegetation along its banks.

These rivers and their basins are vital for life and conservation in the region. They not only provide water for the area’s flora and fauna but also serve as a crucial resource for communities that rely on them. Protecting these hydrographic basins is of utmost importance to ensure the sustainability and richness of the park and its contribution to the flow of the Amazon River.


The climate of Cotapata National Park is strongly influenced by altitude, as it varies significantly along the mountain range. For every 100-meter difference in elevation, it’s estimated that the temperature changes by approximately 0.6°C. The elevation within the park spans a range from 1,200 meters above sea level (masl) to towering heights of 5,600 masl, resulting in significant variations in climatic conditions.

The average annual temperature shows a wide variation across different altitudes of the park. In the higher parts, such as the peaks of the Royal Cordillera, temperatures are much colder, with annual averages that can hover around 7°C. On the other hand, in the lowest point of the Huarinilla River valley, such as in Sevilla, temperatures can reach annual averages of up to 28°C.

Regarding precipitation, the park experiences marked seasonality due to rainy periods. During the rainy season, the amount of precipitation varies significantly based on altitude. In the higher parts of the park, precipitation can reach approximately 1,000 mm per year, while in the Cloud Forest of the Ceja, areas at lower altitudes, it can exceed 3,000 mm annually.

Ecological Diversity of Cotapata


It is situated in a region with two distinctive ecoregions: Yungas and Northern Puna.

  1. Yungas Ecoregion: This ecoregion encompasses several altitudinal zones and is characterized by its richness in plant species. It is known as a center of orchid diversity and endemism, highlighting its importance for the conservation of these beautiful and delicate flowers. The Yungas ecoregion is characterized by its lush and diverse vegetation, including cloud forests and tropical jungles. The biodiversity in this area is significant due to the wide range of habitats available at different altitudinal zones.
  2. Northern Puna Ecoregion: The Northern Puna ecoregion covers the subecoregion of Humid Puna and the high-Andean vegetation of the Eastern Cordillera. This ecoregion is found at higher altitudes and features nival and subnival zones. In these high-mountain environments, the climatic conditions are colder and harsher, leading to vegetation adapted to these extreme conditions. Puna grasslands and other high-mountain ecosystems can be found here.


The protected area is home to a wide variety of plant species across its different environments and habitats. Up to 820 species of flora have been recorded, and it’s estimated that around 1,800 species of higher plants exist in the area.

The floristic richness of the park is due to its location in an area that encompasses a variety of ecosystems, from high mountain ranges and snowfields to periglacial environments, high-Andean grasslands, wetlands, Yungas paramo, cloud forests, and lower montane Yungas rainforests.

The varying altitudes and climatic conditions in these ecosystems allow for the coexistence of diverse plant species adapted to the specific conditions of each altitudinal zone. This variety of habitats provides opportunities for the existence of endemic species, those found exclusively in that region.

Notable examples of flora in Cotapata National Park include a wide range of orchids, bromeliads, ferns, shrubs, native trees, and a great diversity of herbaceous plants.

The conservation of this rich flora is of utmost importance, as many of these species may be endemic or endangered. Protection and preservation are essential to maintain this botanical diversity and ensure its existence for future generations.


It is a refuge for an impressive variety of fauna, making it a place of great interest for wildlife enthusiasts and biodiversity researchers. A total of 607 vertebrate species have been recorded within the protected area.

The diverse altitudes and habitats present in the park allow for the coexistence of a wide range of vertebrate species. Among them, 85 species of mammals, 455 species of birds, 29 species of reptiles, 27 species of amphibians, and 11 species of fish have been confirmed.

Among the rich fauna of Cotapata National Park, it is possible to find diverse emblematic species and in some cases, endemics. Some notable examples of animals present in the park include:

  • Mammals: Pumas, jaguars, Andean bears, deer, monkeys, tapirs, and various species of bats.
  • Birds: Toucans, macaws, hummingbirds, eagles, owls, parrots, and a wide variety of migratory birds.
  • Reptiles: Snakes, iguanas, lizards, and turtles.
  • Amphibians: Frogs, toads, and salamanders.
  • Fish: Various species of freshwater fish present in the rivers and streams of the park.

Tourist Attractions and Activities in Cotapata

Cotapata National Park and its surroundings offer a wide variety of pre-Columbian trails and paths that attract tourists and adventure enthusiasts. Some of the main trails and tourist attractions include:

El Choro Pre-Columbian Trail

It is one of the main tourist destinations in the La Paz Department. The 3 to 4-day journey crosses various landscapes, rivers, and waterfalls, allowing visitors to experience a variety of climates across its 5 ecological zones. The highest point is 4,900 masl at Abra de la Cumbre, and the lowest is 1,200 masl in the small settlement. Visitors are recommended to be in good physical condition, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and carry camping equipment and necessary food, as some communities may not have open stores.

Sillutinkara Pre-Columbian Trail

It starts from the road, 1.2 km from Unduavi, and connects with the town of Sandillani. The journey takes 1 or 2 days and offers scenic and landscape views, along with the preservation of the pre-Columbian stone path. It crosses three ecosystems: Yungas paramo, cloud forest, and montane rainforest.

Umapalca-Tiquimani Pre-Columbian Trail

Located to the north of the protected area, this trail begins in the community of Botijlaka in the Zongo Valley, ascends to the Umapalca community, and descends through the Tiquimani ravine. During the journey, visitors can appreciate Andean landscapes, lakes, and possibly spot the Jucumari Bear and Taruka (Andean Deer).

Chojllapata Pre-Columbian Trail

It starts 1.2 km from the town of Unduavi at Apacheta Jichuloma. The route offers moderate to low slopes and features stone paths with small walls and steps.

Ruta de la Muerte (Death Road)

This route, built in the 1930s, was dubbed as the world’s most dangerous road due to its narrow strip and rugged topography. Nowadays, it attracts mountain biking adventure enthusiasts due to its 65 km downhill stretch from La Cumbre to the town of Yolosa.

Tourist Trail Yucupi Waterfall

Accessed through the Yucupi community, it offers a 500-meter trail leading to a beautiful waterfall of approximately 18 meters in height that cascades into a pool of crystal-clear water.

Archaeological Ruins of Socosani

Accessed from the Chairo community via a trail surrounded by vegetation, the historical origin of these ruins is not known. However, its structure resembles that of a rectangular "tambo."

Queñua Forests in Pongo

The Queñua (Polylepis) forests in Pongo are an interesting spot for observing specialized avifauna, such as the Andean Tit-Spinetail and White-winged Diuca Finch.

Visiting Archaeological, Historical, and Cultural Sites

The park and its surroundings offer the opportunity to visit various historical, cultural, and archaeological sites, enriching the tourist experience and providing insights into the region’s rich history and cultural heritage. Some of the sites that can be explored include the Pre-Columbian Trail El Choro, Pre-Columbian Trail Sillutinkara, Archaeological Ruins of Socosani, Queñua Forests in Pongo. In addition to being a spot for observing specialized avifauna, these forests may have cultural significance as the queñua (Polylepis) is a sacred tree species for some Andean communities. Cultural visits to local communities and historical sites in La Paz are also available. While these are not within the park, the city of La Paz features numerous historical and cultural sites worth visiting. These include Plaza Murillo, the Government Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the San Francisco Church, and the National Museum of Art, among others.

The Pre-Columbian Gold Route

The ancient Pre-Columbian Gold Route, a historic path that traverses the park, offers a unique glimpse into the region’s history and culture.

The Waterfalls of Cotapata

Discover the mighty waterfalls of Cotapata, a natural spectacle that will leave you breathless. Don’t forget your camera, as this is a landscape you’ll want to remember.

Viewpoints and Panoramic Views

From the various viewpoints in the park, you can enjoy panoramic views that will leave you speechless. Photography enthusiasts will delight in the opportunities to capture stunning images.

How to Get There and Visitor Tips

Public and Private Transportation from La Paz

From La Paz, you can reach Cotapata using various means of transportation. Accessibility to Cotapata National Park from La Paz offers two main options: by road or on foot using the pre-Hispanic El Choro trail.

  1. Access by Road: You can reach the park by vehicle from the city of La Paz. There are daily buses that travel from La Paz to Coroico or to La Cumbre. Coroico serves as an access point for those wishing to explore the Huarinilla River valley by road. However, it’s important to note that there is no permanent public transportation service directly to the National Park. Therefore, it’s recommended to use your own vehicle to facilitate access.
  2. Access on Foot – Pre-Hispanic El Choro Trail: An exciting option for trekking enthusiasts is to hike the trail on foot through the ancient Pre-Hispanic El Choro trail. This route offers a unique experience, allowing hikers to immerse themselves in the majesty of changing landscapes from the mountains to the rainforest. The trail provides the opportunity to appreciate the diversity of flora and fauna in the park while walking along this historic route.

Recommended Nearby Accommodation

If you’re planning to visit Cotapata National Park and enjoy its stunning natural beauty, we recommend considering these options for nearby accommodation:

  1. Lodges and Eco-Lodges: In the vicinity of the park, you’ll find lodges and eco-lodges that offer a close-to-nature experience. These accommodations are often immersed in natural environments and provide amenities for visitors while respecting and protecting the environment.
  2. Hostels and Hotels in Coroico: The city of Coroico, located near Cotapata National Park, offers a variety of hostels and hotels for different budgets. Here, you’ll find options to rest and enjoy local hospitality after a day of adventures in the park.
  3. Camping in Designated Areas: If you’re a nature and camping enthusiast, some areas of the park allow camping under certain restrictions and regulations. Make sure to get updated information about designated camping areas and necessary precautions.
  4. Community Tourism: Around the park, some local communities offer accommodation to visitors interested in experiencing everyday life and the culture of the region. These community tourism options will provide you with an authentic and unique experience.

Remember that it’s important to plan ahead and book your accommodation, especially during high season. Additionally, before you travel, make sure to familiarize yourself with the park’s policies and regulations and respect the environment and local culture during your stay. Enjoy your visit to this stunning tourist destination in Bolivia!

Management and Protection Policies of the Park

Role of the National Protected Areas Service (SERNAP)

The National Protected Areas Service (SERNAP) of Bolivia is responsible for the management and protection of Cotapata, ensuring its conservation for future generations.

Rules and Regulations for Visitors

It’s important to be aware of the park’s rules and regulations to ensure its conservation. We’ll provide you with a summary of the main rules to follow during your visit.

Local and National Conservation Efforts

Learn about the efforts being made at the local and national levels to conserve and protect this valuable ecosystem.

Research and Studies in Cotapata

Biodiversity Research

Discover ongoing research on Cotapata’s biodiversity and how these efforts contribute to the protection and conservation of the park.

Environmental Impact and Climate Change Studies

Explore the studies being conducted in Cotapata regarding environmental impact and climate change, and how these influence park management and conservation.

Archaeological and Anthropological Research

Learn about the archaeological and anthropological research taking place in Cotapata, and how these studies reveal valuable information about the rich history and culture of the region.

Indigenous Communities and Their Relationship with Cotapata Park

The indigenous communities surrounding Cotapata Park maintain a close and ancestral relationship with this protected area. These communities, whose cultural roots trace back generations, have established a deep and meaningful connection with the park and its natural environment. Among the indigenous communities that share this special relationship are:

  1. Quechua Community: The Quechua community has been an integral part of the history and culture of the region where the park is located. Its members have maintained ancestral traditions and knowledge that have been crucial for harmonious coexistence with nature.
  2. Aymara Community: The Aymara people are also part of daily life in the areas near the park. Their knowledge of the land and natural resources has been key to the sustainability and conservation of local biodiversity.
  3. Mosetén Community: This indigenous community has inhabited these lands for centuries and has developed a deep spiritual relationship with the natural environment. Their presence and cultural perspectives have contributed to enriching the protection and management of the park.
  4. Yuracaré Community: Known for their wisdom in using medicinal plants and their profound respect for nature, the Yuracaré people also have a special relationship with Cotapata and have been important allies in park conservation.

Photo Gallery