- 1 Introduction to Tunari National Park
- 2 Geology
- 3 Ecology and Biodiversity
- 4 Main Attractions and Points of Interest
- 5 Activities and Experiences
- 6 Practical Information for Visitors
- 7 Cultural and Socioeconomic Impact
- 8 Scientific Research and Environmental Education
- 9 Current and Future Threats and Challenges
- 10 Photo Gallery
Discover on a fascinating journey through the Tunari National Park, the natural wonder located in the incredible Bolivian Andes. With its mighty mountain peaks, astonishing biodiversity, and a history rich in culture, this park provides a unique experience for adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, and knowledge-hungry travelers.
Introduction to Tunari National Park
Situated in the northwest of the Cochabamba department, Bolivia, with the Tunari mountain range as its most prominent geographical feature, this park offers an incredible diversity of landscapes, ranging from towering mountains and lush forests to serene Andean lakes, spanning several provinces and municipalities in the region. It is specifically located in the provinces of Ayopaya, Quillacollo, Tapacarí, Cercado, and Chapare.
The municipalities involved in the Tunari National Park are Independencia, Morochata, Tiquipaya, Quillacollo, Vinto, Colcapirhua, Sipe Sipe, Tapacarí, Cochabamba, Sacaba, Colomi, and Villa Tunari. These municipalities are part of the park’s influence area, integral to the ecosystem, and connected with local communities.
It falls within the approximate geographic coordinates of the reference quadrant. These coordinates are:
- South Latitude: 16° 54′ 17.1″ to 17° 33′ 26.6″
- West Longitude: 66° 44′ 09.03″ to 65° 54′ 18.3″
These coordinates define the geographical location of the park, encompassing a territory that extends within those ranges of latitude and longitude. It’s important to note that the provided coordinates are approximate and may slightly vary in different sources or geographic reference systems.
History and Recognition as a National Park
Tunari National Park was officially established on June 28, 1979, under the Spanish name "Parque Nacional Tunari", based on a solid legal foundation composed of Supreme Decree No. 6045, Law 253 of November 4, 1963, and Supreme Decree 15872 of August 6, 1978. These legal instruments were fundamental for the park’s recognition and establishment as an important protected area.
Subsequently, through Law 1262 of September 13, 1991, expansions were made to the park’s boundaries. This measure reflects the ongoing commitment to protect and preserve a larger territory within Tunari National Park, in order to safeguard its valuable biodiversity and unique ecosystems.
Located in the heart of Bolivia, the park spans approximately 309,091 hectares, which is equivalent to around 3,090 square kilometers. Its geographic coordinates range from 65°55′ to 66°44′ west longitude and from 16°55′ to 17°34′ south latitude. This extensive terrain hosts a remarkable diversity of landscapes and ecosystems, making it a unique and privileged place for nature conservation and an enriching experience for visitors.
It was created with a set of clear objectives in mind. Among the main objectives of its establishment are:
- Protection of Water Resources: The park aims to safeguard and preserve the water sources within its territory. This includes the protection of rivers, streams, and lakes, as well as the conservation of aquatic ecosystems that depend on these resources.
- Conservation of Forested Areas: The park seeks to ensure the preservation of the valuable forests it houses. These forests play a crucial role in carbon capture, biodiversity conservation, and soil protection. The conservation of these forested areas contributes to maintaining ecosystem health and balance.
- Promotion of Reforestation Efforts: It also aims to promote reforestation in areas that have been impacted by human activities or natural disasters. Planting native trees and restoring degraded areas are key actions to improve ecosystem health and maintain biological diversity.
In terms of management category, Tunari National Park has been designated as a "National Park." This category implies that the protected area is of great importance for nature conservation and has special management and protection measures. As a National Park, the goal is to preserve the natural and cultural values of the area while allowing visitor access and enjoyment under regulations and restrictions established to minimize negative impacts on the natural environment.
Total Protected Area
According to the Park’s Creation Law, its area was established at approximately 300,000 hectares.
However, digital Geographic Information System (GIS) files may provide a slightly different measurement. According to these files, the protected area is approximately 328,878 hectares.
It’s important to note that differences in measurements could be due to different calculation methods or updates made in geographic information over time. In any case, both figures reflect the extensive area of the park, which is a valuable protected space for biodiversity conservation and nature enjoyment.
It’s part of the physiographic province of the Eastern Cordillera in Bolivia. Geomorphologically, it consists of a variety of features, including ridges, mountains, hills, and plains.
The park extends across a wide altitudinal range, ranging from 2,200 meters above sea level to 4,400 meters above sea level. This variation in altitude contributes to the diversity of landscapes and ecosystems found within the park.
It encompasses both the region of Mesothermal Dry Valleys and the Tunari mountain range. These areas represent different life zones, each with its own ecological and biological characteristics. The combination of mountainous areas and inter-Andean valleys creates a unique environment with high biodiversity.
The park’s region is also important in terms of water resources. With a watershed system, it provides water for agricultural lands and supplies the city of Cochabamba. Protecting these resources is essential for maintaining environmental sustainability and water supply for the surrounding region.
It’s part of the Amazon River macrobasin, meaning it’s located in a region that contributes to the Amazon River watershed. The park consists of three main basins: the Beni, Grande (also known as Guapay), and Sécure rivers.
Water flows through these basins and the microbasins of the Tunari mountain range, forming two main watersheds. The northern watershed of the park contributes water to two hydrographic systems of the Amazon River basin. These are the Beni River to the northwest and the Mamoré River to the northeast, through the Chapare River. These rivers are important tributaries of the Amazon River and play a crucial role in the region’s hydrological system.
On the other hand, the southern watershed of Tunari National Park is composed of the microbasins on the southern slope. These microbasins contribute water to the Rocha River basin and also feed underground deposits in the valleys through infiltration. The Rocha River is an important river in the Cochabamba region, and its basin is vital for supplying water to agricultural lands and the city of Cochabamba.
Tunari’s hydrology plays a vital role in water provision and ecosystem balance both within and outside the park. Conserving these basins and protecting water resources is of utmost importance for maintaining environmental sustainability and the well-being of local communities.
It presents different climatic characteristics depending on altitude and geographical location. On the slopes, the climate is temperate or mesothermal, with annual precipitation levels below 600 mm. This zone corresponds to the Inter-Andean Dry Valleys region, where temperatures are usually moderate.
In contrast, in the mountainous areas of the park, the climate is cold and humid. Here, the average annual precipitation reaches around 1,200 mm. Temperatures in these areas tend to be lower due to altitude and the influence of the Tunari mountain range.
These climatic differences contribute to the diversity of ecosystems and microclimates within Tunari National Park. The Inter-Andean dry valleys are conducive to vegetation adapted to drier conditions, while the mountainous areas host forests and other wetter ecosystems.
Ecology and Biodiversity
It encompasses and is located within three main ecoregions: the Northern Puna, the Yungas, and the Inter-Andean Dry Forests.
Northern Puna is an ecoregion characterized by its high altitude and cold climate. It is found in the highest areas of the Andes and consists of high-altitude grasslands and vegetation adapted to extreme conditions. The park significantly contributes to this ecoregion, covering about 71% of its total area. Conserving this sector of the park is of great importance for preserving Northern Puna ecosystems.
On the other hand, Yungas is an ecoregion known for its high biodiversity and humid climate. They are found on the eastern slopes of the Andes and are characterized by cloud forests and a wide variety of plant and animal species. Although it has a smaller extent in comparison to the Northern Puna, it remains an important contributor to this ecoregion.
Inter-Andean Dry Forests are an ecoregion found in the lower areas of the Andes and characterized by a drier climate. This ecoregion features vegetation adapted to semi-arid conditions and a diversity of species adapted to drought. It also plays an important role in conserving this ecoregion, contributing to its preservation and protection.
Within the park, two distinct phytogeographic zones can be identified in the Tunari mountain range.
The first zone corresponds to the slopes, encompassing the valleys and semi-arid mountains of the mountain range. In this zone, vegetation is characterized by a xerophytic tree layer, where species such as molle (Schinus molle), algarrobo (Prosopis juliflora), k’inhi (Acacia macracantha), kishuara (Buddleja hypoleuca), and thola (Baccharis dracunculifolia) are found. These species are adapted to dry conditions and high temperatures, allowing them to survive in semi-arid environments.
The second phytogeographic zone is found in the lands of the Semihumid High Andean floor, corresponding to the mountain region of Tunari Park. In this zone, one can observe grasslands on the slopes and belts of trees and shrubs in the lower areas. Among the most representative species are kewiña (Polylepis besseri) and highland kishuara (Buddleja coriacea). The subspecies Polylepsis besseri subtusalbida, exclusive to the Tunari mountain range and found in kewiña forests, stands out. These trees and shrubs contribute to the formation of a unique ecosystem in the mountain region.
The park is home to various species of fauna, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. So far, 30 species of mammals, 163 species of birds, two species of reptiles, and two species of amphibians have been identified.
Among the birds inhabiting the kewiña (Polylepis spp.) forests of the park, four endemic species have been recorded: Oreotrochilus adela, Aglaeactis pamela, Asthemes heterura, and Poospiza garlepi. It’s important to highlight that Poospiza garlepi is endangered. Additionally, vulnerable species like Sicalis luteocephala, Saltator rufiventris, Oreomanes fraseri, and Diglossa carbonaria can be found. The presence of Leptastenura yanacensis, a species with high research and conservation priority, is also notable.
Ecological Importance and Conservation
The Park plays a crucial role in the conservation of mountain ecosystems, serving as an important refuge for threatened fauna and flora. Its preservation is essential for the environmental sustainability of the region and for maintaining ecological balance.
Main Attractions and Points of Interest
Summit of Cerro Tunari
The summit of Cerro Tunari, the highest mountain in the Cochabamba Cordillera, is one of the main attractions of the park. It offers visitors an incredible panoramic view of the surroundings and an unforgettable hiking experience.
The park is home to numerous high-altitude Andean lakes, all of them of stunning beauty. Each one offers a unique landscape and experience, from tranquil blue waters to shores surrounded by wildlife.
The Puya Raimondii Forest
Tunari National Park is also home to one of the world’s rarest forests, the Puya Raimondii forest (in Spanish: El Bosque de Puya Raimondii). These endemic plants, some of which can reach heights of up to 10 meters, are a breathtaking sight and a true marvel of nature.
Activities and Experiences
Hiking and Trekking
It offers a wide variety of hiking and trekking routes, varying in difficulty and duration. Trails take visitors through diverse landscapes, from dense forests to mountain summits and picturesque lakes.
Thanks to its rich biodiversity, the park is a paradise for bird watchers. With a little patience and luck, visitors can spot some of Bolivia’s rarest and most beautiful bird species.
For photographers, the park is a dream come true. Its stunning landscapes, wildlife, and unique light offer endless opportunities to capture amazing images.
Practical Information for Visitors
How to Get to Tunari National Park
It’s accessible from the city of Cochabamba, located in the center of Bolivia. Here are some options to get to the park:
- By Car: From Cochabamba, you can take the road northwest towards the provinces of Ayopaya, Quillacollo, Tapacarí, Cercado, and Chapare, which encompass the park. Make sure to have an updated map and follow directions to reach the different areas of the park you wish to visit.
- By Public Transport: You can take a bus from Cochabamba to nearby towns around Tunari National Park, such as Quetena Chico, Quetena Grande, Polques, or Huayllajara. Once in these towns, you can access the park through local transportation services or hikes, depending on the exact location you want to explore.
- Organized Tours: Another option is to join an organized tour from Cochabamba. These tours usually include transportation from the city to the park, tour guides, and can provide you with a more comfortable and comprehensive experience.
Remember that it’s advisable to plan your trip in advance, check road conditions, and follow safety guidelines. Additionally, it’s recommended to consult up-to-date information about routes and park access, as they may be subject to changes.
Best Time to Visit
The climate in Tunari National Park varies throughout the year, but generally, the driest months between May and September are considered the best time to visit. However, each season offers its own wonders and unique experiences.
Accommodations Near the National Park
There are several accommodation options near the park, ranging from luxury hotels to rustic campsites. It’s recommended to make reservations in advance, especially during the high season.
|40 and 150
|40 and 120
|Community Hostel Volcán Licancabur
|50, 70 and 130
|Hostal Rumi Tambo
|35 and 80
|Polques Community Center (Quetena Grande community project)
|Hostal Árbol de Piedra
|30 and 150
|Hostal Los Andes
|30 to 35
|Hostal Rincón de Huayllajara
|30, 40 and 130
|35, 40 and 130
|Hostal Luna Dorada
|35, 110, 120 and 130
|35 and 125
|Hostal Laguna Colorada
Park Regulations and Safety Recommendations
The park has several regulations in place to protect its fragile ecosystem. It’s important for all visitors to familiarize themselves with these regulations and follow safety recommendations to ensure a safe and environmentally respectful visit.
Cultural and Socioeconomic Impact
Relationship with Local Communities
It’s an integral part of local communities, many of which rely on the park for their livelihoods and economic development. Park management actively involves local communities in decision-making and the implementation of conservation and sustainable development programs.
Contribution to Tourism and the Local Economy
Tourism has generated economic opportunities for local communities. The presence of visitors has led to the creation of tourism services such as accommodations, restaurants, and tour guides, creating employment and contributing to the region’s economic growth.
Scientific Research and Environmental Education
Current and Past Research Projects
Tunari has been the subject of numerous scientific research projects that have contributed to understanding and conserving its biodiversity. These projects cover studies on flora, fauna, hydrology, and climate change, among other topics.
Environmental Education Programs
The park promotes environmental education programs targeting both visitors and local communities. These programs aim to raise awareness about the importance of conservation and encourage sustainable practices in tourism and the use of natural resources.
Current and Future Threats and Challenges
Climate change poses a significant threat to the park and the Tunari region. Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events can affect the park’s ecosystems and wildlife, endangering its long-term conservation.
Urbanization and Development
Urban growth and development in areas surrounding the park can exert pressure on natural resources and Tunari’s ecosystems. Deforestation, pollution, and habitat fragmentation are significant challenges that require proper management to mitigate their impacts.
Conservation and Development Plans
Long-term conservation plans are in place that include measures to protect and restore ecosystems, promote community involvement, and strengthen park management. These plans aim to ensure the park’s sustainability and biodiversity for future generations.
Sustainability Initiatives and Environmental Responsibility
Initiatives are being implemented to promote sustainability and environmental responsibility in Tunari National Park. This includes promoting sustainable tourism practices, proper waste management, and environmental education for visitors and local communities.