Much to our surprise, Bolivia turned out to be one of our favourite countries. We didn’t know a lot about it before our visit except for understanding that it’s a very poor country, has some social and infrastructural challenges and tends to be a bit like marmite with travellers. As we’d journeyed through South America some people regaled us with stories of terrible food poisoning, scary experiences of theft and plenty of difficulties in travelling around Bolivia. It’s safe to say that our expectations were fairly low, although I knew there were some pretty cool things to see and it was also going to be the location where we were spending my 29th birthday, so I kept an open mind and was pleasantly surprised.
We arrived fresh from our 24 hours in San Pedro De Atacama and loved our 3 days in the salt flats which were our first stop in Bolivia. It was after this point that I started to realise that this country was up there with he most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The landscapes are just unreal and so diverse. I could wax lyrical about the beauty of Bolivia all day, but I appreciate I’m supposed to be writing about finding dinosaur footprints in Bolivia so I’ll move on!
Now, a little bit of prior research had shown up that Bolivia is quite an important place when it comes to dinosaur discoveries and I was very keen to take time to find out more about this while we were there. Both me and Rob were big dinosaur fans as children, to the extent that Rob still recognises pretty much every species you can describe, so we were set on visiting Bolivia’s dinosaur highlights. The first of these is the Parque Cretácico in Sucre and the second is a more extensive trip outside of the city to see some dinosaur footprints up close.
Visiting Parque Cretácico
First stop, the famous dinosaur park. Located just outside the city of Sucre, our favourite Bolivian city, it’s a kind of theme park crossed with a museum. There are giant dinosaur models dotted around, many of which have convincingly realistic sound effects, but also some interesting exhibits of discoveries of dinosaurs and dinosaur footprints in Bolivia. We had a guided tour which was well worth doing and got to learn a lot more about the history of paleontology in the area. Our guide took us through the different main species of dinosaur that have been discovered to have lived in Bolivia, and showed us a lot of fossils.
The real highlight of the park though is in the adjacent quarry. There’s an enormous cliff face that’s liberally peppered with dinosaur footprints from many different species. Sadly it was too late in the day for us to take the tour out to see them a bit closer, but you can use telescopes to see them more clearly. If I’m honest, this wasn’t quite the amazing discovering dinosaur footprints in Bolivia experience we’d been hoping for. They are after all, located in an active quarry and you’re viewing them from several hundred metres away, but if you’re a dinosaur fan it’s still pretty cool.
Dinosaur Footprints in Bolivia – Close Up
Excitingly, on my actual birthday, we were able to take the famous hike to see dinosaur footprints up close and personal. I know we’re pretty geeky, but I have to say this was amazing! We hiked for a couple of hours through more of those dreamy Bolivian landscapes until we reached a large field with a plateau of rock extending through it. This was the place. Millions of years ago this had been the site of many dinosaurs in Bolivia and it’s believed that the area has been preserved having been a lake bed. It was hard to believe as we walked around and even sat in the footprints that actual dinosaurs had walked here so many years before!
The dinosaur footprints in the Bolivian mountainside range from tiny, hard to spot impressions to huge prints that fit two or three people inside them. You get a sense of scale that’s entirely different from seeing skeletons or models, not to mention that the setting for the experience is incredible. Hiking to these footprints was one of the highlights of our travels and was the best birthday I could have hoped for! If you’re a dinosaur geek this is an essential experience!
Dinosaur Discoveries & Research in Bolivia
Sadly there’s a lot of controversy and plenty of issues when it comes to dinosaurs in Bolivia and how the footprints and fossils are being preserved. I mean, half of them are in an active quarry where dynamite explosions literally blow them apart as mining takes place. Whilst some have been removed and preserved, more extensive preservation just isn’t considered financially feasible or even much of a priority. That’s what we understand from what we heard on our visit anyway. People are trying and the museum at Parque Cretácico is of course helping to preserve key fossils and skeletons. Really though, it’s kind of shocking that you can just wander up and sit in the footprints in the hillside and they’re just open to the elements with no preservation at all taking place.
I guess when it comes to sustainable travel this is a tricky one and some people may not feel comfortable visiting the sites associated with dinosaurs in Bolivia which is completely understandable. For us, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to see them while they’re still there and to have such a unique experience.