Maragua Crater: Hiking Among Dinosaurs

One of the best things to do in Sucre is to hike to Maragua Crater. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information on how to do this. And I was unable to locate the complete trail on maps.me. So, I bit the bullet and did what I usually never do! I booked a tour. And I chose Condor Trekkers. They had an excellent reputation in the community and there was a group looking for an extra hiker. Needless to say, I signed up, and it turned out to be one of the best hikes I did during my time in Bolivia.

Below you will find my experience hiking to Maragua Crater with Condor Trekkers. At the end of this article, I’ve included tips to help you plan your trip!

Large Dinosaur Footprint on the Hike to Maragua Crater in BoliviaPin
Dinosaur Footprint!

Day 1: Hike to Chaunaca

I stood outside Condor Trekkers with several other hikers waiting for our guide. This part of guided tours always makes me uncomfortable. I had to introduce myself, but everyone was looking at the floor trying not to make eye contact. I, eventually, mustered up the courage, turned to the couple next to me, and introduced myself.

They replied with a smile and also introduced themselves. They were a French couple (Elodie and David) who were in the middle of their world trip. As we got to talking, our guide, Manuel arrived with the minivan. The van was already full, but only 6 of us were doing the full 3-day trek.

After about an hour we arrived at the trailhead, Chataquila, and divided into our respective groups. Manuel, then, gave us a briefing while we devoured homemade cakes and hot chocolate. He warned us that a storm was coming, and we’d have to hurry. But, first, we had to pay our respects to the Pachamama (Mother Earth).

An alter in her honor had been built inside a stone church at Chataquila. And this was where that we made our offerings and asked for good weather.

With the Pachamama watching over us, we began hiking along a stone trail. Manuel mentioned that this part of the hike was, actually, an Inca trail.

Alter of the Pachamama on the hike to Maragua CraterPin
The Pachamama

After an hour, the stone path turned to dirt and we found ourselves at a viewpoint. As Manuel was telling the history of the area, thick gray clouds began to engulf the mountains. Then, within the blink of an eye, the sky boomed with thunder and the sky opened, releasing buckets of water. We immediately took refuge in a small wooden taxi stand. With no hope of leaving anytime soon, we introduced ourselves. There was the French couple, that I already knew, an English girl (Leslie), and a father and son from Germany (Simon and Stephan). We sat in the makeshift taxi stand for an hour telling disaster hiking stories.

Eventually, Manuel suggested that we call it quits for the day. There was a small town called Chaunaca not more than 10 minutes away that had a cabin where we could sleep. Without a second thought, we all agreed!

We waited for a break in the storm and rushed to Chaunaca. When we arrived, we were greeted by the town elders, two sisters, who were both over 100 years old! They only spoke Quechua and luckily Manual was fluent. He said we could stay, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the locals. We agreed and they showed us to our cabin.

The afternoon was spent playing cards as the storm consumed the valley below. By the time the storm passed, it was time for bed.

Stunning Landscapes on the Hike to Maragua Crater in BoliviaPin
Beautiful Landscapes

Day 2: Maragua Crater

The next day, we woke up to beautiful weather. The morning sun had even dried the trial!

After breakfast, we bid farewell to Chaunaca and began hiking to the Maragua Crater. We passed picturesque valleys and crossed narrow pathways. Some of the passages were so small we could only cross one at a time. And, after 3 hours, we stopped for lunch at an overpass.

Interesting fact: In fact, Condor Trekkers provide a vegetarian cooking course for all their guides. Their goal is to promote sustainable tourism while giving back to the community. So, it’s a win-win!

After lunch, we continued to the mysterious Maragua Crater.

When we arrived, the crater was guarded by two women weaving black and red tapestries. Once we paid the entrance fee (10 BOB), we hiked to the viewpoint. From here we could see that the crater covered an area further than our eyes could see.

Manuel pointed out that the origin of the Maragua Crater is not volcanic. It was, actually, formed after thousands of years of erosion creating what is known in geology as a syncline.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town and admiring the landscape. As the sun began to set, we retreated to our cabin to take a much-needed shower.

Panoramic view of the Maragua CraterPin
Maragua Crater!

Day 3: Dinosaur Footprints and Back to Sucre

The final day began at 4 am. We devoured our final breakfast and started the long journey to Potolo.

The ascent out the crater proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I was out of breath before the sun rose!

At the top, we took one last look at the Maragua Crater and began hiking to the dinosaur footprints.

We were headed to the largest excavation site, Ninu Mayu.

And, while it added an extra 5km (3 miles), I was excited to see these elusive footprints. On arrival, we paid the 10 BOB entrance fee and ate lunch while Manuel talked about the footprints. He explained that, even in Ninu Mayu, they suspect there are more dinosaur footprints. But, at the request of the local communities, they remain buried.

It was impressive to stand where dinosaurs had once roamed. Not only that, they had retained their form after thousands of years!

Dinosaur Footprints Observed on the Hike to Maragua Crater in BoliviaPin
More Dinosaur Footprints!

Short on time, we continued, following the valley above the Pilcomayo River to Potolo.

We passed local herdsmen and wooden farmhouses set against red and turquoise mountains. And, after 2 hours, we arrived at our destination.

Potolo was larger than the other villages, but only home to a few hundred people. In fact, it serves as a transportation hub for the area with several buses departing to Sucre per day.

The bus stop was conveniently situated in the town center next to the church. And, as we waited for the bus, an elderly gentleman greeted us with one final surprise, homemade lemon cake! We bought every piece he had and devoured it on the ride back to Sucre.

As the bus pulled into Sucre, I reflected on my ‘anti-guide’ mentality. I never would have had such an enriching experience alone. While solo travel is always an adventure, this group trip was a lot of fun. I had the unique opportunity to see small towns and meet locals that I would not have been able to do alone. Sometimes trying new things will surprise you!

Tips for Hiking to Maragua Crater with Condor Trekkers

The hike to the Maragua Crater was one of the best hikes I did in Bolivia. Below are some tips to help you plan your adventure.

  • Pack light. You will need to help your guide carry food. Filtered water is provided every day.
  • Bring extra layers. During the day, temperatures soar, but then, at sunset, it plummets. Check out my guide to packing for a hike.
  • Be aware of altitude sickness. Altitude sickness occurs when you go from sea level to elevations over 2500 meters (8202 ft) in a short timeframe. Symptoms range from a throbbing headache to extreme nausea. Since you will hike higher than 3000 meters (9842 ft), you should be acclimatized beforehand.
  • Waterproof everything. When it rains, it rains. Make sure you have a waterproof jacket and hiking backpack. You can line your backpack with trash bags if you don’t have waterproof gear.
  • Condor Trekkers offer several hikes to Maragua Crater. A 4-day trek costs 800 BOB ($117 USD). A 3-day trek costs 650 BOB ($95 USD). And a 2 -day trek costs 550 BOB ($80 USD). All meals are included. I did the 3-day trek, and I was happy with everything.
  • Avoid taking photos of the locals. It’s considered offensive. Don’t be disrespectful.
  • Leave no trace. What you take in, take out.
  • Entrance fees. There is a fee to enter the Maragua Crater and to see the dinosaur footprints. Be sure to bring extra BOB (10 BOB for each entrance.).
  • Coca leaves. They can be used to treat altitude sickness. But, they are not sold in the villages along the hike. If you need coca tea, you will have to buy the leaves in Sucre.

If you decide to hike to Maragua Crater without a guide, make sure to carry a GPS. Your GPS should be able to contact the local authorities in case of an emergency. Also, note that the hiking trail is not indicated at any point during the hike. It often diverges in many directions, and you will get lost without a navigation system. When I looked on maps.me, the trail is only partially marked. Make sure to do your research before deciding to do this hike without a guide


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Have questions about the hike to Maragua Crater? Send me a message in the comments below!

Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips.


2 Comments

    • Yeah, it was really cool to see them in person. I’m quite surprised they were so many! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

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