The area around Sucre is famous for its dinosaur footprints. There are two big sites to visit one just northeast of Sucre and one 60 kilometers west of Sucre. They are both worth a visit! The first site (the left picture) is the Parque Cretácico (Cal Orck’o), and the other site (the two pictures to the right) is from Valley de Marágua.
Site 1: Parque Cretácico (Cal Orck’o)
Cal Orcko is a paleontological site in Bolivia with a steep wall with thousands of dinosaur foot prints in it. The huge site is located on a cliff with a slope of 73 degrees, 80 meters (260 ft) high and 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) long. Foot prints of at least eight species of dinosaurs from upper cretaceous period are currently identified (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cal_Orcko). It is the only location of footprints that concentrates the footsteps of a wide variety of dinosaurs that lived at the end of the Cretaceous period. The footprints is the evidence, that in a short interval of time before the dinosaurs extinction, the diversity of dinosaurs was far greater than previously thought. These dinosaur’s footprints helped to reveal many secrets and findings from a number of dinosaur species.
Around 5055 individual dinosaur footprints of at least 8 species and 462 continuous traces are combined in the cliff (Source: http://parquecretacicosucre.com/). How did the footprints end up on a 73 degree cliff. Look at the left picture, for 68 to 65 million years this enormous cliff was once a riverbed, where the dinosaurs was walking the the lake to drink. Some dinosaurs like the Sauropodo like to walk back and forth to the lake, while other dinosaurs liked to follow the lake shore. With movement of the tectonic plates under the Earth, which are caused by liquid magma constantly moving around, those same riverbeds have risen to become the steep cliff, that we see today (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cal_Orcko). In the right picture you see four different kinds of dinosaurs and how their footprints look like.
The Parque Cretácico (Cal Orck’o) is a National Park, and cost 30 BOB person (4.5 USD or 28 DDK), which includes a tour down to the cliff, where you will get really close to the dinosaur tracks. Tour leaves at 11 am 12pm and 1 pm, so it is really important to get there in time for one of the tours. The tour is your only possibility to get close to the dinosaur tracks. The guides speak Spanish and English. The tour started with an explanation of the different dinosaur tracks, that you see in the upper right picture, after that we could walk along the wall and take pictures. In the picture to the right you can esily identify two different kinds of dinosaur tracks. The vertical big round ones are from the Sauropodo, and in the bottom you see the smaller horizontal footprints from the Ornitopodo.
Close up photos of sauropodo footprints
More dinosaur tracks going in different directions
The park also have replicas of several dinosaurs in real size and activities for kids – its pretty cool. There is not a lot of information, and some of it was difficult to understand, because of bad translations from Spanish to English. The place is especially worth a visit, f you are there in time for the tour. You learn about the different dinosaur tracks, which is really handy, if you are planning on visiting Valley de Marágua after.
Site 2: Valley de Marágua (includes 3 sites in total)
In the Valley de Marágua you get the change to explore the dinosaur on your own. It is a National Park, and if you meet the official park ranger out there t is 20 BOB per person. At the same time you will have to register your name and nationality in a book, and he will write you a receipt (there have been reports of false park rangers, so make sure you get a receipt).
Here is the map
From Sucre you drive west on route 6, and in Punilla just after the pay station you take a left. In the beginning the road is cobblestones, but as you leave the small town it turns into gravel and dust. We drove out there in our 2wd van without any problem in the dry season (the road was completely dry). We would not haven been able to go there, if it had been raining or if the road was wet, because the dust quickly turns into mud.
The last 2-3 kilometers are the worst. This is the view from the last part of the road – amazing!
The trail is 4.2 km one way, and we would recommend spending 3-4 hours including taking pictures. You can go any time of the day, but if you go in the afternoon, the shade in the dinosaur track will be visible creating a larger contrast. So the pictures we took in the afternoon the dinosaur track were more visible compared to the ones we took in the morning. The left picture was taken before lunch, and the right picture was taken in the afternoon, at Niñu Mayu of the same dinosaur track.
This is the first part of the trail leading down into the valley. You will pass by some small house, and we also met some local, who were asking for money. You only have to pay the park ranger, as an alternative you can buy bracelets or fossils form some of the locals.
The first site, that you will reach is the Niñu Mayu. This area has one large plate to the right and two smaller plates to the left. Here is an overview photo (look for the smooth and dark patches):
Photos from Niñu Mayu: footprints from the sauropodo in the two left pictures, and footprints from the ornitopodo
Then you leave the trail and walk down the hill on the right side of the canyon. You will reach the second site, which is spread over a larger area. Just enjoy and look for footprints, because they are almost everywhere on the smooth and dark surface. Especially the large footprints from the Sauropodo are easy to spot.
At these coordinates -19.074450, -65.472850 you will find the largest teropodo footprint in the world. It measures about 1.2 meters in length. It was absolutely amazing to find and to see this footprint! In comparison you have a Ornitopodo footprint in the right picture.
As you descent further into the valley, you will pass more of big footprints from the sauropodo
The third and the last big area of footprints is the Humaca site
Now you just have to walk all the way back, but wait I forgot the last footprint, we did find one of the anquilosauro – we think. You can try an compare it to the print in the right picture.
We walked back, and took a few pictures of the animals, that is alive today. Finding sheep footprints 68-65 million years out in the future, it just not as cool as finding dinosaur footprints today.
It was getting late and we decided to camp at the trailhead. We parked on what we thought was a parking lot for the trailhead, but it turned out, that it was the property of the church (it cost us 30 BOB to one of the locals). So remember just to park at the side of the narrow road like everybody else. Goodnight – see you in the next post were we are on the road in Bolivia driving towards La Paz.