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“World Class, Not Yet Discovered” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Refugio Los Volcanes

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Refugio Los Volcanes
Southern Part of Amboro National Park | East of Samaipata, Samaipata, Bolivia   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #2 of 2 hotels in Samaipata
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
15 hotel reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
“World Class, Not Yet Discovered”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 25, 2013

If you stay at El Refugio, don’t tell anyone about it. My estimate is that only 4,000 visitors arrive each year, and once the word gets out – once the guidebook authors actually spend some time here -- the waiting list for one of the seven rooms may number 10,000. So far, it seems that mostly French tourists have discovered the place.

As I tell my Arizona friends, this is Sedona on steroids, with jungle. The scenery astounds you. There are hiking trails, where you can see the flora and fauna (mostly birds and butterflies) from different perspectives. Or, you can just sit in one place, or lie in a hammock, and watch the colors change every few moments as the movement of sun and clouds changes the light. It is like immersion into an Impressionist painting.

Listen to the small waterfall behind the dining room, or to the birds in the surrounding trees, when you can hear them above the chatter of the French tourists, who talk because it is their nature not to listen.

The notice on the door of your room advises in Spanish that there are poisonous insects and animals in the vicinity, but the greatest danger to your health is probably overeating. The food is plentiful and good. They will serve you more than you should eat, and you will feel compelled to consume all of it because it is included in the price, and tastes great. Meals are not gourmet cuisine, but the kind of home cooking that you would expect to find in an upper-class Bolivian home.

They tell me cell phones work here if you stand in the right place, but shame on you if you bring one unless it is just to be used as a camera. The outside world can wait. There are no overhead wires, but plenty of electricity, from solar with hydro as backup, which means plenty of hot water at the showerhead.

El Refugio is halfway between Santa Cruz and Samaipata, so it should be indexed to both places. To get there: A Toyota taxi took me to the top of one of the hills overlooking the valley. The last few kilometers are a really bad road. You then transfer to a Suzuki four-wheel drive for the exhilarating ride downhill to the lodge. This in itself was worth the cost of admission. Think “Raiders of the Lost Ark” meets “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

A couple of more energetic guests sent their luggage ahead in the “jeep” – every 4wd vehicle in Bolivia is called that – and hiked down. That is probably a better way to see more, instead of relying on the hiking trails.

If you live somewhere that stars are seldom seen, allow time in the evening for astronomy. Bring a map of the Southern constellations.

Room Tip: Checkout time is whenever the ride uphill is available. I had to wait four hours, having arrived at...
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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23 people have reviewed this hotel

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (6)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Texas
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2013

The Refugio is a small lodge just outside the amboro national park. It's simple but very well done. The landscape is just jaw dropping and we really couldn't get enough. I would return in a heart beat and recommend this secluded place (45minute drive from the main road) to anybody.

  • Stayed July 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bradford, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
31 reviews 31 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

A very magical, wonderful place to stay. Incredibly beautiful surroundings, lovely staff, great food... It couldn't have been more perfect. We were taken on several walks through the forest by a local guide who pointed out lots of plants, trees, birds and animals. We swam in the river under the waterfall, and at night marvelled at the Milky Way.

We booked our 2 night trip directly with the Refugio, they arranged a taxi to and from the Refugio from Santa Cruz, and it worked out much cheaper than doing a tour. We agreed with the taxi driver to go to El Fuerte on our way back, an extra couple of hours driving, and maybe not really worth it.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Weaverville, North Carolina
Top Contributor
73 reviews 73 reviews
47 hotel reviews
Reviews in 50 cities Reviews in 50 cities
55 helpful votes 55 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

We were on a birding trip to Bolivia and spent two nights here. It is wonderful. The rooms were nice, but simple. Water was hot and the beds were comfortable. A porch surrounds all of the tooms. The dining area is about 150 yards from the rooms and is situated at the egse of a stream. Food was good, service was great and the wine was nice and reasonable in cost. The surroundings are amazing and have to be seen to be believed. Several hiking trails that are excellent for bird watching and general natural history etc. All the people that worked there were friendly and helpful.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oslo, Norway
Contributor
16 reviews 16 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
37 helpful votes 37 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 20, 2013

I decided to come one day earlier, and due to the geological situation the connection to the outside world is very limited, and there is only a small window in which some signals get through and you might have a conversation. As I left Santa Cruz I had not been able to get word through of my early arrival, and had to get some fireworks as a back-up.

Yes - if you come unanounced and want to be picked up by car, you'd better send off your "Hey - I need a lift" firework at the gate. Vincente will immediately jump into the jeep and come for you! If not it's a very long and steep walk to carry your luggage.

Fortunately word of my early arrival seemed to have reached the lodge, as Vincente was waiting for me at the gate.

And what a gate! Not the gate per-se, but the fact that the very first glimpse of the incredible park is at the gate. The red walls and the shape of the mountains is hypnotizing! This is also the only place you can see the park at this elevation. The only lookout point inside the park is at a much lower altitude. This is not because they do not want to provide one, but due to the geology it's impossible unless you have hugely invasive constructions set up. This means that if you are greeted with fog on your way in, you'll have another opportunity when you leave.

Just inside the park you immediately see that this is a very well run and maintained operation, as the road was being upgraded, and the sides pruned.

The fact that I saw Military Macaws just minutes after I entered the park was indicative of what was to come the next 3 days!

The operation was incredibly friendly, professional, attentive and efficient.

A light bulb was dead in my room and the second Vincente heard of it he went for a new one and it was fixed.

The food was a joy after weeks of varying quality and tastes throughout Bolivia. They have a traditional oven outside the kitchen/restaurant and one evening we were sharing a really pleasant time with Vincente and Benita preparing excellent pizzas.

Staying here was like being a guest at a friend's house - so relaxing, and everything was possible - not a single "no" was uttered. I was taken care of and catered to in the best possible way.

The fact that you hardly get any radio signal here or mobile coverage (there is a tiny and unstable connection outside the room with the tree right next to it, but if you move just a bit you end up terminating the link. You need to stand on the rail and lean out, so it's hard to keep still), makes this place really special in the sea of human activities on this planet.

Here you still feel nature rules, and the sheer cliffs are a constant reminder of who's boss here. You cannot climb to any of the tops, as the cliffs are utterly vertical and I was told professional climbers have searched for possible routes, but have given up due to the risks with this kind of rock face. This means that all mammals have to use the same routes throughout, and thus you can see them if you are patient at particularly the narrow gorges.

Photos: http://www.ross.no/communicate/tag/refugio-los-volcanes/

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled solo
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bromont, Canada
Top Contributor
97 reviews 97 reviews
33 hotel reviews
Reviews in 32 cities Reviews in 32 cities
53 helpful votes 53 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 2, 2012

What if you could drive two hours, stop, look through the branches and see a flat clearing in the jungle woods surrounded by high cliffs making it a natural fortress. And what if you could leave your luggage up there and walk to the clearing, going by waterfalls, while they drive your heavy stuff down there, directly to your room.

This is Refugio de los Volcanes, situated a two-hour drive from either Santa Cruz or Samaipata. We got there through Ben Verhoef Tours (Samaipata), but you may also try to directly contact Albert (the owner) on the web.

This place is actually as described and is unbelievably beautiful. Even if there were no guided activities (observation hikes mainly, you may also swim), just sitting on your room porch and look at the environment would justify the price. This is a good place to see condors, loros, oropendolas, monkeys even toucans. The nature walks are interesting and can be planned with your guide. This is chaco forest (not quite rain forest) with all kinds of curiosities, making for a good ecology review (mutualism, parasitism, adaptation, opportunity). There are beautiful orchids also. I felt like going there with kids would be a real treat for them.

Rooms are simple, but you just don't care. You will not stay in your room, except for sleeping. You'll be contemplating and watching outside all the time with your eyes, binoculars, cameras.
The building where all the rooms are is surrounded by a comfortable porch with chairs and hammocks. The other building along the river is where you eat. Good food in quality and quantity. There is a traditional oven outside where they cook bread. They made pizza one night in this oven and it was priceless.

Absolute highlight of our one month trip to Bolivia.

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Victoria BC
Top Contributor
66 reviews 66 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 28 cities Reviews in 28 cities
64 helpful votes 64 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 24, 2012

We stayed here for a weekend at the end of 5 weeks of travel in Peru and Bolivia. Unbelievable. The most beautiful jungle I've visited. The owner was there at the same time as us, (Albert, originally from Germany); he comes every weekend. Try to go on the weekend as meeting him really adds a lot to your stay. He's an amazing host, serving us delicious Bolvian red wine, funny stories and amazing insider info on Bolivia. Although it was not orchid season, we found about 12 different species in flower (there are at least a hundred species in the surrounding forest so I suspect some are always in flower). The terrain is interesting to hike and the vegetation varies a lot from one hill to another, depending on drainage, soil composition and position. Wonderful butterflies and birds and insects, but few mosquitoes. Accommodation quiet and clean. Food lovely. We paid $195 US each for two people for two nights, three days including transfers there and back (it's a bit remote, not really in Samaipata at all though it's listed on trip Advisor as being there). Don't pay more than this. Some travel agencies in Santa Cruz will quote you two or three times this price. Greedy. We used Ben Verhoef tours in Samaipata to book and he seems to have the most reasonable rates. If you love nature, dramatic natural settings, flowers, butterflies, hiking, treat yourself and stay here. It will be an unforgettable experience, even with all the expectations I've just created by praising it to the sky.

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Refugio Los Volcanes

Address: Southern Part of Amboro National Park | East of Samaipata, Samaipata, Bolivia
Location: Bolivia > Santa Cruz Department > Samaipata
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 2 hotels in Samaipata
Also Known As:
Refugio Los Volcanes Bolivia/Samaipata

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