Tarija or San Bernardo de la Frontera de Tarija is a city in southern Bolivia. Founded in 1574, Tarija is both the capital and largest city within the Tarija Department, with an airport (TJA) offering regular service to primary Bolivian cities, as well as a regional bus terminal with domestic and international connections. Its climate is Mediterranean (similar to the Bolivian cities of Cochabamba and Sucre), in contrast to the harsh cold of the Altiplano (i.e., La Paz) and humid heat of the Amazon Basin (i.e., Santa Cruz de la Sierra). Tarija has a population of 170,900 (2006 official estimate).
The city and valley of present-day Tarija was first occupied by Western Hemispheric indigenous groups, such as, the Churumatas and the Tomatas, among others. Subsequently, the Inca Empire – administered by the Quechua civilization – conquered these territories and dispersed the Churumatas and other local groups over wide territories of the Andes. Mitimaes is the Quechuan name that the Incas used for the resisting ethnic groups they uprooted and then dispersed geographically. When the Spanish conquerors and colonials first arrived to the valley of Tarija, they encountered several stone roads, most likely the remnants of pre-Incaic cultures, such as that of the Churumatas. However, during that period, the presence of indigenous peoples remained sparse within the valley. Several of the pre-Incaic roads and trials have been preserved, and currently function as a walking trail for Tarijenos.
Upon arrival to the city from its Oriel Lea Plaza airport, one will be greeted by a sign that reads, "Tarija, La Capital de la Sonrisa" ("Tarija, The Capital of Smiles") referring to the city's purported, warm hospitality and friendly inhabitants. For many Tarijeños, the city's main plaza is regarded as a picturesque and pleasant place to take a break or stroll around. The plaza is aligned with restaurants of various cuisines, local handicraft shops, and internet cafes within the immediate vicinity. Within immediate walking distance is the public market, a university campus, and a number of sights including the world-renowned Paleantology Museum of Tarija City. The public water supply, while still not potable by North American or Western European standards, is relatively clean in contrast to other Bolivian cities of equal or larger size.
Tarija is also known for its various forms of youth entertainment. A small attraction is the famed Plazuela Sucre, which attracts all young people in the area. There are also various high-quality restaurants, such as El Gato Pardo, and Cafe Moca. There are also various fast food restaurants (McDonalds, Kukis, and Homeros). The small town is also not lacking nightlife. Clubs such as Vertigo and Bunker can keep any vacationing peoples busy, despite roughness one might encounter from natives there.
From Tarija, primary destinations and land routes coincide with the cardinal directions: Paraguay/the Gran Chaco, to the east via Yacuiba; Argentina, to the south via Bermejo, Yacuiba or Villazón; Tupiza/the Salar de Uyuni, to the west via Villazón; and the central cities of Bolivia, to the north via Potosí.
Tarija's land and climate are adequate for grape and wine production. The Festival of Wine and Cheese is held annually in Tarija. The San Jacinto Dam is located a few kilometers south of Tarija. Also, the Chorros de Jurina falls, located a few kilometers from the city, is an enjoyable and popular local outing.
Tarijeños enjoy a relaxed lifestyle and are sometimes particularly proud of a lackadaisical approach to punctuality. A two-hour siesta is practiced daily starting at midday. During the siesta, most offices and shops are closed and the city streets are emptied, all the while, families reunite to eat lunch followed by a short nap.