Your lungs will know you’re near Sucre well before you see its pretty streets.
At a mere 2,800 meters above sea level, arriving to Sucre from its dizzying neighbours (La Paz at 3,800m, Potosi at 4,000m or Uyuni at 3,600m) feels like you’ve rejuvenated 10 years overnight. Your lungs work freely, you walk uphill like a mountain goat and your appetite is back with alarming impetus.
So, your first impression of Sucre will always be a positive one! Here’s how to make the most of this beautiful Bolivian city:
Sucre was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1991 due to the many beautiful buildings that date back to around the 16th century.
The whitewashed buildings with tranquil patios are the main form of construction here and, without too much effort you can find yourself sleeping in one of them at the many small hotels in town. As Intrepid’s South America Trip Manager I’m certain that the properties we use in Sucre are the most picturesque ones we stay at in all of Bolivia.
Do as locals do…
…and at dusk walk up to La Recoleta for stunning views over the city and the surrounding valleys and mountains. There is usually a musician around and you can enjoy a quiet wine at the strategically-located bar. A terrific setting.
Warning, though! It’s a romantic setting so this place is better enjoyed by the side of a loved one. If no romantic partner is at hand, your travel mates might have to do!
If you’re on an Intrepid trip, your leader will take you on a comprehensive tour of Mercado Central. If you’re on your own, chances are you’ll take a wrong turn at some stage and find yourself wondering lost along the market’s corridors too. As with all self-respecting South American markets, colours, smells and spices abound so walking around the place is a feast for the senses.
To me though, the most memorable part of the visit to Mercado Central was meeting locals and hearing their stories. Granted, I was joined by Nadia, a very talented Intrepid leader, so her introductions to locals made these meetings much easier.
But, at the end of the day it comes down to how curious, polite and courteous one is. As per any market around the world, shop keepers are always up for a chat, so if you choose the right time, ask the right questions and are honestly interested in learning from them, they’ll open up to you whole-heartedly.
And yes, speaking Spanish comes in handy if you’re on your own.
Dinosaurs in Sucre?
Yep, I know what you’re thinking! Here goes another man-made site featuring holes on the ground where dinosaur bones were extracted from years ago and today there is nothing but pretty signage. Well, you’re wrong! This site is actually pretty amazing.
Cal Orco is a paleontological museum which claims to be the largest site of dinosaur tracks in the world. Now, I’m not a subject matter expert to confirm or deny this claim but I know that the 500-meter-long and 150-meter-high wall featuring hundreds of clearly-visible tracks from different types of dinosaurs is mind-blowing and certainly the only site of this kind I’ve seen in my life.
And for an entrance fee of under USD 5, it’s a bargain too.
Let’s go for a hike
Unfortunately, I’ll have to brag a little here since this trek is rather difficult to find by yourself, but our expert Intrepid local leaders know it like the back of their hands.
The trek is locally known as “Chataquila” and reaching its starting point takes a little over 1.5 hrs driving by van. The hike then meanders downhill (which makes it VERY easy on the legs!) for a few hours following a pre-Inca stone path.
The highlight of the day are the jaw-dropping mountain scenes and the opportunity to comfortably hike through Bolivian Andes before returning to Sucre for a well-deserved dinner.
Last but not least is this little gem some two hours away from Sucre. It’s a very authentic indigenous market which takes place every Sunday. Though it’s starting to become better known by tourists, this market remains strongly by and for locals.
Why you’ll love it? The many mountain communities that gather here every Sunday are culturally different from one another and one of these differences is visible on the pattern of their attires. If you look closely, you’ll distinguish different decoration patterns and different hats being worn by different communities.
Another highlight of this market is the quality of textiles available to purchase. Dyed and knitted by hand, these textiles can be true pieces of art. That said, prices are high too, which is only fair when you consider some of these pieces take months to make.
Ready to explore this captivating city? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group tours in Bolivia.
(All images courtesy of Martin Ruffo and Intrepid Travel.)