Sucre & Potosi

These city neighbours share similar histories, both dating back to Bolivia’s 16th-century silver boom. Sucre is known for its fine architecture while Potosi’s claim to fame is having once been the richest city in the Americas.

  • San Felipe Neri monastery, Sucre, Bolivia © Locci,Shutterstock

    San Felipe Neri monastery, Sucre, Bolivia

  • The valley under Huayna Potosi mountain in Bolivia © Shutterstock

    The valley under Huayna Potosi mountain in Bolivia

  • Silvermines in Potosi, Bolivia © Shutterstock

    Silvermines in Potosi, Bolivia

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Sucre and Potosi represent different aspects of Bolivia’s history and development and both are UNESCO sites.

Since its founding in 1538 Sucre has been notable, first as the colonial capital, at the forefront of independence and today as the country’s constitutional capital.

Potosi was founded on hard work in the silver and other mineral mines, the source of Bolivia’s colonial wealth. Each is worth a visit and together they form a fascinating contrast. Beauty and the beast perhaps?

  • Sucre's influence & architecture:  Sucre epitomises the Spanish colonial city, elegant, whitewashed facades, gracious churches, tree-lined plazas, all in evidence today. Away from the main sites you can wander along cobblestoned streets, visit local markets, glimpse private courtyards and roof terraces before relaxing over a drink in Bolivia’s prosperous and attractive ‘white city’.
  • Potosi, work & wealth:  Potosi has always been a working city, a mining centre which thrived for 300 years from the 15th century. Now that the silver reserves have all but gone present day Potosi is a poor city. Its grand buildings, including the former national mint, are a reminder of past grandeur, when ‘to be worth a Potosi’ was a sign of value. As a visitor, it’s fascinating, if poignant, to witness the city’s changing fortunes.
  • Cerro Rico mines:  A tour through the narrow tunnels of Potosi’s Cerro Rico mines is not for the claustrophobic but gives you an eye-opening insight into the appallingly tough conditions of today’s miners and their predecessors. An equally thought-provoking tour shows you ancient human bones in San Francisco catacombs. Afterwards you can ascend the roof for excellent views over the city.
  • Dinosaurs:  A few kilometres outside Sucre you are in another world, among the dinosaurs! The centrepiece at Parque Cretacico is a display of 5,000 dinosaur footprints set in a huge wall. There’s a museum where you can learn more about the site and its former inhabitants and a display of life-size fibreglass dinosaur models to bring the past to life.
Sucre & Potosi map pin

Sucre & Potosi

San Felipe Neri monastery, Sucre, Bolivia

Dating back to Bolivia’s 16th-century silver boom, Sucre is known for fine architecture while Potosi was once the richest city in the Americas.

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