5 Things To Do In Sucre, Bolivia
Sucre is rarely the top of any backpackers itinerary. Trapped in sleepy seclusion, Bolivia’s white city doesn’t command the attention that the iconic Salar de Uyuni, or curious La Paz, do. Nonetheless, Sucre is the perfect spot to base yourself for a few days, to unwind, to study, to spend a few days where you’re not on a bus or a jeep or some kind of elaborate tour. Sucre is simple.
I arrived in Sucre from Uyuni, after a brief stop in Potosí. Rather than a chair, your seat on the bus is a wooden bench also occupied by a couple locals. Pretty good fun for a while, but it’s a fairly long bus, so maybe be wiser than me and don’t just sign up for the first company running a service to Sucre.
Things to do
1. Take the free walking tour
This is always my first piece of advice for any town or city with a walking tour, and it’s always the first thing I do when I get there. By taking a walking tour on your first day you can get a sense of direction in the town, get an overview for the history of the place, and rake your guides’ mind for the best places to eat, drink or party in town. The tour in Sucre takes you to a scenic viewpoint over the city, runs you through the role that the city’s inhabitants played in Bolivian liberation, and walks you through the market. If you’re staying in the city for even a few days, the market is the best spot to know.
2. Mercado Central
Mini mangos so ripe that they squeeze straight out of their skins, and fresh juices made in every flavour you could possibly imagine. I’m a frequent critic of the food in Bolivia in general, but the fruit and vegetables that you can find in Bolivian mercados never let you down. Find your favourite juice lady to chit chat with every morning, pick up a beverage for 20p or so, and head out about your daily routine. One of the nice elements of Sucre is that travellers tend to stay there for extended periods of time, normally to study Spanish. It’s easy to develop a routine and to get to know locals here. If you’re in Sucre on a Sunday, you absolutely should also check out Tarabuco market.
3. Walk with the dinosaurs
Other than in Toro Toro park, near Cochabamba, Sucre is Bolivia’s best spot to see dinosaur footprints. Parque Cretacico, only 5km outside of Sucre, is home to the world’s largest collection of preserved dinosaur footprints. Look up at a giant wall displaying more than 5000 prints left by the colossuses that once inhabited Bolivia. The museum includes replicas of the dinosaurs that lived in the region, to help you imagine them roaming the land millions of years before.
4. Learn more about indigenous culture
Sucre is home to multiple museums detailing the arts and culture of indigenous Bolivians. In recent years, increasingly more emphasis has been placed upon the preservation of indigenous culture, and the integration of indigenous culture into the mainstream psyche. The rainbow coloured flags that hang throughout every city in Bolivia aren’t a testament to their gay rights record, but instead are representative of the coming together of all of Bolivia’s native peoples. The indigenous textiles museum holds arts and artifacts from across the region, and a brief history of local cultures. I’ve written a little more on the dark history suffered by the native Bolivians in Potosí, if you’re interested in learning about that aspect of their history and cultural development.
5. Study Spanish
The main reason that travellers visit Sucre is to study Spanish. Bolivians speak a very clear form of Spanish, free from the thick accents of Argentina or the completely bizarre vocabulary that Chilenos use. Generally speaking, Peru and Bolivia are the best places to study Spanish in South America, if you’re looking for cheap classes run by clear speakers. Sucre is preferred by many travellers because of the cheap cost of classes, for as low as £4.50 an hour, and for the cheap cost of living, Bolivia being an incredibly inexpensive country, even by Latin American standards. The town is also pleasant and calm and full of other tourists looking to improve their language skills. Each street presents multiple options, so finding a Spanish school will never be difficult here.
6. Live Bolivian history
This may not be quite exciting to those of you that aren’t big nerds for Latin American history, but I’m always interested in visiting spots that were pertinent to the liberation of South America. Bolivar is my favourite, the liberator for whom Bolivia is named, and his right hand man Sucre was the namesake of the city. In the main square you can visit the Casa de la Libertad, the site on which Bolivia’s declaration of indepence was signed, officially forming a republic. As well as being an incredibly important historical site in its own right, the museum also holds the most accurate painting of Bolivar, and what is thought to be the first ever Argentine flag. I also managed to get in almost for free, trading entry with the guy on the door for a Paraguayan penny for his collection.
A note of caution
When I visited Sucre the town was very tranquil. Streets were quiet, relatively safe, and I didn’t have moments of feeling particularly concerned about my surroundings. However, I have since heard that this experience wasn’t shared by travellers visiting just weeks before.
According to other travellers I met further down the road, they had been in Sucre when a protest against the government’s allocations of funds broke out. Protests are no rare thing in South America- you’ll see at least a couple a day if you visit Argentina, and in Paraguay I met a protest against teachers wagers that turned into an armed riots through the streets of Asunción. It all depends on the reaction of the authorities which, in this case, sounded pretty nasty.
Though reluctant to give too many details, the travellers I met recounted being informed by authorities that they had to leave, and put onto buses after a couple of days of protests. One recalled seeing dead bodies in the streets that the bus took them down on their way out of the city.
It’s always important to bear in mind that protests are treated differently in every country. While you may be accustomed to peaceful protest movements in your home country, I’ve seen plenty end in gun fire, tear gassing, violent in-fighting. It’s worth keeping on top of the news, though protests aren’t often widely reported on in Latin America, and to keep your head down and stay out of trouble. Even if it seems a worthy cause, you’re safer not getting involved.
As I said, I experienced nothing like this in Sucre. To me the town was safe and sleepy, but it is an example of how quickly a city can change, and how important it is to never fully rely on others experiences.
I left Sucre to take the night bus on to La Paz, which I’ve written more about here.
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