Sucre, the elegant historic capital of Bolivia and Potosi, the highest city in the world, offer widely contrasting experiences although there is only two and a half hours drive between them. Visit both for an fascinating and diverse picture of Bolivia.
Sucre, Bolivia’s historic capital, has some of the best colonial architecture in South America and is sophisticated and cultural. Potosi is atmospheric, authentic and sits 4,100 metres above sea level. Breathing is tricky up there, even without climbing the steeply sloping streets lined with higgledy piggledy houses. Keep drinking the coca tea, usually on offer in cafes and for breakfast in your hotel, as it will help you cope with the lack of oxygen.
As you head down into Sucre, your breath returns in huge gushes, flooding your body as you head into the sun. It can get a little windy up there in Potosi, but Sucre has a balmy Mediterranean air. Both cities are remarkable, so spend a few days in each for a colourful, contrasting experience.
What to do
Walking around this curious city is pretty enthralling as it’s such an atmospheric place. The market is particularly intriguing, spread across various streets and levels, selling sunglasses and chicken stew, pulses and papayas. It’s hard not to gaze at the stall holders, but these fairy tale women, so colourful and striking, are shy and private. Dont try and take their photographs.
What to Eat
Empanadas, little spicy pasties, are on sale in all the Potosi bakeries and are known as Saltenas or Tucamenas. Try the huge pork sandwiches in the market or head to Cherry’s Salon de Te at Padilla 8 if you crave or require a nice, plain omelette.
Casa de Moneda
The Casa de Moneda just off the main square, is a fascinating museum which explains the history of money in the Spanish empire. It’s excellent, offering an insight into many aspects of life and culture from when Spain was running the show.
Where to Stay
Stay at Hostal Carlos V at Linares 42. This classy, colonial bolthole is well run and friendly.
Try to book the master suite, a splendid room with a vast bed. It’s a bargain at £25 a night including breakfast which features Chartreuse coloured yoghurt.
The Hostal can book you a place in a colectivo, which is a shared taxi. It’s a sensible and easy way to get around and meet your fellow travellers. Door to door took three hours and cost £8 per person.
Apart from feeling warmer, it’s much easier to breathe in this gleaming white city. There are more tourists here too, but it still feels strongly Bolivian. Beautiful churches and interesting museums enlighten and inspire travellers and there’s a wider variety of restaurants and cafes. You won’t find finer food than in the market though,where the tropical fruit and fresh juices make you feel healthy just by looking at them.
Trawl the cafes
Sucre has a café society and is a lovely place to sit round eating and drinking in the sunshine. Walk to the top of the city to the Gourmet Mirador. It’s a steep climb but worth it for the glorious views and lush garden.
Musicians play traditional tunes as you quench your thirst with a mango juice and enjoy the scenery and the pleasant temperatures.
Sucre is an easy place to spend a few days, meandering around its streets and squares and enjoying a relaxed pace before you hit hectic La Paz.
Stay at Hostal Casarte Takubamba on Calle JM Serrano, 256. This charming hostal with fresh, bright rooms and a sweet garden where a fresh, healthy breakfast of fruit and yoghurt, bread and eggs is served. Price, £29 a night for two.