Sucre, Bolivia is one of the country’s two capitals and it’s a UNESCO city known for its beautiful white buildings. For a small city, there is a lot to do including exotic markets, fascinating museums, and a must-see folklore dance show. The people are more outgoing in this part of the country, and there are many bars where foreigners and locals alike spend the night dancing and drinking chuflays.
With Sucre being my first stop in the country, I was immediately introduced to the exoticness that is Bolivia. In the plaza, people dressed as zebras direct traffic while dancing. Dummies hang from poles with warning signs that thieves will be lynched. Nearly every bus has Chinese and Arabic letters written on the side and more than a few have large Playboy bunny stickers. Besides being an introduction to the country’s weirdness, Sucre is a great place to start your trip because it’s full of history and culture. It’s also at a lower altitude (2,800m) than most of Bolivia’s destinations.
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How to Get There
From La Paz, there are direct flights to Sucre or you can arrive on an overnight bus. Be aware that Sucre’s airport is about 45 minutes from the city center. From Potosí, the bus ride is 3.5 hours and from Uyuni, it’s 8 hours.
Bookaway is a great resource that allows you to compare the prices of both buses and flights, and secure your seat in advance!
What to Do
Go to a dinner & dance show – Origins Cultural Space puts on a phenomenal show displaying traditional Bolivian music and dance from each region of the country. For 170 bolivianos (BOB), it’s a bargain and it was by far the highlight of Sucre for me. You must make a reservation in advance and the shows take place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.
Iglesia de San Felipe Neri – The church is beautiful, but the real reason to visit is the terrace. It’s massive, with two levels and unobstructed views of Sucre. The entrance is 17 BOB and it’s only open in the afternoon.
Mercado Campesino – The more exotic of the two main markets has guinea pigs for sale that are not going to become family pets and llama fetuses. The open-air part of the market stretches for a few blocks in each direction.
Casa de la Libertad – A historic house where the founders signed Bolivia’s Declaration of Independence in 1825. There’s info in English about the battles, lots of art, and a comically oversized bust of Simón Bolívar. The entrance is 15 BOB which includes a guided tour.
Monasterio de la Recoleta – The perfect place to relax at the end of the day and take in the views of the city.
Museo Colonial Charcas – A baroque-style religious art museum with a very impressive collection. Bolivia as a whole has fantastic art. The entrance is 30 BOB.
Treasure Museum – A museum displaying gold, silver, and other minerals mined in Bolivia. You will also learn how Bolivians incorporate these stones into their fashion and what type of jewelry is gifted for important life events. The entrance is 25 BOB which includes a guided tour in English.
Maragua Crater Hike – I’ve heard great things about this hike, but it’s not very accessible. The trail on the 2-day hike disappears at times, which means it’s best to go with a guide. The impact of the pandemic on tourism and the fact that the hike is not well known makes it difficult to find a guide.
Museo de Arte Indigena – This museum features handmade textiles and lots of info about indigenous music and dance. The entrance is 30 BOB.
Glorieta Castle – In the 1890s, a wealthy couple from Sucre built a luxurious palace and an orphanage on the same property, and when the pope came to Bolivia, he named them honorary royalty. I had low expectations and the comments about the castle being rundown are not unfair, but its history is very interesting. The guides speak English and the entrance is 20 BOB.
Florida Mansion – Designed by the same architect as the castle, this mansion was the vacation home of a former Bolivian President. The visit here is rather short, but there is some beautiful art inside. The mansion is outside the city, but it’s within walking distance of the castle. Colectivo #4 will get you to both attractions and it departs from the Mercado Central.
General Cemetery – Visiting a cemetery as a tourist feels strange, but this is a popular attraction due to its beauty.
Mercado Central – Your typical market with crafts, juice, fruit, and cheap lunches. If you’re going to eat at a market in Sucre, this one appears more hygienic than Mercado Campesino.
Where to Eat
Salteñeria El Patio – Salteñas are a fan favorite and this is a popular place to enjoy the mid-morning snack.
El Huerto – For a wide variety of quality Bolivian cuisine, this is a great option.
Bienmesabe – Venezuelan food is one of the best cuisines in South America and the arepas here are delicious.
Where to Stay
Kultur Berlin – This is the most popular hostel in Sucre. It has a lively atmosphere and an on-site restaurant, bar, and nightclub. If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, do not stay here because the music goes on late into the night.
Cittadella Hostal – If you’re looking for a more relaxed stay, this is a great option near the main plaza.
How Long to Stay
3 days is a good amount of time to spend in Sucre before heading elsewhere in Bolivia.
Where to Next
Potosí (3.5 hours by bus) – Take a tour inside an active mine that once produced 60% of the world’s silver.
Uyuni Salt Flats (8 hours) – These 12,000 square kilometer salt flats are undoubtedly one of the top attractions in South America.
La Paz (11 hours) – This unique and chaotic city has lively markets, cable cars, and adventure activities.