Sucre is a city in the south of Bolivia, with a population of around 300,000. Being the 6th most populous city in the country, many people may be surprised to realize that Sucre is actual the constitutional capital of Bolivia. Many people mix up with capital as being La Paz, and indeed La Paz holds the distinction of being legislative capital – but Sucre is the capital in the traditional sense.
Sucre is a gorgeous city. With a bearable (by Bolivian standards) altitude of 2,800 meters, and a clean city center – this was probably our favourite Bolivian city. It is renowned as a great place to take some Spanish classes, due to the price and abundance of activities around. We studied in Guatemala earlier in our trip so we decided to give it a miss.
We stayed in Sucre for 4 nights, staying in the comfortable Hostal Wasi Masi. It was clean, quiet and had breakfast included – what more could you ask for ( it was €17.50 per night for us both).
Getting to Sucre
We arrived in Sucre via a flight from Santa Cruz. The flight lasted an hour and we got a bus from the airport to the city center from just outside the terminal and cost 8 bolivianos.
We last wrote about our time in Toro Toro but have decided to skip our adventures in the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia. This is mainly due to having not got up to much! After we visited Toro Toro we headed to Samaipata and then Santa Cruz. There really wasn’t much to do in either place, for that reason we can say that you could easily give these places a miss!
What to do in Sucre
Having had an unadventurous few days in Samaipata and Santa Cruz, it was a great relief to arrive in Sucre. There are so many things to do in Sucre, and it really reinvigorated our travels for the last few months of our trip. Below are some highlights of Bolivia’s white city:
Plaza 25 de Mayo
Plaza 25 de Mayo is the central hub of Sucre – and what a pretty square to start your visit! You really get a sense of what Sucre is all about in this Plaza – the beautiful, landscaped trees and the hustle and bustle of a normal South American square. The location of Plaza 25 de Mayo is ideal too – it is flanked by the Casa de La Libertad and the Cathedral.
Casa de La Libertad
Casa de La Libertad (Freedom House) is generally considered to be Bolivia’s most important historically significant buildings. It was here, in 1825, that Bolivia’s declaration of independence was signed. It is now a museum, dedicated to the history of Bolivia (and of course the building).
Some of the museum highlights include the Bolivian Declaration of Independence, the Macha flag – believed to be the first flag of Argentina, the massive statue of Simon Bolivar and the room containing portraits of every Bolivian president.
The entrance costs 15 BOB with an extra 10 BOB if you want to take photographs. A guided tour is included in the price in either English or Spanish. We had an English guide who was very good and it really made our visit to the museum worthwhile. This is a really good place if you like history or if you want to learn more about Bolivian history.
Parque Simon Bolivar
This is Sucre’s largest (and perhaps prettiest) park. It is located just four blocks from Plaza 25 de Mayo, and it is fair to say that it is one of the most random parks in South America.
Along with it’s landscaped gardens and water fountains you will find a kid’s playground dedicated to dinosaurs. How they have created all these playground rides and incorporated dinosaurs into the design is actually pretty cool!
Another random addition is the miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower. Also designed by French engineer Gustav Eiffel, the tower can be climbed for some views over the park. There is also a replica of the Arc de Triomphe to be found in the park.
It is worth spending a couple of hours in the park in the afternoon in order to relax and see how every day people go about their lives.
Convento de San Felipe de Neri
The Convento de San Felipe de Neri is famous due to its view and tiled rooftop. The former monastery (now a school) is one of the most beautiful places in Sucre, but it isn’t too easy to visit. You need to ring the doorbell in order to enter – don’t expect the doors to be open waiting for your visit! It is best to visit in the afternoon, after 2 pm when the school has finished.
You then need to pay your entrance fee of 10 BOB, before entering into the wonderful courtyard. You can snoop around the school a bit if you like, but make your way up to the rooftop.
The rooftop grants you 360-degree views of the gorgeous city – you will see why it is called the ‘White City’.
Recoleta Mirador is situated on the plaza of La Recoleta – the plaza where the city was founded. It is famous for its white arches and an amazing view of the whole city of Sucre. It is also a great place to chill out and spend some hours – we actually spent a lot of time up here people watching. We witnessed some sort of photoshoot where people were dressed up in suits and dresses, and also a kite-making competition!
South America’s cemeteries are a lot different from European (and North American) cemeteries so you often see them as tourist attractions. Sucre is no different and you can find a peaceful and beautiful area to walk around here. Although we only spent 10 minutes here (we actually arrived just before 11 and apparently it closes for lunch so we were kicked out), we can definitely say from those few minutes that it is worth the effort! The opening hours are Mon-Fri from 8-11 am and 2-5.30pm, and on Sat-Sun from 8 am-5.30 pm. Arrive with plenty of time to explore!
In Sucre (and indeed in La Paz) there is a whole new meaning to the word’s Zebra crossing. You see here people (mainly students) dress in Zebra costumes and direct traffic! It is an initiative to try and solve the traffic crisis, as well as provide some employment to those in need. It is also pretty hilarious to see, so keep your eyes peeled!
Walk with Dinosaur’s at Cretacico Park
One of the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world lie on the outskirts of Sucre. Here, on Cal Orck’o cliff, there are 5,000 dinosaur footprints! The footprints have become a major tourist attraction, and indeed the park itself has almost turned into a Jurassic Park imitation, with life-sized Dinosaur replica’s found inside.
How did the footprints get here?
68 million years dinosaurs roamed the planet. At this time there was a huge ocean inlet where Bolivia is today. This inlet was inhabited by numerous different types of dinosaurs, and these dinosaurs left footprints which ended up ossifying into stone when the clay they stood in dried, eventually disappearing under layers and layers of sediment.
We always get asked the question when we show people the pictures of these footprints: but why are the walls vertical? This is because moving tectonic plates have forced the Andes mountains to rise up through South America (and thus causing the water to push backward). The flat clay of the ocean inlet is now a 1km high vertical wall with thousands of dinosaur footprints!
How where they found?
The footprints were discovered in 1994 when a concrete company, Fonseca, were drilling through the wall for concrete. The stopped at the footprints (this layer was unsuitable for use) and made the amazing discovery. The number of footprints is estimated at 5005, and includes 15 different species of dinosaurs. The most famous is of course from a Tyrannosaurus Rex!
Unfortunately, the weather and erosion are causing issues with the upkeep of the footprints. In 2010 a large piece of the wall fell off, but it actually revealed more footprints underneath. It is believed that there could be numerous layers of footprints underneath the current crop.
Admission to the park costs 30 BOB (€3.90) and includes a free tour if you are there are 12pm or 1pm. It is definitely better to be there at these times as this is the only chance to get up close and personal with the footprints (otherwise you will have to just view them from a distance).
The tour begins in the museum where the tour guide gives a brief introduction to the footprints, how they got there and what dinosaurs ended up leaving their marks. You then enter the outside area with all the life-size replicas. This is actually quite an interesting addition to the park as you really get to see the scale of these creatures.
After that we were given hard hats and taken down to the quarry to view the footprints up close. It really was amazing to view them at this distance, and I can only recommend you to visit at these times in order to do so. Viewing from a distance will not allow you to appreciate the scale.
After this the tour is over and you can explore the park at your own pace (or rush to get the bus back in our case).
The park is open Tuesday – Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm. It’s closed on Mondays.
Getting to and from the park
You have many options to get to Parque Cretácico – a taxi, a local bus or the ‘Dino’ bus. We got the ‘Dino Bus’ purely for the experience of getting it, but to be honest it is probably better to get public transport as it will allow you more time to explore and you don’t have to leave in order to get your return bus.
The Dino Bus leaves from Plaza 25 de Mayo, right in front of the Cathedral. To be honest, you really can’t miss it! It departs 9.30 am, 11am, 12pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and a return ticket is 15 BOB (€1.95) each. So in order to make the tour, you will need to get either the 11 am or 12 pm buses. The bus returns at 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 4pm and 5pm.
We normally get the local buses, but the experience of the Dino Bus was one we wanted (it wasn’t really anything special). To go by local bus, take the number 4 from the corner of Calles Junin and Arenales, two blocks from Plaza 25 de Mayo. One is said to leave every 5 minutes and it cost 2 BOB (€0.25) each way.
The final way to arrive is by taxi. The cost is 20 BOB (€2.60) each way.
Visit the Pink Palace – La Glorieta Castle
On the outskirts of Sucre lies one of its most beautiful, but also bizarre attractions. La Glorieta castle once belonged to Bolivia’s only prince and princess. Francisco Argandoña and Doña Clotilde Urioste were a wealthy pair of philanthropists, who got the title of Prince and Princess bestowed upon them by Pope León VIII in 1898, due to their charity work. This, in turn, created the principality of La Glorieta. The principality died with Clotilde when she passed away in 1933, as the couple had no children.
So they left behind the strange La Glorieta castle which is located 5.5km from Sucre. Although the inside is nothing special, and indeed it is not even properly structured for visitors – the outside is quite picturesque. The pink colour really does stand out for its uniqueness! The outside is free to observe, but to enter costs 20 BOB per person, with an extra 10 BOB to take photos.
The castle is open to visitors from 9am-4.30pm Tuesday – Sunday.
To get to La Glorieta we took the number 4 microbus from outside Mercado Central (corner of Av. Hernando Siles).