If you’re anything like me, you go wherever the wind blows and as a consequence, you arrive to your destination without knowing more than the first five lines of its Wikipedia page. This happened to me in Sucre and it ended up being one of the most special places I visited in Bolivia. If you just arrived – or if you’re planning your trip – and you’re looking for things to do in Sucre, take a moment to read this guide.
One of the first things I like to do when visiting a city is finding a viewpoint so I can get some perspective of the city. In Sucre, the closest viewing point is La Recoleta. Although the museum and monastery are definitely worth a visit, the real prize is Plaza de Anzurez and the arches through which you have a spectacular view of Sucre. Just behind the arches you can hang out on the terrace of the Cafe Gourmet Mirador. It is not too cheap but the view is exquisite and the food and juices are amazing. La Recoleta is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon in the sun.
Obviously you cannot go to Sucre without visiting the main square. It is one of the prettiest plazas in Bolivia and is a great place to orientate yourself around during your stay in Sucre. There are a few nice coffee and cake places at this square and most of the tourist attractions are near. Plaza 25 de Mayo is a great place to relax and take in Sucre’s vibrant daily life.
The historical centre of Sucre is the most well reserved colonial city in South America, which got the city listed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 1991. Its beautiful white buildings of the also earned it the nickname “Ciudad Blanca” or “White City”.
Sucre has many great markets. Of course there is the central market only two blocks away from the central plaza. It is the smallest and most expensive market but it’s convenient and the best place to eat lunch as it is cheaper than other places in the centre.
If you are looking for affordable but good clothes, I would advise you to go to Mercado Negro, which is Sucre’s black market. This market is further but still within city limits. All other things you can find at Mercado Campesino that’s just less than 20min walking from Mercado Negro. This farmers market is bursting at the seams and it is hectic, smelly, warm and busy so you will be exhausted after but it is really worth a visit. If you’re still not done shopping, you can visit one of the many, many other markets inside and outside the centre.
Ok, the official name is Cretaceous Park but there’s only one dinosaur park in Sucre so go for it. If you’re into dinosaurs you absolutely need to visit this park that has the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world from 15 dinosaur species. It’s only 5 kilometres from the central plaza where they do pick-ups with their dino bus (impossible to miss). They leave from the main square at 11:00am and at 15:00pm. If you want to see the footprints, you will need to take the 11 am tour. You can also make your own way to the park and buy your tour at the entrance, which is B$30 for foreigners.
A visit to a cemetery might not be at the top of your list but this one is special. Just a 20min walk from the central plaza, this cemetery might surprise you. With rows and rows of trees that drop shade on the open paths and the cool breeze going between the vaults and graves it is a great place to read a book or wander. I definitely recommend this to any traveller that can appreciate quiet places that give you space for yourself and your thoughts. The title on the gate “Hodie Mihi Cras Tibi”, means “Today me, tomorrow you”, which is something to think about right there.
La casa de la Libertad (lit. house of liberty) is historically the most important building in Sucre. It was here that they signed the declaration of independence on the 6th of August 1825, finally liberating them from Spanish rule. This marked the birth of a nation that they named after Simon Bolivar, their most famous liberator. You can visit the landmark at the central plaza for B$15. They close during lunch.
If you’ve had enough sightseeing for the day but you still feel like taking in some local culture, the “Espacio Cultural Origenes” is a great alternative. This restaurant organizes Bolivian folklore dances each day of the week except for Mondays. The themes of the performances are usually about Bolivian history and folklore so they’re an amazing way to learn more about their local culture while having a tasty local dinner. They also organize performances for children. Visitors get information before the dances in English, Spanish or French and they also give some info in between the dances.
If you have some extra time in Sucre and if you want to do a hike, I would recommend the Maragua Crater Trek. This trek will take you along the Cordillera de Los Frailes, will let you explore the spectacular crater of Maragua, and will show you about a hundred amazing dinosaur footprints from up close. Some treks also include a stop at Pumamachay, which has 2000 year old cave paintings. Depending on your interest and time, you can do a one day, two day or three day trek to the crater. The most popular agencies are Condor Trekkers, Jaku Trekkers and Joy Ride Tours. Make sure to read some reviews before making your choice though. You can organise the trek yourself but since the paths sometimes disappear and there aren’t enough direction indicators, I would recommend taking a tour.
This museum was created to bring attention and to promote contemporary indigenous art, particularly ethnic textiles. The museum consists of 9 rooms and you can see a live demonstration of weavers using their techniques. This museum features Jalq’a and Tarabuco textiles from south central Bolivia. You can find the museum in the heart of Sucre and it doesn’t require much time. Foreign visitors pay B$22 to get in. If you are interested in indigenous art, I would also recommend the Ethnographic and Folklore Museum.
This magnificent pink castle lies around 5km from Sucre. It’s an eclectic and bizarre combination of Byzantine, Italian, Russian, Chinese and English architecture. Although it is still under restoration, the castle’s background and style make it an interesting take on Bolivia history. You can walk all the way to the castle which takes you about an hour, or you can take a taxi for around B$15. The entrance to the castle is B$20 but worth it if you want to revel in architectural beauty. Do not expect too much though as a lot of rooms are empty and the castle needs work. To get the best out of the experience, a long walk there on a sunny day would do your trip the most justice.
This is just a short summary of the best museums and activities. IIn reality there are many more things to do in Sucre and I could go on. It is one of the cheapest places to stick around for Spanish classes and there are a lot of voluntary work options in the surrounding area. It has a small museum of natural history and a big museum about weaponry and the pacific war.
Sucre is probably my favourite city in Bolivia and definitely worth a visit because it truly offers something for everyone. Even if you only do a fraction of this list, its beauty and history will captivate you.
Peter O’Neill, a young Irish backpacker with a love for Instagram (@NeterOPeill), travel, and coffee!