Along the Way See Bolivia’s World Heritage
After experiencing the wonders of the diverse World Heritage sites of Brazil , we made sure to check out those on offer when we travelled on from Brazil to Bolivia.
Bolivia has 7 UNESCO World Heritage listed sites: 6 of them are cultural sites, 1 a natural site. We managed to visit 4 of the cultural sites.
Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos
When planning our trip into Bolivia, we pulled out our Reise Know-How map (affiliate link to Amazon) and noticed that these missions were marked clearly on it as World Heritage sites. They were on, or near, the route we would take from Brazil towards Santa Cruz, in the eastern lowlands of the country.
Although we had visited Jesuit sites in Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil, we weren’t prepared for how impressed we would be by the Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos in Bolivia. Maybe because we thought of Bolivia as one of the least developed countries in South America, our expectations were lower. Whatever the misconceptions we held, we were totally impressed by what we saw.
The missions actually survived the expulsion of the Jesuits from South America. This fact, and the restoration work carried out by Hans Roth from the 1970s through to the 1990s, mean that their present condition is authentic, making them well worth a visit. We definitely found them ‘Worth a Detour’ (our post with many more photos).
El Fuerte de Samaipata
Our preconceptions were knocked over again when we followed our map to find the pre-Hispanic archaeological site of El Fuerte de Samaipata. It is also in the Department of Santa Cruz, but to the west of the city of Santa Cruz, in the Andean foothills .
Here you will discover a site that has been used by various inter-related cultures since 300AD, culminating in the Incas from 1450-1555 who made it a provincial capital. According to the information brochure provided at the site, the word Samaipata signifies a place to “descanso en las alturas” (rest in the heights).
Finally it was used from 1550-1650 by the Spanish colonists to secure the trade route from Asuncion, Paraguay to Lima, Peru; thus the name ‘El Fuerte’ (the fort).
It is an important archaeological site for the Mojocoyas, Chané, Chiriguanos and Inca cultures.
We were impressed by the way it is cared for and presented, making it easy to follow the dedicated pathways and walkways, without disturbing the integrity of the site.
Historic City of Sucre
Sucre was the first capital of Bolivia (some claim it should be the current capital, rather than the shared arrangement that exists with La Paz). The historic centre held the promise of being something we would be impressed by; after all it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
It has some very impressive buildings from the colonial days but we felt a bit critical of the number of modern buildings that were interspersed with the heritage.
It’s a pity, but pretty Sucre didn’t wow us (our post with more photos) as we had hoped it would.
The Historic City of Sucre was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991
City of Potosí
I must admit that we were not really interested in this city. It’s at 4000m, so out of our comfort zone as far as altitude is concerned; it lies in a barren landscape; other than the city centre it seems to be a city that is not really cared for by its population; and it’s a mining town.
Most tourists visit Potosi because of the mines – we had no fascination with going into a mine.
The silver mines in Cerro Rico are an important part of the World Heritage listing, but the continued mining is very controversial and is also the reason that Potosi is now on the World Heritage in Danger list.
But the San Lorenzo church, which is specifically mentioned in the UNESCO listing, did make us stop and look. It is an incredibly impressive building. We would have liked to visit the Casa de la Moneda but hadn’t calculated on it being closed on a Sunday.
So, for us, Potosi was just a stop on the way to the Salar de Uyuni.
The City of Potosi was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987
This site was also inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2014