It’s a pity, but pretty Sucre didn’t wow us

When we learned that Sucre, the official capital of Bolivia, is a World Heritage City we got all excited. We were given a Lonely Planet (not the guidebook of our choice) and it states “Sucre is Bolivia’s most beautiful city”. So you can imagine that our expectations were high.

Sucre left us a little underwhelmed, although our LP guide book calls it “Bolivia's most beautiful city”...

Sucre left us a little underwhelmed, although our LP guide book calls it “Bolivia’s most beautiful city”…

Here is what we found in Sucre:

  • a city centre dominated by low houses, all painted in white
  • red tiled roofs and beautiful wooden doors and windows
  • a number of beautiful and well cared for small parks
  • many colonial buildings with wooden enclosed balconies jutting out over the footpath
  • narrow roads and often even more narrow footpaths
  • countless (photo-shy) people in colourful traditional clothes
  • a religious procession complete with brass band, dancing, and the obligatory fire works
On our second Sunday in Sucre, we arrived in the city centre right on time for a colourful procession.

On our second Sunday in Sucre, we arrived in the city centre right on time for a colourful procession.

The women in the procession were dressed in the typical flared long skirts with frilly underskirts.

The women in the procession were dressed in the typical flared long skirts with frilly underskirts.

…but we also found in Sucre:

  • too many signs of neglect
  • the occasional modern building, in a row of historic structures, which didn’t fit in at all (a sign of a slack building code?)
  • ugly high-rise buildings on the outer perimeter of the city interspersed with countless half finished brick structures
  • potholed streets choked with traffic
  • long lines of micro buses belching out thick clouds of black Diesel fumes
  • a lot of begging (more than we have encountered in any other country)
  • juxtaposed by some really flash cars, things like new Toyota Landcruisers, monster Hummers and Chevrolet Camaros
  • park cleaning staff bending their backs low and sweeping with palm fronds because they didn’t have any brooms
  • too many little (and big) dog turds to step over
  • more ‘Gringo’ tourists than we had seen in a long time

Overall our entire visit left us a little underwhelmed. But maybe this is in part because we had been so enchanted by some of the historic towns we visited right before in Brazil . One day we met up with another travel blogger couple who, in general, shared our view. We agreed that there are colonial towns in other parts of South America which are more impressive. In fact, together we came up with a rather long list of town names…

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

Don’t be fooled, we also had several very positive experiences. Both of us needed some small medical attention. Yasha had broken a tooth, a couple of days before we arrived, so badly that it needed to be extracted. Through iOverlander we found a dentist who was really nice and helpful. She went well beyond her duty of care when Yasha developed some problems.

She also recommended her friend Sandra for some treatment of our back problems. This proved to be a very good tip. What surprised us the most was how cheap such services are in Bolivia.

In contrast we find a number of tourist related services fairly overpriced. If you pick the wrong place you can easily pay $2.50 for a coffee and $10+ for a meal. Most disappointing are the entrance prices asked of foreigners: almost every entry to a museum is between $B25 and $B30 – usually you can buy 4 or 5 small breads for $B2 (so 2× $B30 would buy you a sack full of bread or a large basket full of other groceries). Remember how we mentioned that in Brazil all entrance fees are waved for people over 60 (like us) – what a difference! In both cases this is the official government policy. [As tourists we also have to pay 2½ times the local price for fuel, making it more expensive than anywhere in Europe!]

So there are ‘two sides to the coin’ when you visit Bolivia. We don’t want to discourage you, Sucre is certainly a nice enough city, just not ‘picture perfect’ in all places.

View down Calle Nicolás Ortiz from near the cathedral at Plaza 25 de Mayo.

View down Calle Nicolás Ortiz from near the cathedral at Plaza 25 de Mayo. You only have this little traffic in Sucre on a Sunday.

Our guidebook states “Sucre is Bolivia's most beautiful city”. This historic city is full of white painted ornate colonial buildings, many with enclosed wooden balconies jutting out over the footpath. Whilst it had many nice aspects to it, Sucre didn't really “wow” us. Read our short post and find out why. More Bolivia travel tips on dare2go.com!

Our guidebook states “Sucre is Bolivia’s most beautiful city”. This historic city is full of white painted ornate colonial buildings, many with enclosed wooden balconies jutting out over the footpath. Whilst it had many nice aspects to it, Sucre didn’t really “wow” us. Read our short post and find out why. More Bolivia travel tips on dare2go.com!

Have you been to Bolivia? Have you been to Sucre?
Do you agree (or disagree) with our assessment?

Juergen

webmaster, main photographer & driver, second cook and only husband at dare2go.com. Freelance web designer with nearly 20 years of experience at webbeetle.com.au

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4 Responses

  1. Do you think perhaps you weren’t seeing it in context of Bolivia’s current and past economic development? Just because it was granted UNESCO WHS status doesn’t mean it is ready to host the world’s visitors. In fact, quite the contrary. Let’s hope this status allows them the resources to improve the infrastructure.

    • Juergen says:

      Kristin, I hardly ever ignore the economic state of a country or region. There are (also in other countries) World Heritage Sites which aren’t even accessible to visitors. Sucre is certainly getting its fair share of visitors and has facilities for them. But what I would expect for the high charges we as international tourists are asked to pay, is that there should be some visible return. Even something small and simple as decent English language signage in museums, where foreigners pay much more than locals to get in. Or even more basic: the only museum we really wanted to visit in Sucre, the Museo Nacional de Etnografia y Folklore, was closed for three months (or more?) for refurbishment – there wasn’t a sign on the barred door to inform visitors about its closure (neither in Spanish nor in English, we had to knock on the door to be told by a security guard).
      We’re about to leave Bolivia much earlier than we had planned (very unusual for us) and there will be another blog post summing up our reasons for doing so. So watch this space!

  2. Carvalho says:

    I went to a great bar, very modern with wonderful music, nothing bolivian, more to London or San Francisco. Go to Potossi to a really nice colonial town. And of corse salary de uyuni, the best of the best

    • Yasha says:

      But a bar doesn’t make a town a special place – at least not for us. We are in Potosi right now and will leave today for Uyuni…

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