Sucre – Bolivia’s hidden gem of a capital

Sucre is the first and official capital city of Bolivia, located in the central part of the country. It’s a colonial city which was founded by the Spanish in the early 1500s. The city is located at 2,810 meters (9,214 ft) above sea level, which is about 1,000 meters lower than La Paz. 

I arrived in the city around 8 AM after the long bus ride from La Paz. After checking into my hostel and recharging batteries, I wandered through the colonial centre of the city for a few hours. The main plaza of Sucre is full of palm trees, statues, and fountains, and is surrounded by stunning white colonial buildings. I spent about an hour wandering through the streets before stumbling upon the Military History museum, which was located inside an old white building full of arches.  

Inside the Military Museum

The museum held information on all of the wars in Bolivia, particularly the ones with Chile and Paraguay. After visiting the museum I went to the central market and had a fresh mango juice at one of the fruit juice stands before heading back to the hostel to make lunch.  
Following lunch, I went to the Sucre cemetery. The cemetery in Sucre is a gorgeous area which looks more like a park than a cemetery. The city’s most affluent inhabitants and former Bolivian presidents get buried in large mausoleums near the entry. The place is such a popular attraction for visitors that guides are available for hire at the entrance. Along the walls were the more traditional ossuary burial styles in small crypts, and in the back some smaller in ground graves for the poorest people. The cemetery was very interesting and contrasted many other cemeteries I’ve seen in Bolivia.

Main cemetery walkway
Hundreds of graves line the walls
Guitar shaped grave

After leaving the cemetery, I walked across the city to the Recoleta Church and Monastery. The church is located on top of a steep hill, which isn’t fun to climb but the altitude isn’t bad enough to make it impossible. The views from the top are absolutely incredible though, especially through the large hallway of arches with a viewpoint of the city. To visit the church you have to take a tour, as the monastery is still active. When we first walked in a couple of monks walked by us on their way to another section of the building. The monastery is full of courtyards and gardens, as well as one of the oldest trees in Bolivia. There’s a large collection of colonial art inside the church as well.  
Sucre from the Recolecta hill
Recoleta square
Inside the church and monastery

When the tour was complete, I walked down the hill toward a castle shaped building which now holds government offices. This building used to be a residence but was recently purchased by the local government of Sucre for use as mayoral offices. I had a great chat with one of the security guards here for about an hour, who told me all about the tunnels under the house and under the city. I was fairly skeptical about what he was saying until he actually took me down into one of the tunnels under the house to see what they looked like! It was quite impressive seeing how everything could be connected like that. On my way back to the center from the house I stopped by the Santa Clara church for a brief tour of the associated museum. There was restoration work going on for the many murals which decorated the walls around the courtyard, which were beautiful. By the time I left the church it was almost dark so I grabbed dinner and headed back to my hostel.
Old Castle House
Tunnel under the building
Santa Clara Church

The following morning I went to have breakfast in a cafe along the main square when I ran into two people from my hostel in La Paz/Death Road tour. They joined me for breakfast before heading back to their hostel to rest after the bus from La Paz. After breakfast I went to the Anthropology museum, which had a really great physical anthropology section with a large selection of annular and tabular shaped human skulls, as well as a few mummies. I really enjoyed the museum as they had great displays and information about the skeletons and skulls which were exhibited, which is something I rarely see in museums.  
On my way back to the hostel after visiting the museum, I stopped by Saint Francis Xavier University, which can be found on the Bolivian $100 bill. The building is in an old colonial style with a large fountain and a steeple like projection from the roof. I took a few pictures before going back to the hostel and hopping on the bus to my next stop, the Cretaceous Park.  
Mummies in the Anthropology Museum
Saint Francis Xavier University

The Cretaceous Park is located about 5 km outside of the city, and is easily accessible by public bus. The site is the world’s largest paleontological site and is home to hundreds of dinosaur tracks on a vertical wall coming out of the ground. The museum has many life size replicas of dinosaurs which are very well made. The guided tour lasted about 30-40 minutes, after which was free time to wander around and explore the exhibits.   
Dinosaurs in the park
Dinosaur tracks
When I returned from the park, I decided I needed to get a haircut while in Sucre because my hair was getting too long. Thanks to a recommendation on the SucreLife website, I found a place that did a great job for only $5 and took to time at all. The guy was really friendly and nice to chat with for a bit while he was cutting off the ridiculous amount of hair that had grown since I’ve been here in South America.
Once I lost a few pounds of hair, I went back toward the main plaza and visited the Morbid Anatomy museum. I was the only non-medical student visiting at that time, which was amusing. The museum featured all the best things one could want in a museum — skeletons, plasticized bodies, jarred organs, etc. I spent a while looking through the collections before heading to another part of the city before nightfall.  
I walked toward another park and plaza near my hostel which housed an old theatre and the Bolivian Supreme Court. The park was lovely and had a small river and Eiffel Tower replica inside of it. There were women selling delicious pieces of fried dough covered in honey for 1Bs (14 cents). I stayed and watched the colors of the sunset change the white churches an orange color before finding food and getting an early sleep for the first bus to Potosi the following morning. DSC_0360


Published by

David Hansen

Bioarchaeologist in training with an incurable travel bug. I write about my travel experiences and archaeological sites/research from around the globe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s