Bolivia’s fifth largest, and most beautiful, city, Sucre is a sanctuary for those looking to recharge their batteries while exploring a cultural gem at a slow and leisurely pace.
Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, Sucre has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site to protect its many pristine and historically significant buildings. From the charming colonial architecture and immaculately manicured parks to the pleasant year-round weather and unique cultural sites, Sucre is the ideal spot for leisurely exploration. Exuding old-world charm and filled with languid pursuits, most days you will find children chasing pigeons in the plaza, couples enjoying an ice-cream in the sun and old friends catching up in one of the many cozy cafes.
Largely untouched by tourism, the youthful city is a goldmine of unexplored treasures and cultural activity. It’s also one of the cheapest and safest cities in South America, making it the perfect place to visit or live.
Top Things to See and Do in Sucre
Sucre’s Colourful Markets – Sucre and the surrounding area play host to several bustling and colorful markets. Walking around Mercado Central, Mercado Campesino and the famous Tarabuco Market, tourists can soak in Bolivia’s unique culture while shopping for anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to handcrafted textiles and medicinal plants.
Casa de la Libertad – One of the most historically significant buildings in Bolivia is Sucre’s Casa de la Libertad where, in 1825, the republic was created with the signing of the Bolivian declaration of independence. Originally a Jesuit chapel, today Casa de la Libertad is a fascinating museum dedicated to one of the most important times in Bolivia’s history.
The Metropolitan Cathedral – As the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Bolivia, the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral of Sucre is of great importance to the deeply religious city. Sitting prominently on the corner of Plaza 25 de Mayo, the Metropolitan Cathedral is regarded as one of the most beautiful churches in the country as well as being home to Bolivia’s most important religious museum, the Museo Catedralicio.
Parque Cretácico – Sucre is the ultimate place to get your dinosaur fix, being home to a towering cliff-face criss-crossed with 5055 fossilized dinosaur footprints from about 15 species of dinosaur. Now a major tourist attraction, Parque Cretácico also features over two dozen life-size dinosaur sculptures, a museum, audiovisual display, restaurant and gift shop.The park can easily be visited in a couple of hours and is a must for any visit to Sucre. Because let’s face it – dinosaurs are awesome!
Study Spanish – Whether your goal is to order a beer in the local language, indulge in Telenovelas, acquire fluency, or simply have a chat with your new Latino friends, Sucre is without doubt one of the best cities in the world to learn Spanish. With lessons starting at $4 per hour you’ll be hard pushed to find a cheaper, not to mention more beautiful place to study Spanish than in Sucre.
Trek to Maragua Crater – A wonderful way to discover Sucre’s beautiful and diverse countryside is to do a 2 day trek from Sucre to the Maragua Crater. During the trek you will see some breathtaking Bolivian scenery, learn about the local flora and fauna, get up close to dinosaur footprints and share the customs and traditions of a local Quechuan family.
Volunteer – Despite being a city of “old money”, only a small fraction of people in Sucre enjoy this wealth. Behind the colonial façade lies a large indigenous population living in unimaginable circumstances. Fortunately there are a number of wonderful organisations throughout the city providing constructive and worthwhile projects to help improve the lives of the city’s most afflicted. No matter your skill-base, age, education level or length of stay, there are opportunities available to anyone willing to help.
General Cemetery – Visiting a cemetery on your travels may seem a little morbid, however Sucre’s General Cemetery is quite the opposite. Offering a peaceful hideaway from life’s stresses, many of Sucre’s locals go to the cemetery to read a book, catch up with friends or simply to contemplate life. As you enter the cemetery, make sure to take note of the bold sign above the entrance – Hodie Mihi Cras Tibi: Today Me, Tomorrow You.
Espacio Cultural Origenes Show – One of Sucre’s must-see tourist attractions is Espacio Cultural Origenes’ folkloric show and dinner spectacular. The restaurant is set around a large stage where, almost every night of the week, they put on a colorful, high-energy dance show featuring traditional dances from Sucre and the rest of Bolivia.
San Francisco Basilica – An asymmetric classically-styled temple with baroque influences, Iglesia San Francisco’s most notable feature is its liberty bell. The story goes that on the 25th of May in 1809, the Bolivian independence movement began with the ringing of the Basilica’s bell. The bell was rung so hard that it broke. The “freedom bell” as it came to be known is now kept on display in the Basilica.
La Glorieta Castle – One of the oddest chapters in Bolivia’s history is the tale of its only prince and princess and the crazy, fairy-tale castle they built on the outskirts of Sucre. Designed by an Italian and British architect, the building is an eclectic, almost fantastical construction painted entirely in pink. Located 5.5km from the city centre, La Glorieta can be reached either by bus or by walking for 1 hour through Sucre’s green and peaceful countryside.
Avenida de las Americas – Visitors to Sucre will usually find that they spend the majority of their time within a few blocks of the central square. Those willing to look further afield will come across Avenida de las Americas, a wide, imposing two-laned avenue adorned with manicured gardens, historical statues, dinosaur telephone boxes, a beautiful large flower clock as well as a handful of restaurants and bars frequented by locals.
Go To The Movies – After a long stint on the road, sometimes it’s nice to relax with a good movie. Sucre’s main cinema is CineSAS, showing many of the biggest releases at the same time as they premiere around the world. The cinema has 3 screens showing movies in either 2D, 3D or both. Depending on the movie it will either be in English, English with Spanish subtitles or dubbed into Spanish. On Wednesdays CineSAS offers 2 for 1 tickets, allowing you to see movies for as little as US$1.80 per person.
Paragliding With Joy Ride Tours – One of the most adventurous ways to experience Sucre’s city views is to go paragliding with Joy Ride Tours. The paragliding flight takes place in the skies above zona de Viña Pampa, 1.5hrs from Sucre. The take-off point is 500 meters above the landing site on the banks of the River Chico, giving a minimum flight time of 10 minutes. With favorable air currents, the flight can last up to 20 minutes.
Las Siete Cascadas – Those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life will appreciate a day trip to Las Siete Cascadas; a series of small waterfalls with natural swimming pools just 8 kilometres outside of Sucre. While the waterfalls themselves are not particularly remarkable, the gorge in which they’re located is stunning. On a sunny day, the picturesque area is filled with locals enjoying picnics with their family and friends as well as outdoor enthusiasts looking to spend the afternoon hiking, swimming, climbing and exploring the surrounding valleys.
Hike Or Climb Sica-Sica – Sucre lies at the foot of the twin hills Sica-Sica and Churuquella. The peak of Cerro Sica-Sica is 2,732m above sea level, but only a few hundred metres above Sucre itself. At the top of a hill is a large crucifix which is illuminated at nights and often glows eerily against a backdrop of low-lying cloud. Sica-Sica offers panoramic views over the city, and climbing it is about a 2hr round trip from the center of town, making it a great way to spend a sunny morning (or afternoon). The hill is also a popular place for rock-climbing due to its proximity to the city and the presence of several rock-faces with routes suitable for a range of skill levels.
Where to Eat & Drink in Sucre
One of the best things about Sucre is that it’s often just as cheap to eat out at a restaurant as it is to cook at home. From fast food to fine-dining, there are a pleasant variety of dining options to choose from allowing travelers to enjoy both local cuisine as well as comfort foods from back home.
And vegetarians needn’t miss out as there are plenty of tantalising meat-free dishes to devour during your stay in the “white city”. While a growing number of restaurants are catering for vegetarians, when ordering you may wish to say “No como carne, ni pollo, ni jamón, ni pescado” (I don’t eat meat, chicken, ham or fish) as vegetarianism is still a relatively new concept in Bolivia and you may find that only red meat is excluded if you simply advise that you’re vegetariano / vegetariana.
Where to Stay in Sucre
There is no denying that traveling through a developing nation has its ups and downs. While accommodation in Sucre is definitely cheap compared to western hotels of the same standard, it is not always cheerful, potentially leaving travelers bleary-eyed, cranky and even unsafe.
That being said, there are some wonderful gems to be found, featuring clean and comfortable rooms, beautiful communal spaces, friendly staff and fun social events. From luxury hotels to cheap and cheerful B&Bs, there’s a multitude of accommodation options around the city to suit every travel style and budget.
To help ensure you get a good night’s rest, here is our pick of the best places to stay in Sucre:
Shopping in Sucre
Sucre and the surrounding area play host to several bustling, colorful markets.
From busy farmers markets selling beautiful fresh produce to local artisan markets selling anything from textiles to medicinal plants, shopping at Sucre’s local markets is a wonderful cultural experience.
Fashion and Accessories
In Sucre you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping for unique handicrafts, beautiful Alpaca clothing and modern fashion.
T’ika is one of the best stores in the city to purchase high quality Alpaca knits, coats and accessories. Their products, handmade by the La Paz Women’s Organisation, are 100% Alpaca and free from artificial dyes.
Another great place to purchase clothing is Alpaca Andina. This shop is dedicated to fair trade products, selling the creations of young orphans and women who are integrating themselves back into the workforce. Their work is beautifully crafted and the clothing both sophisticated and modern.
Events & Festivals in Sucre
The Pujllay Festival of Tarabuco – Located in the Chuquisaca department, about 65 km east of Sucre, is a town famous not only for its vibrant open air market and unique Yampara culture, but its annual two-day weekend fiesta held each year on March 12.
Virgin of Guadalupe Festival – Each year, in the first half of September, the serene city of Sucre transforms into a voracious party zone featuring non-stop dancing, joyful music, delicious food and elaborate costumes, all in honour of Sucre’s patroness, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Semana Santa – Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is the week leading up to, but not including, Easter Sunday. The Christian holiday is observed throughout Latin America with Sucre being no exception, though celebrations in Bolivia’s capital are more peaceful and subdued than elsewhere.
Carnaval – Each year on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, the usually tranquil city of Sucre comes alive for Carnival. The unique festival features spectacular folk dances, extravagant costumes, beautiful crafts, lively music, and up to 20 hours of continuous partying.
Christmas – Christmas in Sucre combines the best of traditional religious celebrations and Western festivities to produce a holiday which is both deeply meaningful and outrageously fun. It’s a unique blend, the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced before.
International Cultural Festival – Every two years, artists from all over the world flock to Sucre to partake in a festival of multicultural artistic expression. Held over two weeks in the months of October/November, more than 2000 local and international artists, writers, musicians and photographers come together to exhibit their works at the International Culture Festival.
Getting To, From & Around Sucre
Sucre is located in the south-central part of Bolivia, in a fertile valley tucked away at the bottom of the twin hills of Churuquella and Sica Sica. The city is the gateway to numerous small villages dating from the colonial era and is the jumping-off point to many trekking and outdoor activities in the Chuquisaca region.
Most long distance connections to and from Sucre operate from its main bus station, located 2km (20 blocks) from the city center. The easiest way to get to and from Sucre’s bus terminal is by taxi, costing around Bs. 4 ($0.60) per person.
Located in the municipality of Yamparáez, 25kms to the South of Sucre, Alcantarí International Airport is around 30 kilometres from the city centre with an estimated travel time of around 40 minutes. Be aware that during peak hours busses fill up fast, so factor in plenty of time in order to secure a seat.The price of a taxi to and from Alcantarí airport is Bs 50 ($7.20 US). The rate goes up to Bs 60 ($8.70 US) if two or more passengers are sharing a taxi. Minibuses leave from the corner of Av Gregorio Donoso and Calle Camargo and the cost is set at Bs 8 ($1.15 US per person).
Transport within Sucre is safe and reliable. Most of the city’s tourist attractions can be discovered within 5 km of the main plaza either on foot or by public transport. To get further afield, there are plenty of bus routes serving Sucre’s surrounding villages and attractions, otherwise you can easily take a tourist bus or hire private transport. As in any city, make sure to only take marked taxis and avoid walking by yourself at night.
Getting to, from and around Sucre: provides information on how to travel between Sucre and other popular destinations in Bolivia:
Finding Wifi in Sucre
With connection speeds in Sucre averaging 2Mbps, they still trail many capital cities, but can accommodate most uses: Skyping home, booking hostels, checking social media, blogging, listing to podcast, running an online businesses and streaming (non-HD) shows. Unfortunately, online gamers will probably be out of luck. Peak times (as people take lunch / finish work) can result in slow connections and drop-outs so plan accordingly.
For most, the free WiFI available in most hostels and tourist-focused cafes / bars will suffice. As you are sharing the connection with others you may want to tiime video calls, etc, at low usage times, such as early in the morning or during the day when other travelers are out on tours, etc.
For a better connection, consider purchasing a 4G dongle (or sim card for an existing one) from Bolivia’s main telcos Tigo and Viva, both just off Plaza 25 de Mayo.
After three years of promoting Sucre as a top South American destination, we are thrilled to bring to you the city’s most comprehensive guidebook to date. Written with the first time visitor in mind, the 92-page Sucre City Guide is a special blend of practical advice coupled with personal tips for getting to know the white city.