Sucre is without doubt the most beautiful Bolivian city. Well in fact it is one of the most beautiful cities I have visted in central and South America. The stunning city of Sucre has a rich colonial heritage, evident in its buildings, streetscapes and numerous churches. In 1991 it was declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site.
The city has many amazing flowery plazas, good restaurants, indigenous markets and is really a fantastic place to spend at least a few days. Do go to the food market and tast the amazing fruit salats…they are divine and cost hardly anything.
I really find it a shame that La Paz became the governmental capital. Sucre is a much more beautiful place and hence gives a lot better image of Bolivia.
If you visit Bolivia I definitely recommend you to reserve at least three days for Sucre. You will not regret it 🙂
La Paz is overwhelming in many aspects, not just because of the altitude of 3660m. From a distance, the city looks like a cement jungle (as on the picture above), but when you move around inside it actually has many beautiful neighbourhoods.
The suburbs are posh, with skyscrapers, colonial houses, and modern glass constructions. But most of the commerce and daily activity takes place further up in the centre of the city where a mass of irregular-shaped steep streets and alleys wind their way skywards. Here you will see lots of street-sellers, neighbourhoods divided into different commerce and witch-craft shops selling llama fetuses.
The sky-high altitude means that warm clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses are essential. I enjoyed the city due to its many faces.
In this Podcast from Bolivia I head from Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca (birthplace of the Incas) to La Paz, the capital (and highest capital city in the world), where I go on a mountain biking trip down the most dangerous road in the world – the Death road. Finally, I head to Potosi (highest city in the world), then onto the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in the south of Bolivia
Taking the bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaque is NOT for the faint-hearted. The majority of travellers who take the bus there – decides to fly back. The picture above might explain to you why that is.
The journey takes about 18 hours and the first 4-5 hours are done on a very small dirt road onto which only one normal vehicle fits. However, buses drive there all the time and it gets really “funny” when these buses meet a truck or another bus and have to pass each other.
On the picture you can see how much space there is…well hardly enough for ONE vehicle. Then imagine two next to each other and a mountain drop on the outside of about 300 meters. That’s the reality.
On top of that you drive at night. I am a believer in destiny – so I just went to sleep. But the girls I travelled with didn’t close an eye and perhaps with good reason. The passengers on the other bus driving down there at the same time as ours, was woken up at 2am with their bus hanging over the edge of the mountain. They had to get out and pull. Needless to say that they couldn’t sleep the rest of that night.
The trip is beautiful and cheap though and I did actually decide to take the bus both ways…you have to be a believer 🙂
While residing in La Paz I came across a very funny and peculiar tourist attraction: Pachamama fighting.
Pachamama fighting is literally pachamamas fighting…usually not with each other . Most of the time one woman fight (hitting, boxing, kicking, biting) with one man, but sometimes they team up – two women against two men.
Most of the time the fights are “pretended” fights – meaning they pretend to hit and be hurt, but when we were there – one guy kept hitting a woman in the head with a wooden box and she started bleeding…honestly, it was nasty. However, the funniest part of the fights is actually the reaction of the audience and being part of the audience. The audience scream and throw things after the fighters…like orange peel, tomatoes, bread…very funny 🙂
The fights are held in a specially designated hall outside of La Paz (about 20 minutes drive from the centre). There is a square “boxing” stage in the middle, 3 meters of free space and then seats for the audience. The audience consists of both locals (mostly) and tourists.
You can buy an organised tour from La Paz which includes bus, entrance ticket, popcorn and a small pachamama doll. I would definitely recommend it – just remember the tomatoes 🙂
According to the Inter-American Development Bank, the Death Road in Bolivia is statistically the most dangerous road in the world. It has of course been turned into a tourist attraction, with twelve separate ‘adventure sports’ companies in La Paz offering Death Road mountain biking trips.
I decided to attempt it myself whilst in La Paz. The day began with a guest house pick-up at about 8am, and we drove from La Paz up to the starting point – ‘La Cumbre’ – at about 4,700 metres altitude. We’d imagined a nice sunny day, but for the last 30 minutes of the journey, we drove through sleet and snow, and we feel silent.
The company I’d chosen – El Solario – had promised to supply a waterproof raincoat, which turned out to be little more than a porous rag, and the state of the Trek mountain bikes left rather a lot to be desired – with chains falling off and brakes not working before we even began. These kind of ‘mechanical issues’ don’t inspire confidence when you’re about to descend 3,500 metres (in altitude) down the Death Road!
The first 20KM were spent freezing and wet, hurtling down rainy sealed roads with very low visibility as we passed through the cloud line. Soon we headed off-road onto the real ‘Death Road’ which is unsealed, and has no crash barriers at all along its nearly 40km length. We would intermittently stop whilst our guide described who had died (and how) in particular spots along the way. The worst accident involved a head on collision between two buses in the 80s. Both went over the edge, and sadly all 102 people lost their lives. There have also been 12 mountain-biking tourists killed over the years.
As a biking trip it was great fun. The views were superb, and biking downhill for nearly 60KM (and 3.5KM in altitude) was definitely a huge adrenaline rush. But was it really dangerous? On one occasion I came close to losing control on a bend, with a lethal drop to one side. This slowed me down immediately and for the rest of the trip but on several occasions I still nearly flew off the bike on as I connected with a rock or two. I’m sure a lot of people are considerably more reckless than I was and I’m also sure that for these people the Death Road could easily bring about a sudden and premature end….