We arrived in Sucre on the 23rd of May not realising the 25th of May would mark 207 years since the beginning of the Bolivian independence movement. Subsequently, most things were shut, masses of people filled the streets in parades which shut down roads so buses wouldn’t take us where we thought they would. Then, to top it off there was a nationwide transport strike blocking us in so we couldn’t leave. In spite of all this, we found a few fun things to entertain ourselves!
The historic city of Sucre is the capital of Bolivia, it is also known as The White City and due to its beautiful colonial architecture is a UNESCO listed world heritage site. This combined with the fact it’s relatively clean, has a variety of bars, hostels, restaurants, is very cheap and has some of the most reputable Spanish schools in South America, make it a popular place for travellers to stop for a week or more. Even though we arrived in the middle of the most significant public holiday of the year, here were the top 5 things we enjoyed in Sucre:
THE GOOD: Top 5 highlights
5: Wandering the streets surrounding La Recoleta
The Monastery of La Recoleta was founded in 1601 and sits above the city of Sucre. The plaza in front of the monastery offers lovely views of the city and makes a beautiful spot to take a picnic or enjoy a drink or snack from the mirador cafe. We also enjoyed wandering the nearby streets, it feels as though you have stepped back in time.
4: The view from the roof of Guereo Palace
This was a visit we hadn’t planned, we wandered past Palacete Del Guereo at around lunchtime, just as one of the security guards was coming back in eating an icecream. He said something to us in Spanish which we understood as “no it’s closed” but then he asked if we wanted to go in anyway. He showed us in and told us we were only able to go one at a time up the fragile wooden staircase, then left us to it! I can’t find anything about the history of the place but a plaque inside said it was inhabited up until the 1930s.
3: Escaping the City in Simon Bolivar Park
Sucre is a busy city so taking time to sit and enjoy the trees in Simon Bolivar park was right up there with our favourite Sucre experiences. On Sunday the place was a hive of activity and they had all kinds of activities for kids from toddler to teen. Bouncy castles, trampolines, zip lining, abseiling down the Eiffel Tower, slack-lining plus a live band and food stalls for the bigger kids like us. During the week it’s much quieter, so a really peaceful place for a picnic. We also heard the dancing fountain at the bottom of the park is lovely at night time but it wasn’t working while we were there.
2: Nerding it up at the Dinosaur Park
Parque Cretacico, or Cal Orck’o is home to the worlds largest and most diverse set of dinosaur footprints. The park is situated about 5km outside of Sucre in a working concrete mine where the prints were actually discovered by accident. During routine cement extractions the workers stopped short of the prints due to high concentrations of minerals making the stone unusable for cement. Then the rain and wind washed away the final layer to reveal a wall spanning 1200m in with some 110m tall covered in footprints left 65 million years ago and includes five thousand tetrapod footprints of about 15 different species.
The prints were initially left in a soft clay lake or riverbed which was covered by some kind of silt preserving the footprints intact and eventually fossilising them. Throughout history dramatic plate movements and land changes forced the bed upwards into a nearly vertical position.
The park can theoretically be reached by taking a public bus, but the info that we found was all wrong, so after a couple of failed attempts we ended up taking the touristic “Dino Truck” that left from the main plaza near the cathedral at 12.30pm. It costs 15bob ($3AUD) but only gives you an hour, so I rushed to join the 1pm footprints tour (which takes you down to the bottom of the wall in the quarry) and then ran back up to have a quick look around the dinosaur statues. We then had to sprint back out to the carpark and hop back on the Dino Truck. I believe it makes 3 trips per day, but please don’t take my word for it!
1: The Sucre Festival de Chocolate
MMmmmmm Chocolate… The world has always been crazy for chocolate, and with new cacao bars popping up in Europe it doesn’t look as though the love will die anytime soon. Bolivia is one of the worlds largest cacao producers and is home to some of the most delicious (as judged by me) and best value brands. The chocolate festival was 3 floors of little stands. The 1st floor was completely dominated by the Bolivian chocolate giants Para Ti and Taboada, the second floor featured small businesses and on the roof Para Ti had set up a human claw machine. For a fee they would winch you up in a harness and lower you into a ball pit, you then had to grab as much chocolate as you could in one handful and were able to keep whatever you could hold.
THE WEIRD: Top 5 Highlights
5: We didn’t see anyone smiling, throughout the entire 25 de mayo celebratory parade everyone was stone face serious
4: Police on motorbikes armed with shotguns ride through the parks on Sunday
3: There are people dressed up in zebra suits to help people cross the road, however all they do is dance around while cars narrowly miss them and other pedestrians
2: The kids cruise around with German plates
1: The drunks are passed out so cold you don’t even notice when they are right behind you