Founded in the 1500s by Spanish colonials, the beautiful city of Sucre is famed for its charming whitewashed buildings, colonial heritage, and year-round spring like climate. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, the city is one of the most photographed and wonderful destinations in South America. Our suggested itinerary is designed to show you the best the country has to offer and what are the things you can accomplish in 3 days. Depending on your interests and travel priorities, you can certainly mix and match destinations, activities, and attractions to create your own itinerary.
Things to know before traveling to Bolivia:
Language – Being a Spanish colony for three centuries, Spanish have become the nation’s language which is widely spoken by majority of the people in the country. However, it is important to note that Bolivians still use their own like Aymara, Quechua and more than thirty other indigenous languages. Unlike its neighbor Brazil, most people in Bolivia do not speak English. Before you travel, learn to speak at least some Spanish phrases or words (or local dialects).
Currency exchange – The currency in Bolivia is Boliviano (BOB). Exchanging money in Sucre is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in South America. There are a few of money exchange houses (cambios) in the city, so exchanging major currencies like dollars, pounds or euros should not be a cause for concern. ATMs and credits cards are widely accepted, but check with your bank beforehand if there are any limitations. As a general rule, do not rely on credit or debit cards when traveling in Bolivia. It is still best to bring enough US dollar bills.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Bolivia. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Do not carry debit or credit cards with you, or hide it in your bra or shoes. There were incidents of robbery when offenders will escort you to an ATM and make you take out as much as you can. Leave your passport in the hotel’s safety deposit box and just carry a photocopy. Every traveler, especially solo female travelers, should take safety precautions because there has been incidents of reported armed robberies, sexual assault and violent crime targeting tourists.
Getting around – Getting around Sucre is pretty easy since it is very well connected by local bus systems. Regular buses (micros) and shared buses (trufi), the local bus systems that serve the entire city, is recommended for travelers. These are great options because they are cheap and frequent. In addition to local buses, radio taxis and normal taxis are other transportation options in the city. Taxis with a “bubble” sign on top belong to a registered taxi company, while taxis with no “bubble” sign or phone number work independently.
Where to stay – There’s a variety of accommodation in Sucre, ranging from small family-run pensions to hotels. In almost any neighborhoods, there’s something for every level of comfort and budget. Staying at one of the attractive whitewashed hotels in Sucre is one of those quintessential Bolivian experiences which can’t be skipped.
Hotels to consider in Sucre:
Day by day itinerary: Discover Sucre, Bolivia in 3 days
There is no better way to get acquainted in the city than walking along the historic Plaza 25 de Mayo. Located in the heart of the downtown, the central square is surrounded by picturesque colonial houses, restaurants, cafes, local vendors and souvenir shops. This is also where you will find a statue of Antonio Jose de Sucre, the leader of the fight for independence in Bolivia. Just like the other central square in South America, Plaza 25 de Mayo was the center of trade in the old times.
Your next destination is Casa de la Libertad (House of Liberty Museum), the place where the declaration of independence was signed in 1825. This is also where the city’s slogan “Sucre, donde nacio Bolivia” (Sucre, where Bolivia was born), was first used. This is a relevant and educational stop to create basic understanding of Bolivia’s history and colonial heritage. It can certainly be done on a DIY-style, but we recommend a guided tour so you can appreciate its cultural and historical relevance.
After lunch, you next destination is the Monasterio de Santa Clara (Santa Clara Convent), a 17th-century monastery for Franciscan sisters dedicated to Santa Clara. It houses some extraordinary historic and artistic relics including the works of Melchor Pérez de Holguín.
In the late afternoon, once you are through with the museum and convent, take a stroll back in the historic center and appreciate the well-preserved colonial buildings and houses. If you are looking for a place with lots of nightlife then Sucre is not for you. If you are looking for a place where to relax and chill out peacefully, and enjoy delicious food and a large selection of Bolivian wines, then you have come to the right place. You’ll find bars and restaurants in the historic center and because the city has a large number of student population, you’ll definitely feel the laid-back party vibe here.
The next day, visit the nearby village of Tarabuco, the center of the Yampara culture. To get there, catch a tourist bus from the main plaza in Sucre departing 8.30 am, which costs 35 Bolivianos or about 5 USD. Another option is to rent a car – check with your hotel for the available options. If you are lucky enough that your second day in Sucre is on a Sunday, then you also go to the Tarabuco Sunday Market. Here, you will witness the indigenous people of the surrounding mountains sell their beautiful weavings, dried foodstuff, sandals and other local products. You can also pick some souvenirs like ch’uspa coca bags, ponchos, shawls and a lot more.
Back in Sucre, visit the Universidad de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca (University of Saint Francis Xavier), one of the first universities in the world. The Royal and Pontifical university was controlled by the Roman Catholic church was founded in 1624 by Royal Decree signed by King of Spain Philip IV.
In the afternoon, make your way to the Monasterio de La Recoleta, the convent founded by the Franciscan Order. Perched at the top of Calle Polanco, the monastery is a perfect place for sunset viewing where you can get a stunning panoramic view of Sucre and beyond. After your historic tour, make your way back to your hotel and get a good night sleep so you have energy for a whole day of adventure the next day.
Taking into consideration that you most likely stayed out rather late the other night, you can start your third and last day in the city at around 10 to 11 in the morning. If you are a catholic and your last day happens to be on a Sunday, rise early and head to the Basilica de San Francisco de Charcas (San Francisco Basilica) to attend a celebration of the Mass. Built in the 16th century, at the same time Sucre was founded, the Basilica has become one of Bolivia’s most important historical landmarks.
You may also dedicate this day wandering around Mercado Central, main farmer’s market in Sucre. A major tourist attraction in Sucre, the market is one of the best places to experience local culture. Here, you can buy the finest local delicacies, garden fresh vegetables and fruits, spices, cured meat, among others. It’s also a great place for foodies as the upper level has several restaurants serving delicious hot meals. Do not miss to try their fresh juices for the complete experience!
Have you been to Sucre or anywhere else in Bolivia? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Church of San Felipe Neri (Oratorio de San Felipe de Neri) in Sucre, Bolivia (saiko3p / Shutterstock.com)