Sucre and La Paz, Bolivia


The city of SUCRE has been declared a Natural and Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The official and constitutional capital of Bolivia, Sucre prides itself on being the cultural center of America. The city is located in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains, at the foot of the Churicuella and Sica-Sica mountains. The city of white houses and red roofs is home to America’s second oldest university: San Francisco Javier de Chuquisaca, founded in 1624. Long-term isolation allowed Sucre to maintain a gallant charm. All buildings must be painted their original colonial white color according to local laws. The public buildings of the city are impressive. The 17th century Cathedral Museum houses the Guadalupan Virgin encrusted with precious stones. A must-see is San Miguel, rediscovered after 120 years, with carved and painted ceilings, white, skillful work on silver and alabaster. There are excellent museums at the top of Mount Churucuella. You can get to the top by a path bordered by crosses, a statue of Christ and with a panoramic view of the city and suburban fields.

The most colorful excursion is from Sucre to the town of Tarabuco, located 60 km away, in the province of Yamparaes. The Tarabuco Sunday Market draws peasants from all over the region. Local craftsmen make excellent conquistador-style leather helmets and colorful hand-knitted ponchos, chuspas (bags for coca and money), chumpies (skirts) and musical instruments. The most popular instrument is the charango, a stringed instrument made from the armadillo shell with hairs that, according to the craftsmen, continue to grow after the death of the animal.

In March every year, thousands of peasants from the Tarabuco area gather together with tourists and residents of Sucre to celebrate Puhlai, or carnival, one of the best traditional festivals in Latin America. The carnival commemorates the Battle of Khumbat, in which the Indians defeated the Spanish on March 12, 1826. The inhabitants dance to the music of charangos, samponas, tocoros, pinkillos and bells and chant in the Quechua language. They eat spicy local dishes and drink a drink made from maize – chicha.

Tiwanaku Ruins

In 1930, the American archaeologist Wendell Bennett arrived in Tiwanaku to study the ruins. He also discovered ruins associated with Tiwanaku at Pampa Koani, on a hill in the village of Lukurmata. For a long time, archaeologists assumed that Tiwanaku was a relatively insignificant period in the history of the Andean civilization. Most considered it a confederation of small dominions that appeared and then disappeared 400 years before the rise of the huge Inca empire that emerged between 1438 and 1500. It was believed that the ruins were just ceremonial centers used from time to time for tribal rituals.

But Bennett and everyone else who underestimated the culture of Tiwanaku was wrong. In August 1986, Allan Kolata, a 27-year-old anthropologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, led an exploratory expedition to Lukurmata Hill. A joint Bolivian-American team began excavating where Bennett had previously stopped them.

In just 3 months, the Kolata expedition made amazing discoveries. Among them is irrefutable evidence that Pampa Koani, where 7,000 people struggle to feed themselves today, was a very fertile place a few centuries ago, providing food for 125,000 people. The ancient inhabitants of Tiwanaku were able to cope with floods, droughts, frosts, soil depletion and salinization of the waters of Lake Titicaca, which today are a problem for farmers.

These fields are proof of what Kolata had suspected for a long time – Tiwanaku was one of the largest and most enduring empires in the world, and now a small market town was the flourishing capital of this empire for many millennia. Archaeologists have discovered here the remains of the so-called raised fields, which protected from frost and allowed fantastic harvests more than 2000 years ago.

La Paz

The highest mountain capital in the world is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains and is a striking variation, transitions from antiquity to modernity. Elevation changes from 4000 meters in El Alto to 3200 meters in La Florida. This city of more than a million people is the seat of government and the industrial, cultural, political and financial life of the country. Located in a natural basin and protected from strong winds, at an altitude of 6.439 meters is the Ilyimani glacier. The climate of La Paz is dry and cold. The average temperature is from 9 to 17 CÂș. The mixture of cultures is noticeable in any part of the city. The local population, still dressed in colorful clothes typical of the Inca times, contrasts with the strictly dressed office workers.

Among the attractions of the city are the Colonial Cathedral of San Francisco, founded in 1548 by the brother of Francisco de los Angeles and decorated with motifs from the life of Indians and a religious order; the central market with its noisy rows; a witch market where you can find a remedy for any disease or problem. Valley of the Moon is a place with a unique landscape shaped by winds and weather conditions. The city has many interesting museums, including the Tiwanaku Culture Museum with an excellent collection of art and ceramics from this ancient culture. The Murillo House is a colonial mansion, decorated with paintings, furniture, national costumes, with a separate room dedicated to herbal medicine and magic. The city has good hotels and many restaurants.

As the sun rises, women in round hats and layered poyeras, men and children start their day on foot or by bus into the city centre. After sunrise, merchants are already in their places in the markets and are ready to offer their various goods to buyers.

La Paz, Bolivia