Sucre - the Museum City
The Department of Chuquisaca borders to the north with that of Cochabamba, to the south with the Department of Tarija, to the east with Santa Cruz and the Republic of Paraguay and to the west with Potosí. Its surface covers 51,500 square kilometers and its altitude ranges from 1,100 to 2,700 meters above sea level, thereby including both temperate and subtropical climate. Of the 450,000 inhabitants in the department, 120,000 of them live in Sucre, the capital.
The “City of Four Names” strives diligently to preserve its predominantly colonial appearance. A large percentage of the population is made up of students from different regions of the country who have come to study a professional career in the venerable cloisters of the Real y Pontificia Universidad de Charcas.
Each of the city’s four names relates to a distinct historical period.
• Charcas. This is the name of the pre-Hispanic indigenous village that declined under the Spanish King’s Audiencia and then disappeared with the creation of the Republic in 1825.
• La Plata. This name was used during the colonial period to designate the archbishop’s domain, which included the departments of Oruro, Potosi, Tarija, and Chuquisaca.
• Chuquisaca. With independence, this name came into vogue. Its origin according to some versions is choque (gold) and chaca (bridge). This became the name of the whole department.
• Sucre. This name honors the independence hero, the Marshall of Ayacucho, José Antonio de Sucre. Sucre is the name of Bolivia’s legal capital although, with the exception of the Supreme Court, all Bolivian government institutions are located in the de facto capital of La Paz.
Truounded on September 29, 1538 by the Marquis of Campo Redondo (Pedro Anzures), this city soon became the urban beacon of its region within South America, thanks to the settling here of various important institutions of the Viceroyalty: the Royal Audiencia of Charcas (the powerful juridical-administrative body of Alto Peru), the seat of the Archbishop of Charcas since 1609, and the university (Universidad Mayor Real y Pontificia San Francisco Xavier) since 1624.
Sucre was the protagonist of the first declaration of independence of Latin America on May 25, 1809 and was the scene of the signing of the act of independence that created the Republic of Bolivia on August 6, 1825.
The existence of all these institutions and the development as a colonial and later republican intellectual center converted Sucre into a city of intense cultural activity.
In this context, this “Monument City of the Americas”, in each its museum, in each private collection, convent and colonial church, in each school hall housing great murals, and above all in the committed preservation of the architectural integrity, conserves its artistic grandeur.
Meanwhile, its shaded plazas, intimate colonial streets and profuse gardens make it an ideal place for rest and reflection. Sucre was rightfully declared a Monument of the Americas in 1979 and also a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO in 1992.
Sucre is easily accessible from La Paz, Potosí, Tarija, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
Sucre is often combined with a trip to Potosí on the way to or from Uyuni and the colored deserts of southwestern Bolivia.
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Sucre, Bolivia – Touring the City
Sucre’s wealth and diversity of landmarks and places of interest allow us to cater an alternative tour to the traveler’s specific interests. As described below (see collapsible panel), there are essentially two main touring routes, each requiring at least a day in length, the first beginning at the main plaza (25 de Mayo) and the second departing from the old city (Plazuela Pedro Anzures). Obviously these two alternatives can be merged into a third option according to the preferences of the traveler, including a half-day tour for those with less time available, around the main plaza.
Touring the City
What to do Around Sucre
The mountains to the northwest of the city contain surprising attractions rarely described in tourist guides. When you leave Sucre, Chataquilla is an obligatory stop. Since pre-Inca times, this was an important stop-off point offering rest and refuge. A small village church, built into the rocks, guards a virgin reputed to have performed miracles. From this pleasant village, there are various footpaths leading to river beaches, a high view over a crater, or ancient rock paintings.
Dinosaur Footprints, Pre-Columbian Sites and Cave Paintings
The best known and most accessible of the region's many dinosaur tracks are at the Fancesa cement factory known as Cal Orck’o, just 3 km out of town. The tracks were discovered by the workers in 1994, but it took some time for them to be fully identified. There are three main types of tracks: some belong to the herbivorous Sauropods or Titanosaurus, others to the armored Ankylosaurus, and finally there are carnivorous Theropods. Ask us for complementary information about this thrilling paleontological site.
The Cordillera de los Frailes overlooks the city of Sucre, on the northwest towards the villages of Potolo and Maragua–Quila Quila. This is a beautiful region virtually unknown to conventional tourists.
In the distance we see the bowl-like “Crater” of Maragua. This beautiful, temperate valley with waterfalls, causeways and the old farm of Aritumayu, is the port of entry to the region of Potolo, where various ethnic groups preserve their ancestral music, weaving and history.
Maragua is actually a synclinal basin. An incredible number of dinosaur tracks have been found recently on the outside walls of this geological formation. This paleontological site gives us another opportunity for a day or two of further exploration, and for a unique look at prehistoric life in northwestern Sucre, following high Andean trails and entering habitats where we will be immersed in 68-million-year-old landscapes. Preservation in this area is so good that in some instances the imprint of dinosaur skin is intact. This is one of the richest areas; in walking for a couple of hours, one can spot hundreds of dinosaur footprints and trackways, as well as a number of fossils. Further walks in the surroundings also enable us to meet with the indigenous people of this area.
Still not far from this spot, on the flanks of the same Cordillera de los Frailes are other art rock, at Supay Huasi. These anthromorphic and zoomorphic figures are ochre and yellow in color. Continuing the trip to a small village called Ravelo, one finds yet more cave painting in the cave of Tanga Tanga. These engraved animal figures have a dreamlike quality and are found within an area of 20 square kilometers.
Prior to returning to Sucre, some travelers will want to try the q’alapurca soup, a cream of corn cooked over volcanic rock which is typical of the area.
Colonial Haciendas and Indigenous Community Initiatives
A few kilometers from Tarabuco (see next section), the Hacienda Candelaria, representing the large landowner culture of the colonial period, is surrounded by Yampara indigenous communities that conserve their way of life, including their textiles and pre-Hispanic native dances. A stay at the Hacienda Candelaria is tantamount to traveling back hundreds of years in time. An added bonus are the fossil sites in the surrounding area.
The trip covers some of the main sites in the area, but additionally we try and visit places more off the beaten track to give an insight into other aspects of this fascinating region, and provide much needed tourism to places such as the Jatun Yampara Indigenous Community Project that lie off the normal route. Here we may be invited to stay overnight in a community run house, thus providing vital income for the inhabitants of the community. (Ask us for details here.)
Jatun Yampara Community Project
Tarabuco’s Indian Market
At 65 kilometers from the city of Sucre and only an hour and a half by paved highway, Tarabuco, the region’s most important indigenous community, is easy to reach. Tarabuco fulfills a triple role as a religious, political and commercial center. The town’s regular Sunday indigenous fair may be the most authentic in all of South America; ancestral customs are maintained, including the pre-Hispanic bartering system. Superb artisan work is available, particularly the Indian weavings featuring geometric and zoomorphic designs.
In both quality and originality, the town’s clothing is its major attraction; through these textiles one can trace the history, customs, and traditions of the local residents.
Our excursion includes a stop at the village of Yamparaez and/or at the ancient community of Jatun Yampara for initiating contact with the native Quechua and Yampara populations. Upon arrival in Tarabuco, we stroll through the small city, visiting the Indian artisans’ market, the focus of the trip, in order to chat with the local inhabitants and learn of their pre-Hispanic bartering system.
The cultural patterns of the colorful town of Tarabuco are guided by a respect for natural phenomena, as is manifested in the rich expressions of folklore in its social, spiritual and artistic forms. In order to please the spirits that give life to the world and obtain favors from them such as good harvests, the Tarabucans maintain their rituals and festivals, blending so-called pagan and religions customs.
Among these festivals is the Pujllay, which happens to coincide with the heroic victories of the Tarabucans (May 12, 1816 and March 18, 1818) during the Independence War. More than twenty nearby communities get together to celebrate these events while at the same time paying homage to the Pachamama (Mother Earth).
Sucre is located in the south central part of Bolivia.
Through our intimate, small-group tours and private expeditions in this area you will be able to visit sites most tourists, even seasoned travelers, never find.
Join us on a discovery of a lifetime in Sucre, Bolivia.
The Foundation for Anthropological Studies
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