Sometimes, when you go with the flow, you just end up wherever the waves take you. Despite Sucre being nowhere on my radar when it came to Christmas plans, I ended up here through a series of happy accidents and good people. I arrived in the sleepy town of Sucre having only booked two nights. I ended up staying for 13 nights, including the Christmas holidays, and not exactly by choice at first.
A lingering toothache from La Paz forced me to go to the dentist and find out that I had a bad infection that would require some awful dental work. I would have to stay in Sucre until the infection went away and surgery could be done. Merry Christmas to me, hey? December 23rd was meant to be my last day but after meeting an amazing group of people, we all decided to drop our travel plans temporarily and spend Christmas together. Our rag-tag gang of backpacker orphans consisted of Aussies, Americans, Belgians, Dutch, Welsh, English, and little, ol’ Filipino me.
We had a squad. We had Christmas spirit. And in Sucre, we had a ball. Sucre actually surprised me in a number of ways. It was only my second Christmas away from home, the last one being in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa. Safe to say surfing on Christmas day didn’t exactly make it feel like the holidays. At least in Sucre, the capital of a heavily Catholic country, there was the undeniable aura of Christmas.
The streets were sparkling with Christmas lights. Every small plaza was decorated for Christmas. Everything from fancy restaurants to cozy cafes were doing their part to make Sucre alive with the spirit of Christmas. And the magic of the Plaza de Armas is undeniable. A little float driving around the city with a giant, sparkling Christmas present on the back and Santa at the helm added a little bit more to the magic.
Things To Know About Christmas in Sucre
Are things open during the holidays?
Surprisingly, yes. With Bolivia being a very Catholic and traditional country, I expected the holidays to be a quieter time where everyone spends it with family. Sucre isn’t exactly a tourist hotspot that can capitalize on travelers’ money during the holidays, so I was definitely surprised to see that a significant number of restaurants, markets, and shops were open on Christmas Eve and even Christmas day. If you are traveling through and are worried about finding somewhere to eat or buy groceries, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Best Spots for Christmas Decoration Watching
Although you will find the entire city draped in holiday decor, there are a few places where they go all out.
The Plaza de Armas
The main square of Sucre is where you’ll find the most Christmas decorations and their best tree. While the Plaza de Armas is a great place to hang out at all times of day, the place lit up at night gets significantly more magical.
Mirador de La Recoleta
This viewpoint is a stunning place to get a great overview of the city of Sucre. I came here at least three times for sunset, and often ended up staying much longer after the sun went down. The vibe here is amazing. The decorations here add to the already laid-back and magical aura of the area.
At first, I found it weird going to the cemetery, but any local will tell you that it is one of Sucre’s most impressive attractions. We went a couple of days before Christmas, and it was even more amazing. During the holiday season, everyone comes to visit and pay their respects or add some extra flowers or presents to the deceased. The already unique tombs will be covered in flowers and more, adding color to an already beautiful site.
Where To Party on Christmas
Another surprise was finding places to party during Christmas. Since we were young backpackers and didn’t exactly have any family obligations on Christmas, we decided to turn it into a drinking holiday. The wine flowed heavily at our Christmas dinner before we proceeded to go bar-hopping. A lot of backpacker hostels double as bars and nightclubs, such as Imaynalla and KulturBerlin. A lot of bars were open as well on Christmas Eve, including Joyride Cafe which was surprisingly packed.
On Christmas Eve, we spent the brunt of the party at KulturBerlin. The party was relatively quiet compared to the ragers that KulturBerlin normally throws, but with it being the holidays, that was understandable. Having a place to dance and drink at all was a surprise for me. Once the music stopped at around 2:30 AM, the owner even encouraged us to go to a different bar, Tabaco’s, where the party often goes until 6 AM or later.
On Christmas, we partied at O’Finnigans Irish Pub, where they threw an electronic party that was also quite packed. Locals and travelers alike filled up the dance floor, so you are guaranteed to have a good crowd even on Christmas. There were a few other places that were throwing parties, so you definitely have options.
Bolivia loves to party, and the holidays only amplify that.
If you are planning on spending Christmas in Sucre, whether by choice or by accident like myself, then know that you are in a good spot. I wouldn’t consider it to be mind-blowingly exciting or anything, but with a good group of friends and the holiday spirit very much alive, Sucre ended up being a great place to spend Christmas.