Sucre is a city that really surprised me. I had heard about how one can get sucked into staying in Sucre for far longer than planned. Considering the snail’s pace that I travel at, I should have known that it would happen to me as well. I initially planned on staying in Sucre for two nights. I ended up staying for thirteen, even spending Christmas in this beautiful city. Sucre is a backpacker’s paradise. It is a city that I would compare to somewhere like Cusco or Arequipa in Peru or Cuenca in Ecuador.
After experiencing the chaos of La Paz, Sucre served as a much-needed change. Sucre attracts backpackers for a number of reasons. It is beautiful, fun, and affordable. It is also one of the most culturally and historically significant cities in all of Bolivia. Throw in a very lively nightlife scene on top of that and you have everything that I desire in a city.
How To Get To Sucre, Bolivia
Sucre is located in south-central Bolivia, making it a convenient destination or layover for backpackers. A stop in Sucre can break up longer journeys between northern Argentina, Peru, and elsewhere in Bolivia. From the other big cities of Santa Cruz and La Paz, Sucre is a 12-hour night bus away. An overnight bus from La Paz to Sucre cost me 180 BOB, although the return trip to La Paz only cost me 100 BOB. The bus company I took was El Dorado, which was not as nice as I was expecting, based on the price. However, it had privacy curtains, reclining seats, and was good enough to get me from La Paz to Sucre.
If you are coming from elsewhere in Bolivia, it should also be pretty easy to get to Sucre since it is the capital and one of the largest cities in the country. My friends said they paid 90 BOB to take a bus from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to Sucre. From Potosi, I heard something crazy like 4 Bolivianos if you take the local bus.
Where To Stay in Sucre
Although Bolivia might be less-traveled through than other backpacker havens of South America, it still has its fair share of incredible hostels. As a backpacker, it is easy to feel at home with Bolivian hospitality mixed in with spacious colonial-era buildings. The hostel I stayed in was KulturBerlin, although I stopped by a few other hostels either for a party or to visit some other friends. Because most hostels are never filled with travelers, they also usually double up as restaurants or bars or Spanish schools to get their money. Because of this, your hostel will likely also be a poppin’ nightclub or Spanish school.
The Best Things to do in Sucre, Bolivia
If you’ve spent some time in Bolivia before, then you already know that there is no shortage of weird and unique activities everywhere you go. Sucre is no exception. This city has a lot of amazing things to do, although I’ll admit that it feels quite tame after experiencing the otherworldliness of La Paz. However, there is still something for everyone to do in and around this beautiful city.
La Recoleta Viewpoint
I paid La Recoleta multiple visits during my time in Sucre. Although there isn’t much to actually do to warrant all of those visits, La Recoleta had an awesome view and an even better vibe. Seriously, catching the sunset from here is one of the best views you can get in the city. To get to La Recoleta, it is about a 15-20 minute walk from the center of Sucre. Although it is uphill, it is well-worth the short but exhausting hike up the cobbled paths.
One of the most popular trips one can take from Sucre is to the Maragua Crater. It is a nice activity for people who love the outdoors and beautiful scenery and want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Sucre for a bit. I didn’t get a chance to do this while I was in Sucre, but you can read more about this trek here.
Think it’s weird to hang out at a cemetery? Not in Sucre. The cemetery in Sucre is one of the nicest parts of the city. It feels more like a tranquil park than a cemetery. It is very clean, beautiful, and the spaces not used up by graves and tombs are covered in lush greenery and decorations.
Castillo de la Glorieta
The pink palace just outside of Sucre’s main city is one of the most beautiful buildings in the area. It is an abandoned palace these days, so while it still looks stunning on the outside, the inside is quite bare. It gives it a haunted, abandoned building feeling, with cracked mirrors and creaky steps everywhere. This is a good for a quick trip that shouldn’t take more than 2 or so hours. You can take the local bus from Sucre to get to the castle for 2 Bolivianos.
Parque Cretacico and the Fossil Wall
One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen was the fossil wall covered with thousands of dinosaur footprints. In traditional Bolivian fashion, this incredible paleontological site is hardly preserved. People can literally go up and touch the footprints close to the bottom of the wall.
Parque Cretacico is definitely well worth the visit. You can take a bus for 1.5 BOB from the city all the way to Parque Cretacico. The entrance is 30 Bolivianos but it comes with a guided tour. While the rest of the park itself is quite tacky, the small museum and fossil wall are absolutely worth the entrance alone. I admittedly geeked out quite a bit while I was here, since I was a massive dinosaur nerd growing up.
Sucre has no shortage of museums. Seriously, it feels like it has a museum for everything. You can dedicate a day or two just to seeing all of the museums that Sucre has to offer. The churches and older buildings also allow you to walk through them, and most have their own little museums inside.
As far as South American mercado centrals go, Sucre was one of my favorites. While other markets may feel like pure chaos, Sucre’s felt like a more controlled kind of chaos. It wasn’t sprawling, although the hectic market lifestyle definitely leaked out onto the streets. I had to walk through the market area on my way to the doctor’s every day and each time, it felt like a unique experience. Come here for cheap meals, amazing fruit juices, or some knickknack shopping. My rag-tag backpacker gang did a Christmas Secret Santa sort of deal, and you’ll be amazed what kind of stuff you can find at the market. My favorite was a rip-off of the popular card game Uno. They called it Dos.
Learn Spanish in Sucre
Sucre is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn Spanish. Rates begin as low as 35 BOB per hour ($5) for a group class or 45 BOB for a private lesson. I don’t even want to remember how much I paid in university to graduate with Spanish as one of my majors. The majority of the friends I made in Sucre who were staying longer-term were there specifically for Spanish classes.
Plaza de Armas
The main square of Sucre is definitely the hang out spot. The park itself is beautiful and surrounded by some of Sucre’s finest architecture. There is always something going on here, and there’s no better spot to people watch. At Christmastime, the lights and decorations are something to behold, and the vibe is unmatched.
If the Mercado Central of Sucre is not chaotic enough for you, then maybe try your hand at the Mercado Campesino. This market is a bit further out from the city center but most city buses pass through the widespread area where you can get everything you want for dirt cheap. I’m talking like 14 mangos for $1. Cheap clothes, cheap fruits and vegetables, cheap everything. Most travelers don’t make it to this part of Sucre but the chaos of this area is definitely worth experiencing for yourself.
For a different type of market experience, take a visit to Tarabuco’s indigenous Sunday market. Although you won’t find much that you won’t be able to find in Sucre, it is a very cool cultural experience.
I was expecting a bit more from this park, since it seems to be the largest one in the main center of Sucre. Let’s just say I can see why more people to choose to hang out at the cemetery. The highlights of this park include the small but busy food court close to the large dinosaur playground. Oh yeah, did I mention the dinosaur playground? If you have no shame, then running around like a kid on the brontosaurus slides and more is a dream come true.
Nightlife Guide to Sucre
I can’t stress enough just how much Sucre’s nightlife surprised me. Considering that La Paz is far and away the much bigger city, I was expecting a quieter nightlife scene. Nope. The party rages hard in Sucre and I found myself dancing well into the morning most nights.
You can start off with drinks at a number of amazing bars before moving onwards to find a nice spot to dance. And there are plenty of those. Although Sucre lacks the variety that a bigger city might have, many of the clubs often have themed nights. So while you may not get a consistent electronic scene every night, you’re bound to find a techno or house party at least once a week. For example, Imaynalla, O’Finnigans, and KulturBerlin all had techno DJs during my two weeks in Sucre, although none are known for being electronic hot spots.
You can read my complete guide to nightlife in Sucre here, but if you want some quick suggestions, here’s where you can go.
- O’Finnigans Irish Pub
- Brew Craft
- Shisha Bar
Restaurant Recommendations in Sucre
One of the best parts of Sucre for me was all of the amazing food options within the city. After struggling with finding anywhere good to eat in La Paz, I was absolutely spoiled by Sucre. There is so much good food here and it is almost shockingly affordable. I ate out for nearly every meal and my wallet hardly suffered.
I treated myself to a delicious steak dinner and drinks for Christmas and spent a whopping 90 Bolivianos, or about $13 US. That was what I considered splurging in Sucre. Most meals, I’d spend closer to 12-15 BOBs, or around $2 USD for a gargantuan meal from the central market or a pollo broasteria that I’ve gotten far too fond of. I mean, I can’t imagine that greasy noodles, fried rice, french fries, fried chicken and a sugary soda are good for my health. But hey, for 12 BOB ($1.80 USD), how can you go wrong?
I ate here 8 times. Eight. Ocho. For 25 BOB ($3.64 USD), you can get sloppy with a build-your-own Venezuelan arepa. And yes, I know the exact number in USD because I’d get a transaction notification from my bank every time I swiped my card here. I highly recommend the unbeatable combination of shredded beef, queso, sautéed vegetables, and omelette. You can’t go wrong.
If you want to treat yourself to a “pricy” meal, then Florin is the spot. We came here for our Christmas dinner, and after shelling out what felt like way too much money, I got the bill and spent a grand total of $13 for a steak, appetizer, and some mixed drinks. This place has amazing food. Also, a weird cocktail called Shrek. It tastes about as good as Shrek looks.
- Pizzeria Napolitano
The pizza here was bomb asf. Finding good pizza in South America is extremely rare so most of the time, I don’t even bother, but sometimes, the craving doesn’t go away. This pizzeria right on the Plaza de Armas had some amazing pizza and I highly recommend giving it a try. They even have a menu del dia special with pizza included.
- Metro Cafe
I came here quite often for the speedy Wi-Fi. It’s hard to find good Wi-Fi in Bolivia but Metro Cafe and Metro Cafe II down the road both had great Wi-Fi speeds. Aside from their Internet, they had good coffee, although I never tried their food. It is a bit pricier to eat here but it has a great location and beautiful interior.
- Condor Cafe
Offering a vegetarian menu del dia, Condor Cafe is a good spot if you want to eat a little healthier. It is close to the center of town and is a popular spot among travelers. One can come here and meet fellow travelers while enjoying a nice meal.
- Tacos y Burritos
For something small, cheap, and quick, Tacos y Burritos was one of my favorite spots. It was only a block from where I was staying, so if I needed something a little smaller and cheaper than an arepa next-door, then Tacos y Burritos was the spot.
- Mercado Central
For traveling on a budget, the mercado central is a life-saver. Although I admittedly splurged more on food than usual while I was in Sucre, hitting up the mercado for a 7 BOB chorizo sandwich or a 10-15 BOB menu del dia added a good balance.
- Chifa y Thai
Although a bit pricier than most chifa places in South America, I found this place to have one of my favorite menu del dia deals in Sucre. For 26 BOB, you get a soup, appetizer, main course, and a dessert. For a balanced and diverse Chifa meal that doesn’t make you feel disgusted with yourself afterwards, this is the spot.
- Street Food To Try