OK. In this piece, I’m going to try to give you some facts and few thoughts about the subject as usual. In this case it’s not going to be easy because I don’t want to squeeze too much information in a piece, in order to maintain the easy reading mode. So this text is not going to be a proper guide you’d find in Lonely Planet or so, although there will be some practical info and few tips.
Bolivia has the highest proportion of indigenous population in the whole Latin America. Together with it’s generally high altitudes it makes the country unique if compared to most of its neighbours. The country also has two capitals: Sucre and La Paz, the two rather different places, both charming in their own ways.
Why two capitals?
The answer to this question depends on where you ask. The facts are that in 1825, when Bolivia gained its independence, it was founded as a Republic in the city of Sucre. Then there was a civil war AKA tin mining money backed up by a Liberal Party (La Paz) vs the Conservative Party and their silver mining sponsors (Sucre). Yep, Silver Conservatives vs Tin Liberals.
Thank god they didn’t have much gold – wonder what party would that be. Anyway, after the stupid civil war, an agreement was reached. La Paz became the seat of the executive and legislative branches of the Bolivian government and the judicial branch remained in Sucre as it did have the infrastructure from the colonial Spain.
Anyway, there’s also a good thing that came out of this shit. The Liberal Party promoted many advantages to protect the indigenous communities in order to get their support during the fight. I sometimes wonder if human history was studied by some peaceful alien – what would they think of us and our stupid wars. A parody or just a stupid vulgar joke?
Considered to be the prettier one of the two and that is due to it’s preserved colonial architecture. It is also one of the popular spots for travellers to learn Spanish. Various language schools offer affordable classes and in combination with Bolivia’s let’s say economic prices it makes the city a good spot to take a break from travelling and learn some Spanish.
When it comes to the night life, I wouldn’t call Sucre a hotspot, unless you are a reggaeton fan. Around the main square here are few nice-ish bars one can enjoy a drink or two but that’s about it. Nightlife itself is limited to few clubs that blast reggaeton or long forgotten tunes from 80s.
In Sucre’s defense I must say that it comes with rather good coffee scene (unlike the rest of the country). My fav was Condor Café but there are other places that will make you stop and order a coffee 😉
In comparison with Sucre, La Paz is much bigger and it has its special vibrant vibe I liked. Architecure-wise it’s rather bad mix of modern and colonial architecture but it comes with more life and energy as opposed to Sucre.
The major tourist activities here is riding the Death road, visiting the Cholitas wrestling show, taking a tour in the cable car public transport system and looking for Route 36. Oh yeah and there’s also this weird architect Freddy Mamani and his IMHO rather vulgar style.
Anyway, riding the Death road proved to be a great experience, Cholitas wrestling was fun for about 15 minutes, riding the cable cars was brilliant way to see the city from above and the infamous Route 36 bar is a stupid tourist trap. FYI, regarding the last “attraction” I’ve mentioned, Route 36 is an illegal pop up establishment that serves cocaine and nobody supposed to know where it is, except all taxi drivers.
Overall I personally prefer La Paz due to its energy and vibes it comes with. Sucre is the prettier of the two but it’s rather limited when it comes to culture life and with the knowledge I have now, I would prefer other place to take break from travelling while taking Spanish classes. For example Valparaíso.
How to get there
The bus ride between Sucre and La Paz takes approximately 12 hours and it will cost you around €25. The night bus ride was comfy, I’ve slept all the way, although it didn’t mean not to be a bit “bus-lagged” the next day.