Bolivia is an amazing country with great contrasts, from the Andeans Altiplano to the Amazon rainforest, offering amazing landscape photography opportunities. The country has the world’s highest of almost everything: highest capital (La Paz 3650 m), highest city, highest lake, forest, etc. The country offers endless stunning natural beauties, as well as preserved cultures (and 37 languages!).
I’ll do a few posts in the coming months about travel photography in different areas of Bolivia so I will focus today on the region of Chuquisaca and the surroundings of Sucre the institutional capital of the country.
5 amazing places to see in the Chuquisaca region
Sucre, the capital of the Chuquisaca, is situated at more than 9200 feet high. The capital has 4 actually names: Chuquisaca from the pre-Colombian-times, Charcas from the Inca empire times, Villa del Plata under the Spanish, and finally Sucre in memory of the freedom fighter Antonio Jose de Sucre.
That beautiful city is a UNESCO World heritage for its reach history and some of the landmarks from the Spanish time, like the Famous San Felipe Neri Monastery. Get on the rooftop for a great view and super photography opportunities!
The ancient La Merced Church is as well one of the highlights of the city.
The amazing blue Andes sky with the red-tiled roof on the buildings will give you endless travel photography opportunities in the historic center!
Even if Spanish is the official language, 37 (some say more than 40) indigenous languages are spoken there and you can find many traditional groups still. The below Bolivian Cholas (Cholitas) wearing their traditional, pink pleated skirts and black bowler hat are more from La Paz but I find them very cool still…
I’ll cover later the amazing Niñu Mayu dinosaurs’ footprints landmark. Before you go there, have a look at Parque Cretacico just northeast of Sucre. You’ll see a fossil wall with literally thousands of dinosaur footprints that you can go and see from very close (It is not well protected but please don’t touch it 😳)
You’ll see as well full-size dinosaurs’ statues of all types, so if you have kids or if you’re a fan of Jurassic Park, go and have a look 😊!
Sucre has a lot more to offer beyond the above. To list a few more places, the Cementerio general is worth a visit, Castillo de la gloriette, plaza de Armas are as well places to see. Just take time time to walk around that beautiful city; We even saw a massive Quetchua baby foot tournament 😊 !
Tarabuco village is situated at almost 11 000 hight (3300 meters), an hour away from Sucre (45 miles). The best time to go is on a Sunday when one of the most famous markets in the country happens and all the ethnic communities are converging to exchange products. You can find great textiles, local handicrafts, local food, etc (bring cash there, your credit card will be pretty useless). The majority of the market sellers here are wearing their traditional dresses so this is a fantastic place as a photographer.
You however need to be very considerate when taking images.to avoid getting into trouble. A lot of indigenous people believe that photographs capture part of the soul and would be annoyed if you shoot them, so ensure you engage and take pictures only when people are happy about it
-3- Hike a small part of the Inca trail
The famous Inca road system (Qhapaq Ñan in Quechua) runs through Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru and is said to be almost 30,000 kilometers long (including the Machu Picchu famous trail). You have the opportunity to do a great day hike on a small part of it near Chataquilla village for superb landscape photography opportunities. That centuries-old trail is extremely well preserved, and still in use!
The views on the way the mountains and the Cordillera de Los Frailes are amazing, and a paradise for photographers and nature lovers, at almost 12 000 feet altitude (3650 m)
On the way, you’ll continue to enjoy amazing colorful rock formations and the landscape looks more and more like form a different planet!
That area is populated with many Jalq’a communities’ villages, which are mainly leaving from agriculture and artisanal textile. It can feel like being out of our time surrounded by peaceful farms with donkeys, goats, and sheep flocks
and the landscape keeps being from a different planet…
with colors that seem to be there just for landscape photography and nature lovers’ convenience…
In the same area, near the Chullpa village, another amazing place is worth a 3.5 km moderate hike: The Niñu Mayu where you can discover dinosaurs footprints!. On your way, you continue to walk within unreal fabulous landscapes at the foot of the Maragua crater.
It is amazing to think that those dates from the Mesozoic era of the Cretaceous period. The scale of those (vs my wife Nathalie and daughter Chloe) is as well quite stunning.
It is however not easy to find that spot so you really should do that hike with a local guide!
From the Niñu Mayu, you are now very close to the Maragua crater and you keep walking through enchanting bucolic areas
The Managua Crater isn’t a volcano and the stories of what it exactly seems to vary a lot. Many of the locals believe it is a relic of a meteorite crash but most scientists would talk about a geological particularity “Synclinorium & Anticline” (for basic people like me a fold with younger layers closer to the center). In all cases it is beautiful !!
Few practical tips
Where to stay
Sucre is a great place to stay for 3 or 4 days, as you can do day trips to see the amazing areas around and enjoy one of the many great pensions or hotels and nice restaurants. If you’re a bit adventurous and/or keen to be at the right place / right time for amazing pictures, you can decide to sleep one night in the Maragua crater. A lot of fun, beautiful views but quite limited comfort. I would still recommend doing this but don’t come back and complain.
Get help to organize your trip
Some places are quite remote, so it is a good idea to get the right support to organize and manage your trip. It is in my view much better to use experienced and trusted agencies that have local feet on the ground. I’ve been using several times Bolivia Excepción. This is a French-English rooted agency but based in the region, that covers Argentine, Chili, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Péru. They are specialized in custom made individual trips, either quite premium with private guide circuits or “fly and drive” self-managed tours. With a strong local presence and know-how, they can bring you to amazing places that are a bit out of basic agency standard tours … Bolivia is a nice and peaceful country but, believe me from real experience, things can go wrong as well so good to have a reliable guide and support in some places …
Be mindful of the altitude
As you travel around Bolivia, you’ll be often above 3500 m hight like in KLa Paz (above 3600 m about 12 000 feet) and sometimes above 4 500 like in Uyuni (15 000 feet),. So your lungs will have to work harder to get their oxygen and you might feel altitude sickness. Descend if that’s the case and try to sleep at a lower altitude. It is a good idea to acclimatize progressively, eat carbs, and stay hydrated. You can try as well try coca tea/leavers or special pills for altitude sickness
So I hope this post will engage you to go and see that amazing region of Bolivia!