If you're looking for a cheap and cool place to stay, here are three Bolivian hostels and hostals we can recommend in some of the country's coolest cities: La Paz, Potosí and Sucre.
At 6am, we were out on Sucre's streets, desperately searching for a taxi to take us to the station for our bus to Uyuni. But there were no taxis. There wasn't even any traffic. The streets were dead calm, except for our cursing and complaining. A morning dash to the far-away bus station wasn't the best way to start this trip.
After a month in Bolivia's constitutional capital, the time had come to move on. Sucre was an incredible temporary home, but Bolivia is huge and diverse, and we didn't want to miss out on the treasures of its other regions. So, after a detour through the Salar de Uyuni and Bolivia's barren southwest, we relocated to La Paz for a few weeks.
The best bird's-eye view of Bolivia's capital can be found at the top of the Recoleta hill. The climb is arduous, but worth the effort. At sunset, the "White City" is even more beautiful from above than from street-level. Just head due south from the city center. As long as you're going uphill, you're on the right path.
Most people don't realize that Sucre is technically the capital of Bolivia. La Paz has become the country's largest and most important city, but according to the Bolivian constitution, Sucre is still the official capital. And the Casa de la Libertad is the country's most historically significant building.
Don Francisco Argandoña and his wife Clotilde Urioste Velasco were among the most important members of late 19th Century Bolivian society. He had made a fortune in the mining industry, and owned a private bank. She was the daughter of a wealthy Spanish family, and dedicated her life to helping orphans. On a diplomatic tour Europe in 1898, they called upon Pope Leon XIII, who pronounced them the "Princes of the Glorieta". They accepted the honor graciously; it hardly mattered that Bolivia didn't have a monarchy.
We were introduced to Sucre's general cemetery by Roger, a kid who works there as an informal guide, during a half-day tour of the city we wrote about earlier. The beauty of the cemetery surprised us, and we soon went back for more pictures and to explore at our own pace.
It's no secret that Bolivians love their hats. Especially among campesinos, a smart hat is an essential part of the wardrobe, and every region in the country has a particular style. Decorated, thin black caps covering the ears for the Tarabuqueños, round bowler hats for the people in Sucre, shallow pale-colored hats for those from Tarjia.
Tell you what. If you ever decide to go for the Guinness record of World's Biggest Fruit Salad, do your shopping at Sucre's Mercado Central. You'll find hundreds of thousands of women selling billions of fruits. I mean, even if every person in this city ate a dozen bananas, six apples and eighteen pounds of grapes each day, there'd still be a surplus. Never heard of supply and demand, people?
In May 2011, Aerosur brought us from Buenos Aires to our new home in Sucre, Bolivia. The "white city" is heralded as the country's most beautiful, and would be our base of operations for the next three months as we explored Bolivia's nature, towns and landscapes, met its people, and learned about their customs and culture.