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“La Ruta de los Conventos Coloniales”, a Franciscan legacy in Bolivia

Sucre, the constitutional capital of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (also called Chuquisaca, Charcas and Ciudad Blanca) can be the starting point of The Route of the Colonial Convents, a brand-new tourist-spiritual tour for pilgrims who want to discover the cultural and religious richness of Latin America, in addition to the legacy of the Franciscans in the continent.

In fact, Sucre – a city designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991 –, in addition to its historical importance (it was here that the first Latin American Grito Libertario took place on May 25, 1809), can be considered one of the most representative colonial cities in America.

It is in Sucre where the pilgrim can visit three fundamental points of The Route of the Colonial Convents. The first is the Basilica of San Francisco, a temple built in baroque style that throughout its history has undergone various uses, from being expropriated by President Antonio José de Sucre in 1825 to its restoration in 1946. The other is the Convent and Monastery of Santa Clara, a cloistered place that houses a museum exhibiting a remarkable collection of works of art, antique furniture, musical instruments, jewelry, silverware and liturgical objects.

Third, the Convento de la Recoleta or Santa Ana de Monte Sión, in addition to its church rebuilt in the 19th century, the convent houses an outstanding library with 20,000 works and a museum that exhibits paintings, sculptures, religious works and a numismatic collection from the colony to the republic.

Complementary to the convents (many are now museums, cultural centers and art galleries open to the public), the mountainous landscape around Sucre offers a variety of hiking, biking and motorized excursions, from light to heavy. The pilgrim can even visit several sites with dinosaur footprints (including the world’s largest collection), cave paintings, forests, a meteorite crater, El Palmar National Park, among many other sites.

Thus, from Sucre the road through “La Ruta de Los Conventos Coloniales” can be easily continued by bus or car to Potosí (distance 150 km).

Potosí, or Villa Imperial de Potosí, extends on the slopes of the legendary mountain called Cerro Rico (in Quechua: Sumaq Urqu), where the largest silver mine in the world was located from the mid-sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century.

Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, in Potosi is the Convent of San Antonio, another of the landmarks of the route. This first church of Potosi, baroque style, houses the Christ of the Vera Cruz, the oldest image of the country, and has crypts that show the austerity of the colonial era.

On the other hand, an unforgettable tour for any pilgrim is also to visit the mines of Cerro Rico. On the hill there are different mining cooperatives that extract minerals such as zinc and lead in a very primitive way. Many of these cooperatives receive tourists, so some travel agencies have an agreement to take visitors.

Potosi is also the place where you can start the excursion to the Salar de Uyuni, which is definitely unique in the world, where the sky and the earth become one. Undoubtedly this is the most important tourist destination in Bolivia.

From Potosi the pilgrim can go to Cochabamba (distance in a straight line is 248 km, by road is 483 km). There are 4 ways to get from Potosi to Cochabamba: by plane, car, bus or night bus).

Cochabamba is located in a valley of fertile and productive land at 2558 m altitude. It is in this area of Bolivia where another fundamental point of the route stands out as the Temple of San Francisco, a national monument dating from 1581.

But within the city of Cochabamba are also its various parks, the Cerro de la Coronilla. The pilgrim can also visit the Cristo de la Concordia from where you can see the whole city and even towns like Quillacollo and Sacaba, undoubtedly a warm city.

Another fundamental aspect is that if the pilgrim who visits Cochabamba and does not taste its gastronomy is as if he had not been there. Tasting a delicious Chicharrón, a Pique Macho, a Silpancho Cochabambino, and a great variety of dishes together with an exquisite Chicha (alcoholic drink made from corn), Garapiña or Guarapo is really unique in the whole world.

The “Route of the Colonial Convents” could continue to La Paz (officially Nuestra Señora de la Paz, seat of the Bolivian government). Bus travel time between Cochabamba and La Paz is about 3h 23m and covers a distance of approximately 378 km. The pilgrim can also choose to travel by plane.

La Paz also stands out for being an important Latin American cultural center due to its great diversity and cosmopolitanism; it is home to important monuments and sites, such as the Basilica Menor de San Francisco (another of the points on the route), the Metropolitan Cathedral, Murillo Square, Jaén Street, and several internationally renowned museums. The city is also known for its markets, particularly the Witches’ Market, and for its lively and intense nightlife.

Afterwards, the pilgrim can head to Copacabana, located on the shore of Lake Titicaca, which is the highest lake on the planet where one can enjoy nature tourism, religious tourism and community tourism through the living culture of the region. The distance from La Paz to Copacabana is 155 km and the travel time by bus is 4 hours.

Copacabana is famous throughout the country for its geographical location, religious celebrations and rituals, cultural heritage and traditional festivals.

Copacabana is one of the most important tourist centers of the country, which offers colorful landscapes, well presented at first sight by the two hills that frame the population, being that within it stand out the white walls and the tower of the Basilica of the Virgin of Copacabana, which joins perfectly with the intense blue of Lake Titicaca.

Copacabana’s most popular tourist attraction is the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun). This is a large island in Lake Titicaca that is marked by the ancient Inca civilization.

However, beyond the religious, cultural and even natural richness that the pilgrim can experience with “The Route of the Colonial Convents”, an interesting aspect to take into account is that this entire route can be done in the opposite direction: from Copacabana to Sucre.


This post is also available in: Español Italiano

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