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La Paz is undoubtedly the most visited city in Bolivia. Its convenient location at a crossroads between many of the country’s greatest attractions, as well as numerous awesome things to see and do in the city itself, make it a must for any tourist in Bolivia. Yet when it comes to knuckling down for a month or two and studying Spanish, most travelers will actually opt for Sucre instead. Read on to find out why.
La Paz gets pretty chilly in the shade and as soon as the sun goes down. This unappealing climate makes it compulsory to carry a sweater at all times, or an even bigger and more cumbersome jacket to keep warm at night. Sucre, on the other hand, is pleasantly warm during the day and only slightly nippy at night; the perfect temperate climate which is rarely too hot nor too cold.
Sucre lies some 2,800 feet (800 meters) lower than La Paz, so it’s easier to breathe in real oxygen and hangovers are considerably less painful. This means you’ll spend more time out and about and less time feeling nauseous while sipping on coca tea in the hotel room.
La Paz is a poorly designed city with horribly narrow streets and relentless snarling traffic. Even worse, frequent inner city protests bring traffic to a literal standstill for hours on end, effectively ensuring nobody is able to get anywhere the whole day. On the other hand, downtown Sucre is small enough to easily navigate on foot. A leisurely stroll through its warm and sunny streets is all it takes to get between the hostel, the Spanish school and whatever local bar has been chosen for the evening’s entertainment.
Many would argue that the nightlife and restaurant scene in La Paz is actually better – and they would be right. However, as mentioned above, La Paz is really cold and it’s too hard to get around. For a city of its size, Sucre has an excellent selection of gringo-friendly bars and eateries, all conveniently located in the pedestrian-friendly and ever-so-easily-accessible city center.
It’s true that La Paz hosts far more international travelers and long term expats than Sucre. However, very few gringos choose to study Spanish in La Paz, mostly because they all go to Sucre instead. Hundreds of foreigners base themselves in Sucre at any one time to hone their Spanish skills, making it easy to find like-minded individuals to discuss the finer points of learning verb conjugations over a beer or five. Of course, chatting to native speakers instead is the best way to learn the language.
As the most popular place in South America to study Spanish, Sucre has dozens of top rate language institutes all throughout the city center. This means prices are extremely competitive and it’s easy to find a school that suits your itinerary, budget and learning objectives.
Sucre has some of the best preserved colonial architecture in South America, far more impressive than that of La Paz. The city’s numerous white-washed buildings are a mishmash of elegant archways, leafy patios and graceful terracotta roofs which are a joy to stroll past at any time of the day. Most were constructed several hundred years ago, making Sucre as historical as it is alluring.