As one of South America’s most important colonial cities, Potosi is a must for those looking to add a little history to their Bolivian tour. Although the notorious Cerro Rico mines are the town’s biggest draw card, Potosi has a number of other attractions that make it well worth a visit. Our city guide tells you everything you need to know.
Bus: Most buses leave from the new terminal at the northern end of town. Connections include La Paz (10 hours, 60-140BOB/US$6.30-20), Sucre (3 hours, 21BOB/US$3), Tupiza (5 hours, 50 BOB/US$7), Tarija (10 hours, 70 BOB/US$10), Cochabamba (9 hours, 100-140 BOB/US$15-20), and Oruro (6 hours, 28 BOB/US$4).
Connections to Uyuni depart from the old terminal (4 hours, 56 BOB/US$8) as do faster shared taxi services to Sucre and other nearby destinations.
Flights: BoA have a few daily flights to Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
Budget: The best budget option in town is Hostel Casa Blanca Potosi, a backpacker haven for its funky artwork, friendly staff and sociable vibe. Dorm beds are great value from just 55 BOB (US$8).
Hostel Casa Blanca Potosi, Calle Tarija 35, Potosí +591 4 6642909
Mid range: Those looking for a good deal while avoiding the backpacker crowd should check out Hostal La Casona. With well furnished rooms and plenty of creature comforts, it’s a bargain at under US$20 per night.
High end: Potosi doesn’t have any really fancy hotels, but those looking for a moderate level of luxury could make do with the three-star Hotel Santa Teresa. Its clean, comfortable and spacious rooms are a cut above the rest.
Eating and Drinking
See and Do
Cerro Rico: As the biggest industrial complex of the Spanish colonial empire, the historical importance of Cerro Rico is difficult to overstate. Some 60,000 tonnes of silver were extracted from the mountain during Spanish rule which tragically resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million indigenous and African slaves.
Tours begin with a trip to a local market where visitors can buy gifts of dynamite, coca leaves and alcohol to give to the miners. Next, the tour stops at an ore refinery plant before heading deep into the mines to give tourists an insight into the abhorrent working conditions Potosi miners face every day. Around ten thousands workers head underground each morning, many of whom die of lung disease by the time they hit 40. It’s a truly humbling experience which many visitors say gives them a new appreciation of their relatively easy lives.
The tour inside the mine lasts several hours and is definitely not recommended for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. Of particular interest is a visit to El Tio, a devil like effigy who provides the miners with protection in exchange for offerings of cigarettes, alcohol and coca leaves.
Hot Springs: Some pleasant thermal baths lie just half an hour from the city center in a place called Tarapaya. To get there, jump on a minibus from the Chuquima Market near the old bus station. Tarapya has a basic resort with a restaurant, hotel and pools, although more pleasant is the naturally heated outdoor lagoon known as Ojo del Inca just a short walk away.