Department of Potosi The department of Potosi is located to the Southeast of Bolivia. The capital city has the same name, and sits at the foot of the impressive Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain – 4700m/15.420ft). To date, the mountain still holds the most sought-after veins of silver in the world, a fact which made this the world’s most populated city, more so than London, Paris or Madrid during colonial times. Potosí remains intact, not only in its architecture, but also in regards to the presence of original cultures. The architectural wealth, together with its colonial and republican feats of engineering, is what makes the city a Cultural Heritage of Humanity according to UNESCO. A walk through its streets and a visit to its buildings, monasteries and churches make one wish to have been there during this cosmopolitan city’s greatest splendour.
In the city
Magnificent religious and civic buildings shine, such as: Casa de la Moneda (The Mint), a building considered America’s Slag Dump, which looks like a real fortress. It was built of rock, slate and cedar. Highlights include: Its beautifully mannered façade, the patios and balconies, storage rooms, the foundry, silver coin collection, among others. Today, the building is a Museum and Historical Archive. In the museum one finds the Hall of Numismatics, The Lamination Machines, Viceroy Paintings, and others. Potosi’s architectural legacy stretches from a baroque style to baroque-Mestizos, from a renaissance style, to a neoclassic tradition. Of note are the temples and monasteries, in particular the following: The Cathedral or Main Church, considered the greatest work of neoclassic architecture in the country. San Francisco is enhanced with its gorgeous stone façade crafted by Sebastian de la Cruz. Santa Teresa Church, built in 1685, stands as a true relic of the 17th century. San Lorenzo Church features a wonderful baroque-Mestizos stone façade decorated by unique elements of Andean culture. Compañía de Jesús (The Company of Jesus) has only the beautiful main tower still standing, but is of note due to its baroque façade flanked by three pairs of very ornate Solomon columns. Iglesia de Belen (The Church of Bethlehem) is currently a theatre and lookout point, and San Bernardo Church currently functions as the Potosi Workshop School.
CERRO RICO DE POTOSÍ (THE RICH MOUNTAIN OF POTOSI): Located south of the city, the mines are famous for their silver deposits, which gave the department its wealth. Before the arrival of The Spaniards, it was known by The Incas as “Potosi”, and very often visited due to the thermal baths that surround it – very sought-after for their healing properties.
KARI KARI LAGOONS: These artificial lagoons were created in colonial times. The surrounding area is made up of the Kari Kari Mountain Range. Within its plant life, the predominant species are the ichu or wild hay, thola, yareta and other weeds.
TOROTORO: This town, located north of the department, features outstanding scenic beauty. It’s considered a paradise for lovers of Geology, Palaeontology and spelunking. Important attractions include: Umajalanta Cavern, Yurajq´asa Caverns, Huayllas, Ghankakani, Wayq’o Chinkasqa, Chiflonq'aq'a Chillijusq’u and Huaqa-senqa. Likewise, there are dinosaur tracks, which are 130 million years old and areas with abundant fossils. One unique attraction is the impressive Totoro Valley Canyon. Furthermore, it houses important archaeological sites, such as the Incan ruins of Chaqui and the paintings of Batea Q’ocha.
UNCÍA: The tin baron Simón I. Patiño developed his activities in this mining town, leaving behind installations that are ideal for scientific study and educational tourism.
LLALLAGUA: It features historical mines like the Siglo XX Mining Centre and the Catavi Mine, as well as thermal baths, which stem from springs with natural healing elements.
ATOCHA: When mining was in its prime, this was an important centre of activity. Today, it features arresting tourist attractions and landscapes that are of particular interest for their giant rock formations.
TUPIZA: This is an interesting natural area, ideal for adventure, recreation and historical tourism due to the wondrous places that surround it. It also features a young population, which is why it has come to be called “Bolivia’s Cultural Youth Capital”.
BETANZOS: This town is located on the Potosí-Sucre highway. One can marvel at natural formations like the “Tecota Christ”, as well as rustic paintings and the remains of prehistoric animals.
Uyuni Salt Flats :
WHITE DESERTS, COLORFUL LAGOONS: To the Southeast of Potosí, with a surface of 10.582 Km2. and a height of 3.653m, one finds the largest salt resources in the world. It has a reserve of 9 million tons of lithium and other minerals, which have given way to the creation of the Red, Green, Yellow and Blue lagoons. This semi-desert, volcanic region houses important economic resources and landscapes of an extraordinary natural beauty; such as the spectacular geysers, rock formations and volcanic wells, all of which transport the visitor to the time of Earth’s creation.
The places of most interest are:
UYUNI TOWN: A place in which you find the intriguing “Train Cemetery”, featuring the most important remains of railroad technology which date back to the year 1890.
PULACAYO: This town is located 22 kilometres from Uyuni. During the latter 19th century, it was the country’s most important centre of silver production.
COLCHANI: Also known as “Puerto Seco” (Dry Port), it represents the main access to the Saline Crust because it sits on the shores of the Great Salt Flat. Here one can observe the intense salt mining activity on a day to- day basis.
PESCADO ISLAND: Also referred to as “Cujiri Island”, 74 km away from Colchani in the very centre of the salt flat. It offers a picturesque landscape with a granite and organic dirt surface, which allows for the growth of a giant cacti species (approximately 6 meters high) contributing to the development of an interesting ecosystem.
INCAHUASI ISLAND: Also known as Isla Pescadores (Fisherman’s Island), it rests on the remnants of a petrified limestone volcano. On the island, scientists have identified 7 Tiwanaku archaeological remains, 2 Incan ruins, 30 caverns and 12 tunnels.
THE EDUARDO AVAROA NATIONAL ANDEAN FAUNA PRESERVE: It shelters the Red Lagoon, Green Lagoon, geysers and geothermic wells of surprising shapes and sizes, as well as an enormous variety of flora. This incredible ecosystem allows one to marvel at the interesting local fauna.
RED LAGOON: This is an ideal landscape for watching flamingos. It holds unique interest due to its reddish waters coloured by thin borax sediment on the surface as well as the pigments of certain algae.
GREEN LAGOON: This lagoon is located on the far south of the preserve. The emerald colour is owed to the high magnesium content of its waters. Nearby, is the Llicancahur Volcano with a height of 5868m.