Three hours by road from Sucre and nestled beneath Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain), Potosi was once one of the richest cities in the world on account of the huge deposits of silver that lay within the mountain, however this came at the cost of countless miners’ lives. It is said that the mines produced enough silver to pave a road all the way to Madrid. Such wealth is now a distant memory, but the fabulous colonial architecture, which led Potosi to be declared Patrimony of Mankind by UNESCO in 1987, can still be seen and enjoyed.
• Head down into the mineworkings of Cerro Rico with a miner
• Visit Casa de la Moneda where all the silver was turned into ingots
• Savour the fabulous views from the world’s highest cable car
• Marvel at the city’s cathedral and many ornate Baroque churches
• Take a wander through the backstreets and ‘Seven Turn Passage’
You can visit the Casa Nacional de Moneda, where all the silver that was mined had to be brought to be turned into ingots so the Spanish Crown could tax it. The Casa (or Mint), founded in 1572 and rebuilt in 1759-73, is one of the chief monuments of civil building in Hispanic America, a building with 160 rooms and fortress thick walls.
The Church, Convent and Museo de Santa Teresa is also worth a visit. The building was started in 1685 and has an impressive amount of gildwork inside. There is an eye-opening collection of flagellation tools, colonial paintings, religious architecture and furniture. There are nuns still living in the convent today.
It is possible to visit the remaining mines which are now worked as co-operatives. Before descending into the labyrinth of tunnels to see miners at work, you visit the market where you are expected to buy presents for the miners such as dynamite, coca leaves, meths and cigarettes.