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On Top of the World in Potosi

On Top of the World in Potosi

Officially the 2nd highest city in the world (inhabited by more than 100,000 people) Potosi sits at a cool 4060m above sea level, and if the stunning view of the city from your hostel terrace isn’t enough to take your breath away, the lack of oxygen will.

We arrived early on a Sunday evening – not the best idea for any Andean or South American town, as everything is usually closed. We did manage to find a pizza shop open, and had some fairly decent pizza (albeit with tinned mushrooms… blegh) while huffing and puffing around the narrow streets.

Most of our short time in Potosi was spent wandering the streets, and again, eating. It’s here that we were introduced to the Bolivian way with “menu del dia”. Basically, the small local cafe/restaurants put a whiteboard/chalkboard menu on the street, and that is what is on offer for the day (there is no “carta”). Our first experience set the bar pretty darn high, at only 18BOB for a 3 course menu, including a salad bar, we soon found it hard to top with most decent menu’s being around 20-25.

While in Potosi we chose not to do a mining tour to Cerro Rico, already struggling with the lack of oxygen we decided being down a dark, dusty, oxygen-lacking hole may not be the best idea. And it is an active mine, so perhaps not the safest idea. Instead we chose to go to the National Mint Museum – you must do a tour but it’s only 40 per person and was really informative (they have English, Spanish and French tours too). The pictures below explain it all!

First stop on the tour – an mini art gallery, and a mini history lesson
Silver coins from the Potosi mines
One of the many displays
Mules were used to power the machines above – they worked long hours and usually only lived up to 3 years old.
Wall of scales
A very complicated lock box!
In the smelting room
Cobbled paths and stone buildings of the Potosi Mint
Beautiful Bolivianite (Ametrine)
Check out the size comparison – that’s a big rock!
Displays of all sorts of minerals and rocks found in the local mines. Lots of pyrite to be found!
Panorama shot from the terrace of our hostel – Overlooking Potosi (Cerro Rico is on the left)