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701km (435 miles) SE of La Paz; 366km (227 miles) SE of Cochabamba; 612km (379 miles) SW of Santa Cruz; 162km (100 miles) NE of Potosí

During Bolivia's glory days, when Sucre -- or, as it was known then, Chuquisaca -- existed solely for the purpose of administering the silver mines in nearby Potosí, the wealthy locals here would often brag, "My mines are in Potosí, but I live in Chuquisaca." For those who could afford it, it made sense to live 162km (100 miles) down the road from Potosí in the relative lowlands (2,706m/8,876 ft.) of Sucre, which is blessed with a mild climate and a much cheerier disposition. Gradually, Sucre became a city of understated prestige. It's been called the Paris of South America because the wealth here attracted some of the finest arts and culture from all over the world. It's also been known as the Athens of South America because it's home to the continent's second-oldest and most prestigious university, San Francisco Xavier University, which dates to 1624 and has educated presidents of Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay, and, of course, Bolivia. (Today, out of a total pop. of about 200,000, over 30,000 are students, many of them studying medicine or law.)

For a city like Sucre, money, prestige, and knowledge weren't enough. It also had to have a place in the history books. In 1825, some of the most important South American revolutionaries converged upon the city and signed the country's declaration of independence. Sucre then became the capital of the new republic. These days, Sucre is the capital of Bolivia in name only -- both the executive and legislative branches of the government left long ago for La Paz. The silver in nearby Potosí has pretty much run out, and the high culture has returned to Paris. Nevertheless, the city remains one of the most colorful and interesting places in Bolivia. Visitors can sit in the room where the Bolivian declaration of independence was signed, tour churches and museums that still have impressive collections of colonial art, and view the dinosaur tracks that archaeologists recently discovered right in Sucre's backyard.

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