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Visit Potosi, the Highest City in the World

 

 

There is no better place to be in order to feel on top of the world than Potosi, which is located at 4,000 meters altitude making it the highest city in the world. The Bolivian city is a very interesting tourist destination that you may want to include in your itinerary.

The city is almost half a millennium old, and it knew times of great prosperity when silver deposits were uncovered in the area. Potosi used to be among the richest cities in both the Americas and with reason; the mines at Cerro Rico uncovered no less than 60,000 tons of the precious metal.

The city’s riches were used to erect many baroque churches and monasteries, and many of them are now included on UNESCO’s list of protected sites. Potosi’s wealth came with a price, however, since many people working in the mines also died there. It is believed that millions of natives and African slaves perished in these mines. Once the mines became depleted, the prosperity of the area declined as well.

Among the places tourists visit in Potosi is Casa Nacional de Moneda, which used to be the royal mint. Nowadays, it is a museum that can be visited on a three hour tour. Here you can admire religious artifacts and many works of art.

As churches and monasteries seem to be everywhere, you should not miss visiting Convento de Santa Teresa where you can learn more about the way the Carmelite nuns lived here. Be aware that tours are only in Spanish.

Of course, your trip to Potosi must include a visit to the depleted mines. While silver is no longer present inside these mountains, the miners still work here mining for rare minerals. You may be surprised to see that the workers still use the same methods they did in the old days. This comes with a grim downside, as many of these miners die before their fifties because of silicosis. As the area is poor, however, many choose to work here. It is a good idea to buy some presents for the miners before entering the mines. There is a market above ground where you can buy cigarettes and coca leaves to offer them. A walk around the mines is a three hour trip and you will need proper footwear.

To avoid any health risks, you need to wear a disposable mask as the dust inside the mines contains silicon, which is the main contributor to silicosis. A site that may impress you when you get underneath, is a statue of a diabolic deity, called El Tio, that miners think rules the underground world.

Be fully aware of the health risks involved when touring the mines. If you are claustrophobic, you should refrain and stick to exploring the area above ground as these mines are very deep.

 



 

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