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The Mountain of Riches

Cerro Rico (Rich Hill) is the site of the largest silver deposit ever discovered—more than 45,000 tons of silver were taken from the mountain between 1556 and 1783. These mines were the primary source of Spanish colonial wealth. As a result, the mining base of Potosi evolved into the Hemisphere's richest city.

Popular legend records that the initial vein was located in 1544 when a local herder, Diego Huallpa, was searching for lost llamas. As he camped for the night, he noticed molten metal beneath his campfire. The story builds on an earlier tale in which Inca Huayna Capac was warned by a thunderous, disembodied voice that the mountain should not be disturbed; it's wealth was reserved for other masters.

Today, Potosi enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status in recognition of its mining heritage and colonial buildings. Among the city's historic highlights are the Casa de la Moneda (House of the Mint, constructed between 1753 and 1773), the church of San Francisco and the Baroque church of San Lorenzo (built in 1548). Visitors can also enter the mines to deliver gifts and gain an appreciation for the very difficult conditions under which miners still labor.

At 13,350 feet above sea level, Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world. Potosi can be reached from Sucre (two hours to the northeast) and Uyuni (three hours to the southwest).

Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel in Bolivia and throughout South America. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.

"Science makes men arrogant; wealth makes them fools."

Bolivian proverb