Experience Bolivia’s colourful Tarabuco Market

Experience Bolivia’s colourful Tarabuco Market


Heading to Tarabuco on a Sunday is the perfect day trip for those wanting to escape Sucre, get a unique taste of high altitude village life and sample the culture of the Yampara people. Distinct indigenous groups converge in Tarabuco to buy, sell and trade goods; all of them donned in traditional dress plus some pretty unusual head gear.

The town itself is filled with dusty streets, monotone adobe dwellings with old wooden doors and terracotta roof tiles. Kids play in the streets, you see the occasional shepherd walk through town with his flock, and you’ll receive many stares and sideways glances because you’re the one that looks different.






The centre of town is Plaza Principal, a block-sized square crossed by paths, dotted with benches and shaded by trees. Locals and out-of-town villagers sit and wander about, socialise, tap on mobile phones and grab a bite from a street vendor.

It’s difficult to miss the gruesome memorial statue of the Battle of Jumbate where, in 1814, the Tarabuceños defeated the Spanish army. The statue depicts an indigenous man standing over a Spanish soldier after having ripped out his heart, with blood dripping from the victor’s hands and mouth. Take that, you bastard Spanish!

Surrounding the plaza are restaurants, a museum with indigenous art and textiles and the imposing, yet simply designed Iglesia de San Pedro.



Tarabuco Market itself is actually split over two different areas. Mercado Campesino can be found at the east end of Calle Avaroa, and the streets leading up to it.

An open space infront of the market building is filled with makeshift lean-to’s and simple tarps on the ground, and it’s here that you’ll find fresh produce, food stations, piles of panela (unrefined sugar) in block form, hand-rolled cigarettes, household goods, spices and farming equipment.

Inside the market building there are more vendors selling fresh produce, butchered meats and a selection of food stations. There’s a lot of push and shove, it’s full of colour, fascinating traditional dress, there are plenty of smiles, stares and occasional giggles.





Foreigners stand out like nothing else and you often get the feeling that you’re a hindrance and don’t belong. As for taking photos of the villagers, they simply don’t want a camera pointed at them. This calls for swift snapping either from a distance or when they’re not looking.

Same applies to much of the goods and produce. One woman was ready to pounce when I pointed my camera at some chicken she was frying.

Geez, lady, you can’t steal a soul from hacked up chicken in hot oil! At least I got a quick shot over her shoulder before she chastised me.

It’s always best to ask before whipping out the camera, although some people don’t mind their photo taken. They’ll probably want some pesos for the privilege, so it’s a good idea to have some small notes on hand.



The streets between Mercado Campesino and the main plaza are filled with countless stalls of household goods, clothing, plasticware, hardware, phone accessories, shoes made of car tires and a heap of other uninteresting stuff. There sure is a lot of junk in there, and it’s easy to just breeze past it all.

Other areas are a lot more colourful with piles of textiles, bags, hats, trinkets and plenty of tourist tat.




You could easily spend 1-1½ hours in Tarabuco and call it a day. There really isn’t a great deal to see, but seeing we had a 1pm return bus to Sucre, there was plenty time to find somewhere for lunch.

We generally seek out local-type eateries, but somehow ended up at a place frequented by tour groups and recommended by Lonely Planet. The setting is actually quite nice; an open central courtyard filled with potted plants, artworks and shady trees.


Almuerzo (set lunch) is 35Bs and consists of cazuela de mani (vegetable soup with ground peanuts), some pretty standard pan-fried chicken with veg, none of the fruit that we were promised and to finish – a thermos, tea bags and small jar of instant coffee.

This is a good place to try the local distilled spirit called singani. On its own it may cause instant heartburn – perhaps even fuel a car – but spritzed with a little fresh lime, it’s actually quite enjoyable. Probably my favourite part of lunch!

Pukari Wasi Restaurant, Olañeta 31

How we got to Tarabuco from Sucre.

There are many tour agencies in Sucre that can get you to Tarabuco for the Sunday market, so it’s easy to shop around. We booked through Real Audencia Travel Agency (location – #5 F.J. Antonio de San Alberto), and paid 40Bs per person. Pick-up is at 8.30 am infront of Cathedral Metropolitana at the bottom left corner of Plaza 25 de Mayo, and it takes around 2 hours to get there. Departure from Tarabuco is 1pm.

Alternatively, you can get a colectivo from the Minibus Terminal at the intersection of Avenida de las Americas and Avenida German Mendoza. Check the map below for location. To get to the terminal from the centre of town, you can either cab it, or get the #14 bus outside Mercado Central on Capitán Agustín Ravelo.

Thinking of visiting Tarabuco? Why not Pin it?


  • Barry Ozmo

    gawd you would have had to resist filling the bags with all that material.so colourful when you wear it out at home.

  • The street photo issue is always a quandary. I get that people don’t want to be photographed (I totally am the same!) but argh it also pains me as a traveller. You always manage to portray the places you visit with such empathy though.

  • KevinIsCooking

    Well thank you yet again for transporting me along on your adventures. This town definitely looks as if it’s seen better days. You continually take us to new places and I for one love to see how other cultures live, eat and enjoy life. The colors, smells and customs always are welcome to this curious mind of mine. Needless to say the culinary aspect photos are always a favorite of mine (those blocks of unrefined sugar), but those door shots were wonderful. Thanks John!

  • I’m about to deal with the “taking photos of locals” issue when I head to Namibia in two weeks. I always want to be respectful and also want “the” shot. We shall see. Thanks for another great market!

    • Oh that’s right, you’re going to Namibia! I can’t wait to hear about it.

      • Only two days left in Namibia. If has been fantastic! I need to go back and read your posts!

  • Sylvia Klimicek

    Thank you so much for sharing your photos!
    I am Bolivian, but have resided in the US for over 30 years now. I have taken a few trips to Bolivia, but it has always been in a hurry on family issues. I like to draw/paint, and I love some of the images you took. The red aji in the blue bags for example. Would you mind very much if I paint some of these? I am not a professional, and so there is little fear that what I produce anything worth noting, collecting or buying. However, I might share it on social media, if that is ok. My family is from Santa Cruz, but we grew up in La Paz. Unlike my father who knew so many of Bolivia’s secret destinations, I have never been to Tarabuco. My only recollections are of the Tarabuquenos who came by the house and our school to sell their weaves. Once again, thank you so much for sharing this with the rest of us. You took some very beautiful pictures!

    • Hi Sylvia, It’s my absolute pleasure to share my photos and experiences and I’d be honoured to see your paintings when they’re done. What a wonderful thing to do! If you do put them up on instagram, could you tag my instagram is I can see them?
      All the best

      • Sylvia Klimicek

        Thank you for your permission. I will definitely tag them. I followed you on Instagram as rock.paper.laser. That is my tiny side business (not related to my drawings). I will now be able to vicariously enjoy your trips!

Real Time Analytics