The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Potosi, Bolivia

Located nearly 600 kilometers from the Bolivian capital of La Paz, the Andean city of Potosi and its surrounding areas are home to striking scenery and the remains of what was once the world largest industrial complex.  The city of Potosi, at 4,090 meters above sea level, is one of the highest cities in the world.  The city and the vast industrial areas surrounding it were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

Following a visit by the Kingdom of Spain’s Francisco de Toledo (then the Viceroy of Peru) in 1572, the city became an Imperial City, eventually growing to a population in the 17th century of more than 160,000 colonists and 13,000 natives.  The city’s prosperity and growth were linked to its vast silver mines.  The area south of Potosi was believed at the time to have the world’s largest silver lodes, and eventually Potosi began exporting precious metals to Spain.

The UNESCO site features the industrial monuments of the Cerro Rico, where water was provided for the mines through a series of aqueducts and artificial lakes.  Also included under UNESCO protection are the colonial town; the Casa de la Moneda (the Mint); the Church of San Lorenzo; patrician homes of the period; and the barrios mitayos, where the workers lived.

While the mining industry slowed in the Potosi region after 1800, the area still includes functioning mines and is an important city in southwestern Bolivia.  Today, Potosi is home to 230,000 inhabitants. 

UIG contributor Jon Bower’s coverage of the Potosi region includes beautiful photographs of the UNESCO site and the city of Potosi.  Enjoy some of those images here and let us know if you are interested in seeing more of Jon’s collection.

All images in this post ©Jon Bower.  All images featured in this post and on Kaleidoscope are available for licensing.  Please contact us at

Source: UNESCO

Leave a Reply