A visit to the mines of the Cerro Rico is an unforgetable experience. Many mining cooperatives work in this area mining for zinc, lead and silver in a precarious way. Many of the miner coops are receptive to tourists who want to visit the interior of the mines. The visit exhibits the harsh conditions for the miners and an underground world filled with misticism and smibols.
The Pailaviri mine (4,200 meters above see level) that belongs to the bolivian mining corporation COMIBOL, is the oldest one in Potosí. It has been never stopped working since 1545. The Cerro Rico is estimated to have more than 5,000 entrances to tunnels, many of which are interconnected.
Before a visit to the mine it is recommended to stop by the Miner Market and get a present for the host miners. Among the usual gifts are coca leaves, alcohol for the candle wick or food. Other items found in the market include picks, shovels, hard hats, gloves and dynamite.
There are tourism agencies that can arrange visits to the mines. It is also possible to bypass the agencies and have an arrangement directly with the miners but this is usually considered a riskier approach.