Our Lady of Peace is the administrative capital of Bolivia and the highest capital in the world! The colonial city that is at the heart of the present city, is lower than other neighborhoods. The streets are much like those of other colonial cities in South America. But because of its mountainous topology, here it was harder to organize the city into blocks that were perpendicular, as in Mexico or Chile . The streets are crooked, winding, go up and down and the air becomes increasingly difficult to breathe. It is a cheap place where you can sleep for 3 euros per night, eating for 1 euro and most visits require no payment. There is a residential zone which is nice, but it's quiet, no activity and not much to see, more than lovely contemporary houses. The main street is named the Prado. In the colonial center, there are many well-preserved houses with wooden balconies and painted in bright colors, is very beautiful. Come to the witches market, to know a little more about Aymara sorcery!
Murillo Square is the main square in La Paz. It was named that in honor of Pedro Domingo Murillo ve lived from 1759 to 1810. He was a Bolivian patriot ve was a precursor to Bolivian Independence. Currently it's in the heart of the city. In the center of the square a monument to immortalize the martyr was erected. Nearby, is the presidential palace, the seat of the Congress and the Cathedral.
Near the southern part, and the most high-end part, of La Paz, you'll find the Valle de la Luna, which is a kind of valley with cannons that can be traveled in one hour. Here we can also appreciate rocky peaks around chimneys and cacti. The visit seemed very nice, aunuqe the route is a bit short.
The San Francisco Church is situated in La Paz, in the plaza of the same name, dating back to the 16th century. Its architectural style is representative of the mestizo (mixed Spanish), which combines Spanish and pre-Columbian art. It is a very noisy and I liked the contrast of going inside of the church which gives visitors peace and quiet.
If you want to see it in full, you'll have to organise yourself carefully and walk briskly, but it's a good idea to do so, as the corn/pineapple roasts are to die for, and a blessing from the shaman can't hurt.
I think that whoever named this road had never travelled in the Himalayas or the Karakorum. The road is really pretty dangerous, especially if you have to take the old road if the new one is blocked by landslides. It has become very popular to descend this extreme road by mountain bike. It's a one hour drive through the mountain pass from Paz to Coroico. The passage of the summit is at 4700 meters above sea level, surrounded by huge mountains that are over 5000 meters, and is the main passage between Paz and Yungas (Amazon basin). The route descends 3600 meters in altitude in 64 kilometres, from 4700 meters to the subtropical valleys of the Yungas, passing the villages of Yolosa (1200 meters) and Coroico (1500 meters). Since 1995, it has the honourable title of being the world's most dangerous road, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. The downhill biking is spectacular, although you should not take your eye off the road. The contrast of scenery along the route is bestial, from the eternal snows of the Andean peaks to the extensive subtropical Yungas forests.
Chacaltaya is a mountain that rises to over 5400 meters above sea level. To reach its summit, you can only take a car up to 5300 meters, after that you've got to walk the remaining hundred meters. The slope is not very steep, but at that height it's exhausting! The views over the mountains and lakes of different colors - red, brown, blue (lakes have those colors as original by the minerals that compose them) - are wonderful. It's really awesome.
To get to La Paz from Copacabana you must cross the Strait of Tiquina, in small boats or on rafts and barges with space for cars on them. The views over Lake Titicaca are absolutely amazing and it is 780 meters wide. One of the strange things you see is a sign claiming landlocked Bolivia, an eternal conflict with Peru since the year 1879 when Bolivia lost access to the ocean, after the War of the Pacific.
The La Paz Cathedral is situated on the Plaza Murillo. It is in a neoclassical style and was constructed in the year 1831. Inside are the the columns supporting the Corinthian-style building. The plan of the temple façade is divided into 2 bodies, which were prepared by Antonio Camponovo.
Bolivians are very superstitious, and there are plenty of rituals centered around daily life. One is to bury a llama fetus under the foundations of your home in order to protect the building from natural disasters. This tradition began in the time of the Incas, and this custom has survived the fall of the empire. There is even a witches' market in La Paz! They don't like cameras, but it's easy to understand why: it's a little creepy!
At Alasitas you feel like Gulliver in the land of the dwarves. The market is an endless succession of stalls where you can buy miniatures of everything imaginable and the tradition is that you buy a yatiri, or hechichero and then bathe the objects in incense smoke. This is said to call Ekeko, the god of wealth and the Apus, the spirits who live in the Andes, with the goal that you get what you have purchased in minuature. There are replicas of dollars, euros, passports, food, bags of cement, cars, snuff, and other craft stalls and there are many places to eat.
Refugio Huayna Potosi is the perfect starting point to climb the Huayna Potosi the 6,000 m mountain that's closer La Paz. The refuge is at 4,700 meters, and can be reached by car, so we only" have 1300 meters to climb. When I was there in February, temperatures were higher than usual, so that the layer of snow and ice that you need to cross to reach the summit was very unstable and inclines were suspended for tourists. But it's worth the climb to the top to see the Andes amazing landscapes and to practice ice climbing. The shelter is modern and comfortable, and the walks around the area are very pleasant. It's managed by the agency of the same name, Refugio Huayna Potosi, the owner, Hugo Berrios is one of the most prestigious Bolivian climbers.
Ice climbing at the Huayna Potosí is recommended for novice ice climbers because the guides the agency uses are very good and able to get someone like me up a 15 meter wall even though I'd only done it one other time in my life, with little success. It's a day-long journey. The agency leaves Peace at 8 a.m., and in less than two hours you'll be at the 4,700 meter refuge, which is where you equip yourself for the ice climb. Then you walk for an hour to the practice area, where they teach you how to handle an ice ax, crampons, as well as using ropes and knots, things about crevasse rescue, etc. It's very interesting and instructive.
"The coca leaf is not a drug." This controversial statement by Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, was directed to the United Nations assembly. In fact, while it's known in Europe and the USA as the main component of cocaine, the coca leaf is a tradition in Peru and Bolivia, where it is used to create an infusion to combat altitude sickness. Potosi miners chew coca to fight hunger and fatigue, and it's also an offering to Pachamama, the earth mother of the Incas, as a sign of fertility.
In La Paz, near the shopping street of Sagarnaga, is a museum all about the history of coca. It is open every day, and if you don't understand Spanish, it offers English and French translations. On the top floor is a bar where you can try the famous coca plant, and a book shop where you can buy some books on the subject, as well as candy-flavoured coca leaves! Personally, I really enjoyed this original and unusual museum, which is very different from anything I've seen before. When I travel, I like to get to know the culture of the country, and the coca leaf is something very important to Peru and Bolivia. Before I arrived, I thought it was only used for drugs, but I've learned that it has some nutritional and other medicinal properties. As for the manufacture of cocaine, it takes about 300 kg of leaves to produce one kilo of cocaine.
During Holy Week hundreds of pilgrims walk to the Sanctuary of Copacabana on Lake Titicaca in the Department of Peace in Hutajata, which is a village located on the road, where it can be seen, much better, the way of life around the huge lake.
Are you looking for stuff to do in La Paz? The Bolivian capital welcomes plenty of tourists every year, so you'll find plenty of monuments to visit, places to go, and La Paz activities to fill your time.
Let's start with one of the most important places to visit in La Paz, the Basilica of San Francisco, an emblem of the country. This is the city's most important religious building and is complemented perfectly by the square that fronts it and bears the same name. It is undoubtedly the best example of Baroque art in the city, so it should be high on your list of La Paz attractions.
The craft market, another of the important things to do in La Paz, will catapult you to colonial times. Here you can buy local products and learn more about the indigenous culture of Bolivia.
Climbing to the highest places in the city lets you enjoy the views of all the things to see in La Paz. The city, which is more than 3000 meters above sea level, is surrounded by peaks and plains. And if you're wondering what to do in La Paz to leave the metropolitan hustle and bustle behind, just an hour or so from the centre is the mysterious Lake Titicaca. Lovers of nature won't lack appealing attractions in La Paz, as there are plenty of walks to take around the city.
Search Minube to learn more about this unique high-altitude city.