La Paz is set amidst a dry, desert, mountain back drop, in the canyon of the Rio Choqueyapu. Homes and buildings are built on the slopes of this canyon or valley, which seen all at once is a site in itself. In the background, there is a huge snow capped mountain called Mt. Illamani, which is 21,004 ft (6402 m) high. The city is full of old two lane roads, which makes the traffic very congested.
La Paz is built amongst the mountains, so it is very hilly. We often found ourselves short of breath just walking.
The streets are lined with plenty of shops, but most sell electronics, internet access, laundry service, cheap clothing, cheap food and other necessities of life.
On some streets there are vendors set-up in front of normal stores. It is crowded and chaotic. There are very few lights for pedestrians and you end up walking in the street anyway, because the sidewalks are so crowded and full of dogs. Aymaran woman are all over the place. These are women who are dressed in the traditional, very colorful pleated skirts and shawls.
Despite the mess there are very interesting places to visit in La Paz:
Valley of the Moon:
It is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Bolivia, the Moon Valley also known as Valle de La Luna is a huge area, with unique geological formations.
Ride a Gondola:
The views are very neat, as you can see the whole city from above. You will feel like you are inside of a hole, with a beautiful landscape, surround by houses, and dogs climbing the hills.
Church of San Francisco:
One of the oldest and most important landmarks in La Paz.
Plaza de Pedro Murillo:
This is where both the Legislative and Presidential Palaces are, and in our opinion one of the nicer parts of town.
The Witch’s Market:
Here, there are two streets, selling clothes, typical food, drinks, handicrafts, things made by llamas and alpacas, and weird things you will only find in Bolivia, such as dried llama fetuses.
Located near Tiwanaku, there is a monument temple, and part of the Tiwanaku Site: Puma Pumku. It is one of the world’s most mysterious ancient sites. The journey to this place takes about a hour by car, from La Paz.
The reason they call this road the “Death Road”, is because before they built another route allowing most traffic to bypass this road, there were more deaths per mile each year, compared to any other road in the world. The majority of people who died were traveling in cars or buses. Today there are a lot of companies, providing biking tours for crazy people, who ride mountain bikes down a tiny road, in the middle of nowhere through the mountains.
This is one of largest lakes in South America, and the world’s highest lake. Located along the border between Peru and Bolivia, in the Andes Mountains.
It was an interesting experience visiting La Paz. It was not one of the easiest countries to travel in, but it was definitely a life changing experience. There are many countries in South America; each one is different than the other. Bolivia is truly a hellish and beautiful country.
If you are planning a trip to a high area in South America, make sure to take a day off to rest and get yourself acclimated.
Drink plenty of water
Bring stomach and headache medicines
Book the tours in advance online.
Visas: You must check at the Bolivia government’s website, depending on your citzenship. If applicable, regular visas can be paid on arrival.
Currency: Bolivian Boliviano
Official language: Spanish