La Paz

La Paz: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Last updated: December 21, 2020

Strangely enough, La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, where the national government has settled, while Sucre remains the official capital designated by the Constitution. There are no spectacular landmarks, no remarkable architecture, nothing worthy of special interest. Yet many travellers pass through La Paz, and there are a few places of note.

01. Topography

In the heart of the Andes, the city lies between 3000 and 4000 meters, with the center being around 3600, making it the highest capital in the world. As the population increases, more than a million people are living on the sometimes steep slopes. Several lookouts make it possible to grasp this great urban bowl, as in El Alto at the cable car station.

02. Cable cars

As the difference in altitude made the subway impossible, the cable car became the alternative solution. Opened in 2014, the network is gradually being deployed over thirty kilometres and thirty stations. The eight-passenger cabins pass silently over the roofs, and despite the tinted glass, spectacular photos of the city can be taken.

03. Street life

In La Paz the pavements are not intended for pedestrians, they are displays for street vendors that rival the outdoor shelves of the shops. This adds to the chaotic hell of the city centre, the dusty and polluting traffic dominated by minibuses from another age. An anachronism that can be appealing if one accepts its drawbacks.

04 Witches’ Market

The unusual Witch’s Market is made up of a few shops and stalls around the intersection of Santa Cruz and Melchor Jimenez streets. There are dried llama foetuses hanging from the fronts, a good-luck charm to be buried at home. The rest is less singular and of little interest to the passing traveler.

05. San Francisco

Unlike most Hispanic cities, there is no central square where everyone meets. San Francisco’s parvis plays that role in part. Formerly a church dedicated to the Indians, living apart from the Spaniards, its visit passes through two cloisters and over the rooftops. It is forbidden to photograph inside, a retrograde attitude quite common in the country.

06. Plaza Murillo

The square is located in the old town but away from the main roads. However, it remains at the heart of the political game as it is home to the cathedral, the presidential palace and the Congress. In 1946, the president was even hanged from a lamppost by rioters. Today, many pigeons can be seen there, taking advantage of the fruitful trade of seed sellers.

07. The Cathedral

Built in a very sober classical style, the present cathedral was begun in 1835, replacing a previous structure that had partly collapsed. The tomb of Marshal Santa Cruz, protected by a guard of honour, can be seen through one of the five doors on the façade. He died in France and his remains were transported from Versailles to La Paz a hundred years later.

08. Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace is one of the few old facades that is properly maintained. The entrance is guarded by sentries wearing the uniform of the war against Chile at the end of the 19th century. Behind the palace, a controversial modern tower now houses the presidential office. The old building is to be possibly converted into a museum.

09. Calle Jaen

The old architecture, especially the colonial style, has not received much attention in La Paz, most of the old houses are in decay and suffer from a clear lack of maintenance. Jaen Street is an exception, in order to provide a convenient showcase for tourists, several museums and restaurants are located there.

10. Valle de la Luna

It is a short excursion about ten kilometres from the centre of La Paz, by bus or taxi. Under the effect of erosion, the earth has formed various forms and devoid of vegetation, giving the illusion of being in another world. A circular trail allows visitors to explore the site and discover it from different angles as they progress.

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