La Paz & the Altiplano
Hit the heights in La Paz, the world’s highest capital, and the lofty, dramatic plains of Bolivia's Altiplano.
As city settings go La Paz in Bolivia is among the most breath-taking. At 3,600 metres above sea level and ringed by mountains there’s no getting away from the altitude and you should take your time to acclimatise before exploring. Once you’re ready there’s plenty to enjoy, from gracious squares and buildings to the stunning cable car plus a few surprises as you’ll see below. Away from the city venture into the wilderness of the Altiplano with the feel of another world.
- La Paz cable car: Another highest in the world for La Paz, this cable car has several routes which carry you away from the city centre up to various and contrasting neighbourhoods where you can alight and get a feel for day to day life away from the city centre. And the views as you soar over La Paz are magnificent.
- Aymara culture in El Alto: El Alto, one of the cable car’s destinations, is a thriving centre of Aymara culture. Expect to see women, cholas, in traditional dress and striking cholet buildings showcasing colourful Aymara designs. Twice a week the witches market fizzes with life as all manner of goods from furniture to DVDs, herbal cures and good luck charms change hands.
- La Paz plaza life: Plaza San Francisco is the largest and most important square, where locals congregate and street performers entertain, a good place to hang out and people watch. You can see the historic Iglesia de San Francisco and wander through the cloisters of the adjoining museum. Plaza Murillo is the political centre of La Paz, site of the presidential palace and the national congress as well as the cathedral.
- Valley of the Moon: Lunar landscapes in La Paz? It sounds unlikely yet just 10kms from the city you can be walking through a veritable moonscape, named by none other than Neil Armstrong. Centuries of wind and rain formation have created weirdly shaped rock formations that fill this canyon which you can explore using the network of walking trails.
- Altiplano adventures: Take a guided hike among the mountains, lakes and valleys of the Cordillera Real, or hire a mountain bike for the famous Death Road descent, with an alternative safer route for those who prefer, to reach the lush countryside and waterfalls near Corioco town, where you may spot the Andean Cock of the Rock.
- Tiwanaku: an ancient empire: Tiwanaku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 70ksm from La Paz, was once a great civilisation, predating the Incas, and at its height with up to 60,000 inhabitants. The site was abandoned by about AD1,000 but you can still see large stone pyramids, temples and ornately carved gateways which hint at its grandeur.