Destination guide: La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz is the capital of Bolivia and is located in the heart of the altiplano and in the foothills of the snowcapped Illimani Mountain. Here, you can see how the Aymaran race greatly influenced the growth of this multi-racial country in South America. La Paz has a rich architectural legacy inherited from the colonial era, combined with archaeology in Tiwanaku and the art and folklore of its villages. From here, you can visit Moon Valley, the snowcapped Chacaltaya Mountain and famous Lake Titicaca.
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La Paz is dizzying in every respect, not only for its well-publicized altitude (3660m), but for its quirky beauty. Most travelers enter this extraordinary city via the flat, sparse plains of the sprawling city of El Alto, an approach that hides the sensational surprises of the valley below. The first glimpse of La Paz will, literally, take your breath away. The city’s buildings cling to the sides of the canyon and spill spectacularly downwards. On a clear day, the imposing showy, snowy Mt Illimani (6402m) looms in the background.
Although Sucre still hangs on to its status as the constitutional capital, La Paz – Bolivia’s largest city and centre for commerce, finance and industry – is the country’s seat of government. Meanwhile, El Alto is the Aymará capital of the world. Although in reality an extension of urban La Paz, El Alto’s ongoing influx of immigrants means it has morphed into one of Latin America’s fastest-growing cities.
La Paz must be savored over time, not only to acclimatize to the altitude, but to experience the city’s many faces. Wander at leisure through the alleys and lively markets, marvel at the interesting museums, chat to the locals in a comedor (dining hall) or relax over a coffee at a trendy cafe.
Since La Paz is sky-high, warm clothing is desirable most of the year, at least in the evenings.
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