La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, lies on an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) and is the highest capital of the world. The city was founded in 1548 by Alonso de Mendoza at the site of the Native American settlement called Chuquiago, the full name of the city was originally Nuestra Señora de La Paz (meaning Our Lady of Peace).
The first sight of La Paz is really breathtaking. If you arrive by bus the driver will stop at a point where you can see the city in the valley below. The snow-capped Illimany mountain in the horizon makes for an impressive sight.
The main street of La Paz, called El Prado, divides the city in two parts. North of El Prado lies the colonial center. South of El Prado live mainly Aymará Indians in an old center and where you can shop for some excellent artisanal goods.
Check out some of these wonderful La Paz budget hotels
and splendid hotels in La Paz!
Plaza Murillo in the historical center is just paradise for "people-watching". During colonial times, Plaza Murillo was on the Spanish side of the Prado which caused some heavy fighting as it was the main water source in town. The plaza is surrounded by La Paz' most important buildings.
Next to the cathedral is the colonial Government Palace or the Palacio Quemado (burned palace). Originally, La Paz's City Hall and now the office of Bolivia's president, the building has been burned eight times.
The neoclassical cathedral, which took 152 years to build (1835-1987). The towers are the newest part -- they were constructed for the arrival of the Pope.
Across from the palace is the Congress building, which has a long history: It was a convent, a jail, and a university before a 1904 renovation to house Bolivia's congress.
Standing opposite the cathedral and the Government Palace is the 1911 Grand Hotel París, the first movie house in Bolivia.
Mercado de Las Brujas
Are you looking for a place to cure you from whatever illness you're suffering? Look no further. The Mercado de Las Brujas (Witches Market) will take care of it.
From suffering from a lost love to a lost job, and all things in between, the curanderos (healers) will tackle this problem while consulting coca leafs or tarot cards. It's a great spot to wander around and see superstition at work.
Not far from La Paz lies the impressive site of Tiwanaku. It is very different to other ruins found in South America.
The site is characterized by large stones, weighing up to 100 tons, and cutting, squaring, dressing, and notching exceeding even the Inca in artisanship. What fascinates me are the many faces that seem to come out of the walls.
At its maximum extent, the city covered approximately 6 square kilometers (2,316 square miles), and had as many as 40,000 inhabitants.
Tiwanaku collapsed around 1100 CE and the city was abandoned adding itself to the list of wonderful mysteries in South America. Read more about Tiwanaku
Learn more about La Paz here
Other Must See Bolivia Travel Places
|Lake Titicaca||Potosi||Salar de Uyuni|
Story: River Boat Trip in Bolivia
© All photographs by Mark Van Overmeire