As you roll around the tight mountain roads into La Paz you cannot help but to be enveloped by a feeling of awe and amazement as the scenic city layout spans the horizon, captivating your mind. The Spanish colonial style architecture lines the mountainside as the city nestled in the valley below comes into view, snow-capped Andean peaks shining in the distance and the autumn sun beating down upon the mountain crags. A truly mystifying sense of beauty dawns upon your mind as the sense of reality dissipates from your soul.
High altitude Bliss
Situated in North West Bolivia and sitting at a dizzying altitude of 3660m, La Paz provides a breathtaking holiday experience to even the most seasoned traveller. As you step off the bus and onto the solid soil beneath your feet, you cannot help but gaze in awe at the beautiful surrounds encompassing your line of sight. Mt Illimani looms it's snow covered peak in the background at over 6000m and the clouds flow freely beneath you in the morning sun. La Paz truly allows you to experience all aspects of the altitude without even leaving the confines of the city.
Be careful however, even those of us that adjust relatively well to high altitude can be susceptible to altitude sickness and should always be weary. In your first few days take it easy in La Paz as your body adjusts to the altitude, shortness of breath and headaches are common place when you first arrive in high altitude destinations. Care should be taken not to over exert yourself too much in the first 48 hours and manage your headaches with paracetamol or the like.
Spanish colonial stylings
As you wander Down the cobblestone streets and gaze blissfully at the mountain surrounds, you are encompassed by the ever present Spanish colonial stylings of the city's architecture. As with many Spanish colonial cities, La Paz has that ever present main Square towered by age old cathedrals and buildings that openly scream the Spanish history in this city. The canyons surrounding the city centre are lined with mud red houses and at any minute you expect the running of the bulls to begin. By day this city is memorising.... by night is is truly breathtaking.
For a captivating architectural experience head down to the Plaza Murillo and take in the sights. The Huge Cathedral looms intimidatingly over the plaza and provides an amazing insight into the city’s spanish colonial ancestry. Tours can be taken of the cathedral and are well worth the time and money as they are reasonably inexpensive. Plaza Murillo also houses the Palacia Presidencial (presidential palace) and the Congreso Nacional which also make for great photographic memoirs. A romantic place to relax at night and a great place to hang out during the day, the Plaza Murillo is a definite hot spot for tourism in La Paz.
Things to do
La Paz is home to an amazing array of activities to keep even the most adventurous tourist entertained. It's closeness to both the spectacular Andes and the lush, green amazon makes it a Mecca for tourists and adventurers alike. The Witches market near the main square provides a perfect array of agencies selling a multitude of differing tours to fill your days in this amazing location. From mountain climbing to hiking, trekking to mountain biking, the witches market provides an avenue to experience La Paz’s greatest attractions.
The Death Road Tour comes highly recommended and provides a daunting yet adrenaline pumping experience. Costing between 400-500B the tour takes you to Bolivia's most dangerous road, El Camino Del la Muerte (Death Road). Situated approximately one hours drive from La Paz this no longer travelled road was responsible for more than 200 deaths a year. Hair pin corners, no guard rails and unstable dirt road provide an epic challenge. Make sure you book with a reputable company to ensure you have well serviced and adequate safety equipment of the ride. Take a camera with you because the trip starts above the clouds and ends in the jungle below, providing some epic opportunities for photography.
Wandering the cobble stone streets of La Paz it soon becomes evident that there is a multitude of different things to do in this amazing city. From climbing the snow capped Peaks of the Andes to mountain biking through the amazon, whitewater rafting the rumbling rivers to trekking the mystic trails, dining in Spanish style villas to strolling through historic museums, La Paz is a place where you could spend a year and still be busy with things to do.
Dining out and accommodation
The good restaurants in La Paz are often tucked away in little corners or hidden on the roofs of hotels, little treasures waiting to be found. An experience worth having is dining on the seventh floor of The Hotel Gloria. This fine dining style restaurant provides an amazing view of the city's skyline via it's glass windows facing out the city lights. The food is outstanding and the service is second to none. After your meal take a walk up to the sky bar on the roof for a great after dinner cocktail with even more spectacular views than the restaurant below.
La Paz has a multitude of options for accommodation at ridiculously low prices, but some care needs to be taken when selecting where to stay. Safety is always a concern and you need to make sure the hotel has good security and at least video cameras installed to ensure your gear is safe when you are out exploring the region. Hotel A La Maison provides amazingly good rooms for an extremely low price and the staff are extremely helpful.
La Paz is a truly amazing place set in some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. There is a multitude of activities in the region from mountain climbing to shopping for a new poncho. Whatever your desire La Paz never fails to deliver......