Mile-High-City aka Denver sits at 5,280ft (one mile) above sea-level. As a Chicagoan I had always thought this altitude to be impressive. La Paz sits at 12,000ft, making it the highest capital city in the world. This translates to heavy breathing, light headiness, dry skin and intense hang-overs.
I'm trying to concentrate on the altitude because I don't know what else to talk about. I don't think three days in a city is enough to justify a completely negative opinion of place, so I won't go that way. La Paz has some rich history. Evo Morales lives and works here. There are some great ruins near by. We found a bar that played the Bears/Packers game. I just never got into this city. The tourists areas of La Paz were packed with 19 year old British/Australian/Irish backpackers. I'm a backpacker too, I know. I just don't like most other backpackers. I carry a knife for that reason.
These backpackers come here to party in between their Manchu Picchu run and their trip south to the Salar de Uyuni. You could go your entire time in La Paz without hearing any Spanish. Our three days here were spent in ok museums, plazas and a few different (gringo and non-gringo) bars. We at some pretty mediocre food and defended America against the rants of lazy eyed Englishmen. I'll stop whining now.
La Paz is shaped like giant bowl. The key is to always be walking down. What I enjoyed most about the city were the views. On ever corner you are given a new look at the sprawling neighborhoods that climb into the clouds. At certain angles you can see the mammoth Mount Illimani looming over the city.
Mt. Illimani over La Paz
(photo taken by Mark Goble via Wikipedia)
The historical center of La Paz. The plaza is named after General Murillo, a hero from Bolivia's Independence movement.
The Congress Building
Where Evo Works
If you squint your eyes you can see that the soldiers guarding the Palace are dressed in red uniforms. Fun Fact time - The soldiers are wearing the same uniforms that were worn during the Pacific War (1879-1884), in which Bolivia lost all of its coastal land to Chile. For Bolivians the loss remains a sore issue and political relations between the two countries are still shaky. While I found different accounts as to the why a tenth star was added to the Bolivian flag on the internets, we were told during a tour of the Casa de la Liberated that the star represented Bolivia's lost coastal territory and the desire to one day take it back. Does Chile really need more coast line? No, they just want the land because it is rich in mineral-deposits.
The Witches Market - where you can get hippied out like everyone else! Cool bro.
The Coca Museum
Actually a very interesting museum on the history of the coca leaf. The tiny museum gives a detailed and even handed history of the coca leaf's journey from being a traditional medicinal leaf chewed by the Incas to suppress appetite and altitude sickness to its transformation as the breakfast of choice for stock-traders (see photo above).
Wall of Bolivian Hats
For you Mom