La Paz was meant to be just a stopover on our way up to Peru, but after our traumatic flight experience we decided to stay there a couple days. We are so glad we did as La Paz turned out to be a very cool and quirky city! La Paz is in a giant crater and as the city has grown, it has grown up the sides of the crater as well which gives it a very full and busy feel. Driving into La Paz from the airport which is on the El Alto (the top of the canyon) it almost felt like you were spiralling round a drain as the height drop is significant. La Paz was established by the Spanish in 1548 so there is a lot of Spanish architecture and the city has this amazing duality of Colonial style buildings surrounded by very Bolivian customs (like the witches market). The city sits at over 3600m (which makes it the highest capital city in the world) but after the over 4 and 5000m altitude we had just been at it really didnt seem that high at all!
Everyone in Bolivia is pretty short! I think it has something to do with the altitude. Andy and I are by no means tall and we were on average a good head and shoulders taller than everyone else which was very strange!
Around the centre of the city where the government is based there are lots of army officers around, both in traditional uniform and in modern uniforms. There is also evidence on all the buildings in the central square of the numerous revolutions Bolivia has gone through. Bullet holes in buildings were not an uncommon sight.
The terracotta colour of the houses that now go up the entire wall of the canyon, often at precariously steep angles! The Casco Viejo is the oldest area of La Paz and was the original area of the Spanish settlement.
Amazing views of the city showing just how insane the angles are that some houses are built at and gives a great idea of the mountains which surround the city.
Salteña’s are traditional Bolivian pasties which we had been dying to try, but as most had fillings of Llama and other meat we hadnt had a chance in smaller towns. Luckily we found some vegetarian ones in La Paz and they really were delicious!
The Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley, is just outside of La Paz. It is an eroded clay mountain which has created the most insane shapes and valleys. It is called Moon Valley as apparently when Neil Armstrong visited the site he remarked how much it was like the surface of the moon.
We were lucky enough to stay right by the “witches” market where traditional offerings are sold. Most Bolivians seem to follow a hybrid of Catholic and traditional beliefs and these offerings often include llama foetuses :( and other strange assortment of things.
The San Franciso church in the centre of La Paz was built in 1548 in the baroque mestizo style. It was a truly gorgeous church but much to our frustration, it seems that in neither Bolivia nor Peru you are allowed to shoot inside churches even without flash! We managed to sneak a couple but it is still frustrating thinking about all the amazing art we missed documenting!