After spending three amazing days in the middle of nature, in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna Natural Reserve, near the Uyuni Salt Flat, we were now on our way to the Bolivian capital: La Paz, the highest capital in the world!
A few words about La Paz
We learnt that La Paz was the de facto capital, with the seat of the country’s government, when Sucre is the official capital. In terms of geography, as the city was built in a bowl, there is a 1000-meter difference between the highest and the lowest points of the city! The altitude varies from 3 200 meters to 4 100 meters! The gorgeous Illimani volcano overlooks the city with its peak at 6 400 meters!
WHEN TIREDNESS BEGINS TO SET IN
At that point of the trip, we began to feel tired. Or rather exhausted. As beautiful as the landscapes had been, we had not slept much during our excursion, both because of the altitude and the early wake up calls. And these three days in high altitude had been followed by a rough night on a train with little sleep as well.
CHAOS SCENE UPON REACHING “EL ALTO” NEAR LA PAZ
So we were on the bus from Oruro to La Paz. We were feeling exhausted, hungry and extremely hot… And we arrived to this scene of chaos, in a city called the Alto. We were so close to La Paz and we were stuck. At that point, all I wanted was to go home.
The road was blocked because we arrived two days before the Bolivian national day and apparently the party was already going on in El Alto. We waited patiently and were finally able to continue and drive on the other side of the road.
A few words about El Alto
We learnt that La Paz is located in a “bowl” surrounded with high mountains. On one of these mountains sits El Alto, a city that grew rapidly and with no urban planning as farmers looking for a more urban life settled there. And you have to drive through this chaos each time you want to reach the Bolivian capital located below in the valley.
AND THEN A BREATHTAKING VIEW ON LA PAZ
We then discovered a beautiful view of La Paz. From up there, we could see that the city was literally built in the middle of the mountains, with the gorgeous Illimani volcano in the background, overlooking the city with its peak at 6 400 meters! It looked amazing.
We finally reached our friends’ house. Our backpacks were covered with dust, we had not taken a proper shower in three days and we were exhausted. The first night I fell at 8pm… A shower and a good night of sleep and a great breakfast with our friends later, we were feeling much better! We had regained enough energy to go and explore the Bolivian capital.
CABLE CARS: THE BEST WAY TO GET AROUND LA PAZ
We found out that the best way to explore La Paz was to take the cable cars! Like in a ski station, there are several cable cars lines linking different areas of the city. As we had seen the day before, the city was built in the middle of the mountains so by car you keep going up and down. What’s more, the taxi drivers have a particular way of driving…. Taking the cable car was more convenient and felt safer.
BACK IN EL ALTO AFTER A 1000-METER ASCENSION
Forty minutes later, we were at an altitude 4 100 meters. From up there we had the best view on La Paz and on the beautiful Illimani volcano. When we got out of the cable car, we realized that it was harder to breeze and that it was colder. I was happy to have my alpaca sweater that I had bought in Uyuni. We took a few steps and had to catch our breath. And then we saw people playing football!
We learnt that some athletes come to the Alto to train before a competition as the conditions are much more difficult there. When they go back to sea level, they find it much easier to perform their sports.
EXPLORING THE CENTER OF LA PAZ
We then went to the historical center of La Paz and walked around the little streets by San Francisco Cathedral. There were many travel agencies and souvenir stores.
We then had lunch in a delicious traditional restaurant. We had a great vegetal soup followed by suckling pig with corn, potatoes and pepers.
BEING AMAZED BY THE MOON VALLEY
We then discovered the beautiful Moon Valley, right in the middle of the city! It was different from the Moon Valley that we had seen in Chile but it was all the more beautiful.
WATCHING THE SUN SET ON THE ILLIMANI VOLCANO
To finish this day “en beauté”, we watched the sun set on the Illimani volcano. It was beautiful.
- Next stop: the archeological site of Tiwanaku and Puma Punku. Click here to read the article.
- All articles about this country: click here to see all articles about Bolivia.
- All articles about this trip: click here to read see all articles about this backpacking trip across the Andes (Chile – Bolivia – Peru).