La Paz is the political capital city with more indigenous representation in Latin America. This is the most unusual meeting point of the national cultures from the western world. This symbiosis is present in all the situations of the social, political, economic and cultural life.
Having the Illimani Mountain as a guardian, La Paz grows on a unique topography, acquiring an appearance that is not comparable with that of other cities. It also has its own identity, an aura of legend and mystery and a highly geographically and culturally differentiated environment.
La Paz was founded in 1548 by Alonso de Mendoza in Laja which was a resting point between Potosi and Cusco. Three days later, it was moved more to the east, to the border of Altiplano where the ravines begin. It was a warmer place called Choqueyapu (in Aymara Chuquiyapu, 'farm of potatoes or gold) due to the mild climate of this head of valley. The potato and grain crops were magnanimous as well as the gold that was dragged by the river in the higher slopes.
The full name designated by the Spanish conquerors was Nuestra Señora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace), becoming the third city after Sucre (1538) and Potosi (1545). Its name commemorates the restoration of peace after the civil war that followed the insurrection of Gonzalo Pizarro against Blasco Núñez Vela, the first viceroy of Peru. La Paz rises against the Spanish colony on 16 July 1809 led by Pedro Domingo Murillo and other local martyrs and establishes the first free government of Latin America, forming a ‘Junta Tuitiva’ on 22 July 1809. Later, after the Federal War of 1898 La Paz assumed de facto the seat of government (Executive and Legislative Branches), remaining only the Judiciary Branch in the city of Sucre.
The Plaza Murillo,the kilometer 0, pays tribute to the hero of the 1809 liberty quest Pedro Domingo Murillo. From this place, you can observe a whole urban unitary with neoclassical and academic architecture: Nuestra Señora de La Paz Cathedral, the Legislative Palace, and the Government Palace.
The Church of San Francisco as well as the temple and the convent were built with carved stone and finished in the mid-eighteenth century. The facade of the church of San Francisco corresponds to the baroque style as well as its interior. It has a plant with three naves separated by a barrel vault and a semicircular dome with four windows in the crossing. The altarpiece is famous for the fine fabric of its sculpture, covered in gold leaf.
The Calle Jaén is one of the most representatives of the city. Its houses date from the XVIII and XIX centuries and this street takes its name in honor of the libertarian hero Apolinar Jaén, who fought alongside Pedro Domingo Murillo. In this street, there are museums such as the Museum of Gold and Precious Metals and the Museum of Folk Instruments. In this street you can also find several venues offering from folk music performances like the traditional peñas as well as Bolivian and international food and beverages.
La Paz experiences the maximum expression of its folklore in the festivity of Gran Poder with costumes, dances and customs. With colorful traditional costumes coming to life at the sight of the spectators, the festivity of Gran Poder is performed in the festival of Santisima Trinida where one of the main characters is the ‘Chola’ which is historically the result of the mix of Spanish and Indian called "cholo" and the chola as a family unit.
One of the best samples of folklore and the Bolivian culture is found in the Museum of Ethnography and Folklore which is located one block away from the Plaza Murillo.
The Alasitas Festival is a fair where the craftsmen offer a wide variety of miniature products of everything you could wish for. This is the feast of abundance around the Ekeko, the lord of wealth. This festivity is held each January 24 at the beginning of the summer solstice and officially lasts until February 4.
The Calle de las Brujas (Witches’ Market) offers an encounter with traditions, local products, medicinal plants, amulets, offerings, herbs, coca as well as healers, yatiris, kallawayas. This market is located at the intersection of Jimenez and Linares streets.
In the southern area of the city of La Paz, you begin a fascinating walk reaching almost 4,000 meters of altitude up to the Apacheta (shrine of stones) and then you arrive at the unusual natural formations of the Valle de las Animas (Valley of Souls), a place of offerings and ritual of the Andean culture. Then, you experience the Grand Canyon of Palca offering the vagaries of nature in canyons formed by the erosion of the land. This atmosphere is accompanied by a mild climate. As you walk along the variety of agricultural plantations in Palca, you can take fascinating pictures of the Illimani Mountain, guardian of La Paz. When returning to the city, the rise again among summits and mountains enables us to reach the Valley of the Moon, a very interesting geographic formation caused by soil erosion that has consumed the top of a mountain of clay. With the course of the centuries, the elements have created a masterpiece of lunar aspect, similar to a desert of stalagmites.
With regard to the viewpoints of La Paz, the topography of the city can be seen from different angles because it is surrounded by natural vantage points; the most visited are Jach'akollo, located in the Nueva Potosí area; Alto Pampahasi, Sallahumani in the La Paz-El Alto highway and Killi Killi, which is the most visited..
Within the department of La Paz, there are natural wonders like Lake Titicaca and the Madidi National Park as well as Tiwanaku - the most important archaeological site of Bolivia
If you are looking for adventure tourism, the most visited attraction is the Death Road to Coroico in Los Yungas area where people go on mountain bikes. The proximity of the city with the Andes Cordillera allows La Paz to be the pass of climbers to snow peaks like Huayna Potosí and the Condoriri Group as well as of hikers who are attracted to the l Choro and Takesi pre-Columbian pathways.
Source: www.turismolapaz.travel (Mónica Mendienta, Juan Luis Alanes)
- Location: It is located in the west of Bolivia, in the Murillo province belonging to the department of La Paz. It is the capital of the department and the seat of government of Bolivia.
- Altitude: 3600 masl
- Average temperature: 13º C (-5º C in winter and 18º C in summer)
Since La Paz is the seat of government, it has a bus terminal and several bus stations where buses from all over the country and western countries arrive like Peru and Chile. Also, there is an international airport.
There are tourist and public buses departing from Puno. It makes a short stopover in Copacabana and then it continues to La Paz. It takes around 6 hours.
There are tourist and public buses departing from Puno that is part of the route Cusco – Puno – Desaguadero - La Paz. This trip is around 15 hours. You can also take a 1-hour flight from the Cusco International Airport.
Both cities are part of the backbone of Bolivia. There are daily departures every 30 minutes from the Cochabamba bus terminal. It takes around 7 hours to get to La Paz. You can also take a 25-minute flight to La Paz.
Since these cities make up the backbone of Bolivia, there are buses leaving every 30 minutes from Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It is a 14 hour trip approximately that passes through Cochabamba. There are also flights to La Paz that you can take from both Santa Cruz airports. The flight lasts 40 minutes.