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A small but significant city perched high in the Andes Mountains, La Paz is arguably the most influential city in Bolivia. Officially the country’s administrative capital, it is also the main commercial hub. The Prado, a long tree-lined avenue runs down the center of La Paz, connecting the historical center, with its winding cobbled streets and colonial buildings, with the more modern part of the city where you’ll find tall high-rises. The pervasive presence in La Paz though is the snow-capped Andean peaks, which stand in constant competition with the high-rises for a spot on the city’s skyline.
Being situated on the altiplano (the Andean plateau), La Paz is a unique Latin American city for its high proportion of indigenous residents. They make for a colorful presence on the streets, and many of La Paz’s shops burst with items not always identifiable to the traveler’s eye.
One of the most intriguing points of interest is the witches market, bursting with curiosities for sale, such as dried frogs, medicinal plants and all manner of potions which are used by local traditional healers. Plaza Murillo is a more familiar site, but no less important in the life of La Paz. La Paz’s central plaza, this square is surrounded by Bolivia’s congress buildings, the presidential palace and the Cathedral of La Paz.
Just outside the city, the Valley of the Moon provides a beautiful geological phenomenon. Troughs and towers of eroded sandstone and clay form a maze reminiscent of a lunar landscape, particularly striking to look at in the light of the late afternoon.
- Population: 1,477,000
- Altitude: 4000m at its highest point
- Climate: The climate in La Paz tends to be dry and sunny with temperatures averaging between 15 and 27 degrees, thanks to its proximity to Lake Titicaca which moderates the high-altitude temperatures. Nights can be chilly though, sometimes dropping as low as 0 degrees.