"La Paz - City with a View" Top 5 Page for this destination La Paz by AlbuqRay

La Paz Travel Guide: 381 reviews and 903 photos

Three Zones of Metropolitian La Paz

The metropolitan area of La Paz starts with El Alto. The airport is located there on the flat Altiplano and is one of the highest in the world. Because of the higher elevation (~4060 m = ~13320 ft) and exposure, El Alto is the less desirable place to live than down lower in the Rio Choqueyapu valley. El Alto is populated mostly by Aymara Indians, who have migrated to the city to find jobs. It may be the fastest growing city in Bolivia; otherwise the fastest growing is Santa Cruz. Ironically, El Alto is the poorest city in Bolivia and Santa Cruz the richest.

The highways to Tiwanaku and Copacabana meet in El Alto. About 10 km. out on the highway to Copacabana is a village called Capacasi. North of Capacasi about 5 km., nestled in the foothills a long way from anywhere is a two-room school called Unidad Educativa Collpani Vilaque. See my travelogues on Collpani School and an Aymara Lunch Ceremony, and see kids who really appreciate getting an education.

Surrounded by Giants

You take a steep road down from El Alto to get to La Paz itself. The central city has an offical elevation of 3631m (11,913 ft), but it really depends on where you are. La Paz is built on the sides of a canyon made by the Rio Choqueyapu. The metropolitan area sprawls down through the suburbs of Miraflores, Sopocachi and the Zona Sur toward Valle de la Luna (elevation = 3320 m = 10892 ft). Mallasa and the zoo are even further down the valley. According to the Aymara, the city is surrounded by mythological giants, i.e., the peaks towering above the city. The tallest of which is the magnificent Mount Illimani at 6439 m (21125 ft).

Miraflores, Sopocachi, and Zona Sur

Between La Paz and Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), the elevation drops another 300 m (~1000 ft) relative to the center of La Paz. Because of that, these suburbs have a noticably warmer climate and are the neighborhoods for the more affluent people. In some places, except for the mountains, you would think you were in suburban USA.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Spectacular setting; multicultural
  • Cons:High altitude and steep streets
  • In a nutshell:Fascinating city and people
  • Last visit to La Paz: Oct 2003
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (18)

Comments (11)

  • Feb 8, 2006 at 4:13 PM

    Hi Ray, Thanks for sharing this with me. Beautiful faces in Bolivia-Liz@Don's Book Store Albuquerque

  • livi4's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2006 at 7:58 PM

    very informative page

  • vesna04's Profile Photo
    Dec 4, 2005 at 7:00 AM

    Fantastic page with great photos. Cheers.

  • Wann's Profile Photo
    Sep 11, 2005 at 2:29 AM

    Very informative page Ray ! many useful tips and great travelogues !!!!

  • zlatiq's Profile Photo
    Aug 17, 2005 at 10:26 AM

    breathing at such high elevation must've been hard;what's the best time of the year to go (in terms of weather)?;thanks for the great info!cheers from bulgaria

  • mad4travel's Profile Photo
    Apr 4, 2005 at 4:53 AM

    Great tips and photos. I'm off there in June and your pages have been really useful to me. thanks

  • chancay's Profile Photo
    Apr 4, 2005 at 4:29 AM

    Hi! Really excelent page with great tips and photos!!!

  • radz's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2005 at 9:18 AM

    Its always pleaseure to read ur tips&pages.I findout amazing place in this VT!.Very nice work!

  • norain's Profile Photo
    Jan 17, 2005 at 6:01 PM

    sooner or later i will follow you ;)

  • jadedmuse's Profile Photo
    Oct 2, 2004 at 7:56 PM

    Your AYNI comment reminds me very much of the Quechua culture (similar to the Aymara), regarding reciprocity. I'm curious to know if, as in Quechua, the words for "please" & "tk you" don't exist? Fascinating...


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