La Paz: The World’s Highest Capital

I left Santa Cruz’s hot and humid conditions and boarded an ageing 727-100 (!) that looked like it had just one more flight left in it.  One hour later, and having flown through a large thunderstorm, I arrived in La Paz, which at around 4,000m makes it the world’s highest capital city by far (Quito is #2 at around 3,000m).  Stepping off the plane and onto the tarmac was quite a shock to the system: the thin air literally took my breath away, and the temperature was a good 20+ degrees lower than in Santa Cruz.

I’d flown up to La Paz with Sarah, a member of my Habitat group, and together we caught a taxi into the city to our hotel.  The airport is located on the flat expanses of the altiplano (high plains) while the city itself is nestled in a narrow valley, and we had an amazing view of the city once the taxi crested the edge of the valley and plummeted (and I mean it!) down into the depths of the city.

The next day we explored the city and saw some of its sights.  My first impressions of La Paz weren’t great but it’s definitely warmed on me with its mountain views (the beautiful 6,500m Illimani stand at the end of the valley), San Francisco-style streets, interesting neighbourhoods, local markets and incredibly friendly and inquisitive people.

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The streets around Sagarnaga and the Witches Market (the touristy part of the city).

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Some of the delights in the Witches Market: lurrrrrv potions (gotta get me some of those!) and yucko dried baby llamas (ummm, no thanks…)

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(L) Plaza Pedro Murillo with the cathedral. (R) Guards outside the presidential palace.

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Plaza San Francisco at night.


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Some city views from the top of the valley.

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