Known as the city that touches the sky, La Paz, Bolivia, climbs in elevation from approximately 9,840 to 13,450 feet in the highlands of eastern Bolivia, near the eastern side of the Andes Mountains. While Sucre is the legal capital of Bolivia, La Paz is the government seat. Although it’s a modern city, La Paz is steeped in history, with colonial buildings, plazas and cobblestone streets.
La Paz’s history is seen in its attractions, including Museo de Oro, exhibiting ancient objects; Museo Nacional de Arqueología, with items from Tiwanaku, Bolivia’s premier, archaeological site; Museo Nacional de Arte, a former palace with works by artists like Marina Nuñez del Prado; and Tiahuanaco, ruins of an ancient city built more than 1,000 years ago. The area’s culture also can be found in the market area, where vendors offer local goods like silver, textiles, hand-knitted Alpaca wool garments and wood carvings. For the mystically inclined, the Mercado de las Brujas (Witches’ Market) sells charms, potions and herbal cures.
Nearby, visitors can Lake Titicaca, which sits between Bolivia and Peru, and the towns around its shoreline. A lake is a sacred place for the Inca civilization, with many islands and ancient ruins. In Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), visitors will see unique rock formations caused by thousands of years of erosion. And activities like golf, mountain biking, minibuses and skiing are available at Chacaltaya, the highest ski resort on Earth, at over 21,000 feet.
Cuisine in La Paz features traditional Bolivian fare that is heavy on the meat and slightly spicy. National specialties include salteña (empanadas), anticuchos (skewered beef hearts), and lomo montado (fried tenderloin steak topped with two fried eggs and accompanied by rice and fried banana). Restaurants abound in La Paz, with many located along El Prado, the city’s main street. Besides traditional fare, there is a variety of international cuisines available. Restaurants here are less expensive than in the U.S. La Paz also has many nightclubs, which generally get going around midnight.
El Alto International Airport, located 25 minutes from the center of La Paz, is served by American Airlines (from Miami) and several South American carriers. Taxis and minibuses are available in town. Rental cars are available, but they are delivered to visitors at the airport or their hotels. The city center is quite walkable, although buses, which stop at the main bus terminal, are available.
Bolivia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, where summer comes in December and winter comes in June. Although the country is between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, the climate in La Paz is not tropical, due to its altitude. Generally, average daytime temperatures range from 59 during winter to 72 during summer, which is also the wet season. April to October is a good time to visit, but no matter what time of year, nights can be cold, and there is wind.