When people think of traveling abroad, they seem to skip past the hidden gems of the world and picture the typical European and Asian countries tourists rave over. Not to downplay the significance that those places have in history and the global economy, but in a world of 195 countries and thousands of cities, why not explore as many as possible? One of the hidden gems travelers skim over is in the middle of South America, surrounded by unique culture and beautiful landmarks: La Paz, Bolivia. It is an inimitable destination, featuring a bustling city parallel to some of the most astounding places nature has to offer. Not only will you be able to learn more about La Paz from this blog post, it’s also one of 2020’s tour destinations through A Life of Travel!
While it’s not the only feature of this destination, let’s start by talking about the city itself. It has the highest altitude of any country capital in the world and is immersed with historical culture and markets. There are two universities and several museums within the city to mark the importance the destination holds within Bolivia. A unique aspect of the city is the mode of transportation. Mi Teleférico or “My Cable Car” was invented in 2012 to give commuters a more accessible way into the city. Due to pollution and traffic this infrastructure was a great idea to preserve the cobblestone streets and still give the growing population what it needed. Many tourists utilize the cable cars as well to get the best views of the city and the surrounding sights.
An essential characteristic of the area is the Witches’ Market, where it is open every day as a place to find any homemade remedies and potions. While it is discomforting for the average traveler to see carcasses of fetus llamas used for sacrifice, it is a great way to dive into the Bolivian culture and witness something new. If this type of market doesn’t appeal to you, then check out the Mercado 16 de Julio in El Alto, the next city over. Twice a week, everything under the sun is sold here as it is the largest market in South America. One of the wildest traditions of La Paz is Cholita Wrestling, a sporting event like no other. Aymara women perform in front of huge crowds in a ring to defeat their competitor in a WWE-like charade. They dress in costumes portraying traditional Aymara culture, usually flashy dresses, and put on a great show you wouldn’t want to miss.
Another thing to check out while you’re in the city is the nightlife. The boisterous metropolitan does not settle down when the sun sets, as parties and festivities take over into the night. Fuel up on food beforehand at any of the various authentic restaurants, perhaps ordering a La Paz go-to, the Sanduíche de Chola, or pork sandwich. If the city-life becomes overwhelming for you, then do not fret because there are excursions and activities all over the surrounding area!
Bolivia is home to many stunning places and La Paz is lucky to be central to so many of them. By traveling only a couple hours maximum, a day trip to Lake Titicaca or the Uyuni Salt Flats will make your trip fulfilled. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in the continent, found between Bolivia and Peru. It provides a beautiful scenery and has many opportunities for excursions and cruises to learn about the history and float throughout the landmark. Outside of the water Lake Titicaca has hiking trails and access to Inca sites to experience the sacredness. The Inca’s called this location the “birthplace of the Sun” and for good reason, as it can become quite hot on the trails. Another way to engulf yourself in culture would be to visit Copacabana. Lakeside to Titicaca, this small town holds interesting history and religious festivities, including a tradition of pilgrims blessing their cars with holy water and beer.
Next, the Salar de Uyuni is home to one of the world’s most astounding wonders, the biggest salt flat on the globe. It is a picturesque attraction of hexagonal, white, salt tiles for as far as the eyes can see. If the Uyuni Salt Flats seem like a place for you, there are even salt hotels to stay at overnight. Another must see, just on the outskirts of the actual city is Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), a nature-made scene of eroded rocks that give the illusion of walking on the moon. If you are into adrenaline rushes and danger, La Paz is near one of the most dangerous, yet popular roads in the world. It’s called the Death Road, for obvious reasons because people ride mountain bikes down a narrow and jagged street. Sign up for a trip through a tour company if you want to test the name but keep an eye out for oncoming cars!
Another place to test your luck is Cańon de Palca, a canyon with miles of turns and eroded rocks. It’s easy to get lost in so a guided tour is the safest option and you will still get to experience the amazing sights. Another day trip to consider while visiting La Paz is Tuni Cordoriri, a hike one and a half hours from the city. It’s a part of the Cordillera Real and has views of mountains, Lake Titicaca, and glaciers.
As you can tell, from a city you may have never heard of before, great adventure and experiences await. La Paz, Bolivia is a top-notch vacation destination to visit not only for its unique city life, but the abundant outdoor topography nearby. This place includes activities for every type of person, from adventurous to knowledge seekers, there is a mountain or museum at every corner. It may be time to update your passport, learn some Spanish, and work on your breathing, because the high altitudes of La Paz are waiting for you!
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