La Paz is a city of startling beauty. It is located at an elevation of almost 12,000 feet above sea level. That’s almost 2 and ½ miles high! The city itself sits in a sunken valley in the Andes Mountain range, with the startling gray-blue, snow peaked Mt. Illimani towering over the city at an elevation of 21,000 feet.
The majority of the city’s population of 1.5 million live in the valley at the base of the Andes, while the rest live in housing located on a plateau called El Alto. You’ll see the most breathtaking view of the city at night, when thousands of lights dot the valley and crawl up the sides of the mountains.
One of the things that you’re sure to find fascinating about Bolivia is its truly unique culture. The Andean region has been inhabited for somewhere around 20,000 years, and over these many years has been influenced by a wide variety of peoples. Visiting La Paz, you’ll see indigenous Aymara, Inca, Spanish, and other South American influences on religion, music, and clothing. Even the country’s official language is a reflection of its unique heritage. Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara: all three are official languages of Bolivia.
Because of its location, La Paz is a great travel destination for adventure seekers. Those who are truly not faint-at-heart can visit Yungas Road, which in English is known as Death Road, and also affectionately deemed The World’s Most Dangerous Road. If you are an extreme mountain biker, than this is definitely a thrilling test of your expertise. The road earned these nicknames because it has more deaths per mile than any other road in the world.
If the mere mention of a seven-hour bike ride that snakes all the way from the Andes to the Amazon basin gets your pulse racing, then this is the destination for you. There are many different companies that offer biking trips down Death Road. The price of a bike ride is quite reasonable, ranging from $55-$75, depending on the type of bike, helmet, and other equipment that you may decide to rent.
If you’d prefer to not risk life and limb during your trip to La Paz, don’t worry. There are plenty of other things to do and attractions to see. One that you are sure to enjoy is a visit to Lake Titicaca.
This lake is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world; it sits at an altitude of 12,500 feet. One of the most incredible things about a lake existing at this altitude is how life has so successfully adapted. Wildlife thrives here despite the cold temperatures, high levels of ultraviolet radiation, and thin air (due to low oxygen levels).
Lake Titicaca is also a very popular tourist destination because it was once home to the great Inca empire. Ancient Inca ruins can be seen all over Titicaca, especially on an island called Isla del Sol, which translates to Island of the Sun. According to Inca legend, this island is where the sun god’s children, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, emerged from the depths of Lake Titicaca and found the Inca civilization.
When you witness the beautiful green landscape rising from the shimmering waters of Titicaca, it will be easy to understand why the Incas considered this to be such a sacred place.