From Sucre we flew to La Paz, which is the highest capital city of the world: 3200 – 4000m altitude! The landing was quite impressive as the plane lands on a high plateau in between peaks of over 5000m high, and needs 4km to come to a complete stop because of the little oxygen in the air. La Paz is one of the only cities in the world where you have to go down to find the fancier areas: the city stretches over a height of 800m, with the poorest living above 4000m but enjoying the best views over the city.
The city is the prototype of an urban chaos; noisy, polluted, constantly congested and people everywhere but we loved its atmosphere, especially in the evening when all the merchants come out onto the streets, packed one next to the other (and blocking cars and several street lanes) to sell cooked food, homemade drinks, handicraft, goods imported from china, contraband etc. Be careful for pickpockets though; it’s the most popular sport in town!
We stayed in the historic colonial center where most hotels and restaurants are established and visited churches and markets, amongst others “Mercado de las Brujas” (witch market – yes people are still very superstitious here!) where you can find herbs, magic stones, frogs, dried insects and all sorts of other weird things. La Paz is also great for handicraft: you can buy amazing pulls, ponchos, shawls all made of super soft Alpaca wool!
The last day we rented mountain bikes to drive down the “Ruta de la Muerte” (literally “Death Road”), one of the most dangerous roads in the world, which connects La Paz to Coroico. The road twists and turns along vertical cliffs that drop more than hundreds of meters down; in most parts the dirt track is barely wide enough for one vehicle but vehicles travel in both directions (leading to many fatal accidents)! A minivan brought us to the top of the freezing Cumbre mountain (4660m) from where we started our 3 hour bike trip to an oasis, 3500m lower and at least 20 degrees warmer. The bike trip was sensational and along the road we passed breath-taking viewpoints on the valley. An absolute must for anyone passing in La Paz.