La Paz

Traveling through South America is always a surprise and a way to demolish prejudices and stereotypes. Certainly, some images we have from some countries are confirmed in terms of cultural traditions, but some crappy information that prevents some people from visiting some cities and countries do not confirm.
Bolivia is a relatively poor country if its economy is compared to the richest countries in the world, and so many people consider the country still under development. Anyway to my surprise, when visiting La Paz, I found a very interesting city, with a historic center full of attractions and some new and modern parts of the city that are not behind the best cities in the world. Some parts of the historical city centre are true pearls very well preserved, however there are also many abandoned buildings. Some attractions of La Paz are genuine, peculiar to the city, such as the Moon Valley for example.
Another interesting fact in La Paz is that, we feel that the city is under great development, with the construction of a modern network of aerial cable cars linking the parts of the city. It is a creative and smart solution that Bolivia's urbanists have found as an alternative to the subway system, widely adopted in other cities in the world.
Bus in the Sarganaga Street | Bolivia

Getting to La Paz | From the airport to city centre

This travel to La Paz, was part of our itinerary travel through Peru and Bolivia. I say ours because I made this trip, like many others with my wife.
We arrived early to La Paz, (October 23, 2016) coming from Cusco by airplane, through a peruvian airline company.
To embark for La Paz, we arrived very early to the airport of Cusco and there was a little unexpected. They said our 7:40 a.m. flight was crowded and we'd have to wait for the next flight, later on the same day. We insisted, we'd done the checkin on line, and we said we wanted to go on that flight. We wouldn't want other people to pass in front of us and have to wait for the next flight. Finally, after the insistence and some phone calls, they confirmed our seats, and other people who tried to go earlier had to stay behind, ie for the next flight.
At last we embark and arrive at La Paz, in modern and well-presentable airport. There we fill in the Aduna papers, a little tricky. After then passing through immigration, and swapping some dollars for bolivars (local money) We went looking for driving to the hotel. There were many taxis offering, but we also saw the announcement of a Van that led to the city centre. Perhaps by spirit of adventure and also of economy, we chose the Van, to have a more real experience.
We're crossing the airport parking lot until we get to the point of Vans. There arriving by paying a cheap ticket, and all other passengers were Bolivian, or who worked at the airport or who lived nearby and were going to the center of La Paz. The Van was new and very well maintained, and our suitcases were placed on top of the ceiling in a trunk. As the Van followed, we could see that La Paz is a city within a valley, a kind of huge crater surrounded by mountains. And at the same time, we listened to the noises of the suitcases on the ceiling, sliding sideways to the other!
It was a Sunday, the city was busy and there was a lot of trade in street vendors, and fairs. The Van followed to a certain point near our hotel, and then walking paths with wheels for a few blocks.
When we arrived, we liked the hotel Sarganaga I had reserved, and that was on the street of the same name. It is on a super sloped street, to take the breath to rise at that altitude. But fortunately, we had to come down, because we came walking down a street higher.

Where to stay in La Paz

Staying in the street or Calle Sarganaga, we were in the historic center of La Paz, and thence we could reach the main attractions of the centre walking on foot. In this street and in the surroundings, there are many ATMs, travel agencies that offer tours, bars and restaurants, some very interesting and tastefully decorated, cozy, installed in old buildings, renovated but respecting historical heritage. The historic Center Although it has a lot of tourist infrastructure, and in my opinion is the best place to stay in La Paz, it is not a place of fashion for the residents of La Paz. There are the Chicas neighbourhoods as Sapocachi that is modern and has the appearance of noble areas of the city of São Paulo, as in the surroundings of Av. Paulista. There are old mansions already in disuse for residential use currently occupied by businesses and large and modern buildings and also large and good hotels. But if you go to La Paz, you want to see what La Paz has that other towns do not have. So staying in the historic center is more practical for its tourist infrastructure, attractions and less cost.
So here's my personal tip. In my opinion, staying in the historic center of La Paz, on Rua Sarganaga is the best option in terms of cultural experience and value hosting, i.e. cost benefit and convenience. In this nice comfortable hotel that I stayed, had laundry in front of a gallery, many agencies that offered tours, ATMs beside the hotel, bars restaurants, diverse trade, difficult a venue with more practicality. Many local articles shops, but also clothing stores and sporting goods that are not easily found in Brazil.
I should also add that, the Av. Illampu, in the nearby parts with Calle Sarganaga is also a good place of the surroundings to stay, it is relatively flat, with lots of commerce, some hotels and inns, galleries of commerce in ancient buildings with in courtyards in Hipânico style. In this street there are good sporting goods shops, and it is also on this street that there is a popular market with many interesting and other exotic things in a sector that call the market of the Brujas.

Exploring La Paz and its historic city centre

On the first day, after arrival, we walked a little by the centre and surrounding the hotel, with a certain difficulty in the altitude and slope of the streets. When the flat street goes all right, but when it comes up it's tricky. On this first walk we stop at one of the numerous local product shops and buy a sock of llama or alpaca to give it to present.
Then we lunch at a local restaurant and we walk a little more and we saw a cheap goose feather, or a down jacket. I didn't buy it at the time, but I thought I'd get it later. At this point, we had already walked a lot, including a street with very popular answer.
Then we go back to the hotel, rest a little while and go out again to take a coffee in a tastefully decorated and cosy bar, on the Sarganaga street itself, almost opposite the hotel.
We came to the hotel we rested a pquinho and went out to have breakfast in a fluffy bar near the front of the hotel. Then we come back and organize our agenda for the next day.
When you walk through the center of La Paz, a landmark is the Square or Plaza San Francisco where there is a historical church of the same name that is at the end of the Sarganaga Street, in the center of the Centre. When walking through the center you will see numerous antique galleries, enter and explore and see many interesting surprises. On the other side of San Francisco Square, we have the front more climbing. Above is Plaza Murilo, where the government palace is. There we can see that Bolivia is a peaceful and safe country. At the palace door only 2 guards on each side, and you can pass very close, on the sidewalk of the palace door. For that region we also see interesting buildings and streets. There are streets with lots of commerce shops and also sellers with stands on the streets selling clothing and many helpful articles. Calle Comércio or (Calle is street in Spanish) is very interesting for shopping, and the trade goes up at night. The 8:00 of the night or so much later there is a lot of movement on this trade street.

The next, October 24th, we woke up early and took the coffee at the hotel. We take a little laundry to the laundry room located in the small gallery opposite the hotel and go for a walk and stroll. We visited some tourist agencies that offered tours, and we finally opted for a nearby hotel, but a little further down, for the sympathy of the employees. There were several agencies in the same street and nearby streets and prices are similar. But there are some out of the average.
For the same day, we wanted a City tour and for the next day an excursion to Tinhuanaco and Puma Punko who are let's arqueolágicos sites.
But the red bus from the City Tour wasn't operating on this day.
So we went to lunch, if I recall we ate chicken broast, i.e. some sort of fried chicken bread or the Milanese, similar to those of KFC. In Bolivia this is a very usual dish in fast food-type diners.
Then we took a taxi and went to see the national stadium on the outside (if you could visit that day, maybe we had visited), we had ice cream and a ice cream maker beside, we also ate "cream pump" and we took popsicles. In La Paz sells a lot on the street, and we see many women with typical costumes (cholitas) selling gelatins in glass, flans and other things.
From the national stadium, we have been walking and knowing this part of the city, until you reach the Parque Lacakota, where you have a beautiful view of the city and garden areas. There is also a playground. This was the first gazebo we visited in the city and across the street from the park and Belvedere, there was a cable car station.
Then we took another park and went to a higher lookout, the lookout Kili Kili. I must say that in La Paz, for those who are visiting or sightseeing, the taxi is the best means of transportation. It's not expensive, and the price of the race is given by the driver. Then you must ask yourself first.
I noticed that whenever you ask a taxi to stop, first greet the driver with a "buenas..." Then ask "could you take me to...." and "how much?".
To know the fair or acceptable price, you have to bind your "price sensor" so that it fits the site, i.e. ask and compare. But generally speaking, taxi drivers in La Paz are peaceful and friendly. I had a lot of good conversations with some.

From Belvedere Kili Kili we have ample views of the city, where we can see that La Paz seems to be within a huge crater. Interesting that the buildings there, the most popular ones, are made with apparent brick. If seen from afar, we can think they're poorly constructed and slums. But none of this, we can observe that the bricks are well settled and well-finished constructions and built within delimited terrains and streets planned according to the complicate topography of the city. As in the region it almost never rains, they don't spend much on plaster in the construction of common houses. You can see these buildings closely when the taxi passes through the streets of elevated neighbourhoods on slopes and observe those constructions.
Sometimes we have the notion that La Paz at certain points is an organised chaos and that works. At the very viewpoint Kili Kili we can see that. Kili Killi is a beautiful place where there is a lookout, but on one of its side, someone has begun a construction obstructing a few views of the city. It is really a sacrilege. It is unacceptable that the laws of the city allow someone to build a high raised building on the side of a lookout (mirador).

After visiting Belvedere Kili Kili, we went to Calle Jaen (Jaen Street), one of the most beautiful, cozy and well preserved historical sites of La Paz. We used the same taxi, which was waiting for us while visiting the lookout and small park.
In Calle Jaen There are many museums, and there we visit the Museum of Music, also in an old house, well preserved with rich and curious acquis.
After Calle Jaen, we took a café in a local bar, which stood a little below down a street called Pichincha and went on foot to calle commerce to buy a Jacketa, but the vendadera was not there this day. But before, at the end of Calle Pichincha descend down a street of Escadari The very interesting.
We took a cappuccino in a café called Toby and paths more observing the surroundings. Then we dined and the cost of 2 dishes and a large coca Cola was worth equivalent to R $10.00 (ten reais). Then we returned to Calle Comercio, and the aunt of the blouse had arrived. So we bought a agasolho by 180 bolivares, equivalent to 90 reais, much cheaper than in Brazil. Walking a little more we found a trench coat by 120 bolivares, equivalent to 60 reais, which Ana enjoyed and bought.
As it was night, we finally went to the hotel to rest.

Tiwanaco and Puma Punku archeological sites

On the 25th of October, we woke up early and we had breakfast at the hotel. The breakfast in that very good, and Sarganaga Hotel it was rally good value for money. We had scheduled the day before a half day trip tour to two important and famous archaeological sites, Tiwanaco and Puma Punku.
We waited for the bus early in the morning, in front of the hotel. There was delay, but finally we started our trip to Tiwuanaco or Tiahuanaco (both forms of writing are accepted). When we arrived very close to Tiahuanaco, we got off from the bus and visited 2 museums that tells the history of the Tiahuanaco with objects found in the archaeological site.
Then we had lunch with the group in a restaurant. It was included in the price of the tour.
Then we visited the site of Tihuanaco and we were fortunate to have a fairly cultured and thoughtful guide that explained everything step by step. Then we visit also Puma Punku, another newly discovered historical mystery, on which little is known yet. This place is well destroyed, in ruins, with a little bit of a lot, but also unexplored.

It is necessary to have a little interest in history and archaeology to be interested in these tours, since what remains of the constructions and their locations does not have such a great visual impact compared to other historical sites of Peru. However, the culture and Civilization Tihuanaco was the birthplace of Quechua culture, which is well know as civilization of the Inkas in Peru.

In the afternoon we returned to the city, and the tour bus left us at the Plaza San Francisco at the beginning of Calle Sarganaga Street slope.

Sapocachi District

Then, by night, we went to Sapocachi, a noble neighbourhood of the city of La Paz. We get there in a taxi and we descend into the Plaza Isabel the Catholic, the main point of reference. We saw the location of the City tours in the red buses and that would take us on the tours covering the valley of the Moon.
We walked a bit by imposing Av. Arce, where there are old mansions, large buildings and malls. We tracked down the same imposing building on the U.S. Embassy.
Then we took a taxi to return to our hotel, and we came to talk to a new driver who had many curiosities about Brazil.
Ana was exhausted, and then I went to get a dinner at a Chinese restaurant on Av. Illampu, which is around the corner to Calle Sarganaga where we were staying. I got chicken broaster for lever and we dined in the hotel room.

Moon Valle and Zona Sur

The next day, October 26th, we also got up early, we took the coffee at the hotel and left laundry in the laundry, across the street, in front of the hotel.
Next, we took a Van towards Isabel's Square the Catholic, to take the red bus from the City Tour that would take us to the Valley of the Moon and also to know the modern southern zone of La Paz, the most recent urbanization area, with many mansions and condominium buildings A kind of "Barra da Tijuca" de La Paz.
La Paz is a very large city, and the Valley of the moon and this other new part of the city is on the other side of the mountains, outside the "Big crater" where La Paz is. It would be impracticable to see everything on foot.
The city is offered two city tours, the downtown Circuit or tour through the city centre and the Moon Valley Tour/Zona Sur. This Ultima is the Valley of the Moon and the south side. (Sur in Spanish is south in Portuguese). As the city Tour the center was not interested, because we had visited practically everything, or even more, part by foot or by taxi.

Anyway, we went there to take the valley Tour of the moon and Zona Sur. While we waited for the bus on the avenue around the Plaza Isabela the Catholic, we ate an "empanada" stuffed with potato and chicken, which my wife defined it as a delight, with what I agree. On this tour we saw a thrieving area of La Paz and in some passages of the paths the road would go along a river with streams over rocks with green surrounding areas, which formed picturesque scenes.
However, the biggest attraction of this excursion is the Moon Valley, some terrain formations with cliff shapes and many meandering paths, produced by erosion. The name of the valley came after the astronaut Neil Armstrong. When visiting La Paz and playing golf in a nearby place, he said that that scenario was similar to some parts of the moon. It is really an interesting place to visit, and it is a must to go when visiting La Paz.

Bus Terminal designed by Eiffel

After returning from the Moon Valley and South Zone tour, and arriving again at the Plaza Isabel the Catholic, we took a taxi to go to the Bus Terminal Station of La Paz. We wanted to buy bus tickets to the city of Copacabana in Bolivia, a city on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which would be the next step of our trip.
This bus station has its metallic roofing structure designed by the french engineer Eiffel, the one who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The structure appear a common thing in the current day, and is not so big as other big sturctures of the same era. However it can be appreciated as a curiosity.

Aereal Cable Cars as Urban Transport System

From the bus terminal station we took a taxi that drove us to a cable car station, which was nearby. We really had to get to know this mean of urban transportation, which is also an attraction of La Paz. When we arrived at the station, which actually took advantage of an old train station, but with very modern attachments, small a gondola cabin, which behaved like four or five people on each side. In our car just me and my wife. The assistant cable girl guided us to sit one on each side, to balance the car and avoid swaying, although it seems that our weight would be negligible due to the large size of that gondola.
We went over a lot of buildings, about a cemetery and a lot of neighborhoods, where we saw the houses and buildings like we were helicopters. The towers that sustain the cables are extremely high. We could see that, those thousands of apparent brick houses that we saw from afar, that looked like slums, were well-built houses and well-aligned on streets that accompanied the hillside. I've actually said this before about these buildings.
On the ascent we saw the canyons where the last station of the cable car line was we took. At last we arrive at the latest and modern station, great and very well designed.
We stayed there for a while, actually in a small square or Largo before it, where there were bus connections to other locations.
After a while, we decided to get the cable car back to come down. In our booth was the opposite bank of an old man who talked to us. He said he had already lived in Sao Paulo and told us a lot about La Paz. As the gondola lifted away, he showed us a car that crashed and trapped in one of the crevices of the high cliff. To our surprise you said all the passengers were saved, and they were rescued by the fire  and rescue department.

Walking again on foot along Av Illampu and historic centre of La Paz

After we return to the lowest station, we take a taxi and descend into the center of La Paz, in San Francisco square. It was time to eat something and we ate chicken broaster near the street or Calle Comercio. We climbed a hillside and walked to Av. Illampu, continuing our hike through this avenue until you passed Calle Sarganaga to see the maket, a fruit and vegetables fair, etc.
Noting that, in part of Calle Illampu We also saw the tents of street vendors selling exotic items, part of this market call of Brujas. I did not care about it because it is crendices and for my eyes, some things are of bad taste, although I understand it is cultural.

During this hike, we took ice cream and owner of the sale didn't have any change and said we could pay later! A surprise with regard to good local receptiveness. They're very nice and kind. In this walk by the Illampu, full of shops, we buy two Andean style touches and also a common cap, the color I like to wear in the sun. And then we go back to the store to pay for the ice cream. On this avenue, in a small shop of sporting goods, but with lots of stock, we saw tennis with GoreTex technology of the Salomon brand for very good prices. Hard to find these tennis in Brazil.

As we were near the Sarganaga we descended and gave a parade at the hotel. At night we went to eat a pizza in another beautifully decorated bar, enjoying one of the countless old houses of Calle Sarganaga. We finally ended that day and went to sleep. Our room had a view of the city centre, and we always saw a huge led flatscreen displaying Samsung ads, placed near the San Francisco square.

Continuing our journey and following our itinerary

On October 27th, we also got up early, we took breakfast at the hotel and took taxi to bus station to take the bus to Copacabana in Bolivia, whose passage we had purchased the day before. The city of Copacabana in Bolivia would be the next step in our travel itinerary for Peru and Bolivia.

Other thing to do in La Paz

Apart from what we did in La Paz, the travel agencies offer other atrractions nearby, usually connected to sports, adventure and ecotourism such to go on foot to very high mounts and biking on dangerous unpaved roads by the edge of cliffs. Tours and adventure in the jungle of the Bolivian Amazon are also among the attractions. Remember that, La Paz is about 4000 meters high, and to climb higher mounts you need to rent special clothes and even oxygen tubes. The agencies that offer this kind of adventures also offer equipment for rent. I did not went for this kind of adventure.