La Paz, Bolivia’s capital city is set at a dizzying altitude of 3,650 metres above sea level, making it the highest capital in the world. Up amid the mountains, La Paz is built within a bowl-shaped canyon, and it’s surprisingly beautiful, especially at night. Most visitors get their first glimpse of La Paz from above, landing at one of the world’s highest airports at an altitude of 4,060 metres, before emerging into the valley through the altiplano. The city spills down the sides of the canyon, buildings clinging to cliff edges and filling the bowl with twinkling lights after dark; during the day, the imposing snow-topped peak of Mount Illimani creates an atmospheric backdrop.
La Paz is a city that requires time to discover fully – not least to ensure proper acclimatisation to the altitude. Its streets are thronged with traditional markets and coffee shops, with interesting museums that showcase everything from Bolivian folklore to the coca leaf. Getting around the city is now even easier thanks to the new Teleferico cable car system, connecting La Paz to neighbouring El Alto, Bolivia’s second-largest city, set outside the canyon in the altiplano. For fantastic views of Mount Illimani we’d recommend taking the yellow line from Sopocachi towards El Alto, as the 15 kilometres of cableway affords fantastic panoramic views along much of its length. At night, many of the city’s hotels and restaurants offer rooftop bars and dining terraces, with incredible views of the mountains and the city glowing with thousands of lights. Head to Zona Sur in the south of La Paz and seek out restaurants like Gustu, which serve traditional Bolivian cuisine with an exclusively Bolivian wine list; many of the bottles come from the wine producing region around Tarija.
Because of the city’s altitude it feels cool – and often quite chilly – all year round, so it’s worth keeping your cold weather gear to hand for when the temperature plummets. Most people experience some degree of altitude sickness during the first couple of days, which disappears as the body acclimatises – our expert team can talk you through how best to prepare for the altitude.