Following our stay in Copacabana we headed to La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia. La Paz translated to English means ‘The Peace’. Simply looking at the city and its beauty, there is a peaceful essence. That being said, walking the streets is anything but peaceful with the busy traffic, drivers honking horns and the hustle & bustle of the street vendors and tourists.
The landscape of Bolivia is so unique and diverse. The city itself climbs 1000 km in altitude from bottom to top. At the lower end of the city in the South, you look up and see a landscape that seems like another planet. Looking out from the top in the district of El Alto, you look out and see the entire city; the incredible Andes mountain range in the distance is absolutely breathtaking. Because the city is so large and varies so much in altitude, they have built a ‘Teleférico‘. It’s a cable car system used as public transit to reduce vehicle traffic. For us travelers, its a fun way to see the beautiful city from the bottom to the top and it only cost 12 Bolivianos or $2.32 Canadian dollars. (We rode the Green and Yellow lines which run together, there is also a red line in a separate part of the city)
The southern region of La Paz is the financial district and the more wealthy area. We began our stay in the south at a beautiful condo we found on AirBnB.ca. The owner of the apartment was this awesome dude named Daniel and had actually put his brand new apartment up for rent a little to early. There was a glitch in the airbnb system and when we went to reserve this apartment, it approved automatically without Daniel agreeing to it. Needless to say, he was quite surprised when he received the confirmation notification. He let us know of the situation and said that we were welcome to stay at his place but it wasn’t furnished, it just had beds. We didn’t care because we had been staying in some jankie places so we agreed and went on our way to the south. When we arrived at the building it was quite fancy, there was even a doorman who went ahead and told us that no one was at Daniel’s apartment and that he couldn’t let us in. Looking the way we did, grungy to say the least after our day of travel, he made us wait outside sitting on the sidewalk where we belonged. He was nice enough however to call Daniel’s phone but he didn’t answer. He also let us know that the condo was actually his father’s condo and the “Doctor” as he kept calling him wasn’t there. No one lived there according to the doorman. So we sat for another 15 minutes figuring out what to do. We tried Daniel again and he answered! He convinced the doorman that we weren’t going to rob the place so he promptly upgraded us from the sidewalk to the walkway on the inside of the gate. About 45 minutes later Daniel finally arrived and apologetically greeted us with open arms.
He took us to our new home and the apartment was a 4 bedroom 4 bathroom piece of heaven. It was brand new! The tape was still on all the light fixtures! The blue film was on all the appliances! (soo satisfying to remove) The shower had hot water with tonnes of water pressure! The bed was large enough to fit Rye! It was the most comfortable thing we slept on all trip. Who needs furniture and WiFi when you have all these luxuries! We were in heaven and we had the place all to ourselves!! Daniel was nice enough to take us grocery shopping and even took us to his parents house where we met his mom, who didn’t care that we were taking her kitchen supplies and raiding her pantry. What a nice lady 🙂 He then drove us back, we made dinner and went to bed in our sweet new pad.
We spent two weeks in the south using the teleférico to explore from the bottom to the top. We absolutely loved our stay at Daniel’s, it was beautiful, peaceful and luxurious. Daniel even invited us to join him and his friends one night to show us the happening night life of La Paz. Let me tell you, both the travelers and the locals know how to party!! We began our night at a common tourist bar and then ended our night at a local club that was colorful and amazing. All in all, a very fun evening with some amazing people.
After our two week stay at the bottom we then made our way to the top of the city, a place called El Alto. Because El Alto is so much higher, it’s also quite a bit colder. The top is very different from the bottom. Where the bottom seems very new and flashy, the top is older, poorer and full of simple cement and brick boxes. There is however a lot of character thriving in the simple backdrop. You find a lot of food markets and people selling products on the street. There are some really fun and interesting things you can do there and one in particular is watching the amazing Cholitas. The Cholitas are a female wrestling show that takes place every Sunday. In the show, the women wrestle the men and obviously kick some butt! They wear authentic indigenous garb including their bowler hats and skirts and proceed to kick some ass while looking fabulous! The show was incredibly entertaining and definitely different than anything we had seen.
After a short stay in El Alto, we then moved to the more touristy area in center of La Paz. This area is surrounded by many shops and markets selling sweaters made from alpaca, jewelry, blankets and many other cool handicrafts. Another interesting thing you’ll find in this area is the Witches Market. Walking down the street you can follow the scent of the incense and instantly you know where it is. The Witches Market is definitely unique, selling herbs and incense just to name a few. The most, uh…interesting thing sold there is definitely the dead baby lamas that hang in the front of each shop. This was definitely shocking to walk past and hard to look at but the reason for their sale is because they are considered a good luck charm and are actually buried under every building in the city!
One of the most amazing things we were lucky enough to experience during our time in the center of Las Paz was the much anticipated Fiesta del Gran Poder which translates to Festival of the Great Power. The festival was created as a religious celebration paying homage to Jesus Christ. As clueless onlookers it was simply a colourful and exciting experience with thousands of dancers and musicians entertaining onlookers.
The parade starts at 7 am and didn’t stop until 3 am the next morning, over a 6 kilometer distance without repeating any acts. It was absolutely massive! We had a wonderful time watching the parade and having a few drinks and even made some Canadian friends. The day was amazing until unfortunately our cell phone was stolen out of Rye’s pocket. There were thousands of people around and as we were walking through the crowd, Rye was hit in the head with some dirt. Hearing about this distraction technique before, he kept his hand in his pocket and kept walking when a woman came up and started brushing the dirt off. He lifted his hand for a split second to stop her and the phone was gone. That kind of put a damper on the evening but the parade was incredible none the less. It’s a good thing we had insurance 🙂
La Paz was fun but we definitely overstayed our welcome and were eager to move on by the end. The food isn’t the greatest and there are some questionable smells when you’re walking down the streets so that really started to get to us by the end. Unfortunately I was sick for about a week so we had to postpone our travels which I think made us even more frustrated. Overall La Paz is a beautiful, inexpensive and exciting city with a really fun nightlife. While travelling we heard mixed reviews about La Paz from other travelers and it really depends on your personal experience. There are some amazingly beautiful views, bright and beautiful people, you just need to find them.