23.10.2012 17 °C
The sprawling Andean metropolis of La Paz is booming, vibrant and rich in history and culture. The chaotic streets are exhilaratingly bursting with life, with reggaeton and cumbia blaring from every corner along with crowd-pleasing pan-pipe classics, and in the distance, through cracks in the city skyline, the snow-capped peaks assert their dramatic presence.
A fascinating mix of people call La Paz home, and a modern latino culture vividly blends with timeless indigenous customs, the fashion alone bringing this to light. Ultra-tight jeans and dangly earrings are seen as much as the humungous, rainbow skirts, bowler hats and brilliantly beautiful, woven shawls. A sense of historical wrong-doing and political discontent is forever present in the air, seen simply in the roles played by different city folk, the mixture of skyscrapers and shacks, or manifested in spectacularly striking murals.
The heart of the centre is occupied by the Iglesia de San Francisco, a dominating reminder of Spanish influences. From here streets spread like veins in every direction, the rhythm of the city pulsating through them, old, new, rich and poor in a melting pot of contemporary culture. Smart, colonial buildings stand frozen in time, as modern, dynamic La Paz inundates around them, taking on a new lease of life. Traffic howls in the air, and overflowing, rattling mini-buses tare up and down the hills like wild toy cars, dodging random boulders on their way, designated location-shouters adding to the civic hum.
The colourful and atmospheric markets are a souvenir paradise for visitors to the city. The locals are friendly, the colours vivacious and our shopping eyes are welcomed by a kaleidoscope of possibilities. Bright, stripy trousers, llama wool jumpers, pompommed hats, jazzy satchels… All tourists end up looking the same, adopting the must have trends of the Latin-American trip, and oh do we love it!
A short drive away from the city we find the mountain of Chicaltaya and the Valle de la luna. Both are exceptional examples of the astounding geography of Bolivia and well worth the day trip. The views from Chicaltaya are amazing, stretching to infinity and offering an array of landscapes, whilst the Valle is curious and mesmerising in itself, and satisfies the Indiana Jones in all of us.
All in all, La Paz is a spellbinding place to visit, providing unforgettable experiences, dramatic environs and an insight into the real Latin America.