Bolivia’s de facto capital is a thrilling combination of ancient cultures, urban chaos, wild nightlife, stunning scenery and fascinating history. Situated in a canyon whose striking backdrop of snow-capped peaks contrasts sharply with the metal-roofed abodes that scale in a ramshackle fashion up the steep inclines of the valley slopes, La Paz is a wonder of sights and sounds. It is Bolivia’s third most populous city and the highest seat of government in the world at 3,650m.a.s.l. La Paz is famous for its indigenous Aymara culture and the native language Quechua, both of which are a source of immense pride for Bolivia and something that is celebrated here more than perhaps any other nation in South America. La Paz is surrounded by the Bolivian high plain, or altiplano, and as such a visit to the city can make for a challenging experience, given the adjustment necessary to be able to be comfortable with the altitude. The three snow-capped peaks of the Illimani mountain dominate the horizon at every turn, and the city winds up and down over the hills that characterise it. There is what feels like a deep lack of order in La Paz, with shoe-shiners, street vendors, food stalls and market kiosks bustling against illogical traffic jams and curious retail outlets. As chaotic as it may be, there is a certain charm to La Paz’s frenzy, which is certainly in a league of its own.
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