South America’s Strangest City

Few cities in the world have as spectacular a setting as La Paz, which, like its fellow Andean capitals Bogotá and Quito, is high up in the mountains, at a lung-challenging 3,600m above sea level (making it the highest capital in the world).  The city sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes on all sides, including the permanently-snowcapped Huayna Potosí and Illimani mountains, with the colonial buildings, church spires, and office blocks of the flat centre slowly morphing into the gravity-defying houses of the ramshackle poorer suburbs, stuck precariously to the steep sides of the valley.  And down at street level, there’s the usual assortment of squatting beggars, wandering salesmen, street markets, traffic jams, smoke-belching buses, and honking horns.  So, not very different from many big cities in this part of the world, then. Continue reading