Photo Tour: A Tourist's-Eye View of La Paz

La Paz isn't actually the capital of Bolivia; that's Sucre. But this huge city, which sprawls across a high mountain valley at around 4,000 meters elevation, is the biggest in Bolivia -- and a lot of the government is here, too.

I spent just a couple of days here... including a morning taking pictures of some things that caught my eye.

The valley sides are steep, as you can tell when you take almost any street away from the valley floor. (In fact, taxi drivers charge more for a trip that involves much up-or-down driving.) On the valley floor, tall buildings reach up toward the top of the valley, high above, but none of them get that far:

Step back (or, in my case, zoom your camera out)... you'll see the juxtaposition of glitzy high-rises and more basic construction that you'll find in a lot of cities. Still, somehow, La Paz felt less desperate to me than other Latin American cities I've been in:

Here's another view, looking down a typically-steep hill toward the valley floor and across to the other side. When you're closer to the edges of the valley, you can see the zillions of buildings clinging to the hillside:

Also like many Latin-American cities, you won't find a lot of private cars on the road. This is one of the shared-ride vans that take people everywhere... and there are lots of them. (There are lots of taxis too.) Like taxis, they'll stop anywhere. The signs in the front window tell you where they're going:

Musicians along the street, playing for a living:

Students outside their school:

La Paz' main plaza, the Plaza San Francisco, is full of people and life... and around it are streets busy with traffic. To give you a feel of the place, I enhanced the color in the next photo. (By the way, this photo was a first place winner in 2008 on To see more La Paz photos by Charis Barks, click there.)

Here's a view in the plaza, toward the Cathedral -- which, like most buildings, is built on a hill. (The main entrance is 12 meters -- almost 40 feet -- higher than the base!):

Three more scenes around the plaza: a mother and daughter, one of the zillions of shoe-shine boys, and a government building with some of the zillions of police that help to keep La Paz ("The Peace") as peaceful as it is for tourists:

A lot of the museums were closed when I was here -- not the usual mid-day siesta closure, but maybe because I was here at a time (December) when there aren't many tourists? (The main tourist season is the winter, when the skies are sunny and it's summertime in North America and Europe.) One museum that was open was the Museo Nacional del Arte, the National Museum of Art. It's wrapped around a beautiful patio:

I'll wrap up this quick tour with a scene from my walk along (mostly) the valley floor: workers laying paving stones in a new section of sidewalk:

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(These photographs are Copyright © 2004 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)

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