I was curious to visit La Paz because of the high altitude and culture. At 3,650m above sea level, La Paz is unofficially the highest capital city (the real capital in Bolivia is Sucre) in the world and I must say that, in the first few hours, I struggled.
As soon as I arrived to the airport I could already feel it, my breathing was getting harder by the minute and walking fast became a very hard task.
Prepare yourself to enter in a country full of myths and stories from ancient civilizations!
To explain how my trip to La Paz went, I need to explain you some important things about the Bolivian culture and traditions. Before the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, Bolivia was part of the Inca Empire. But, long before that, the ancient civilization of Tiwanaku was the dominant regional power in the Andes and the most important for the history nowadays.
The country is multiethnic with 37 official languages. The main spoken languages are Spanish, Aymara, Quechua and Guarani. For the first time ever in the history of the country they elected the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, which is very popular and loved amongst the Bolivians.
Some aspects in the culture that were carried on for centuries are still present nowadays.
A woman who braids her hair and wears heavy, long skirts is presumed to have low social status, same goes for man wearing knitted wool caps with earflaps. In their religious beliefs, Catholicism coexist with the supernatural and many people still don’t accept the western medical way of treating diseases, preferring to use potions and other Andean beliefs instead.
A must visit!
La Paz was, because of many of these aspects, the most amazing and shocking city that I visited while travelling through South America. The city itself it’s chaotic, no rules for traffic, everyone just wander in the streets and the fact that Bolivia is South America’s poorest country is right there, in front of your eyes!
Some people told us that the city was quite unsafe but I disagree, I went out several times at night and it was just fine. Everything is quite cheap; in fact it was the cheapest country in South America that I visited. During the day it was hot, with me wearing summer cloths but at night it was chilling winter. The altitude made me feel a bit funny, at times even euphoric ???? and no, the so famous coca leaves did not help! The hostel I stayed was quite simple but enough for a nice bed and hot shower.
I quite enjoyed wondering around the markets and the amazing food!
There a lot of markets in La Paz, in fact, most people just wander around in the streets selling you anything. But one of these markets really got my attention!
The fascinating Witches’ Market
In Bolivia the ancient Aymaran beliefs are still very well alive within the population. In this market, different ingredients to use in spells and rituals of the Aymara world are sold.
Dried frogs, herbs, folk remedies, numerous teas, potions, insects, ceramic figures to give you any kind of luck that you imagine, they are all there! The most impressive and weird at same time was the dried llama fetus ???? that is supposed to be buried under a new house as an offer to Mother Earth, the Pachamama.
Around there it’s also possible to go to a Witch doctor the yatiris that can tell you about the future and how to make a fortune. It is believed that the yatiris have the power to contact the supernatural. Shame I did not made an appointment!