Friday (Viernes) 11th June, 2010
Day 455

La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia
Miles: 46,116
S 16.56796°
W 68.08921°

Into central La Paz again today to find the location of the Spanish school I will attend next week, to check in at a hostel (we have a very early start tomorrow for a tour), and a guided tour of the the city.

Our guided tour was very interesting. We had a pleasant local guide with good English, and a mini-van and driver all to our selves. The tour covered three areas of the city

  • The lowest part of the city is in the south, this is the most exclusive area and is where one can find modern, up market shops (that sell the same things that one would find in any modern 1st world city), and exclusive gated communities.

    Also in the south is the famous Valle de la Luna - Moon Valley. An area of eroded small hills - we spent some time touring a small tourist park looking at these weird shapes.

  • We then climbed up to the highest parts of the city, which is in the north, to an overlook that gave us a good view of the entire area. The north or higher parts of the city is the least exclusive residential area. Here the houses are in all states of repair, mostly though incomplete.

  • Finally we dropped down to a middle altitude and walked through the old, original, town with its main plaza and narrow cobbled streets. The old city main plaza is bordered on two sides by government buildings. On one side is the executive branch, the presidents offices and on the other the legislative or parliament building.

Interestingly the judiciary, or third branch of government, is housed in Sucre. Sucre was the original capital of Bolivia and is still the official capital but political power shifted to La Paz at the turn of the 20th century as La Paz became the wealthiest city in the country by virtue of a tin boom. There are many tin mines in the hills behind La Paz. A similar struggle is now going on with Santa Cruz, a city in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia. Santa Cruz is the center of the oil and gas industry that is increasingly powering the Bolivian economy. Bolivia has the second largest petroleum reserves in South America after Venezuela.