Interesting facts about La Paz

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La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia.

The full name of the city is Nuestra Señora de La Paz (“Our Lady of Peace”).

The city is situated in west-central Bolivia in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River and is surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano.

As of September 2019, the population of La Paz is about 800,000 people. It is the third-most populous city in Bolivia (after Santa Cruz de la Sierra and El Alto).

La Paz covers a total area of 472 square kilometers (182 square miles).

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At an elevation of between 3,250 and 4,100 meters (10,650 and 13,250 feet) above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world.

La Paz was founded on October 20, 1548 by the Spanish conquistador Captain Alonso de Mendoza at the site of the Inca settlement of Laja.

The full name of the city Nuestra Señora de La Paz was in commemoration of the restoration of peace following the insurrection of Gonzalo Pizarro and fellow conquistadors against the first viceroy of Peru.

La Paz was under Spanish colonial rule as part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, before Bolivia gained independence.

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Since its founding, the city was the site of numerous revolts. In 1781, the indigenous leader and independence activist Túpac Katari laid siege to the city for a total of six months, but was finally
defeated.

On July 16, 1809 the Bolivian patriot Pedro Domingo Murillo ignited a revolution for independence, marking the beginning of the Spanish American Wars of Independence, which gained the freedom of South American states in 1821.

In 1898, La Paz was made the de facto seat of the national government, with Sucre remaining the nominal historical as well as judiciary capital.

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In the mid-1960s, Che Guevara (1928–1967), an Argentine-born physician, Marxist, politician, and a colleague of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, tried to mount another revolution in Bolivia, but was betrayed by the Bolivian peasantry he had come to liberate to Bolivian troops, who killed him on October 9, 1967.

Today, La Paz is an important cultural center of Latin America, as it hosts several landmarks belonging to the colonial time.

The Plaza Murillo is the central plaza of the city of La Paz and the open space most connected to the political life of Bolivia. Prominent buildings on the plaza include the Presidential Palace, National Congress of Bolivia, and the La Paz Cathedral.

plaza murillo

The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace also called La Paz Cathedral is a cathedral and minor basilica is located in the Plaza Murillo. It was built in 1835 with a neoclassical architecture with Baroque elements. It has an interior distributed in 5 ships with different layers. In 1989, its two lateral towers were opened, coinciding this act with the visit Pope John Paul II.

La Paz Cathedral

The Witches’ Market, also known as El Mercado de las Brujas and La Hechiceria, is a popular tourist attraction located in Cerro Cumbre, a mountain clearing in La Paz, Bolivia. Merchandise sold in The Witches’ Market, run by local witch doctors known as yatiri, includes potions, dried frogs, medicinal plants like retama and armadillos used in Bolivian rituals.

witches market bolivia

Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) is situated about 10 kilometers from downtown La Paz. It consists of an area where erosion has worn away the majority of a mountain, composed primarily of clay rather than rock, leaving tall spires.

valle de la luna

San Pedro prison is the largest prison in La Paz, Bolivia renowned for being a society within itself. Significantly different from most correctional facilities, inmates at San Pedro have jobs inside the community, buy or rent their accommodation, and often live with their families. The sale of cocaine base to visiting tourists gives those inside a significant income and an unusual amount of freedom within the prison walls. Elected leaders enforce the laws of the community, commonly through stabbing. The prison is home to approximately 1,500 inmates (not including the women and children that live inside the walls with their convicted husbands), with additional guests staying in the prison hotel.

san pedro prison

The Coca Museum (in Spanish, Museo de la Coca) covers the history of the coca plant from the Andean region and related drug cocaine.

La Paz is home to the world’s highest golf course, football stadium and velodrome.

The city is also home to the largest urban cable car network in the world.

La Paz, Bolivia, was the first South American city to get an electricity supply. It was powered by llama dung.

light bulb

A clock on the National Congress building in the main square of La Paz runs backwards to remind citizens to think differently.

In May 2015, it was officially recognized as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities together with Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur and Vigan.

Due to its altitude, La Paz has an unusual subtropical highland climate, with rainy summers and dry winters.

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