Santa Cruz is in Bolivia’s Amazonian Basin, surrounded by jungles, with the hot, humid climate of a rain forest. So the existence of a massive field of sand dunes just sixteen kilometers south of the city is a geological marvel. On our very last day in Bolivia, we visited Las Lomas de Arena, declared a National Park in 1990.
The charming village of Tarata makes a perfect day trip from Cochabamba. It’s a quick 45-minute trip in a minibus, which costs just five Bolivianos, or about $0.70.
Only about 8000 people live in Tarata, but this town boasts a disproportionate amount of importance in Bolivia’s history.
Completed in 1994 to commemorate the 1988 visit of Pope John Paul II, Cochabamba’s mighty Christ towers over the city from the top of San Pedro hill. With his arms open toward the city, it seems as though Cochabamba is about to get a bear hug from the big guy. Rio’s Jesus measures exactly 33 meters in height: one meter for each year of the savior’s life. Cochabamba’s is 33 meters and 20 centimeters, which locals attribute to the fact that Jesus lived for 33 years and a bit.
Random festivals, cholitas with hats balanced crookedly on their heads, crazy graffiti, mountain views, pigeons and lines of mini-buses and trufis… around every corner in La Paz are another hundred photos waiting to be snapped! Enjoy this final set of random images from Bolivia’s most important city.
La Paz has a number of intriguing museums, including one dedicated to the unfairly maligned coca leaf, and another which takes a look at the War of the Pacific, when Bolivia lost its ocean access to Chile. Though we’re normally big on museums, we were constantly distracted by the bustling street markets, and never made it to most of La Paz’s. But we dared not skip out on the Museo de Etnografía y Folklore, near Plaza Murillo.
We recently attended the famous Lucha Libre at a sports facility in El Alto. Bolivians are wild for wrestling. Posters of famous American wrestlers are everywhere, and you can’t go a block in La Paz without seeing seeing it on a curbside television set. Bolivia doesn’t have a professional league on the same level as the USA’s WWE, but El Alto’s Sunday afternoon Lucha Libre makes a solid substitute.
One of the more famous areas in La Paz is the Mercado de Hechecería, or The Witches’ Market, found on Calle Santa Cruz and Linares, near the Iglesia de San Francisco. Here, shops and street vendors sell totems, trinkets and talismans, meant to appease the gods of sun and earth. The sheer number of shops speaks to the stubborn persistence of a religion the Catholics weren’t able to uproot, despite their best, bloody efforts.
I stirred to life as we passed through the satellite Aymara city of El Alto, perched perilously on a hill overlooking La Paz. But though my eyes had opened, I thought perhaps I was still dreaming. Bolivia’s largest and most important city was sprawled out across the valley below us, beginning to light up as though preparing for our arrival, surrounded by mountains on all sides.
The best bird’s-eye view of Bolivia’s capital can be found at the top of the Recoleta hill. The climb is arduous, but worth the effort. At sunset, the “White City” is even more beautiful from above than from street-level. Just head due south from the city center. As long as you’re going uphill, you’re on the right path.
Most people don’t realize that Sucre is technically the capital of Bolivia. La Paz has become the country’s largest and most important city, but according to the Bolivian constitution, Sucre is still the official capital. And the Casa de la Libertad is the country’s most historically significant building.